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Thirty Years of Night

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It was twilight, and the air was filled with the sounds of gunfire and screams. The crisp fall breeze carried the fragrances of gunpowder, blood, and anguish.

In short, it was a symphony to Alucard, who was unhurriedly making his way through a ghoul-infested manor in search of the host, his trusty Casull and Jackal making quick work of the herd of ghouls. Alucard chuckled to himself as one of his bullets shot through one of the mindless beasts, wrending a great hole in its chest and splattering fetid blood everywhere.

Something was amiss, though. He could hear the heartbeat of a human from the second floor. Unless the host liked to play with his food before he ate it, there was no chance that a mortal had survived the sea of famished ghouls.

His interest piqued, he doubled the pace of his firing. The thirty or so zombies that had been running at him all fell before they could kiss his bootheels.

Alucard floated weightlessly up through the ceiling and to the second floor, where there were a handful more freaks that were dealt with in a matter of moments. He could sense the presence of not one but three host vampires and a single human behind the door to his left, and a sneer twisted his lips impossibly, revealing his shark teeth.

He didn't even need to see into the room; his ears and nose were sharp enough that he had already pinpointed the vampires' locations. The mortal was on the floor, though its quick pulse indicated that it was conscious.

Alucard fired both of his guns, blowing holes into the door and the three targets, who hissed and yowled as the silver bullets purified and destroyed them. The door was tenaciously hanging onto the wall by a single hinge and Alucard faded through it and into the room. The survivor would need to be taken to the soldiers.

He had expected a woman or man to be huddled on the floor, cowering in fear or unconscious, but there was nothing but a wriggling bundle of cloth between where the vampires had been standing.

Kneeling down, his crimson eyes grew wide as he realized that it was an infant just over a year old. It wasn't wailing like a normal babe would when it had been surrounded by monsters and was now covered in their blood. On the contrary, Alucard's expression turned to a dark, mouth-splitting grin as he saw the child laugh and reach out for him. Its eyes were a brilliant emerald that clashed gloriously with the blood that speckled its smooth cheeks.

"You would reach for a monster?" he asked, more to himself than to it.

His inky black hair sprouted until it reached the floor and the tendrils picked up the child and placed it in his arms, where it smiled anew and touched a bloody hand to Alucard's cold cheek.

Never before had he seen something so innocent so at home in carnage. It made his still heart twitch in excitement. This, this was what he had been seeking for untold years.

He silently took off his red overcoat and wrapped the child up in it. The thin blanket would do little to insulate it from the cold fall air.

"You will do nicely," he whispered.

It cooed as it clutched at his now shoulder-length locks.

The first thing he was met with upon exiting the empty manor was Integra, who was flanked by Hellsing soldiers and looking more imperious than any ten-year-old had a right to.

Her authoritative scowl turned to one of suspicion. "Is that a baby?"

"Yes," Alucard answered. "It's mine."

Integra demanded, "Vampires cannot have children. What on earth are you prattling on about?"

It seemed that despite her family's infinite knowledge of the arcane, the Hellsing heir was unaware of this facet of vampirism. A smug smirk curled his lips.

"This child will be my queen," he explained simply.

"Your what? It can't even stand."

"I will wait, and in that time I will ready it."

"Alucard, I can't let you take an infant."

The dark smile fell away to be replaced with a frown and his fingers curled imperceptibly tighter against the bundle in his arms.

"I will not relinquish it. It is mine."

"I order you to hand it to the authorities, servant," the blonde decreed.

He couldn't help the chuckle that escaped his lips when the sigils on his gloves failed to energize and force him into compliance. He knew from the start that she wouldn't be able to stop him for taking the child.

"It's my right as the No-Life King," he hissed as Integra stared in open-mouthed shock. "No mortal magic can deny me this."

"You can't be serious. You can't raise a mortal child. You'll kill it."

Alucard tutted his master. "There have been children raised by wolves. This one will be raised by a monster."

And with that, his shadows engulfed him and his new charge and he was gone, leaving Integra trembling with rage.

He materialized in his chambers in the Hellsing estate. A look down at the babe in his arms showed that it had fallen asleep, a lock of his hair still clutched in its tiny hand. It looked so tranquil in his cold arms that he was taken aback. Did this little creature already understand its fate on some level? Had it accepted it?

The sun was about to rise and fatigue was beginning to trickle into him. His shadows swelled over him and the child, wiping the blood and other detritus from them before opening his black coffin. His boots and other clothing melted away until he was in only his slacks and a white undershirt.

The coffin was only big enough for one, so Alucard lay down and rested the babe on his chest, still swaddled in his red overcoat. Its soft breaths were oddly calming.

He grinned to himself. The next couple decades were bound to be quite interesting.


He chose the name Maria, partially because he had always liked the name and partially because he knew it it would infuriate his master beyond all belief that he was giving his queen the same name as Jesus' mother. She had turned such a delightful shade of red when he had informed her of his choice. Even now it brought a smirk to his lips.

She was six now, and even he was surprised by how easily she accepted the darkness. She had never cried, not even once. Her nights rose and set in time with Alucard's, and she was always at his side, except when he was sent away for a mission. During those times, she was babysat by Alucard's trusty hellhound and Walter. She usually spent her time pestering the vampire, perfecting her aim at the shooting range with him or Seras, or riding around on the great hellhound she had named "Mr. Eyes."

Exceptionally precocious, she could already speak three languages: English, Italian, and Romanian. Italian was a practical choice, as the Vatican bastards had been in business for two millennia and showed no signs of slowing down yet. Romanian, while less practical, because Alucard enjoyed the sound of it.

The No-Life King was seated in his high-backed chair, his boots propped up on the nearby table as he read a book he had procured from the library. Maria was somewhere above playing, no doubt pestering Seras or Walter, if he was still wake.

Alucard, her singsong voice flitted into his mind. Though he hadn't turned her yet, she had been bestowed with a few vampiric powers as his future bride. It was a mental bond similar to the one he shared with Seras, allowing them to communicate freely between each other with a bit of concentration.

Hmm?

You would catch me if I fell, right?

In a flash, he was able to see from her point of view. She was sitting on one of the balcony ledges, her feet dangling precariously over the edge. The ground was three stories below.

No, he said simply.

You liar. I bet you'd catch me.

He snorted. She was impudent today. Jump and you will do nothing but break your bones.

Maria paused, considering his words, before giggling and pushing herself over the edge. This welp, he sighed to himself, sending his shadows to her aid. They cushioned her fall just enough that she couldn't be killed, but enough that the arm she landed on broke and she would be covered in bruises.

I told you, he said coldly.

I can't believe you didn't catch me. She sounded betrayed and angry.

Alucard laughed darkly. Then you are a simpleton. I am not your protector. You must rely on yourself if you wish to become strong.

He watched with his mind's eye as she gave a dignified sniff, holding in the pain radiating from her broken radius. She hobbled back into the castle in search of Walter, who would fetch the doctor.

He couldn't help but smile as he saw her biting back her pain. She had more grit than any of the soldiers Hellsing had on payroll, excluding the police girl.

After Maria had roused Walter and had him get the doctor, she made her way down to Alucard's dungeon. He didn't look up from his book as she neared him, lifting one arm up so she could crawl onto his lap.

"You sent your shadows at the last minute, didn't you?" she whispered, a devious glee in her fiery emerald eyes. "The ground was much too soft when I fell."

Alucard chuckled, pleased with the girl for noticing. "Perceptive," he praised, and went back to his book.

"My arm hurts," she admitted after a while.

"Let the pain serve as a reminder not to be so foolhardy. The doctor is on his way."

Her chocolate curls tickled Alucard's cold flesh as she leaned against him.

"My birthday is next month," she reminded him. He turned another page in his book, but she knew that he was listening to her. "What are you going to get me?"

"Nothing, if you keep jumping from balconies."

She put on a pout. "I've learned my lesson; I'm not going to do it again. Please tell me what my present is."

"You will wait until your birthday to find out."

"You're no fun," she whined.

A small smile grew on his lips. He did enjoy teasing her.

Before long, the doctor showed up to x-ray the girl's left arm. It had been a clean break, and all he could do was put it in a cast. She frowned at the offensive appendage and swung the heavy cast about experimentally.

"I don't like it," she decided, and she spun around in Alucard's lap to look up at him. "Why is it that you go on all these dangerous missions and never get hurt?"

Alucard closed the book. It was nearing daybreak now, and her fall had taken a toll on Maria. There were dark circles under her eyes as she gazed up at him.

"Because only a pathetic little mortal gets wounded when they fall or are shot."

His wine red gaze was reflected in her emerald ones, and he could foresee how she would look when he turned her. It made him impatient.

"Will I be like you someday?"

"Yes," he hissed, his grin inhumanly wide. It made any other mortal uneasy, but Maria had never minded it. "You will have all of my power and kingdom. You will be the Queen of the Night."

"I'd rather be a princess," she yawned.


On her seventh birthday, Alucard gifted Maria with her first Hellsing issue silver-bullet firing pistol. It was a small thing, modeled off a Derringer. It fit perfectly in her little hands and she had never been happier.

"Does this mean that I can come with you now?" she had asked eagerly.

He nodded, and she was so pleased that she wrapped her arms around the vampire in a rare show of affection.

She crowed, "Thank you, thank you, thank you! It's the best present ever!"

"You will heed my every command," he warned.

"Of course!"

As luck would have it, there was a disturbance the following week that required Alucard's assistance, so he picked her up with one arm and allowed his shadows to swallow them up and transport them to the small village with a freak infestation. She giggled as the shadows tickled her exposed arms, and Integra and Walter watched the scene in mild horror.

What child in their right mind would be excited to be carried into battle against freaks by a five hundred year-old vampire? They wondered how much Alucard had molded her, and how much of her was natural.

"Do you think she'll be okay?" Walter asked.

Integra turned around, already heading back upstairs to pressing matters as she replied dismissively, "Alucard would never let anything happen to her."

At the village, all that could be heard were gunshots and gleeful giggles. Maria sat on Alucard's shoulders, taking careful aim before blasting away a ghoul with each shot, her ear-to-ear grin making her uncannily resemble the Nosferatu.

A few of the ghouls had firearms of their own and aimed for the two of them. Normally, Alucard would let the bullets pass through him, but today his shadows were wrapped protectively around Maria, absorbing the bullets and spitting them out before they could reach her.

"This is so much fun!" the girl exclaimed as she shot one of the ghouls in the head.

"It only gets better from here," he said darkly, unable to keep a smile off his lips. This girl was still so small, yet she was just as enthralled by the carnage as he was. Her little heart was fluttering with excitement and its staccato only made his hunger grow. He couldn't help but hope that there was a mortal around that had seen too much or had been culpable so that he could have a fresh meal. The medical blood was alright, but nothing could ever compare to the velvety richness of warm, sweet blood flowing from a living body.

They had dispatched all of the ghouls in plain eyesight, but their work wasn't over yet.

"There's more ahead, past those buildings," Maria said helpfully, pointing to the south.

Of course Alucard had been aware of the ghouls' presence, but he was pleasantly surprised that she had been able to sense them from such a distance. He had yet to give her any of his blood and begin truly giving her power, yet just from being around him for so long she had absorbed enough of his dark energy to pick up on the unique energy of the ghouls even when they were a quarter of a mile away.

"Very good," he praised, and she giggled and nuzzled his soft black hair with her nose.

They headed in the direction of the ghouls, with Maria casting about warily. He had taught her to always be vigilant, and she was obeying perfectly.

Alucard waited to open fire on them until they were within Maria's weak human eyesight. She laughed as she took them out one-by-one, revelling in their growls and guts.

"Now what do we do?" she asked as she landed a shot squarely between the last freak's eyes.

"Now, we find the host."

"Will I get to kill him too?"

"Perhaps."

"Oh please, can I?" she implored, looking down at him with those emerald puppy dog eyes.

Part of him rankled at her begging, which he despised. The other part of him was amused, however.

"Why do you want to kill the vampire?" he asked.

Her reply was just two words. "It's fun."

That was all the explanation he needed. He threw his head back and let loose a long, deep laugh. She laughed with him, though her voice carried none of the madness that his did.

Further into the village they traipsed, taking out the occasional ghoul they came across. It wasn't long until they had reached the center of town and the courthouse, where the vampire was waiting with two half-alive mortals whom he had been feeding from gradually. They were semi-conscious and lying on the dewy grass on either side of him, blood slowly leaking from their wrists. The No-Life King wasn't fond of sloppy seconds, but his cravings were strong enough that he would take what he could get tonight. Just the thought of the warm blood coursing from their veins and into his open mouth had his fangs burning with desire.

The vampire was a weakling who didn't know his limits. He charged at Alucard and the child as though he thought he stood a chance, and the old vampire grinned as the girl on his shoulders unflinchingly took aim and fired.

The disappointing creature screamed and turned to dust when the bullet passed straight into his heart and out the other end.

"I did it!" Maria exclaimed.

"You did," was all the vampire said before setting her down on the ground. "Wait here. I have some loose ends to tie up."

"The humans? What are you going to do with them? Aren't they about to die?"

The girl didn't know how true her words rang.

He glided towards them as they both struggled to sit up. The vampire's thrall combined with blood loss had kept them sedated, but with the vampire dead and its hypnotic hold over them gone, they were beginning to stir.

He met the eyes of the most lively, a petite redhead with glassy black eyes.

"Be still," he murmured. "It will all be over soon."

Already mesmerized by his glowing red eyes, she relaxed and closed her eyes, and Alucard knelt down beside her before sinking his elongated fangs into her neck. She let out a soft moan of pleasure and then the warm, red elixir was flowing into his open mouth, its flavor made ever the more exquisite by the rarity of its freshness.

It was over too soon, and a pang of hot indignation flashed through him when she ran dry. He retracted his fangs and looked up to see Maria watching him.

She was biting down on her lip, but not as though she were trying to swallow aversion. On the contrary, her grass green eyes were shimmering with a feverish want.

"Can...can I…?" It seemed as though the girl had nearly lost the ability to speak.

Now this-this was the most interesting thing she had done yet. In a few years, once he began conferring his powers to her, she would start to crave blood even though she was still a mortal. It was as unexpected as it was pleasing that she desired it already.

"This isn't a monster like the ghouls or vampire," he warned in a soft voice as she stepped closer. "This is a mortal just like you."

"No, it isn't," she argued calmly. "This weak girl is nothing like me. We are the same in name only."

If he had ever had a shadow of doubt in his choice, she had just ripped into shreds. A grin cut into his lips as he beckoned the girl closer and she ran to him. The second girl was barely awake, patiently awaiting her fate. Maria was on her hands and knees beside her and Alucard, looking at the girl covetously.

"You mustn't tell Master," he cautioned.

"Yes." She would have agreed to anything he demanded at that moment.

Smile still on his cold lips, he took the woman's hand and bit into the underside of her wrist, allowing the precious blood to leak down her arm. He proffered it to the child, who to her credit hesitated for a moment before leaning forward and dragging her tongue along a rivulet. Alucard was riveted as he watched her throat bob when she swallowed it down.

He couldn't contain the dark laugh that rumbled forth as the girl began to suck in earnest on the woman's wrist. Had it been anyone else, he would have felt cheated out of a well-earned reward. But watching this sweet mortal child succumb so completely to the darkness was a reward all unto itself.

It was a few minutes until Maria had gotten her fill and pulled away from the girl's wrist. A thin trail of blood trailed from her lip and Alucard wiped it away with a gloved thumb.

"How was it?" he asked, already knowing her answer.

The brunette considered for a bit, as though trying to think of the right words. "It's like I've been thirsty for it this whole time and never realized."

The vampire was veritably brimming with pride for this girl. He had no doubt that she would become the finest vampire ever, second only to him. He said nothing, however, and finished draining the woman beside them.

"What happens to them now?" Maria asked once he had stood up to his full height.

"Now the soldiers come in and clean everything up, including them."

Her next question was a bit hesitant, as though she felt guilty voicing it. "Are there always people like them with the vampires?"

"Hungry for more, my dear?" he teased, and when she pouted up at him he smiled. "No, they're not. You've been spoiled on your first mission."

She sighed and then yawned. "Can we go home now?"

His shadows enveloped them once more and they were back at the Hellsing estate, specifically in Integra's office. She had been in a conversation with Walter when the two came out of the floor, and the two fell silent upon their entrance.

"What have I told you about using doors, Alucard?" she ground out.

"Apologies," he said unapologetically. The six-eyed hellhound trotted through the wall and towards Maria.

"Mr. Eyes!" she cried in greeting. "I had so much fun! You should've seen it! There were all these ghouls and I was like 'bam bam bam!' and they all died! And then-and then Alucard even let me shoot the vampire!"

Mr. Eyes seemed bored by her spirited tale and made her drop the subject by giving her a challenging look and bounding to the other side of the room. Maria giggled and the two engaged in a wild game of tag while the two adults and vampire watched.

"That summarizes the mission," Alucard said.

"Did she really kill the vampire?" his master asked.

Alucard nodded. "A perfect shot to the heart."

"And she is unfazed by everything?"

