He could not get over how much it bothered him. Though Pip Bernadotte had worked for a fair amount of out of the ordinary bosses, ranging from a deranged Somalian warlord to a reserved, polished oil tycoon in Honduras, he had never had a woman quite like this for a boss. If he said that he wasn't intimidated at all by Sir Integral Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, he would be lying through his teeth.
It was difficult to put a finger on it because so much potential existed. Perhaps it was that she never had a hair out of place or that the No-Life King bowed to her, both of these despite her age. The fact that at the age of twenty-three, her stare could floor the most hardened hero baffled him; that glare should have been forged in the fires of war and oceans of blood, not a prim British manor in the countryside.
"Something on your mind, Captain?" She brushed a strand of long, nearly white hair over her shoulder with a gloved hand as she took a drag off of the cigar clenched between her teeth and exhaled smoke.
"Kind of, Sir. I haven't been in a library since my men had to hunker down in one when we were attacked by revolutionaries in Belize." He shrugged. "I didn't expect to be helping out with paperwork."
"The Round Table is very strict in what goes in and out, which leads to most of what you see here in the basement archives." She gestured at the room full of filing cabinets and special equipment for handling vintage books. "Some of these documents are very old, so one must be careful when handling them. We have alchemical texts dating back from the fifteenth century under lock and key here. I will admit, however, that having you down here to sort and go over your men's' files as we did earlier was not my only purpose." She cleared her throat. "What are your intentions concerning Seras Victoria, Captain?"
"Eh? We're just friends, Sir."
"Yes, Sir." He glanced from side to side clandestinely and lowered his voice. "To tell you the truth, I'm hoping for something more later on, but for now, we are what we are."
"Romantic relations or merely someone to bed?" She crossed her arms and shifted to one foot.
"Bien sur que non!" Pip shook his head heatedly, somewhat offended. "She's a good girl, not a whore; I'm not that heartless." He paused and then added apologetically, "Sir. My grandparents raised me to treat women well; I wouldn't have been able to sit down for a week if I so much as said boo to a girl. "
"I'm glad to hear that; it gives me one less thing to worry about, though Alucard may need more convincing if you choose to reassure him and I would prefer not to hear that language again in my presence. He's already spoken with his fledgling about it and other matters. Naturally, having a history of manipulating younger women with low self-esteem gives insight as to how and when others may do it and leaves a distinct paranoia of karma if a young ward with that trait comes under the former's wing. "
Pip stifled a snicker, and then grew serious. "Sorry, Sir. I can see where that would be a problem. If I may ask, though, why were you concerned about my relationship with the mignonette in the first place?"
It took a moment for her to answer. "She is a member of Hellsing and under my protection, Captain; I would do the same for any employee." However, not unlike her hired gun, Integral Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing was also capable of lying through her teeth.
The night of Cheddar, her cigar had snapped in two when Walter informed her of what had transpired. After she ordered him to make arrangements for the girl's living quarters and have Alucard report to her when he returned, Integra had paced for ten minutes in front of the window, unable to believe his nerve. Who was he to do this, bring this girl into their lives without her permission or an explanation? She had never explicitly ordered him not to perform such an endeavor, but had not seen it coming at all.
If anything, she had felt an unexpected jealously. Alucard had been irrevocably and undeniably hers since that fatal day ten years ago in the basement. Without him and Walter, she had nothing. Was she not good enough for him anymore? What did he see in this girl that she didn't have? Her hands clenched into fists, she glared at the moon, cursing whoever in the heavens or the nether abyss had seen to this.
She sensed his presence before he entered the room, shadows gathering on the wall as he materialized. Closing her eyes, the knight voiced a question that sounded much more anguished than she intended it to.
" Her vampire's tone was a mix of surprise and concern as he moved towards her.
The slap rang out as her hand snaked up to meet his face, and its force shocked them both. Turning her head to the side so he wouldn't see her wince, Integra cradled her aching right hand and sucked in air. She had meant to hit him and for it to hurt, but not so hard that her fingers and palm went numb.
"I deserved that," Alucard said quietly, reaching up to touch the red mark with a gloved hand and wincing slightly. "Master, you must believe that I did not turn her for reasons of malicious intent."
"Then for what reason?"
"She asked me to; it was her choice and I saw fit to grant her that request because she resisted the vampiric priest."
"Did she know what she was asking?"
He shook his head. "Most likely not."
"Then what possessed you to do it?"
There was a long pause before an answer. "I don't know," he confessed wearily as his eyes met hers, distant and unfocused. Surprised at the pain in his that matched her own, she held his gaze and they stood there in a somnolent silence until he broke it. Her pain was replaced by apprehension when he gripped the backs of her biceps gently and bent, his lips almost brushing her left ear. "She's not you."
Back in the present, Integra Hellsing blinked at her mercenary's concern. "Forgive me, Captain."
"What wonders are these? Is our lady Integral reminiscing?" Alucard loomed by one of the filing cabinets in a vaguely threatening way. After living with him for so long, she could tell what constituted as merely being intimidating and genuine menace. This was more a display of territory than anything else; no matter who the man was, Alucard trusted her with no one excepting Walter and even then, he was usually nearby.
She tsked and shook her head. "You're incorrigible."
"But you wouldn't have me any other way."
Integra ignored his response. "Did you get what I asked for?"
"They're on your desk as we speak. Shall we?"
"Indeed." She turned to Pip, who had either a remarkable talent for hiding discomfort or had become accustomed to the ways of Alucard very, very quickly. "Thank you for your help, Captain. Dismissed." The two exited the room, the vampire pausing to hold the door for his master. Pip sighed and decided to go get a beer and quietly ponder the reason for the perpetually smoldering tension between the pair.