The three watched as she laughed and chased after Mr. Eyes, who kept diving into the floor and through the walls to evade her grasp.

"She sensed the freaks' presence from a quarter of a mile," he said, inwardly preening.

The mortals' eyebrows rose in surprise. Walter said, "But you haven't given her any of you blood yet."

"It seems she is even more eager to become a Child of the Night than I had hoped," he grinned. "She absorbs a small amount of my energy and it allows her these abilities."

Integra heaved a sigh and pinched the bridge of her nose. "What are we getting ourselves into with this child?" she muttered to herself. She then turned back to Alucard, back to business. "You're dismissed."

He gave her a short bow and the hellhound bounded through the wall. Maria let out a disappointed groan and then turned to Alucard.

"It's unfair that Mr. Eyes can run away like that. I can never win!"

"Then you'll have to learn how to walk through walls, won't you?" he said teasingly, then turned on his heel. "Come. The sun will rise soon."

Maria gave a polite bow to Integra and Walter before running to catch up with the undead's long strides.

"Can I really learn how to?" she asked, looking up at him hopefully.

"Perhaps in a few years."

"You hear that, Mr. Eyes?" Maria said loudly, as the hellhound in question was nowhere within sight. "Your days are numbered!"


For someone who had existed for over five centuries, a decade was over in almost the blink of an eye. In that short time, Maria had sprouted into the most beautiful and dangerous woman ever to walk the Earth. She was peerless among the other mortal Hellsing soldiers thanks to Alucard's extensive training and her natural but very slight osmosis of his powers. She was brutally beautiful, with long tresses of chocolate brown spirals and emerald eyes that could almost enthrall an unsuspecting mortal. Receiving her smile felt like a blessing from God, and receiving her displeasure meant tasting unholy wrath.

On this night, her sixteenth birthday, Alucard summoned her to his chambers. She entered, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

"It's barely sunset," she groaned.

"You would sleep the night away if left to your own devices," he chided, "even though tonight is a special occasion."

She perked up at this and took her customary seat on his lap, sitting sideways so she could rest her back on the arm of the chair and look up at him easily. "What did you get me for my birthday?" she asked.

A subtle smile upturned his lips as he took her in. "Now that you have come of age, it is time to begin the ritual."

Her eyes widened and she gave a quiet gasp.

"There is no turning back once it has begun," he continued, his smile only growing as he saw her breath catch in her throat, elation and disbelief on her features, "so I will ask: Do you agree to become my queen, my equal? Are you willing to stay by my side for all of time?"

Her answer flew from her lips the very moment he had finished speaking. "Yes. Yes, please."

Tonight Alucard was dressed only in his black slacks, white undershirt, and black vest. He unhurriedly took off the cufflink on his right wrist, and Maria watched in silent apprehension as he bit down on the exposed wrist. The two punctures began to weep his deep crimson blood, and the young woman chewed on her lip to contain her excitement.

"Drink," he commanded, his voice black silk. "Drink and take the first step down the path of becoming true immortal."

She took his hand in hers and unhesitatingly lapped at the long trail flowing down his forearm. A soft sound of longing and satisfaction issued from her lips as the red elixir met her tongue and overwhelmed her senses in its complexity. His blood was completely different from the human blood she had been drinking ever since her first mission with him. It had an iron undertone, but it also tasted of exotic spices and burned her tongue slightly, leaving it tingling. It was exquisite, and she had half a mind to drain him if he would let her.

Maria quickly licked her way up to the pulsepoint where he had bit into himself, desperately suckling and licking the wound in search of more.

She felt his other hand run through her curls in an unusually affectionate way, and he continued his ministrations as she continued hers. Vaguely, she felt like a cat who was being rewarded for obediently drinking the milk its master had set out for it.

Maria wasn't sure how long she had been attached to his arm when the flow slowed and gradually stopped. She let out a grunt of frustration and renewed her efforts, but Alucard's hand had stilled in her hair.

"Just a taste for tonight," he said in an unmistakably teasing tone.

The girl reluctantly pulled away from his arm and looked up to him, her emerald eyes blown with bloodlust. A line of his blood trailed from her lips and he wiped it away with a thumb. She instantly took his gloved hand and sucked on the digit, her eyes closed as she groaned in bliss.

He hadn't expected the girl to hunger for him so, and when she drew his thumb into her mouth and sucked on it wantonly a thrill of arousal shot down to his cock. He repressed the urge as soon as he felt it, though. She was still young and she wasn't aware of how he would react to such a display.

"When can we do it again?" she whispered, looking up at him through her long lashes.

"A month from today."

She let out a disappointed sigh, but didn't complain. She knew that he abhorred such behavior.

"And how long until I can finally become a vampire?"

"Five years."

He saw the disappointment in her hazy gaze, even though she didn't voice it. He tucked an errant curl behind her ear.

"Patience," he whispered. "That night will come sooner than you can imagine."

Maria nodded obediently, but he could see another question in her gaze. "Why did you choose me?"

"Because you were born to be mine," he said simply.

That vague answer seemed to satisfy her because she gave him a beautiful smile. "Thank you for the birthday present."

He said nothing, but moved to stand up and she rose to her feet with him. She was due on the training grounds in ten minutes and she still had to change. Flashing him a quick grin, she hurried out of his chambers and to her own, where she threw on the standard issue Hellsing uniform and grabbed her gun before dashing out to the obstacle course.

Chapter Text

Tonight was the dummy run with real ghouls in the maze-like course. It was by far her favorite kind of training, even though the fun paled in comparison to a real mission with an actual vampire or two to hunt down.

She was excited to have an opportunity to test her abilities so soon. She had felt Alucard's ancient power in his blood, giving it that burning, tingling sensation that she found so addicting. And now she could feel his energy coursing through her own veins ever so slightly. She flexed her fingers experimentally, though the motion felt no different from before.

Maria stood at attention in the first row of soldiers, her back straight and special issue pistol holstered at her side. She had grown big enough over the years that the first gun Alucard had given her had now become her secondary one, usually hidden in her bra. Her mainstay was a gun not dissimilar to the Casull. It was a long-barreled semi-automatic 50 calibre handgun that fired mercury-tipped silver bullets, and the grips were inlaid with fire opals.

Seras stood before the men as their leader and said, "For the first round, Maria will be entering the maze alone."

The other soldiers looked to her and each other concernedly. They had recently gotten a lot of new recruits who weren't aware of her uniqueness. A quick glance at her and one would easily assume she was just a girl in the wrong place at the wrong time, with her long curls and angelically sweet face.

She stepped forward, a grin curling her lips. "Yes, ma'am," she saluted, and then proceeded to the initial chamber by vaulting over the ledge before them. She landed on the hard tile with an almost feline grace.

"Is she going to be alright?" she heard the men whisper above. Maria was pleased to notice that her hearing had improved.

"She's so small-she'll just be eaten."

She heard Seras say, "Maria is our most accomplished soldier other than myself. I think she'll do just fine." The Draculina called down to her, "You know what to do when you hear the buzzer."

Maria nodded and pulled out her gun, facing the solid steel door that she would go through to enter the maze.

She felt the comfortingly heavy presence of Alucard in her peripherals and she didn't need to look to know that he was standing on the ledge beside Seras, looking down at her through his red spectacles.

The buzzer sounded and Maria entered the maze at a relaxed gait. She used to have to focus to sense the presence of ghouls, but now it came as easy as breathing. There were thirty in total, and three were quickly approaching. They would round the corner to her left in a few moments.

You must be extremely bored to come watch me, she said to Alucard.

His deep tones filled her mind as she took aim and eliminated the three freaks. I hope you can amuse me.

If a show was what he wanted, then a show was what he would get, she decided with a grin. There were five more ghouls coming toward her, but instead of shooting them she darted straight at them and vaulted over their heads. They spun around and began running after her, but she just giggled and continued sprinting through the maze. The sound of her footfalls and laughter alerted the other freaks in the maze and she could feel them all drawing nearer. She had come to the central room of the maze, which connected eight different halls. They were all barrelling toward her, but she just grinned and holstered her gun.

"Is she out of her mind?" she could hear a soldier ask another.

I hope you have a plan, Alucard rumbled in her mind.

She didn't bother to reply. The ghouls were closing in now, only a few yards away and not slowing down, their arms outstretched and ready to rip the flesh from her bones. Maria felt no fear as the corpses growled and surrounded her; she was filled with an excitement so great her teeth chattered. She reached inside herself, calling forth the power she had received from Alucard's blood, and watched as her shadow melted and crawled up her body, taking the shape of ten long claws on her fingers.

Chuckling, she used her new weapons to tear into the first freak with a vicious swipe, leaving a hole in its chest where its heart had been. She was a bellicose ballerina, the ghouls' fetid blood spurting everywhere as she danced about the room, always escaping their clutches. A beheading here, a disembowelment there, one particularly vicious flying kick to the head, and all of the twenty-seven ghouls lay in mutilated heaps around her.

Their blood, foul though it was, was calling to her in a haunting song she had never heard before. She looked at her stained hands and, entranced by them, opened her mouth and extended her tongue to taste the silky smooth-

That's enough.

Alucard's calm but authoritative words rang out in her head and she jumped as if awakened from a dream.

"A clear pass," Maria heard Seras say from above. "You are dismissed."

The girl saluted mechanically and then exited the labyrinth. Alucard was waiting for her at the exit, his arms crossed as he appraised her with an amused smirk.

"Did I manage to entertain His Majesty?" Maria asked him, wiping off some of the ghoul blood on her face with the back of her hand. Its siren song had quieted since the vampire had brought her back to her senses, but it still riled her.

"Quite," he grinned. "Your use of your shadow was shrewd and your instincts were flawless. Even if you did nearly lose control at the end."

A snarl twisted her features for a moment before she schooled her expression in the calm, angelic face she showed to everyone. Her rancor bled into her voice as she muttered, "I don't know why that happened. I've never craved it so strongly. It was calling to me."

"The hunger will only get stronger. Mind that you do not lose yourself to it. It would be a shame if I had to put a bullet through the head of my queen."

She nodded. "I'm off to take a shower, then."

"Return to my chambers when you are finished."

Maria watched as he sank into the ground and vanished, wondering what business he could have with her. It was rare for him to call her to his dungeon twice in a night. She couldn't afford to dwell on it for too long, though, as the song seemed to be getting louder now that he was gone. She nearly ran back to the castle and to her own room in the dungeons, where she all but leapt into the shower and scrubbed every last trace of the ghouls from her body.

She was reminded of Alucard's gentle touch as she shampooed her long locks, and she bathed absently as she pondered the unusual gesture. Even when she had been a child, the only times they had physical contact was when she was perched on his shoulders during a mission or when she sat on his lap. She idolized him and saw him as her savior, but had never viewed him as a parent. One of her earliest memories was of her asking Alucard if he was her father. He had given her a condescending look and said, "I am not your father; I am your creator."

Maria's throat burned with a hunger stronger than any she had ever felt. Ever since her first mission and taste of blood, she had developed a small craving for it which Alucard indulged on occasion by giving her one of his medical blood packs, and, on even rarer occasions, with the fresh stuff. This was all hidden from Sir Integra, though, who would be absolutely incensed by a human drinking another human's blood. Even if that human was slated to become the next No-Life Queen.

Having only left the manor to complete missions, Maria's sole experience with people told her that they all feared and abhorred vampires, and the vain or weak attempted to become a Childe of the Night. She was neither vain nor weak, yet she couldn't wait to join the No-Life King in eternity. Somehow, she had always known that it was her fate.

"Do you know why you stay with me and not the other humans?" Alucard asked her.

She was small, only three or four, sitting on his lap and holding a doll. She looked up to him and said plainly, "I'm different from them."

A knowing smile was spreading across his lips, his ruby eyes glowing. "And what makes you different?"

"I'm the only one who will follow you forever."

She had felt nothing but eager when Alucard had gifted her with the first taste of his blood tonight. Finally, the moment she had been waiting for her whole life had come. She had imagined this day for years, and his blood had been even more scrumptious than she had imagined. But she hadn't expected how heady his power would be and how aroused it would make her. His blood had warmed her entire body, made her tremble with her desire for it and everything else the Nosferatu could give her.

Even now, she could feel the tingle of arousal returning.

She shook her head, forcing herself to dispel such thoughts lest he should pick up on them and tease her. She knew that she was to become his Queen, but she wasn't entirely sure what the title entailed. Was she to be his bride in all senses of the word? She had never seen him do anything remotely sexual in nature. Did he even think about such things?

I tire of waiting, girl, his growled in her mind, and Maria jumped nervously at the sudden intrusion.

"Speak of the Devil," she muttered before hurrying to tousle her curls dry. She threw on one of her off-duty outfits: a short, flowing grey shirt and a black tank top.

She knocked on his door and it opened of its own accord. The room was pitch black, but Maria's eyesight was keener than other mortals; she could see the silhouette of his chair and table in the distance.

"What did you want?" she asked, knowing that he was sitting in his throne even though she couldn't see him.

His words were a whisper that tickled her ear. "I think a reward is in order for your demonstration earlier."

She turned to face him, excitement growing with her at his words. He stood mere centimeters from her in his casual wear, looming over her with a fanged grin.

"A birthday present and a reward on the same day?" she joked. "You're spoiling me."

"Come," he ordered, and led her to his seat.

She went to take her customary seat on his lap sideways, but he grabbed her by the waist and repositioned her so that she was straddling him, her legs on either side of his hips. A dark blush swept over her cheeks unbidden. It was the first time they had ever sat like this, and her mind couldn't help but think of just how few layers of clothing were separating them.

"The soldiers have tarnished your mind," Alucard lamented.

Her blush deepened furiously at his words and she impotently slapped his arm. "Stay out of my head, if you please."

He eyed the arm she had struck with a slightly amused look before turning back to her. His eyes were luminescent in the near dark and his teeth glinting in a leer.

His words were soft as silk. "It's poor taste to strike your benefactor, is it not?"

"Iartã-mã," she apologized, eyes wide in surprise. It was a fool's errand to strike the No-Life King. What on earth had possessed her to do such a thing?

He felt the sincerity in her words and brushed the incident off. His smile softened from the sharp leer to something warmer.

"Your body is adjusting to the power. These sorts of outbursts are unpleasant though perhaps unavoidable. Now tell me, are you thirsty?"

At the word alone the fire began burning anew in her throat. "Yes," she managed to say.

"Of course you are," he chuckled, and she saw the medical blood in his right hand. He held it out to her and when she reached for it her fingers splayed on top of his longer, gloved ones.

"Maria." She looked up immediately from the blood and into his red pools. His mirth was gone as he regarded her seriously. "You must always stay in control of your desires lest they consume you. Vampires are creatures of vice; it is our greatest weakness."

"Yes," she nodded, entirely focused on him and his words. "I will keep myself in check."

His hand slid out from under hers as he relinquished the blood packet. "That's a good girl," he praised, and gave a nod of permission.

She pulled off the cap and sat it carefully on the table beside them, her trembling fingers belying her excitement. She had never sought it more than she had tonight. She sucked on the straw and when the coppery, smoothe liquid met her tongue she let out a soft sound of ecstasy. The burn in her throat was instantaneously doused by the deluge.

Maria had been vaguely aware that Alucard's left hand had never strayed from its hold on his hip, but now she noticed that the right one was running through her curls in the same affectionate manner as before. It was a soothing thing, and she found herself wanting to reciprocate, to make him feel the contentment he had bestowed upon her.

He was staring at her with his eternally unreadable crimson gaze, but she refused to be intimidated. It was the first time she had ever attempted anything of this sort and she felt a shiver of apprehension as she raised her own hand to feel his silky black locks. Over the years, she had learned to gauge the vampire's mood by the length of his hair. The shorter and tamer it was, the calmer he was. The longer and wilder, the closer to madness he was. Currently, his hair was the slightly shaggy but well-kempt look he usually sported. Maria was amazed by the softness of his locks-it felt more like mercury flowing between her fingers than strands.

His eyes closed as he leaned into her touch slightly, and the girl gained confidence that what she was doing was allowed, welcome. She ran her fingernails lightly over his scalp as she felt his hand on her hip tighten its hold.

Growing bold, she took a sip of blood and pressed her lips against his. His mouth opened easily for her and she let him have the blood. His eyes shot open in surprise and he let out a soft sound before greedily plundering her mouth with his tongue. When he had sussed out every last drop he hissed, "Again."

She leapt to comply and when their lips met again he was demanding and ravenous, claiming her mouth as he pulled her close enough that their chests were touching. A soft moan escaped her lips at the onslaught and unconsciously she rubbed her hips against his, seeing some sort of relief from the torturous ache that was growing between her legs.

"Maria," he growled into the kiss, a warning.

She went to take another sip of blood, but snarled when she realized that it was empty. She allowed him to seize her mouth in another searing kiss, and this time she raked her tongue against one of his sharp fangs. The very instant her blood spilled he gave a sharp inhale and crushed her to him, sucking hungrily on her weeping tongue. His hips bucked against hers and she could feel his arousal rubbing against her heat.

He commanded, "Încă."

Maria fulfilled his wish by running her tongue along his fangs again, the pain mingling with the pleasure in a heady haze. His grip on her waist was sure to leave a bruise, but she couldn't have cared any less. All that mattered was pleasing him and receiving his rewards.

"Scoate-ți mănușile."

The No-Life King's words stirred the fog of pleasure, rousing her slightly. The sigils on his gloves contained the binding magic of the Hellsing family. He lacked the power to remove them, but a mortal could remove them for him if they desired to. Sir Integra had expressly forbidden her from taking off Alucard's gloves for any reason.

"Îmi pare rău, dar nu pot," she breathed.

He broke away from her, and for a split second Maria feared retribution. She was surprised when he instead began to laugh, long and deep. He raised a gloved hand to cup her cheek, grinning to reveal his reddened teeth.

"My beautiful girl," he said warmly, "you never fail to impress."

A flash of indignation ran hot through her as she realized that he had been testing her resolve this entire time. It had all been a game.

She didn't allow her displeasure to show on her features, though. She fixed him with a coy smile instead. "Thank you. Will that be all?"

He nodded, and his fingers ghosted down from her cheek to the fingers of her hand that were still clutching his vest. "Go. You're late to your lessons."

Maria fought the urge to swear, knowing that he disliked it when she used uncouth language. Perhaps the men were rubbing off on her a bit too much as of late. She extricated herself from his hold and readjusted her skirt before turning to leave.

She had nearly reached the door when he said, "You're mine. I won't permit another man to touch you."

Maria bit her lip, not entirely sure why he was telling her this right now. It was true that he had left her with no means to put out the fire burning within her, but she wasn't desperate enough that she would jump the bones of one of the men.

She gave him a nod and then left the room, sprinting up to the second floor where her tutor was waiting for her in one of the libraries. Her status as an active Hellsing operative and her nocturnal schedule made it impossible to attend school, and those factors notwithstanding she had a feeling that Alucard wouldn't have wanted her gone for that long five days out of the week anyways.

Mr. Eyes emerged from the wall to her left, her bookbag in its mouth, and immediately broke into an easy trot to keep up with her run.

"You're a lifesaver," she thanked him, taking the bag without slowing.

The taste of blood was still strong in her mouth as she rounded the final corner to the library and she wondered momentarily if it would cause problems. She was already eight minutes late; there was no time to run to the bathroom and look in the mirror.

"I'm sorry I'm late," Maria said as she opened the door. "Tonight's training was a bit-"

"Maria, are you alright?" Mr. Willows exclaimed, rising from his seat at the long wooden table. His bushy gray brows were lost in this scraggly hair, alarm all over his features.

"I-yes, what's-"

"You've got blood down your front and on your lips."

She touched her lips and looked at her fingers to see red. Her favorite tank top had also been sullied.

That asshole, she thought to herself. He had known she had blood all over her and had let her go like this.

She scrambled to set the poor man at ease. "Mr. Willows, it's perfectly fine. I bit my tongue during training and it's just a bit more blood than I thought. Nothing worry about. Please, let's do the lesson."

It took a bit more coaxing, but eventually she convinced him that she was fine and they were able to complete their lesson of world history, Latin, and literature. Normally, Alucard pestered her incessantly during her lessons, making her translate things into Romanian or Italian or correcting the teacher when it came to world history. Tonight, however, her mind was blissfully quiet. She wasn't sure if it was because he knew she was irritated with him, or whether he had something else going on. Either way, she was welcome for the reprieve.

She had just gotten her first kiss, and it had been from the No Life King Himself. Even now, she could almost taste him on her lips.

The three-hour lesson went by in a haze, and when it was over she barely remembered what they had talked about. She thanked Mr. Willows and then headed back to the dungeons, where her bed was calling to her. It was nearing five and the sun would be rising soon.

Mechanically, she went through the motions of changing into her pajamas and brushing her teeth and then sank into bed. She yelped in surprise when she landed on something way too hard and unyielding to be her mattress.

"You're much heavier than you look."

Between the time Maria had jumped and landed on the bed, none other than the Nosferatu had appeared on her bed, lying on his back with his hands behind his head. He was still wearing the same casual dress from before, but he had tacked on an irksome, amused grin.

"What are you doing in my bed?" she demanded, unable to hide her displeasure as a frown downturned her lips.

"It's almost sunrise."

"Yes, I know. That's why I'm going to go to sleep. That doesn't explain why you're here."

"I'm tired," he said simply.

The plain look he was fixing her with told Maria that he wasn't budging, and he wasn't answering any more of her questions. She wasn't sure whether it was due to the testing of her new powers or the blood loss from her tongue, but she was too exhausted to play his games.

She sighed defeatedly, "At least scoot over a bit. You're right in the middle."

He slid over to the far half of the bed and looked to her with expectant wine-red pools.

The lights turned off as she got into the bed and pulled the covers over herself and the vampire. She lie on her back beside him, and the bed was big enough that they could both lie there comfortably. Her arm was brushing against his, but that was their only contact.

She hazarded a glance his way, and in the dimness she could see that he was lying on his back, hands together on his chest. With that pose and his lack of breathing she could have mistaken him for a corpse, if not for the red of his pupils that glowed slightly. He was staring up at the ceiling as though deep in thought.

"Alucard?" she whispered.

He cast her a sideways glance.

She wasn't even sure what made her say it, but the request was tumbling from her lips. "Spune-mi o poveste, vă rog."

He snorted in disbelief. "Ești un copil?" he asked condescendingly, but when she rolled over to face him properly he went back to staring up at the ceiling. When he remained silent, Maria thought that he was just going to ignore her.

But then he spoke in the low rumble that struck fear in the hearts of men but filled Maria with ease. "Mult timp în urmă, trăia un pescar bătrân. În fiecare zi, el a aruncat plasele sale de patru ori. Nici mai mult nici mai puțin…."

The tale was of an old fisherman who cast his nets into the ocean four times each day, no more and no less. One day, the first three casts yielded no fish and he prayed to God that the last cast be successful. He pulled in the nets a fourth time and found a mysterious, heavy jar. Upon opening it, a mad genie sprang forth and said that it would bestow death upon the fisherman. The fisherman was clever, though, and tricked the genie back into the jar before tossing it back to sea.

Maria's fatigue coupled with the vampire's soothing tones made it hard to stay awake, but his voice was as relaxing as it was entrancing and she couldn't help but wriggle closer to him to better hear. When the story was over, her head was resting in the crook of his shoulder and his gloved hand resting possessively on her bare hip, as her shirt had ridden up at some point.

"A fost o poveste bună. Mulțumesc," she thanked him in a murmur.

"Du-te la culcare," was his only reply.

She followed his order nearly instantly, unable to keep her eyes open any longer.

Chapter Text

When Maria awoke, she was alone. Memories of Alucard in bed with her telling her the tale of the fisherman floated to her like smoke on a breeze, but they were so faint that she wondered if it hadn't all been a dream.

She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. It was six p.m. and she had a schedule to keep. There was no time to dawdle. Her lessons with Mr. Willows would start in two hours and she had gone to sleep that morning without doing her homework. Following that, she was to train with Seras.

A knock sounded at the door just as she pulled on a long aubergine top that hugged her curves and ended a bit past her hips. the length of the blouse made it hard to see the jean shorts she was wearing underneath. She had settled on something with a longer hem because of the five-fingered bruise she sported on her left hip. She had no problem letting the others know that they had started the ritual for her to become Alucard's queen, but for some reason she wanted to hide that it had taken a rather physical turn.

Having doubts?

Ugh, good evening to you too, she thought sarcastically to the intrusive vampire. And no, I'm not. I just don't think Sir Integra or Walter will get it. They think of me as their child, and you as my parent.

Ah. For such a short utterance, it was incredible how much of his intentions Maria could glean. Mischief. Glee. Plotting.

Oh, no, she said quickly, I want no part in whatever devious surprise you're planning for Sir Integra.

You're no fun, he pouted.

Walter had come in carrying her breakfast of eggs, toast, pancakes, and milk on a silver tray. Only this time, the milk had been replaced with a more viscous red liquid that set her throat on fire at the sight.

"Good evening, Maria," he greeted warmly, setting the tray on the table before her. "Did you sleep well?"

"Good evening. Yes, I did," she smiled as she sat down. "Walter, I see that my milk is gone."

"Ah, yes. Alucard said that you were to have a glass of blood each breakfast from here on out. How do you feel?"

Maria gave the glass a displeased look for a moment. She much prefered the drinking method Alucard had shown her the previous night.

"Good. I was tired this morning, but I feel brand new tonight."

A kind smile was on Walter's lips as he bowed. "Excellent. I'll leave you to your studies, then."

She bade him farewell and tucked into her meal, first draining the glass of every last drop and then working on the rest of her food. She blazed through her studies as well. She wasn't sure if it was natural talent or because of her slight osmosis of the No Life King's power, but she had the ability to read or hear something once and memorize it. This made her homework all incredibly easy and she finished it with a half-hour to spare.

Maria had half a mind to pester Alucard, but the other half of her worried that it would devolve into something that would make her late for her lessons a second night in a row. Also, her tongue was still sore. She chose instead to read a book on banshees that Integra had recommended her a few days ago. Though it wasn't often, Hellsing's foes weren't always vampires. Integra wanted her men as well-educated and prepared as possible against the unholy.

Banshees? What drivel, Alucard scoffed.

Have you fought one before?

Yes. It was over so quickly I didn't even have time to feel disappointed. All you need to know about them is that wearing a wreath of laurels will make its voice tolerable, and that they can be killed by beheading.

It wasn't often that he took the time to teach her such morsels of his knowledge. She stored it away for later.

Thank you. ...Just how bored are you that you're talking with me about banshees?

And just like that, he was gone from her mind. She chuckled, knowing that it irritated him when she hit on the truth so quickly.

It was nearly time for her lesson, so she packed her bag and left to head to the library. Because she had been late last night she wanted to make up for it by being extra early to tonight's lesson.

She was only a few corridors away from the library when she felt the sudden oppressive presence of the resident vampire, but he was too fast for her to evade and he shoved her ruthlessly against the wall before claiming her mouth in a brutal kiss.

Maria was so startled by the onslaught that she couldn't move for the first few moments. But then she could feel herself melting into him, her body relaxing against his cool planes as her hands reached for the lapels of his red jacket.

She hissed in pain when he nipped her lip and broke the skin, but the moment he drew her lower lip into his mouth and sucked on it she forgot all about the pain and gasped softly. She tugged on his jacket, trying to bring him even closer to her. She wanted to feel his every inch against her.

He obliged, taking her by the hips and grinding his heat against her own deliciously. Maria had forgotten all about the lesson down the hall; all she could focus on was Alucard and those hypnotic red eyes that bored into her soul.

And then he was pulling away from her, taking the pleasure and warmth with him. There was a drop of her blood on his lips, and he never broke eye contact as his tongue darted out to lick it up in an outlandishly suggestive way.

"Stay focused on your lesson," he commanded, his eyes twinkling with mirth.

Another test. Maria gritted her teeth and pushed her curls out of her face before wiping the last traces of blood from her mouth. She managed to say in a dignified tone, "Yes."

His soft chuckle echoed in the corridor even after he had vanished through the wall. Maria was veritably seething knowing that he had toyed with her twice in a row. So he wanted her to focus on the lesson? She would. She would forget his existence for the next few days and see how he felt. Two could play this game, and play she would.

She looked herself over in a mirror that happened to be a bit further down the hall. Her emerald eyes were burning with her fury, though the rest of her expression was as tranquil and sweet as usual. Her curls framed her face neatly, and her lip was red but the bleeding had stopped. She willed herself to calm down, to douse the blaze that sparkled in her gaze until she looked her normal, easy-going self. She flashed an experimental smile and her reflection grinned back, as angelic and kind as usual. Perfect.

Miraculously, she was a couple minutes early to her lesson with Mr. Willows. She took her seat and they began by discussing her homework, which as usual was impeccable. She was just talking about the effects of the Crusades on Europe when the unmistakable sensation of a long tongue dragging up her neck made her jump in alarm. Instinctually, her hand flew up to her throat but there was nothing there.

"Maria, are you alright?" Mr. Willows asked.

"Yes, just a hair," she smiled.

So this was his new way to alleviate his boredom. She wasn't going to lose so easily.

Mr. Willows asked her to read a passage from the history book aloud and she did so in a calm, steady diction, even when she felt Alucard's phantom tongue dance in circles around her jugular. She put every ounce of concentration she had into focusing on the text and ignoring the way his dextrous tongue was making her feel warm and uncomfortable. She had half a mind to sever their mental connection so that he couldn't keep harassing her, but he would consider it a win if she did so. She would have to grin and bear it.

She managed to read through the entire passage without giving any outward sign that he was getting to her, though by the end he was throwing in a nip here and there that threatened to be her downfall.

Mr. Willows was absolutely oblivious to Maria's discomfort as he began lecturing about the next installment of Hamlet they were to read. She dutifully took notes in her notebook, her fingers trembling slightly as the tongue trailed to her collarbone where he left open-mouthed kisses that made her want to gasp for air.

She wasn't going to let him win this, though. She wasn't just another weak human. Even if it were just something as juvenile as making her squirm and embarrass herself, she wasn't going to let him beat her.

By the end of the three hour lesson, her legs were so weak that she wasn't sure she could stand. She managed, however, thanked Mr. Willows, and left with her satchel slung over a shoulder. She made a beeline for her room in the dungeons so she could get changed and prepare for her training with Seras, which was due to begin in about twenty minutes.

"I'm impressed," Alucard said, appearing beside her as she walked down the stairs to the dungeons.

"Thank you," she gritted out perfunctorily, not stopping.

He glided along a few paces behind her, and when she closed the door to her room behind her she thought he would take the hint to leave her alone, but he instead drifted through the solid wooden panel as though it were still wide open.

"I need to get ready to train with Seras in fifteen minutes."

"Yes, you do."

She fixed him with a long, hard look. "I need to get changed."

"Yes, you do."

His devilish grin said that he wasn't moving from his spot by the door and Maria set her shoulders back defiantly before crossing to the wardrobe and pulling out one of her Hellsing uniforms. She turned her back to him as she changed, but she could feel his red eyes burning like embers into her.

She gave him a curt nod before exiting the room, and he merely watched her go with a smile.

Maria wanted to rip it off his face.

Honestly, everything was all just some great big game to him. Their foreplay was fun and Maria enjoyed it, but she didn't enjoy being constantly left high and dry, or being thrust into potentially awkward situations. It would be one thing if she knew that he would be able to fulfil the needs he awakened in her, but they both knew that she had to remain a virgin until he had turned her. She didn't want to be in a constant state of arousal for the next five years. She'd wind up killing everyone.

Thankfully, the Nosferatu left her alone while she sparred with Seras. The fight helped her take her mind off of him and release her pent up frustrations.

"You're stronger and faster than the last time," Seras noted afterwards. They sat on a grassy hill several hundred yards from the manor, looking up at the clear, starry sky. "It's incredible what such a small amount of Master's blood can do."

Maria nodded, a subtle frown curling her lips. She didn't really want to think about him right now.

Seras had spotted her displeasure. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing," she sighed. "He can be a bit of a jerk, sometimes."

The blonde vampire nodded sympathetically. "He's not all bad, though."

"No, he's not," agreed Maria. She yawned and stretched her arms above her head. "Well, thanks for the training. I've got to get a bit of this homework done before I turn in."

The two stood up and headed back to the castle in a comfortable silence. The older vampire was perhaps the only person Maria called friend. She had understood immediately why Alucard had decided to turn her. She was a sweet, innocent girl that brought out the best in the people around her.

Maria went down to her chambers and took a quick shower to wash away the sweat and dirt she had accumulated during her training with Seras, and then changed into her pajamas of a loose t-shirt and cotton shorts. The bruise on her hip served as a reminder of the previous night's activities and she blushed at the thought. She wondered when she'd have an opportunity to kiss him like that again, but then shook her head and told herself that she was in a battle of wills with the vampire, and she wasn't going to lose just because he was really, really kissable.

The shower and sparring had helped cool her mind off and she was able to get most of her studies done by five, when the sun was just about to rise. She yawned, stretching her arms up as high as they would go before forcing her heavy eyes to focus on the pages of Hamlet before her. She had to finish reading and analyzing this act for tomorrow night's lesson.

"It's early. Come to bed."

Maria had felt the No Life King's presence behind her on her bed for the past few minutes, but she had been steadfastly pretending he didn't exist.

"I want to finish this first," she said. "I'm almost done."

"It's too bright to sleep."

Maria found herself wondering why he didn't just go sleep in his own dark room if it bothered him so, but continued writing in silence.

She could feel his irritation building like static electricity in the air and the lights began to dim.

She looked up from her work and to him. He was lying on her bed as if he owned it, in his casual clothes. His expression was cool, but there was a slight knot between his brow that told her he wasn't pleased.

"Ten more minutes," she compromised. "Ten more minutes and then I'll go to bed."

He gave her a long-suffering look but the lights returned to their usual brightness.

"Mulțumesc," she thanked him, and then returned to hurriedly writing her analysis of the text.

She had never written so fast in her life, but she managed to finish her homework with a couple minutes to spare. The moment she sat down her pencil, the room went dark. She could make out Alucard's outline on the bed, still in the middle of it as he had been the night before. She crawled into bed with him, sidling up against him as he took up too much space for her to avoid touching him.

"Could you move a bit?" she asked presently. "I'm about to fall off the bed."

His reply was to wrap an arm around her and place his hand firmly on her hip.

A sigh escaped the girl's lips. She was supposed to be repelling him, but she couldn't kick him out of the bed or even shove him. All she could do was rest her head in the crook of his shoulder like she had the night before.

"Ask your question," he muttered. "Your agitation is keeping me awake."

She had been debating asking him, but now she had no choice. "Why are you here again?"

He opened one eye to stare at her blankly. "Would you rather me gone?"

"No. I'm just confused by all of this."

"What is there to be confused by? You are mine to lie with if I choose."

"And if I asked you to leave?"

He frowned. "I would leave."

She exhaled a breath she hadn't been aware of keeping in. She understood that he was her king, but she also needed a modicum of control. He understood this about her, and was willing to give it to her even if he was reluctant.

Maria rested a hand on his chest and relaxed further against him. "Please don't go."

He stayed precisely where he was, inhumanly still. The only sound in the room was the girl's soft, steady breaths.

"You're not going to ask for a bedtime story?" he asked presently, a hint of a tease in his tone.

She was just on the edge of sleep and her reply came out as a murmur. "I made you wait ten minutes to go to sleep. I won't prolong your rest any longer tonight."

"Hn."

"Tomorrow's story should be twice as long to make up for it, though."

Maria peeked up to see him giving her an imperious glare, but she just laughed softly before drifting off.


"Get up."

Maria awoke the moment Alucard spoke. He stood beside the bed, looking down on her. He was fully dressed, complete with hat and red glasses.

"A mission?" she asked.

"Yes. Get changed. The soldiers are already on the way to the scene."

"What?" She leapt out of bed and rushed to get dressed, not even caring that the vampire was watching her every move with a hungry look. "They've already left? Why wasn't I told sooner?"

"The soldiers are engaging the ghouls. You and I will be engaging the hosts."

Maria paused wrangling her curls into a ponytail to stare at him in surprise. If Alucard was sent on a mission, it was usually solo. Any soldiers who went with him usually didn't make it back anyways. It had been a couple years since she had been assigned to work with him on a mission; she was almost always in infantry with Seras.

Fully dressed in the yellow Hellsing uniform, her top unbuttoned to reveal a black tanktop and allow quick access to the Derringer she had inside her bra, she slid her fire-opal semi-auto into its holster on her left hip.

When she looked up to Alucard, she was surprised that he held a bag of medical blood out to her. "You'll need energy," he said simply, and she drank it down quickly.

Preparations complete, the No Life King grabbed her arm and his shadows swallowed them. Maria's world turned black and she felt an odd tingling, pulling sensation on all of her limbs for a split second until they appeared on a sidewalk of what was probably a quiet, picturesque suburb. The silent night was rent by the sounds of gunfire and soldiers' commands. They were only a couple blocks away, fighting against an unbelievably large horde of ghouls. Maria estimated there were nearly eighty.

"A coven?" she asked.

"Yes. Eight vampires."

The most she had ever fought at one time with Alucard had been three. This was a big step up, and she gulped down the hint of fear that threatened to rise, then steeled herself. These vampires would be weak and idiotic small fry, easy to pick off.

She pulled her gun out of its holster and cocked it, ready for whatever may come. Her senses were sharp, but nowhere near as sharp as the Nosferatu by her side. If one of the vampires was particularly fast, they may be able to grab her before she could unholster her weapon.

Alucard stalked towards an altogether normal two-story house that fit in perfectly with the rest of the cookie-cutter homes. Truly, if not for the sounds of conflagration a couple blocks away, Maria would have thought there had been a mistake.

The brief set of stairs up to the door were narrow and she was forced to walk behind him. He grabbed her by the wrist and they drifted through the closed door and into the house without making a single sound.

The inside of the house looked just like any other. The usual signs of vampires, like victims, blood, or ghouls were nowhere to be seen. In fact, Maria couldn't even sense the presence of anyone other than themselves.

I don't sense anything here, she said through their mental connection.

You still have a long way to go, then. Three are upstairs and five in the basement.

She gritted her teeth, irked that she had been unable to locate them.

I'm heading to the basement. You handle the trash on the second floor.

By myself? Maria had only fought a vampire one-on-one once, and it had nearly ended in her death. It had pounced on her prepared to rip out her throat, but she had been saved by the silver blade she had hidden up her sleeve that she had used to cut off its head in a burst of fear and adrenaline. She remembered how it had sputtered and gurgled as blood rained down upon her like a filthy rain.

Scared? His voice dripped with mirth.

She was. But she gave him a resolute look, a nod of farewell, and then she headed to the stairway on her right while he went to the kitchen where the stairs to the basement were located. She concentrated on Alucard's power within her, focused it to her third eye and a thrill shot through her when her dim surroundings seemed to brighten. Faintly, she could sense a prickling chill in the air that emanated from one of the rooms upstairs. She took to the steps, her shadows coming to life to cushion her footfalls, making her movements just as soundless as Alucard's. She took the Derringer out of her bra and readied it as well. The stairs opened on a short hallway that connected four rooms. The odd feeling that set the hair on the back of her neck on edge was coming from two of the rooms. Two vampires were in the room directly to her right, and one at the end of the hall.

Maria took a breath and willed her shadow to envelop her to act as a protective shroud in case the hosts had guns. As ready as she could get, she kicked the flimsy wooden door in and instantly opened fire on the two vampires who were on the bed in the middle of a very intimate act. The man and woman hardly had time to look at her before she was shooting at them. They snarled, but Maria's bullets seldom missed and tonight was no exception. They were reduced to dust before they could stand.

She sensed the third one rushing towards her from behind and spun around to meet him, but this one was much faster than her reflexes and his punch hit her squarely in the chest, cracking her sternum and sending her flying into the far wall.

It was only through her extensive practice with Alucard and Seras that she was able to maintain her hold on her guns. It was excruciatingly difficult to breathe and she surmised that her left lung had been punctured or had collapsed.

You were right. I still have a long way to go, she laughed to Alucard.

"You Hellsing bitch!" the vampire snarled. He was a handsome blonde man, but his rage had contorted his face into something that more resembled a wolf than a man as he stalked toward her.

"Yeah, yeah," she gasped, grinning. "You better hurry up and let me kill you. I'm the merciful one."

"What the fuck are you talking about? I'm going to drain every drop of blood from you in the most painful way possible."

Maria would have chuckled, but it was too painful. She just raised her gun to take aim, but the vampire surprised her again with its speed and batted the gun out of her hand. It skidded across the floor and stopped well out of her reach.

He was close enough to her now that she could see herself reflected in his red irises. Sweat was dripping down her brow from the exertion required to keep breathing but she otherwise looked fine. She was weaponless, however, and Alucard wasn't replying to her. Perhaps he was still engaged with the other five.

The blonde grabbed Maria by her long curls and picked her off the floor as though she were a mere bag of trash. His fangs were extending, peeking out of his mouth and curving down his bottom lip.

Before, she would have been panicking. This would spell the death of any other mortal.

But she wasn't just any mortal.

Grinning, she focused on her shadow and bent it to her will. It swirled up her body to her head, where it leapt onto the vampire's arm and slithered up it like a snake. Alarmed, he dropped her and attempted to shake it off, but there was no getting rid of it. It seeped into his nostril and he froze before letting out an ear-splitting, inhuman screech. Blood was pouring from his eyes like tears as he began to tear at the spot above his heart, ripping into his own flesh with mad intent.

"Make it stop! Make it stop!" he screamed.

Maria could only watch in dread curiosity as he finally broke through muscle and bone and wrenched out his own heart, which was covered in her parasitic shadow. His agonized scream faded as he turned to dust, the lump of tissue still in his hands.

"You're the merciful one?"

Alucard was standing in the doorway, looking absolutely no different from before. He was fixing her with a delighted smile.

She gave him a relieved grin and held out a hand to him. He crossed the room in a single step and grabbed her hand to pull her to her feet. In his other hand he held both of her guns that the vampire had flung away. She pocketed both with trembling hands and then fell against his chest, gasping for air. Black spots were floating in the air around her and growing larger each time she blinked.

"Can't breathe," she choked out.

His shadows were already wrapping around them as he picked her up to carry her bridal style.

"Pathetic," he said, though there was no bite.


"You almost let her get killed!"

"She was perfectly fine on her own. It's only some broken bones and a punctured lung. She'll be healed in a week."

"Alucard, a human can't heal from those sorts of wounds in a week. She'll be in bed for at least a week and out of action for a month."

"Nonsense."

Maria's eyes fluttered open to see that she was in her room on her bed, an IV hooked to her arm. Sir Integra and Alucard were bickering at the foot of her bed. It felt like she had been charged by a bull and her chest ached, but she was otherwise fine.

Alucard looked over to her the moment she awoke, their mental connection making him acutely aware. His expression was as stoic as ever, but Maria thought that she could see a flash of concern in his crimson eyes.

"Maria, how do you feel?" Sir Integra demanded.

She tried to sit up, but her chest hurt too much and she lay back down quickly. "Sore, but fine. How long was I unconscious?"

"Twelve hours."

She looked up at the vampire who was watching their exchange with a bored expression. It was nearing nine a.m. She was surprised that he would stay awake so long.

"I'm sorry to have troubled you," the girl apologized. "The third vampire was quicker than I could move and I couldn't evade his attack."

"Never mind that," the woman said brusquely, turning to Alucard with a frown. "I told you it was too soon for this sort of mission, ritual or no. I was right."

A scowl twisted his brow briefly before he smoothed it back into a careful mask of apathy. "She was injured but she was never in danger of dying."

Integra looked like she wanted to shoot her servant but thought better of it. "Bedrest for a week. Off duty for a month. That's an order."

Incredibly disappointed at her words, Maria just nodded. "Yes, sir."

"And you-" She rounded on Alucard, who was staring boredly at her. "You are not to do anything that will hinder her recovery. That's an order."

He gave a half bow. "My Master."

The Hellsing heiress was already heading out the door. "Ring for Walter if you need anything."

The door clicked shut behind her and Maria could hear her receding footsteps in the ringing silence. Alucard simply stood there staring at her impassively.

"You must be tired," she said presently. "I'm okay, really."

When he didn't move for a few moments Maria began to feel a bit uncomfortable. She attempted to reach out through their mental connection, but she felt her tendrils of consciousness hit a wall.

"Whatever it is that's bothering you, why don't you think about it lying down?" She patted the empty space on the bed beside her. "You might have to shove me to the side a bit, though."

He moved just the slightest bit towards her, but then froze infinitesimally before his clothes changed into his casual wear. Maria could hardly believe her eyes, but it almost looked like the No-Life King himself had hesitated. Even in the heat of battle, he was nothing but collected and confident. Either he was exhausted or he was truly debating something.

With a gentleness that took her aback he scooted her to the side of the bed and then lie down beside her on his back, arms folded across his chest. He was still staring at her with that unreadable look.

"It's just like that time I jumped off the balcony," she said quietly. "I broke my arm, but you broke my fall."

A flicker of mirth flashed in his eyes at the memory. "Both times you were foolish."

She nodded, a small smile on her lips. "The way I killed that vampire was awesome, though."

"It was creative," he conceded.

The lights dimmed and all Maria could she were Alucard's eyes as he continued to gaze at her.

"I don't know if I can fall asleep again," she said. "I'm wide awake."

"Sleep." Alucard's wine-red pools had suddenly become oceans and as she looked into them she fell into them and the lulling waves. Her eyelids drooped as an all-encompassing exhaustion took over her, and in only a few moments she was asleep.

Chapter Text

A month passed by slowly for Maria. True to her word, Sir Integra had made sure that Maria didn't leave her room for an entire week, and after that she was forbidden from leaving the castle or participating in any training. Her lessons with Mr. Willows were now being conducted in her room so she wouldn't have to take the stairs, even though she insisted that she was fine.

Alucard had alternated between being insufferable and aloof, and sometimes insufferably aloof. There were only two things constant about him: he had ceased all of their more physical activities, and each morning he would join her in bed.

Maria thought she was going to go mad from the lack of action. Seras had come to visit a few times and the two of them had movie nights until the sun rose and Alucard kicked the Draculina out of Maria's room, but those nights had been the highlight of the entire month. She had never gone so long without shooting or fighting anything.

She woke up slowly around six p.m. to an empty room. Though she had been sharing her bed with Alucard every day for the past month, she still had yet to rise before him or watch him sleep. Her chest was still tender, but the doctor had assured her that it was all but healed and she could resume her usual activities in two more days. Knowing that she would be able to train with the men again tomorrow filled her with relief.

Maria took a leisurely shower in the private bathroom that adjoined her room and emerged clad in just a plush yellow towel. Recently, Alucard had taken to visiting her later in the evening. Figuring she was safe, she took off the towel to wrap around her long head of curls as she rummaged in her wardrobe for an outfit.

She had only been naked for a few moments when she felt Alucard's presence surge behind her and she hastened to rip the towel off her head and around her torso.

"I would really appreciate it if you won't just appear in here when you know I'm changing," she huffed.

"Perhaps you should tell me when you're going to change, then." Though the night had only begun, he was in the casual clothes he usually slept in.

"Then you'd come for sure," she accused.

His grin was nigh predatory, his fangs catching in the light as he took a step toward her. "It's been a month. It's time to continue the ritual."

At his words, the memory of his lips on hers came rushing back to her and a blush colored her cheeks as a flash of arousal flared within her. She had been eagerly awaiting this night.

He grabbed her by the chin, a roguish smirk on his lips. "Your pulse quickens when I touch you," he breathed against her neck. "I'll miss it when your heart stops."

She shivered when he left an open-mouthed kiss over her carotid, nibbling lightly enough that he just avoided breaking the skin.

"J-just let me get dressed," she managed to say.

She went to turn around and grab something-anything-from the dresser, but he flatout ignored her words and pulled her by the arm to the bed despite her weak protests. He sat down on the bed, his legs splayed so that she could stand between them. He tugged lightly on the hem of the towel, but she had wrapped her arms around her chest tightly and refused to let go. Her cheeks were beet red as he stared up at her expectantly.

She objected, "You're covered head to foot in clothing."

"This century and its women…" he muttered, looking irritated as he unfastened the buttons of his white dress shirt with long, nimble fingers.

Maria could only watch with her mouth hanging slightly open as bit by bit his pale, muscular body was revealed to her. She had never seen him bother to physically undress; he always used his powers. She had also never seen such a large swath of his bare skin. He pulled the shirt off and dropped it to the stone floor where it faded into a black shadow that slinked under the bed, and then he looked up to her with his hungry crimson gaze.

She was still uneasy; he still had his black slacks on and all she had was one piece of cotton. Once it was gone, she would be entirely revealed to him.

He could sense her unease and though it undoubtedly displeased him, he gave her a sultry smirk. "Where would you drink from tonight?"

"I can choose?"

He nodded and held out his arms for show. "Anywhere you like."

Maria's breath hitched at the thought and her eyes traced a line down his flawless chest and to his bellybutton, where a thin trail of black hair made a path down into his pants to-

"Choose."

She was jerked out of her filthy thoughts by his order and she considered for a bit before saying, "Your neck, please."

"Very well." He dragged a suddenly clawed finger against the left side of his neck and Maria watched in fascination as his deep red blood began to drip down to his collarbone. A fire was burning in her throat at the sight and smell. "Drink," he commanded.

Maria had closed the distance between them before his words had completely fallen from his lips. She had to bend over slightly to reach his neck, and she was trembling the slightest bit as she extended her tongue to catch a drop that was trailing down his chest.

The irresistible taste of Alucard and his power overwhelmed her, and she instantly forgot everything but him and the need to lick up every last droplet he would give her. She had to touch him, to feel him against her, and in her haste she let go of the towel around her to grab hold of his shoulders. It pooled at her feet as she licked up his pectoral, taking in every last bit of his essence.

Finally reaching the source of this liquid pleasure, Maria sucked and licked in earnest at his neck, her eyes closed in bliss. His strong hands on her bare hips pulled her flush against him and she gasped as her sensitive nipples met his cool, broad chest.

He let out a dark chuckle. "Faster. Your heart can beat faster."

And then he was leaning back onto the bed, pulling her with him. Too desperate for more of his blood, she went along without a fuss even though this meant that she was now lying on top of him. He ignited her, but his chilled body cooled her down. The rush of power from the blood and from the fact that the great Nosferatu himself was letting her do these things made her so exhilarated that she thought she might be borne away, and she clutched desperately to him with one hand in his shaggy black hair and another on his chest. His hands roved her body, squeezing her ass and eliciting a soft moan from her.

Eventually, the flow of blood became a trickle and Maria lamented its loss.

She detached herself from his neck and looked down at him pleadingly. "Please, give me more," she begged.

One of his hands was in her hair, pulling her face to his as desire and mischief glinted in his eyes.

"It's my turn now," he growled, and then he claimed her mouth in a powerful, ravenous frenzy that she struggled to return in kind. He nipped her tongue and then groaned when her blood mingled with his in her mouth.

The ache within her burned so strongly it was near agony. Maria ground her hips down against his and was rewarded when he bit her tongue again as he rolled them over so that he was on top of her.

Looking up at him and his covetous crimson gaze, Maria realized that most people would be terrified to have this monster bearing down upon them, but she couldn't have been any more at ease. In fact, she grinned up at him before stealing his lips in a fast and demanding kiss that he immediately returned.

He broke the kiss eventually, and as Maria fought to regain her breath she envied the No Life King, who didn't have to worry about petty things like respiration.

He must have picked up on her jealous thoughts because a gloating smirk flashed across his lips before he began leaving a trail of nips and licks down her neck and to her breast. Maria gasped as his lithe tongue swirled around her pert nipple and her hands wove through his hair desperately.

The vampire took his time playing with her breasts until she was writhing and moaning beneath him about to go mad from her desire, and then he finally began to lick and suck his way down at a torturous pace.

He had just dipped his tongue into her belly button when they both froze. Footsteps were coming down the hallway, likely Walter with her breakfast.

Maria had expected him to vanish and leave her scrambling to dash into the bathroom and hide, but a positively evil grin curved his lips.

She knew him too well, and she knew that only one thing came after that smile: unbridled chaos.

"Alucard, n-"

But he had pounced upon her, branding her with his tongue as he traveled further and further south until he was staring up at her from between her legs. She had never been wetter; she had never wanted anything more than she wanted this, but not when someone was going to come through that door in less than fifteen seconds!

"Please don't," she whispered, emerald eyes wide in horror.

He dragged his tongue up her womanhood, finishing with a swirl around her engorged clit. A hiss of pleasure managed to escape her lips despite her best efforts.

"Delicious," Alucard praised. "Your heart is beating so fast now. You like this."

"No, it's called panic. What with how you terrify any mortal, you should be more familiar with it."

He gave her a fanged smirk and dove back down. He assaulted her with his devilish tongue and she found herself clenching the sheets and clenching her jaw to keep in her cries of pleasure. The footsteps were still drawing closer-they would be knocking on the door at any moment now, and the thought filled Maria with a bolt of excitement and mortification.

When Alucard took her clit in his mouth and sucked on it, the spring of pleasure that had been growing tighter and tighter finally snapped loose, and a sob of ecstasy escaped her lips as she was carried off in a sea of rapturous relief.

It was at that precise moment that there was a knock at the door.

"Come in," Alucard commanded, his words impossibly normal even though he was still lapping up her juices as her legs trembled.

Maria tried to open her mouth to tell the guest to turn back, but the vampire had somehow silenced her. She couldn't muster even the tiniest squeak.

The door creaked open and in stepped Walter, perhaps the absolute last person Maria would have chosen to see this. His eyes immediately fell upon the two of them, Alucard with his head still between her legs and Maria completely nude and embarrassed enough to die.

"Good eve-What in the Queen's name are you doing?"

The elderly butler nearly dropped the silver breakfast tray, pure shock on his features as he looked in the opposite direction to conserve the last few tatters of dignity Maria had left.

"Leave the food on the table," Alucard said in an infuriatingly blase tone, "and tell the teacher that she will be late to her lessons."

"Alucard, you can't-does Maria-"

The ancient vampire fixed Walter with a hard stare. "She is mine to do with as I please. Besides," he threw the girl in question a smug wink, "she was the one who instigated it."

I didn't instigate you letting Walter see this! she yelled through their mental connection, since he still wasn't magnanimous enough to let her speak again.

Walter looked like he wanted to say something else, but when he opened his mouth Alucard just gave him a cold look that would make a lesser man piss himself.

"That will be all, Walter."

"Y-yes. I'll take my leave, then." Obviously still shaken, he hurriedly put the tray on the table and gave a curt bow before leaving and closing the door behind him.

"Now, where were we?" Alucard said with a languid smile.

But Maria sat up and scooted away from him, tucking her legs beneath her. He had bestowed upon her the gift of speech, and she spat out her next words. "I didn't appreciate that."

"You seemed to be appreciating it until just a few moments ago." Alucard was still lying on his stomach, staring up at her in a nonplussed fashion.

"Yes, I was appreciating it until you purposefully let Walter see it. Do you have any idea how mortifying that was for me? And Walter? The man changed my diapers for Christ's sake."

The Nosferatu frowned slightly, but said nothing.

The two of them sat there in an awkward silence, Maria too angry and Alucard too stubborn to say anything.

ALUCARD!

Maria jumped in surprise as she heard Sir Integra's enraged yell as though it had been in her ear.

The vampire laughed as his shadows pulled him into the bed and to his summons.

"Aren't you going to get dressed?" Maria demanded.

"And deny my master the viewing pleasure? I think not."

As he vanished into the bed with that infuriatingly gloating grin, Maria vowed that if Sir Integra didn't shoot the vampire, she would when he returned to her. She had never been so humiliated in her entire life, and he had done it all just for a laugh!

She threw herself off the bed and headed to the shower, seizing a slice of toast from the platter and eating it viciously. She made the shower as hot as she could stand and scrubbed off every last bit of sweat and Alucard's scent on her, until her skin was red and her fingers pruney. Even then, it still wasn't enough because she could feel a tendril of his consciousness in hers, and his power was coursing through her veins stronger than before. They were inexorably tied together now.

She still had a smidgen of studying to do before her lesson, but she was so angry that she knew she wouldn't be able to focus on anything paper unless it was a target, so she threw on her Hellsing uniform and holstered her gun before veritably stalking out of her room and to the shooting range.

"Maria! You're back on duty, are you?" A couple soldiers who were heading into the manor greeted her warmly.

"Not 'til tomorrow," she said tersely.

Maria jumped when his thoughts came in loud and clear in her mind, as though he had said them aloud. Apparently, she had gained telepathy. Holy shit, she looks pissed. Like that time Stevens gave her shit about the vampire and she put him in the hospital for a month.

Anyone who had been with the Hellsing organization for a decent amount of time knew that when Maria had that look in her eye, it was best to keep their distance. It was the same icy fury that the No Life King displayed before he smote something. They offered her a hasty farewell.

There were a few more men at the shooting range and they all went to welcome her, but upon seeing her countenance swiftly backed down and went back to their training. The lively chatter had died upon her arrival.

Maria didn't care about any of that. On the contrary, she was glad that they had stopped their incessant banter so that she could focus on the one thing that mattered that moment: blasting away every last shred of the paper target while she imagined Alucard's face on it.

With the fluid ease of a veteran soldier she loaded the clip with regular bullets and took a practiced stance before the target. Normally, she would use her third eye to aim as it allowed her even greater accuracy, but this time she wanted to rely only on her human self. She squeezed her right eye shut, aimed for the paper target's forehead, and fired. The bullet blew a massive hole in between its eyes and a satisfied sigh escaped her lips as she smiled and fired again and again and again, until she had emptied the entire clip and the paper was in tatters. She merely reached for another full clip on the table beside her, reloaded, and began firing anew. With each ignition of gunpowder, she could feel the tightly coiled spring of rage within her lessen.

She sensed Seras approaching her, but didn't stop unloading her clip on the target.

"He's a total jerk," the Draculina said, resting a sympathetic hand on the girl's shoulder. She was the only member of Hellsing that dared near her when she was in such a state.

"That doesn't even begin to cover it," Maria snarled. "How much do you know?"

"I...kinda heard from Walter."

Hearing the kind butler's name made the horrid scene flash through her mind and her rage flared again. "I've never been so mortified in my entire life. I told him not to, and he silenced me so I couldn't tell Walter not to enter! He's the biggest bastard I've ever met! If he shows his face to me, I'll shoot him right in that pompous smile of his!"

Seras put her hand on Maria's wrist and forced her to put the gun down. Maria was so furious her fists were trembling as she stared at her boots. She couldn't stand to look her friend in the eye.

"Maria," she said quietly, "I can only imagine how humiliating that must have been. Master Alucard has no sense of shame or remorse, so I'm certain he has no idea how upset you are. I can try to make him understand, though. And Walter doesn't think poorly of you at all. Everyone knew that as his eventual queen, these sorts of things would happen."

"What about Sir Integra? Or if the men find out? Jesus, I'd never live it down."

"I can't speak for Sir, but she's not an idiot. She knew it was bound to happen. And as for the men-" She gave Maria a fanged grin. "-you and I will take care of anyone who says anything."

Maria looked up to her with gratitude. "You're a good friend. I'm still putting a bullet between his eyes if I see him tonight, though."

Seras laughed and patted her friend on the shoulder. "C'mon. Guns can't really do much to make you feel better. Let's spar for a bit, see if you've gotten any stronger."

The blonde always knew how to cheer her up and take her mind off things. A glad smile flitted across her lips as she holstered her gun and followed her friend out to a grassy knoll where they would have plenty of space to romp around without damaging anything. It was far enough from the rest of the men that they wouldn't have any spectators either.

Seras assumed a defensive stance while Maria took an offensive one. They stared at each other for a few moments before the brunette lunged at her friend at a speed quite astonishing for a mortal. She threw a punch at Seras' stomach, but the Draculina read her moves and swept her fist aside before aiming a kick at Maria's side. Maria was able to foresee this, however, and swirled out of reach.

Seras had the superhuman strength all Undead possessed, but she was purposefully careful not to use it when sparring with Maria. Other than that, she didn't hold back in any way and Maria appreciated it immensely. While it meant that she nine times out of ten would lose to Seras, she always gained valuable experience from it.

This time, though, it seemed as though the Draculina was taking it easy on her. Her moves were so much easier to read that even with her opponent's inhuman speed, Maria was able to block, evade, and even get in a countermove.

"I'm gonna be pissed if you're taking pity on me," she said as she crouched low to avoid a kick to the chest.

"I'm not!" Seras exclaimed as she narrowly avoided Maria's right hook. "You're reading my moves. Can you read minds now?"

"I think so. I don't know how to turn it on or off yet, though."

"You're going to be stronger than me in no time at this rate," Seras lamented as the threw a punch that Maria caught.

Her curls bounced about wildly as she backflipped out of Seras' reach. "If you'd only drink, you wouldn't have to worry about it."

"Ugh, not you too."

Maria just laughed as she grabbed her friend by the arm and threw her to the ground. Seras landed with a hard thud and Maria pounced on her, straddling her hips and pinning her arms down to the ground.

The two of them dissolved into giggles as Maria rolled off and lay down beside her.

"Feel better?" Seras asked once their laughter subsided.

Maria flashed her a grin. "Quite."

"Good, because I think our immortal jerk is coming."

Sure enough, Alucard's dark presence billowed into existence and he appeared from behind a nearby tree. "What was that, police girl?"

She let out a squeak of fear and leapt to her feet. "Nothing, Master! Look at Stevens over there, not properly dismantling his firearm!" And she dashed off at top speed to the shooting range.

Maria felt distinctly betrayed by her best friend, but shrugged it off and forced herself to look at the now fully-clothed vampire before her. She fingered the gun holstered at her hip contemplatively.

"Planning to shoot me?" he asked casually.

"I'm thinking about it."

He seemed unmoved by her murderous intent. In fact, he took a few steps closer to her, an air of aloof amusement about him.

"Master was quite displeased with our display-" Maria visibly bristled at his use of "our," and a grin broke across his lips at the sight of her rekindled anger. "-and has given you permission to shoot me once."

She would have to thank Sir Integra later tonight. Alucard spread his arms wide open and looked to her expectantly, but as he watched him do so a wicked idea came into her mind.

"I'm not going to do it now," Maria said with a saccharine smile. "I'm going to wait until you're not expecting it."

He lowered his arms. "You are planning to catch me off guard?"

Maria crossed her arms and gave him a defiant look. "It won't be today or tomorrow, but it will happen."

Chuckling, he came to stand beside her and look over the field to the training grounds with her. "I had always pegged you as more of a realist that this, but do as you please."

"If Sir Integra hadn't ordered you to let me shoot you, would you still let me?"

His gaze turned cold. "Of course not."

Maria sighed. Most of the time, she could imagine that the No Life King was an aloof but not uncaring being. But at times like this, the reality that he ruled all with an iron fist was painfully clear. She had a profound sense of reverence for him, as there was no one else in the world who commanded such intellect or power, but she also feared him. This was a monster who masqueraded as man, who could massacre the strongest of mortals with the same effort it took to step on an ant.

Once in a blue moon, Maria wondered if she was truly ready to become his Queen and to stay with him until the end of time, knowing that she would be under his thumb until the very end. She was obedient and of course wanted to follow Alucard, but she was also strong-willed and prideful. He had taught her never to allow someone to disrespect her and she had taken the lesson to heart-she yearned to give him a taste of revenge for what he had done to her earlier, but he would never in a million years let her.

Her rage was gone now, blown away by a dreary gust of doubt.

She looked to her watch. It was nearing nine p.m. and she didn't want to keep Mr. Willows waiting any longer. Without bothering to cast the vampire a glance she turned and headed back to the manor. He stayed on the hill, watching her receding figure in silence.

At the threshold of the manor were two guards who opened the door for her. The thoughts of the one to her left welled up in her mind as she crossed them.

Looks like she and Alucard are at it. Wonder what he did to piss her off…

Maria rolled her eyes. She had enough things on her mind as it was; she didn't need other people's thoughts further filling her head.

Back in her room, she sullenly ate her thoroughly cold meal, steadfastly avoiding looking at the bed where she had been humiliated. To keep the doubts that swirled about her at bay she thought of her lesson with Mr. Willows and about the Periodic Table, over which she was to have a test tonight.

Mr. Willows was pleased to see her and rose from his seat in the library to greet her. He seemed to be unaware of the cause of her tardiness, and Maria was grateful that at least one person she cared about didn't know. They carried on the lesson in the usual fashion, and for a spell she was able to forget about everything outside of the room.

Until she was midway through her test on the elements and the bane of her existence made its presence known in her mind.

You're angry, Alucard stated.

I'm concentrating. I'm taking a test, she avoided.

You could complete that test in your sleep. Now speak. Why are you angry?

Maria gritted her teeth as she continued to fill in each element's name and characteristics. She contemplated ignoring him, but she could feel a throbbing tendril of his energy in her mind and she knew that if she did so, he would only appear in this room and demand his answers.

She let out a long breath of air and collected herself. I'm angry because you purposefully embarrassed me after I made it very clear that I didn't want you to do that. What made it embarrassing? Because what we were doing was a very private act-not to mention my first time-and who should see it but one of the people I consider my family.

Alucard was quiet for a moment. His next words were neither an insult nor a compliment. You are still a child.

Yes, well, you are half a millennium older than I am. Maria didn't know what to make of his comment.

It isn't my wish to cause you displeasure.

Maria moved on to the second part of the exam, mapping the electrons for each element. Her pencil paused on the paper momentarily at Alucard's soft admission. She knew that those words were the closest thing to an apology that she could ever hope to get from the vampire.

I know, she acknowledged, but you forget that I'm still a young mortal. I'm not your queen yet.

Yet, he agreed in a whisper. The world will tremble to behold us.

A shiver of excitement passed through the girl at his promise.

Chapter Text

Alucard left her mind, allowing her to put her full attention back on the test. Once it was finished they moved on to math and then biology. She bade Mr. Willows a good evening and then returned to her chambers, where she dutifully completed her homework in quiet.

She still felt a pang of mortification when she looked at the bed, but her rage had melted into the ether. Maria knew that Alucard would never apologize for anything and she had come to terms with that. His words to her had been sufficient. She knew now that he hadn't meant to upset her, and that he sometimes forgot just how human and sentimental she still was. He was coming to terms with her just as she was with him.

She was still going to shoot him, though.

"Hell hath no fury," Alucard smirked, appearing to sit on her bed fully dressed.

Maria shot him a small smile. "You haven't scorned me, have you?"

"Not yet, no."

She went back to her studies while he withdrew a book from some pocket of his red coat. As he reclined to lie on the bed his clothes changed into his casual white blouse and black slacks.

"What are you reading?" she asked as she continued plugging away at her chemistry homework.

"Read my mind and find out for yourself. You gained telepathy tonight, after all."

"How'd you know?"

"You heard my master's summons," he said matter-of-factly, turning a page in his book.

Maria closed her notebook and set down her pencil before turning in her chair to face the vampire directly, her emerald eyes eager. "How do I do it?"

Alucard shot her a nonplussed look. "You're not worthy of becoming my queen if you can't figure out such a simple thing on your own."

The curly-haired brunette frowned. Seras had been a vampire for six years now, yet she still hadn't figured out how to do it. Maria had nowhere near the power she did-how could she hope to be capable of controlling this power?

"The Police Girl is weak and refuses to embrace the night, unlike you. Now focus."

Maria closed her eyes and took a deep breath, focusing on Alucard's dark power swirling through her veins. She willed it to her third eye, but all this allowed her to do was see through the walls of her chambers and into the adjoining rooms. Alucard smirked in a rather condescending fashion as he turned another page.

She tried again, this time sending the dark energy to her ears. She flinched at the sudden cacophony of life in the manor. The clatter of pots and pans being washed in the kitchens, the footfalls of men making their way here and there, the rush of running water as someone took a shower, the pounding of a hundred heartbeats-all of these sounds and more threatened to overwhelm her and she swiftly called off her energy.

Alucard chuckled at her obvious discomfort.

Pursing her lips, Maria carefully considered what other options she had. If the key to telepathy wasn't in her third eye or ears, it would have to come from something external. Something she could use to physically touch her target.

"Hn." Alucard sounded mildly pleased as he continued reading.

Taking this as a sign that she was headed in the right direction, she stood up and moved to close the distance between the two of them, her hand outstretched.

The vampire gave her an amused glance. "Don't touch me. That's the simpleton's way."

Maria sighed and sat back down, thinking hard. Then, as an idea struck her she smiled, "So I can't touch you with my body…"

Her shadow extended a vine that crawled up the bed and fell over his arm.

And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, "I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created-people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.

Maria gasped as Alucard's dulcet tones came in loud and clear in her mind, as if he were speaking to her. She then hissed as the Scripture burned as though her head had been wrapped in a wreath of fire.

"Why are you reading the Bible?" she demanded as he laughed.

"I wanted to see how you would react to it," he explained as he closed the cursed tome. "You've ingested enough of my blood that scripture causes you pain. Now take the book from me." He held the Bible out to her.

Maria looked at it loathingly. She had a feeling that her hands were going to dislike it as much as her mind had. An order was an order, though, and she reached out for the book. The moment her fingers landed upon the leather cover she felt a shock like static electricity, but gritted her teeth and took it into her hand. It felt like it were made of magma and in her pain she dropped it. Her fingers were slightly singed and red.

"Why is it so painful for me when you're perfectly fine?" she asked as he picked up the book and put it on the table. "It's your blood I'm drinking, so shouldn't I be just as immune as you are?"

"I wasn't always immune," he said simply.

"So I'm not getting your power so much as I'm getting your potential," Maria surmised.

The smile he gave her was proud as he relaxed on the bed, his hands behind his head. "Come to bed. You're tired and the sun will rise soon."

It had been a long and trying day. Her eyelids were heavy and she nodded before changing into her pajamas. She kept her back to Alucard the entire time, but she couldn't feel his crimson gaze on her so she thought that perhaps he was allowing her to preserve her decency tonight.

The vampire used his powers to extinguish the lights as she crawled into bed beside him. She rested her head in the crook of his shoulder, her hand on his chest as he put a hand on her hip.

"Will you tell me another story?" she asked presently.

"I already am."

She reached out to him with her shadow and his voice came in loud and clear in her mind, his baritone words soothing and rhythmic.

For Boian was a wizard; when he wished to create a song,
He would move in all directions
Through the tree as a squirrel
As a grey wolf along the ground, as a dusky eagle beneath the clouds.
He remembered, he said, the wars of the first times.
He would free ten falcons to attack a flock of swans….

Maria's eyes fluttered open and shut as she struggled to stay awake til the end of the epic about a prince who ignores ill omens and leads an unsuccessful battle on his enemies. Alucard's smooth, elegant diction made the tale all the more dazzling, and she was sad once the tale had ended.

"Thank you," she murmured. "It was beautiful."

Sleep. The sun has risen.

She didn't need him to command it; she had already drifted off.


"Maria, wake up. We've got a mission."

The brunette awoke at the first sound of Seras' voice and she sat up quickly. Alucard had vanished and it was only the two of them in her chambers. Maria jumped out of bed and threw on her uniform at lightning speed.

"Have the men already been dispatched, then?"

"No. It's only Master, you, and me that are going."

"The three of us?" Maria couldn't help but grin as she checked her spare clips. "It's been quite a while since we've all been sent out together."

"Quit your idle chatter and let's go."

Alucard appeared beside them fully dressed, donned in his red glasses and hat. The look he gave them was imperious, but Maria could feel his eagerness for battle tingling in the corners of her mind.

"Good evening to you, too," Maria joked, holstering her gun and sliding her Derringer into her bra.

The two girls stood on either side of him and his shadows swallowed them up. When they receded, the three of them stood before a lone manor not dissimilar to Hellsing's headquarters. Maria could sense the heavy presence of ghouls within, yet couldn't feel the host.

"We'll each take a floor," Alucard declared, already withdrawing the Casull from his trench coat.

Maria took her own gun into her hand and readied the action as Seras nodded.

The Nosferatu vanished with a gleaming grin and Maria felt his energy reappear on the topmost third floor. "I'll take the second floor, then," she said.

"Be careful." Seras, ever the mother hen, cautioned before darting into the building to clear a way to the second floor for her.

Maria just grinned and followed the Draculina inside to the symphony of demise. Seras had expertly destroyed the ghouls that had been crowding the stairway, and the teenager bounded up them eagerly. The second floor consisted of a very long hallway with many doors to the right and windows to the left. Approximately thirty ghouls were running toward her, their arms outstretched as they groaned.

Unfazed, she opened fire on them, relying on her third eye to give her a perfect shot each time. Freak after freak shrieked and turned to dust, until the floor fell silent. With each fallen corpse Maria could feel her bloodlust rise and she wondered if Alucard had thought to bring a couple packs of blood with him.

"You're a damn good shot for one of those Protestant bastards."

Maria swirled around to face the voice, her eyes wide in alarm. How a person this huge and menacing could sneak up on her she couldn't fathom. He was tall, taller even than Alucard, with spiky blond hair and blue eyes that brimmed with a zeal that crossed into madness. He was relaxed and yet poised at the same time, as though slaughter came as naturally as breathing to him. In his hands at his sides were two long bayonets that caught in the moonlight like great fangs.

He took a stride toward her and she readied her gun, taking a step back to maintain their distance.

Alucard, I need your help, she said across their bond. There's some weird priest with bayonets here and I can't handle him.

The No Life King appeared beside her, his Casull out. He stepped in front of her immediately, and it dawned on her that he was shielding her.

Find the police girl on the first floor and escape, he ordered. This priest has put holy barriers on all doors and windows that neither she nor I can touch. You are still human enough you can break through them.

"So you're the Hellsing lapdog," the priest said, his grin widening to alarming proportions.

"And you're the tool that Iscariot is using this century." It was eerie how similar their shark-like smiles were.

What are you going to do? Maria asked. Fear was bubbling up inside her as she watched these crazy men bear down on one another, their thirst for destruction palpable. She didn't fear Alucard, but she feared the devastation he could wreak when he had that fire in his eyes. It was like looking into Hell itself, and all the demons there were staring back at you.

Me? I'm going to enjoy myself, he laughed, and the two of them began marching toward one another.

The priest lunged at him at a speed impossible for someone so large and so human, his bayonets up and ready, but Alucard just smirked as he easily sidestepped the man and filled him with lead.

"That was anticlimactic," Maria laughed as the priest slumped against the wall, riddled with holes from the Casull.

"He attacked a vampire head-on in the dead of night. It's astounding that the Catholic church has remained in power for this long when they're all such imbeciles." The Casull vanished from his hands as he turned to Maria, grinning. "Now go find the Police Girl. We've finished the garbage detail."

The strange man's heartbeat was gone, so Maria felt confident in turning her back on him and heading for the stairs with Alucard in tow behind her. It was for this reason that she could only gasp in disbelief and agony as both of her calves erupted in a blaze of pain that shot up her legs and her spine. She collapsed, the bayonets in each of her legs clattering as she hit the floor.

"What?" Alucard snarled, and for the first time Maria could recall he seemed alarmed as he swirled to face the blond priest, whose body was emitting steam from where his wounds had been not a minute before. He nearly spat the next words, "A regenerator."

Maria had heard tales of these half-man half-science experiments, and she looked to the blond in horror as she tried to wrench out one of the knives, but the blessed blade burned her hand to touch.

"Oh, so the little lass is your plaything, then?" the priest chuckled as he swung two more bayonets about easily. "I should have aimed for her heart and sent her on way to Hell then."

Alucard was grinning as he lunged at the regenerator, but it was full of malice and fangs. The Casull was back in his hand and he was firing at the priest, but each bullet wound only excited the man further, and with a crazed laugh he threw blade after blade at the No Life King, who in his usual fashion did not dodge them. Maria could only watch from the floor in fixed horror.

Go find the Police Girl, Alucard commanded her again, his voice calm and smoothe even though he had just taken a blade through the lung.

Maria nodded and braced herself for what was coming next. Her burnt fingers were trembling, but she clenched her eyes shut and grabbed one of the bayonets by the hilt. It felt like she was touching a live wire and she groaned as she pulled it out of her flesh and it clattered to the floor. She did the same to her other leg and then was darting as fast as her weeping legs would carry her towards the stairs.

She had just reached the stairway when she heard the sickening sound of flesh being sliced, something hitting the ground with a dull thump, and then tumbling over and over as the man's wild laughter rang out in the hall.

Her breath shaky as her veins ran as cold as the undead's, Maria bent down to pick up Alucard's head from where it had rolled to a stop at her feet. His hair was long and fell about his face like a mourning shroud, his crimson eyes closed and expression morose.

"No," she whispered, refusing to believe that the great Nosferatu could have been felled by such a trifling man. But his body was pinned to the far wall by a slew of bayonets, and the connection that had always simmered in the back of her mind was now cold and silent.

"So this was the best that Hellsing had to offer?" the priest rolled with laughter before turning on Maria, who stood clutching her King's head to her chest as she glared daggers at the man who dared harm him so. "And now it's time to take care of you, wee lass," he said with a saccharine smile. "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done. Amen."

A fury like none she had ever felt before raged within Maria. It was a tempest that could obliterate civilizations, a madness that could sicken the masses, and her very soul brimmed with it. Her shadows swirled about her as she unconsciously summoned the force that Alucard had given her. They had opened a portal in the floor at her feet and she was sinking into it inch by inch, clutching the vampire's head tightly. She wanted to stay and fight this bastard even if it meant her death, but she would obey Alucard's orders.

The priest's eyes widened in bewilderment and then rage as he realized what sort of dark power she was harnessing. She had nearly vanished into the floor, but he was running towards her now and she couldn't hasten this new ability.

He seized her by her curly locks and wrenched her up out of the floor and her shadows, and Maria snarled in rage and pain. She still held Alucard's head to her chest, and the priest speared it with a bayonet out of spite before taking another and holding it to her throat. The edge of the blade pressed into her jugular and burned like acid.

"What are you?" he demanded in a deadly hiss.

Maria held her chin up high, defiance shining in her emerald eyes even though the motion dragged the blade across her neck and cut a bit deeper.

When the silence between them stretched on for a few moments and he realized that the girl wasn't going to give him any answers, he snarled and lifted the blade into the air. Maria closed her eyes, readying herself for the blow she knew was to come. She hadn't wanted to die, but knowing that Alucard was gone as well and that she had no hope of defeating this man made it much more bearable.

Four gunshots rang out of the blue and Maria's eyes shot open as she fell to the ground on her injured legs with a jolt of pain. Anderson was reeling back, his bayonet shattered and the hand he had been holding her by was clinging to his arm by a few sinews.

"Paladin Alexander Anderson. Kindly step away from my soldier before I blow your brains out."

Integra stood behind Maria, her revolver trained on the priest's head as smoke rolled from the barrel. Two armed guards stood beside her, their guns ready as well. Maria took this reprieve to remove the bayonet from Alucard's head and toss it to the floor.

"Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing," the priest said with an air of civility unbefitting him, "the Protestant whore leader of Hellsing. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

If the slur rankled Sir Integra, it didn't show on her cool features. "You are violating our agreements by being here. The vampire and its ghouls have been dispatched. Now return to the Vatican."

"Last I checked, there's still a little Draculina and this thing to clean up."

"They are under Hellsing employ. Now remove yourself from the premises."

Anderson was so fast that Maria's eyes could hardly follow him. He sliced through the two guards before shoved Integra against the wall, a bayonet prepared to halve her, but she had drawn her own sword and was holding him back with trembling arms. Maria used her shadows to bring her gun back to her and trained it on the man.

"Who's going to protect you now?" he sneered mere inches from her face. "I've already cut off your lapdog vampire's head."

Integra's grin was both smug and triumphant. "Cut off his head? That's all?"

Anderson looked unsure of himself.

At that moment, Alucard's head in Maria's hands melted into blood and dripped down her front to the ground. Maria gasped as she felt their mental connection fire up again, his cool and ancient presence filling the corners of her mind.

You didn't really think I could be killed so easily, did you? he teased.

Maria let out a gleeful laugh as a smile grew on her lips like the moon bursting out from the clouds. He was the No Life King; of course a simple beheading wouldn't be enough to destroy him, even if it had been with a blessed blade.

Iartã-mã, she said, her joy spilling into their bond like a wave crashing into the shore. It was met with his subdued but intense pleasure, and Maria relished it. Her emotions sometimes slipped into their mental connection because she still didn't have complete control over them, but it was exceptionally rare for the Nosferatu to share his with her.

Raptly, she watched as his corpse melted into a pool of blood and slipped through the cracks of the floor, only for a sea of bats to burst through the window and begin to meld together into a humanoid shape. His hair nearly reached the floor and his red eyes were crazed as he threw his arms wide, as if to reach out and embrace the night itself.

Maria was overcome with awe. This was the reason he was the King. Knowing that she had his power running through her veins and that one night she would be standing beside him as an equal made her tremble in eagerness.

Integra had observed the entire thing while keeping Anderson at bay, a proud smirk on her lips. "What will you do now, Father?"

Integra had her sword, Alucard was toting the Casull, Maria had trained her gun on him, and Seras had just appeared holding her own firearm at the ready. He backed away from the Hellsing heir, his bayonets vanishing as he withdrew a Bible from a pocket of his coat. "I'll return to Rome for now. I need some preparation before I kill that one." Alucard gave him a sneering grin as the priest turned to Maria. "And I'll figure out what she is too."

With that, the mad priest was gone in a swirl of scripture.

"Maria, are you alright?" Seras rushed to the girl, who was applying pressure to her fairly deep cut to her neck.

"I'm fine," she said easily. "Were you injured?"

"No. He met you before he met me. Let's get you back to headquarters."

"Here." Alucard held out his crimson cravat to her and she tied it tightly beneath the cut in order to stem the bleeding a bit more. His expression was unreadable as he picked her up bridal style.

"This is the second mission in a row that you've had to carry me home," she whispered, the tightness of the cravat making it hard to speak.

"You're becoming a burden," he complained, though there was no bite to his tone.

"Considering in the last mission she was against three vampires and this time she was against Bayonet Anderson, I'd say it's a miracle she's still alive," Integra said as she sheathed her sword. She cast a bitter look to the two guards who had lost their lives to the priest. "Any other mortal would have surely been killed."

Alucard dragged his cool tongue up Maria's neck, lapping up her spilled blood as she turned beet red. "My queen is much more than a common human."

Would you please not lick me in front of the others? she pleaded, though inwardly she was basking in his praise.

"Yes, well," Integra blustered, a slight dusting of pink on her cheeks as she watched the spectacle, "go take your harem back to headquarters."

Seras seemed to object to Integra's choice of words, but came to stand at Alucard's side with a frown on her face. However, the vampire remained stationary.

"What are you waiting for?" Integra demanded.

"I'm short one of my women," he said simply, eyeing her with an impish smirk.

Maria had to press her face into Alucard's chest to hide her laughter as Integra's features contorted in rage. The Nosferatu's shadows had swept them away before she could shoot him, thankfully.

Back at the manor, Seras insisted on staying with Maria until the doctor had stitched up her neck and both of her legs despite Maria's assurances that she was fine. Alucard sat at the table drinking a glass of blood, looking distinctly bored while the curly-haired blonde sipped at a packet of Type B ravenously.

"Could I have another?" Maria asked when she finished it.

Alucard tossed her one more packet and she wasted no time in opening it. "You phased through the floor back at that manor," he said. "I didn't expect you to be able to use that ability so soon."

"You phased?" Seras couldn't hide her envy.

Maria shrugged. "Yeah, but I couldn't control it well. I wanted to speed it up, but that crazy father yanked me out of it by my hair."

Alucard tutted. "You need to focus more. Your shadows are an extension of your will, but you must direct them."

"I'll practice," she promised.

Seras looked a bit glum beside Maria on the bed, and the teen knew exactly the cause of her melancholy. She offered the half-drained blood packet to Seras, who wrinkled her nose and turned away.

"I've got to go make my rounds with the men," the blonde lied, rising to her feet. "Take it easy, alright?"

Maria gave her a resigned smile and wave as she took a pointed sip.

Alucard chuckled as the police girl all but ran from the room. "She'll come around eventually."

"I'll be a bit sad when she does," Maria admitted.

The vampire nodded in agreement but said nothing. It wasn't long until the doctor arrived and set to work sterilizing and stitching up all of her wounds. Alucard's oppressive air made the portly surgeon so nervous his hands were trembling as he stitched up Maria's wounds and she had to ask the vampire to go somewhere else.

The moment the doctor bade her goodnight and closed the door behind him the Nosferatu was back in her room, clad in his casual clothes. Maria summoned her shadows and willed them to bring her satchel of schoolbooks, and she began reading through the next chapter of her chemistry textbook. Just because her classes for tonight had been canceled didn't mean she would have a makeup lesson. Mr. Willows had left her a list of the passages and homework she was to finish for tomorrow night's lesson.

Maria rubbed at her heavy eyes and forced them to focus on the words on the page. It wasn't an easy task, however, with the amount of blood she had lost.

"You need rest," Alucard said, not bothering to look up from the tome he was reading.

"If I don't get this done tonight I'll have that much more to do tomorrow."

He shot her an unconvinced look. "You'll be able to finish it in plenty of time tomorrow."

Maria returned to her studies, penning the key points in a notebook on her lap. "I'll just finish chemistry, then."

She took his silence as approval and redoubled her efforts. True to her word, when she had finished the chapter and homework nearly an hour later she put her things away and pushed them under the bed. She had already changed out of her uniform and into pajamas, so she simply got under the blankets as the lights dimmed thanks to Alucard, who remained sitting at her table reading his book in the darkness.

She had grown so used to having the vampire in bed beside her for the past month that despite her fatigue sleep remained illusive. A regular person would have craved a warm body, but Maria sought the cool marble that soothed the fever his presence gave her. It was only three a.m., however, and she doubted that he would want to waste away the remaining few hours of nightfall lying beside a sleeping human, so she didn't voice her desires and tried unsuccessfully to drift off.

Maria wasn't sure how long she had been staring at the ceiling when she heard his book close, and in the very next moment he was lying to her left in the bed. Smiling, she immediately rested her head on his chest and put an arm around him.

His chest rumbled as he said, "It will do neither of us good if you are too dependent on me."

"Yes," she agreed, "I'm sorry." She ran a finger down the smoothe plane of his chest and she found herself wishing he wasn't wearing a shirt. "But you like sleeping with me too."

His fingers tightened their grip on her hip. "Why would I enjoy sleeping next to something as hot and fidgety as yourself?"

Unfazed by his barbed words she said, "You like listening to my heartbeat."

The long fingers at her side slackened and then danced up her body to her hair where they ran through her long curls. Her breath hitched when he tugged her up to his eye level and she felt his lips like feathers on her cheek.

He breathed, "Especially when it's racing."

Then his lips were upon hers and he claimed her mouth as his own. She let out a soft moan and clutched at his chest desperately. How on earth it was possible for something so simple to feel so goodshe would never understand.

By the time he pulled away her heart was beating a staccato as she gasped for air. He chuckled and returned her to her original position a bit lower, so that her head was resting in the crook of his shoulder.

"Will I have to sleep in a coffin once I change?" she asked.

"Sometimes."

The coffin was the only part of becoming a vampire that she wasn't looking forward to. Who would want to cram themselves into a cramped little box when they had slept in a luxurious queen sized bed?

"Sleep. You need rest to heal your wounds," he ordered.

"Okay, but one more question." She felt a long index finger tapping impatiently at her hip. "When will I be able to regenerate?"

"Probably not until you become a fully-fledged vampire." He gave a thoughtful pause before adding, "But you've shown remarkable prowess already, so perhaps sooner."

"Good," she murmured. "I hate being held back by this body."

Alucard could no longer be bothered to speak verbally. There will come a time when you'll miss the frailty.

Maria had a hard time believing it.

Chapter Text

 


 

 

Maria's wounds from Anderson resulted in another month off duty, much to her chagrin. She spent the time studying and pestering Seras and Alucard alternately, and they occasionally took her to the shooting range so she could let off some steam.

Alucard had summoned her to his chambers, and she had to resist the urge to run there knowing that they would be continuing the ritual tonight. His chamber was black as night, but she could see the vague outline of his chair at the far end of the room and his glowing red eyes.

Smiling up at him, he sat down on his lap. To think that a few months ago this had felt unnatural! Now, it simply felt right to be straddling his hipsMaria craved his presence like a drug, and his absence gave her a keen withdrawal. Alucard was staring directly into her eager emerald gaze with an unreadable expression, though she thought she could see a hint of delight sparking deep within his crimson pools.

"What are the rules of engagement today?" she asked jokingly.

"Choose where you'd like to drink from," was his order, a smirk curling his lips.

Maria had been thinking about this choice for a couple weeks now. She had been in a constant state of arousal for nearly the entire month, as Alucard's new favorite hobby was exciting her as much as possible while denying her release of any kind. She had decided that she would use tonight as a chance to get back at him.

"Your finger, please."

His smirk widened to a grin that revealed his razor sharp fangs, and Maria wondered if he had surmised part of her strategy. He bit down on his gloved index finger and instantly red began to spread across the pristinely white glove. Maria's mouth watered and her throat burned at the sight.

Alucard held the digit centimeters from her parted lips. "Drink," was all he said.

She obeyed by dragging her tongue up his finger, swirling around his fingertip, and then taking the tip into her mouth. Delight dripped from his dark smile as he tangled his free hand in her long curls. For Maria, the blood was only half as enjoyable as bringing that crooked grin to his lips. She brought the entire finger into her mouth and suckled on it before pumping it in and out at a languid pace.

She could feel him hardening beneath her and she rocked her hips against him. When his grip in her hair tightened, she knew she was getting to him.

"Where did you learn such a filthy thing?" he breathed, entranced as he watched her take his finger into her mouth again and again.

I'm a virgin but I'm not clueless, she laughed in his mind.

"Clearly," he murmured.

She ground down against his length once more, thankful she had had the foresight to wear a short skirt that rode up and allowed them only two thin layers of cloth as separation. Her underwear was already wet, and she desperately wished that Alucard wasn't wearing any pants.

He must have picked up on her thoughts because he chuckled, "That's another five years from now."

Don't be so sure, she whispered in his mind, and in a moment she had tugged on the pesky glove with her teeth, removing it just enough that his shorter index finger could slip free before sliding the glove back on over the other four digits. Before he had time to react she slid his entire finger into her wet, warm mouth, sucking it and swirling her tongue over it.

She watched as shock and ecstasy crashed over his features, and in an instant his hair was to his waist and wrapped around her arms like tendrils, his blood red eyes glowing with a hunger for something other than blood.

"Maria," he groaned, "opreștete."

Though reluctant, she drew away from him, his finger leaving her mouth with a soft pop. For a moment he just stared at her with that smouldering look, and she began to wonder if she had gone too far.

He took her face in his hands and pulled her closer, so that their noses were just touching as he looked at her with those crazed eyes.

"De ce mă tenta asa?" he asked.

His lips crashed upon hers before she could open her mouth to answer and he kissed her viciously as he pulled her close enough that her breasts pressed against his chest. Maria moaned at the sudden onslaught, gripping his shoulders for support.

Suddenly they were lying on her bed in her room, Alucard on top of her in only his white shirt and gloves, while Maria wore only her white underwear and matching bra. His chilled skin was thrilling against her slightly sweaty body. His long hair pooled around her, making his brutally beautiful face the only thing she could see as he continued claiming her mouth in a bruising kiss.

Maria wrapped her legs around his hips and gasped when she felt his engorged manhood meet her pussy through the sheer cloth of her panties. Alucard snarled into the kiss and bit her tongue as he grabbed her by the hips and ground himself against her core.

The only thing I want to do right now is sink my cock deep in you and feel your heartbeat from the inside as I make you cum, he murmured in her mind as he sucked on her bleeding tongue. He still held her tightly by the hips as he rutted against her.

Maria's heart nearly skipped a beat at his words and she wrapped her arms around his neck to pull him closer to him, so that his chest was flush against hers.

Yes, please, she begged. I want it more than anything.

Even more than becoming my queen?

The haze of lust that had been fogging her brain lifted at his teasing words, and she looked up to see humor glinting in his eyes.

"No, of course not," she said immediately.

His grin turned near predatory. "Then you'll have to do something to alleviate this situation."

Maria sat up with him and they switched positions so that he was lying on his back and she sat between his legs. He had lost some of the madness from before; his hair was now only to his shoulders, tousled and wild. He wore the expectant smirk of a king as he looked at her between his legs.

Maria's eyes traveled from his face, down his chest, and to the situation that had "arisen," as it were. Though they had been fooling around for a few months now, she had never actually lain eyes on his manhood until now. Like the rest of Alucard, it was the pinnacle of perfection. A drop of pre-cum was glistening at the tip, and Maria was surprised to see it. She knew that vampires cried blood, so she had wondered if that extended to other fluids-

"Grăbeşte-te," he commanded, his expression turning imperious.

Maria hastened to obey and began by kissing him hungrily, dashing her tongue against his fangs so that he could taste her again. She then trailed open-mouthed kisses down his neck, taking time to suck longingly at his jugular, before travelling south until she reached the thin line of black hair that began beneath his belly button and led her to the grand prize.

She would have been lying if she said she wasn't nervous. This was her first time doing this, and she could only hope that she would live up to Alucard's expectations. But if there were anything he hated, it was timidity. So she swallowed down her feelings and stuck out her tongue to lap up his pre-cum. Salty, bitter, but not overly so, she found that she liked it nearly as much as his blood. She swirled her tongue about the head before taking it into her warm mouth and sucking. Alucard's hands found their way to her hair, his fingertips pressing into her scalp. Taking this as a good sign, she began dragging her tongue from the base of his cock all the way to the weeping head, which she would proceed to take into her mouth for the briefest of moments before repeating. Before long, he was tugging on her hair, his hips jutting up to meet her mouth each time, only to have her deny him his wish.

"Maria," he threatened in a growl.

She dragged her tongue up and down him once, twice, and then on the third time took him completely into her mouth. She nearly choked on his girth, but managed to control herself and wasted no time in bobbing her head up and down in a hard rhythm while she squeezed his firm balls.

The No-Life King writhed beneath her, groaning as he guided her pace with his hands in her hair. Knowing that it was her who was making him come apart, that it was only her that could see this, gave Maria a rush of power as heady as her own arousal at the sight.

Where would you cum, my king? she asked as increased her speed. In my mouth? On my breasts?

She felt his balls tighten and a jolt shoot through his rock-hard cock at her words.

In your mouth. I want to see what it will feel like when I cum in your cunt next time, he answered, and Maria moaned at the thought.

Alucard's hold in her hair became more demanding as he neared his release, and he moved her head back and forth as his hips rose to meet her lips. He set a brutal pace as he fucked her mouth, but he was careful not to injure her. She felt his abs clench just as he suddenly stilled, and her mouth was filled with his seed as he let out a soft sound of bliss. His long fingers in her hair twitched, and after Maria swallowed his load he withdrew from her mouth.

Panting, Maria looked up to him to see that he wore a delighted grin, his crimson eyes twinkling with satisfaction. He pulled her to him so that she was lying on his chest and gave her a passionate kiss. Traces of his cum and blood mingled together on her lips and she felt his cock give a twitch of arousal at the taste.

"My beautiful queen," he said, "you never fail to impress."

She gave him a glad smile and rolled off to lie beside him. His eyes were closed, and Maria thought he looked a lot like a cat basking in the sunlight as he absently ran his gloved fingers through her curls.

The two of them lay there in a comfortable silence for a while until Alucard said, "You haven't drunk enough yet."

He proffered his neck to her, and when he cast her an expectant look she realized that he wanted her to create the wound. She ran her tongue over her teeth and was disappointed to see that her canines were still their regular mortal size. She summoned her shadows to her fingertips and they took the form of claws.

"Ah," he tutted, a teasingly dark smirk on his lips. "Use your mouth."

Realization dawned on her and she sent her shadows to her teeth this time, feeling them enlarge her canines to something more appropriate for the task. It was odd, but somehow this made her even more nervous than the incredibly intimate act she had just performed a few minutes ago.

Alucard chuckled as her apprehension bled through their mental connection. "You just let me fuck your mouth without a care in the world, yet a little nibble has you cowering?"

"Don't be so crass," she chided, a ruddy blush spreading over her cheeks. "I just...I don't want to do it sloppily."

He ran a gloved finger down his neck along his jugular. "Bite here and you'll be fine."

She gave a nod and then crawled closer, so that she was pressed against the side of his body. She ran her new fangs over the line Alucard had drawn for her and lingered for a moment before plunging her teeth into his perfect flesh. It gave with surprising ease, and when she withdrew her fangs and her shadow powers faded, his irresistible blood welled up to greet her waiting tongue.

Why does your blood taste so good? she wondered as she suckled at his neck, her legs wrapping unconsciously around one of his.

"Power in any form is alluring," he answered. His hand at the back of her head pressed her further against him and she renewed her efforts to drain him.

Her plan to get revenge on the Nosferatu for keeping her in a constant state of arousal for a month had backfired royally. She had intended to leave him high and dry to give him a taste of his own medicine, but instead it was once again only her who was without release. She writhed against his leg, the heat within her demanding some sort of alleviation. The hand in her hair trailed down to her ass, where it pressed her core to him in time with her movements. Maria let out a soft sound of longing as she continued to drink.

Wouldn't you say I deserve some sort of treat for my good deed? she asked.

He snorted derisively. My dear, nothing that you do in this bed with me can be considered good.

Semantics, she laughed. You've left me wanting for nearly a month now. I'm just a lowly mortal still-that's a long time to wait.

Maria could hear him chuckle softly. You're as much a lowly mortal as I am a saint.

You could be the Patron Saint of Dismemberment.

The blood flow slowed to a halt and Maria lamented its loss. She didn't have long to feel sad about it though because in an instant he had seized her in a controlling, demanding kiss.

I suppose a reward is in order, he whispered, his voice like black silk in her mind.

Finally he would give her what she had been dying for and Maria's heart raced as she wondered just what form her reward would take. He broke the kiss and then began kissing his way south, taking time out of his journey to lavish her breasts and achingly pert nipples along the way.

Maria could have died from the intensity of her desire. So strong was her need for him that she thought she might explode the moment he touched her. Of course he knew this full well, and therefore made his way to her heat at a torturously slow pace.

"You're a sadist," she hissed as he nipped at her thigh and lapped up the few droplets of blood that he spilled.

"You're an exceptionally poor judge of character if you're only finding that out now," he said from between her legs, his scarlet eyes full of mirth.

He leaned back down so that all she could see was his long mop of black hair, and when his cool tongue touched her pearl she let out a whimper as he poured fuel on the fire already burning within her.

Out of nowhere, there was a humming sound and the lights in her chambers faded. Alucard pulled away from her and gave a slightly intrigued look to the ceiling.

"Looks like you're going to have to wait for your reward," he grinned cruelly.

Maria slammed her head back onto the pillows, growling. She ground out, "Why?"

"There are ghouls invading the manor."

He sounded like he was talking about something as everyday as the weather, but Maria shot up in alarm. "Ghouls? In Hellsing headquarters? Jesus." She leapt out of bed and threw on her uniform in record time, tucking her Derringer into her bra and holstering her other gun. When she turned back around, Alucard had donned his red jacket and hat, looking as unruffled as ever.

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

"I'm going to wait down here. They'll come to fight me."

She nodded. "The Round Table Conference must be their target. I'll head there. Where are Walter and Seras?"

"On the second floor. They'll be making their way to the conference."

"Got it."

She gave a wave of farewell to Alucard and then stalked out of the room, her shadows swirling about her at the ready. She heard the vampire's excited chuckle as the door shut, and his giddiness bled through their connection briefly. It did nothing to alleviate the rage she felt, however. She had spent an entire month dying for fulfillment, and just when she was about to get it these bastards had cockblocked her. There would be retribution, and it would be nothing short of a rain of blood and entrails.

Alucard chuckled in her mind. Aren't you more upset by the fact that the ghouls are killing our men? Invading our home?

Of course that upsets me as well, she said hurriedly. This is my home and they're my comrades.

She bounded up the stairs and through the portrait that obscured them. The guards around her looked on edge and clutched their firearms warily, but she couldn't stick around to help them. Maria wished them luck and then dashed down the long stone corridor, and when she rounded the corner she was met with a wall of ghouls armed with guns and riot armor.

"You're fucking kidding me," she hissed as they raised their assault rifles and opened fire.

She channeled her power into her third eye and was astonished as the world seemed to go into slow motion. The bullets were soaring towards her at a crawl, and she was able to jump into the air to avoid them as she pulled out both guns. She opened fire on the ghouls immediately, blasting a hole between their eyes with inhuman precision. But there were more ghouls than she had bullets and she was still in the basement. She wished for a weapon she didn't have to reload, like Sir Integra's saber.

No sooner had the thought crossed Maria's mind than Mr. Eyes was bounding through the wall beside her, a sheathed longsword between its teeth. She killed the remaining five ghouls while dodging their bullets and then turned to the hellhound.

"Is this yours?" she asked, taking it from him and groaning from its weight. She used its crimson sash to secure it to the belt loop of her pants. The hilt was encrusted with various jewels and she wondered just how old it was.

No. It is borrowed, it answered matter-of-factly in a gravelly voice.

"Well, thanks," Maria smiled and patted it on the head.

She resumed running down the corridors and she was pleased when the hellhound tagged along beside her. It was going to be a long slog up the four stories, and she was happy to have someone along for the ride. It wasn't long before they met another band of fifteen ghouls and she ran at them like lightning as she unsheathed the sword. She leapt through their ranks, groaning as she heaved the massive blade through the air and cleaved their heads from their bodies. Blood spurted like miniature geysers and she laughed as they crumpled.

"This is just too easy," she grinned, wiping the sullied blade off on her pants before sheathing it. Putting all of her sexual frustration into the battle made their demises all the more enjoyable.

Is that your secret? she teased Alucard across their connection.

What impertinence, he growled.

Oh, you know I'm only joking. Do you know where Mr. Eyes got this sword from?

He ignored her, which was just as well because she had reached the first floor and there was a group of their men about to be overrun by a glut of ghouls.

"Cease fire!" she commanded the men.

"Are you out of your fucking mind?" one of them, Stevens, cried out.

"Shut up, Stevens," she snarled and dashed past the soldiers, Mr. Eyes beside her and ready to tear out the throats of any freaks she missed. There were about fifteen of them still firing at her and the Hellsing soldiers, who were behind a makeshift barricade of tables and chairs they had grabbed from a nearby study. Maria used her dark powers to glide between them and swung the blade in a wide arc, cackling as the freaks' heads went sailing through the air. Again and again she swung as the hellhound made quick work of the others.

"She's fucking lost it," one of the men muttered.

"Too much time with the vampire."

Maria rolled her eyes. She had realized long ago that they would never understand the bond she shared with Alucard. The last ghoul hit the ground with a dull thud and she wiped the sword clean again before sheathing it.

"Is there anywhere else that needs backup?" she asked the men.

Stevens shook his head. "Can't say. All communications are down."

"Okay. I'm heading up to the third floor where Sir Integra and the Round Table are. Be careful."

The soldiers began devising their plan of action and Maria headed up the main staircase that would take her to the second floor.

You saved their lives and they didn't have a word of thanks? Alucard mused in her mind.

It's fine, she shrugged. We've got bigger things to deal with now than niceties. Have you had any visitors?

No. I'm getting fed up with waiting and watching you have all the fun.

She snorted. You'll have your fun. Whoever the hosts are, they're commanding an awfully large and well-equipped army of ghouls. They must be somewhat powerful.

He gave an unconvinced "hm" and his presence faded from her mind.

On the second floor she was met with another large group of the armored ghouls and she steeled herself before sprinting towards them, zig-zagging back and forth to avoid the hail of bullets. The more she used the longsword, the more familiar its weight became. It felt like an extension of her arms and each swing struck true. She and the six-eyed hellhound made exceptionally quick work of the ghouls, and by the time it was over Maria was covered head to toe in their blood. Mr. Eyes, being not entirely of this world, seemed to absorb any entrails he came in contact with and his glossy black coat was immaculate.

She stared at his spotlessness enviously. It would take her at least an hour in the shower to clean this all off.

"What the fuck?! Who the fuck are you?"

A dark-skinned guy burst out of the control room, a mixture of indignation and fury on his features as he took in Maria and the hellhound. His golden piercings glinted in the light. As his golden eyes lingered on her curves his expression turned lecherous.

"Shit, we didn't hear anything about there being such a hot piece of ass here," he said appreciatively. "I had plans to skullfuck that Hellsing bitch, but I think I'll have you first."

Maria couldn't help but smirk at this vampire's idiocy. "I'll cut off whatever you touch me with."

"Ooh, that's my fetish," he hissed, licking his lips.

The vampire rushed towards her with startling speed and she leapt to the right to dodge him as she took fire and aimed her semi-auto. The bullet hit the mark square between his eyes, but he merely swore and continued advancing. A bolt of uncertainty shot through Maria; other than Alucard she had never encountered a vampire that could survive a silver bullet to the head. He was definitely out of her league still.

The hellhound shot her a quick look and then latched onto the vampire's torso, dragging him away from her and buying her time to escape. Go, he ordered her.

"Thanks," she said quickly, and then darted away from him and down another hall that would lead to the stairs to the third floor. She could still hear the vampire screaming obscenities at Mr. Eyes no matter how much distance she put between them.

She could see the stairs ahead of her and bounded up them two at a time, one hand on the hilt of the longsword. The air was heavy with the presence of more ghouls, and sure enough when she reached the landing she was met with a veritable wall of them. At least forty ghouls packed the corridor, but she had the advantage: they all had their backs to her and were intent on Walter, who stood before them coolly with his trusty garrott wire glinting in the light like spider webs. The butler gave her the briefest of glances, acknowledging her presence as he advanced on the freaks and they opened fire. His wires were so thin and his movements so swift that Maria didn't realize he had attacked until the front row of ghouls were sliced into ribbons and collapsed.

She had heard of the Angel of Death, but it was her first time seeing him in action. Her jaw dropped as a self-satisfied smirk graced his lips and he wove through the bullets with a grace belying his age, and more and more of the ghouls fell with each step he took.

Maria forced her mouth shut and unsheathed the longsword. These ghouls were without the riot shields so she was able to hack into them indiscriminately. She willed her shadows to coat the blade and enhance it, and she laughed gleefully when the sword turned black and became able to cut through the ghouls' bulletproof vests and armor as if they were butter. She and Walter were so fast and efficient that in less than a minute they had reduced the brigade to lumps of flesh.

"How are you faring, Maria?" Walter asked with a kind smile.

"Never better," she grinned. "And you?"

He flexed his gloved fingers, his smile widening. "It's nice to know I haven't lost my touch entirely yet."

"Jesus fucking Christ! Someone needs to take Old Yeller out back and finish it off cuz that fucker's got rabies or some shit."

The vampire from before had climbed the stairs, a hand clutching his mangled side to keep his organs from spilling out the gaping hole the hellhound had torn into him. Sweat was dripping down his brow, but at the sight of Maria he grinned.

"Well, what do you know? If it isn't Alfred and Batgirl."

Maria rolled her eyes and sheathed her sword to take out both of her guns. Walter stepped in front of her, though, his wire dancing between his fingers.

"So you're the one controlling the army of ghouls," the butler said. "Who's controlling you?"

The vampire laughed and snapped his fingers, and there was a rush of footfalls behind him. Maria could sense that they were more ghouls and she couldn't help but wonder how on earth they had amassed such a large following.

"You guys are so fucking stupid it's mind-blowing," he laughed. "Our mission wasn't to kill your men-it was to turn them into ghouls. And to skullfuck that Hellsing bitch and kill the vampire."

Maria couldn't help but giggle.

"What?" he snarled.

"If your partner is as strong as you, I'm afraid to say that he's probably already slaughtered," she explained. "And as for Sir Integra-we'd never let you lay a finger on her."

The loss of the soldiers was unfortunate, however. Maria felt a pang of sorrow as the new ghouls summited the stairs and she was met with the contorted faces of her fallen comrades.

"You handle him, and I'll handle the ghouls," Maria suggested.

"Very well, miss," he nodded, and then cast his wires out towards the vampire who was cackling madly.

Maria rushed toward the glut of ghouls and opened fire on them, a bullet between the eyes for each one. She knew all their names, all their faces, and the only solace she could take from this was that she was giving them peace with each squeeze of the trigger. Righteous indignation made her teeth chatter. How dare this bastard do such a thing to her men, to her home.

She ran out of bullets before she ran out of ghouls, and it was with a heavy heart that she withdrew the greatsword. It would be a sloppier killing with the massive blade, and she felt that they deserved better. But they were no longer her men so much as they were monsters now, and they would never know the difference anyways.

"Sorry," she whispered, and swung the heavy sword at Stevens as he ran towards her with his arms outstretched.

His head was cascading through the air in the next moment, and then Maria was flashing through the hundred-some ghouls, culling the masses with each heave of the blade. She was so focused on keeping them all at bay that she lost sight of Walter and the vampire, but she could hear the vampire laugh madly and saw him dashing towards the conference room doors that were at the end of the corridor even though Walter's garrott wire was wrapped tightly around his arm. He laughed as his arm came off and he continued running towards the conference door. Maria lurched towards him, but he was much too far for her to reach. He opened the doors and was immediately met with a hail of gunfire as Integra, the members of the Round Table, and Seras all let loose. Riddled with holes, he slumped against the wall as he chuckled.

Walter and Maria rushed into the room to stand beside Integra, who was demanding answers from the vampire.

"You think they're gonna let me live if they hear me spilling their secrets?" he laughed, and then Maria jumped in surprise when he suddenly ignited in blue flames. "Look! But I'm gonna die anyways so I might as well give you all a little consolation prize since you've lost all your men. Beware of...Millennium."

He faded into ash as the fire faded and Integra's face contorted in rage.

"Walter," Integra ground out, "have the intruders all been neutralized?"

"The ghouls have all been dispatched," Maria said. A brief confirmation with Alucard via their mental connection and she added, "Alucard has killed the other vampire as well."

The Hellsing heir's fists were trembling at her sides. "They broke into my house, they killed my men, and turned them into ghouls. There will be retribution. Seras, Maria, you are dismissed."

The two women nodded and took their leave. Seras had been in the conference room with the Harkonnen as the last line of defense should the enemy have broken into the room, and therefore had not seen the destruction. When her eyes fell upon the corpses of her men turned ghouls she let out a moan of anguish.

"How could this have happened?" she whispered, and when Maria looked to her she was surprised to see red tears streaking down her cheeks.

Maria rested a bloody hand on the draculina's shoulder. "I'm sorry," she said heavily. "They were good men and they didn't deserve such an end."

"I-if I had trained them better, maybe-"

"Seras, don't think that way," Maria commanded. "They were overwhelmed; the ghouls had shields and riot armor. No amount of training could have prepared them."

"But-"

Maria tugged her by the arm, trying to uproot her from her spot in middle of the carnage, but she didn't budge. Seras' entire body trembled as she took in the loss of her men, her friends.

The brunette stood in front of Seras and forced her to meet her fiery emerald eyes. "You're not to blame for this. Blame the people that controlled those vampires."

Seras remained silent but for her quiet sobs.

Maria left her side to go to Walter, who was watching intently as Integra spoke with the other members of the Round Table. The girl asked the butler what they were to do with the corpses, and with a resigned sorrow he explained that they would have to be taken to the crematorium on the grounds reserved from destroying ghouls and vampires. Maria thanked him and returned to Seras, who was sitting on the floor amidst her fallen soldiers, her face in her hands.

Maria picked up two of the bodies, one on each shoulder, and said to the blonde, "We've got to take them to be cremated. Will you help?"

The draculina looked up to her, her face a bloody mess from the tears. "We're burning them?"

"We're giving them peace," she corrected. "You couldn't help them in life but you can help them in death."

Maria watched as the young woman's frown set into something more resigned and she rose to her feet. Without a word she picked up four of the bodies and followed Maria down the stairs, out of the castle, and towards the incinerator. It was kept inside a massive stone building that may originally been a barn, and the contraption itself resembled a great metal room with a heavy, bolted door. Seras opened it and they placed the bodies gently in the far corner of the chamber. They estimated that they would be able to fit about fifty bodies in at a time.

Why are you and the Police Girl doing servant's work? Alucard sounded bemused.

Because Seras is upset and she needs something to make her feel less guilty, she answered matter-of-factly.

And you?

I just don't want Seras to bear this burden alone.

The Nosferatu was silent for a moment. I can't tell if the throne will suit you well or ill.

What does that mean? Maria groaned as her muscles protested when she tossed another body over her shoulder. Thanks to Alucard's blood, her strength had increased to a level well beyond that of a normal mortal, but swinging that massive sword around all night and then carrying three or four bodies at once was bound to push her limits.

This kindness you exhibit. He said "kindness" as if it left a bad taste in his mouth. A ruler cannot afford to be soft.

Maria recalled what little she knew of Alucard's past reign of Wallachia, of his iron rule and his brother's betrayal. No doubt he had trusted his brother and had been wounded immeasurably by his double-crossing. Perhaps he regretted being kind to his brother?

Seras isn't a subject. She's a friend to me, a fledgling to you. And these men fought bravely til the end. Why shouldn't I be doing this?

He said nothing, perhaps because he didn't have an answer to her question.

She was pleasantly surprised when on their next trip back to the castle for more bodies she found the hellhound in the hallway giving her an impatient look. She could never explain it, but for as long as she could remember she had always understood what the dog was thinking. It was something in its eyes.

"You've been such a big help today," she thanked as she piled a few bodies onto its back. "First the sword, then that vampire, now this. Are you really from Hell?"

It growled at her and began heading towards the crematorium impatiently. Maria just laughed and picked up a couple more corpses as Seras watched their exchange in bewilderment.

Walter showed up after a while and showed them how to work the cremator, which allowed the the girls and Mr. Eyes to continue working. By the time the sun began to crest over the hills Seras looked as though she could faint from exhaustion at any moment.

"Go get some rest," Maria told her as they inserted a few more bodies into the incinerator. "The sun's coming up."

"But we're not finished," she objected.

"We've gotten all but a few of the enemy ghouls," Maria placated, "and you can't keep making trips outside if the sun gets any higher. Let's call it a night."

Seras bit her lip, but the hellhound nipped at her leg and gave her a surly look as if to say, "You heard her. Now go."

She scowled down at the black dog and then gave a sigh. "You're right. But you should turn in too. You must be even tireder than I am."

It was true that the mortal's very bones ached from fatigue. But she wasn't restricted by the sunlight like Seras and the hellhound were and she wanted to ensure that when the draculina woke up the next night that all traces of the carnage would be gone.

"I'm fine," she grinned. "There's not much more to do. I'll have it done in a couple hours tops."

"Master isn't going to like you being up so early."

"Well, he does plenty of things I don't like. I think I've earned the right to displease him a bit. Now go get some rest."

Seras wrapped Maria in an almost bone-shattering hug that Maria reciprocated.

"Thank you," she whispered, her voice trembling.

"Anytime," was Maria's sincere reply.

The blonde pulled away and gave a wave of farewell before darting back to the castle. Maria watched her and then turned to the hellhound who stood staring at her blankly.

"Does the sunlight bother you? You don't have to keep helping me," she told it.

Apparently it was finished aiding her because it sank into the stone floor of the crematorium at her words, leaving her to herself. She sighed. The three of them had managed to clear the basement, first, and second floors. All that was left now was the third floor where the highest amount of bodies had been. She estimated there were still fifteen more, and if she carried four at a time she could have it done in two hours.

Her body was loath to heed her commands, but she trudged back to the castle and resumed her work alone.

But she wasn't alone for too long. She had just hefted a third body over her shoulder when the No Life King's voice floated into her mind.

Come to bed. The sun has risen.

I'm sorry but I can't. I've got to finish this.

Your body is at its limit. Return to me.

Maria gritted her teeth as she crouched down to pick up a fourth body and put it on top of another on her right shoulder. She groaned as she rose to her feet, every muscle protesting. Alucard was right, but she couldn't allow herself to rest until she saw the last body put to rest. For the soldiers' sakes, for Seras' sake, for Sir Integra's sake.

It isn't my wish to defy you, she said as she took a quivering step down the stairs, but I need to do this. Give me whatever punishment you see fit and I'll take it without complaint.

The Nosferatu growled, but it wasn't in her mind. He stood before her in full dress, his mouth twisted into a furious snarl as he regarded her with nothing less than animosity.

"You would disobey my commands?" he hissed.

"This command? Yes," she answered honestly as she continued to take the stairs one at a time.

He appeared a few steps before her, his expression thunderous. His hair was longer than usual, to his chest.

"Why? Why do you push yourself to do this? For these pathetic mortals whose lives are as inconsequential as grains of sand?"

Maria didn't halt but looked up to meet his tempestuous gaze with her own tear-clouded one. "I feel like I'm little more than a grain of sand myself."

His expression fell as he saw the tears glistening in her emerald eyes, the murderous scowl replaced with the smoothe, unreadable mask he wore most.

"Return to me when you are finished," was all he said, and then he faded into the wall.

She was too tired to unravel his enigmas so she simply continued trudging to the crematorium. By the final trip, the sun had fully risen above the hills and it prickled at her skin slightly, as if she were being stung by sweat bees. So complete was her exhaustion that she all but dragged herself into her chambers. She was filthy, covered head to foot in blood and guts, but didn't have the energy to bathe. The cold stone floor was a welcome reprieve to her sunburnt skin and no sooner had she lain down than her eyes were closed.

"What are you doing on the floor?"

Her lips barely moved. "Sleeping."

"Foolish girl," he muttered, and she felt something like silk caressing her entire body for a few seconds. The next moment she was in her bed under the blankets beside a familiarly cool body. An arm wrapped around her and she found herself curled into his side, her head in the crook of his shoulder.

She wanted to thank him for sending the hellhound to her, as it had saved her life. She also wanted to ask him about the sword and how his fight with the other vampire had went. And whether he was angry with her. Why her skin hurt. Why he hadn't left her on the hard floor.

"Sleep," he commanded.

That was an order she had no desire to disobey.