My So-Called Afterlife

My So-Called Afterlife
a shameless self-insertion by Dot


I woke up with a pounding headache and the taste of cotton in my mouth.

So this is what a hangover is like, I thought, stretching and pulling the blankets closer to my body. Bleagh. Don’t ever care to go through THAT again.

That’s when I noticed I was buck naked. I think.

Things got a little chaotic at the time, because Sir Integra and Seras woke up right about then, too.

“AIEEE!” (That was Seras, screaming bloody murder about her lack of clothing.)

“Gah! Don’t do that!” (That was me, whose headache just got fifty times worse thanks to said screaming.)

“Bloody hell—ALUCARD!” (That was Integra, also nude, alternating between horrified and furious.)

“This can’t be happening—this must be a nightmare—” (That was Seras, in severe denial. I envied her ability to do that.)

“Get away from me, you trollop! ALUCARD! Get your mangy ass here, NOW!” (That was Sir Integra, outraged about my presence even though I was pretty sure that wasn’t my fault.)

“Look, I’m sure this is all a misunderstanding—ow! Ow! Stop that! Hey!” (That was me, trying to dodge the pillows Sir Integra was throwing at me.)

“Really, Master. Don’t act as if you’ve never seen a naked woman before.” That was Sir Alucard, smirking in the doorway at our various states of undress. Despite managing to wrap a bed sheet around myself, I still felt quite exposed under his leer.

Sir Integra, on the other hand, somehow looked dignified even though she was wearing nothing. “You’d better have a good explanation for this, Alucard.”

“It’s simple, really. The punch contained a substance that renders mortals nearly unconscious and very, very suggestible.” Alucard grinned again. “Although I have to say you hardly needed any prompting, Master. Perhaps you should abandon your silly hang-ups about sex.”

Sir Integra flared and was about to snap at Alucard when she noticed me trying to sneak out of the room. She narrowed her eyes. “And what about her?” Her voice was ice.

Sir Alucard continued grinning, although for a moment I swear his countenance wavered a bit. “What? It’s not like I would let such a delicious virgin pass me by.”

My mind was rather slow on the uptake, but not so slow as to miss what was being implied. Fearing the worse, I reached up to touch my neck.

And screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

Have I mentioned that I shouldn’t have gone to that party yet?

***

After my embarrassing induction into the glorious ranks of Hellsing (henceforth to be kept secret upon pain of—well, something more traumatic than being turned into a vampire, I guess), Walter gave me a quick rundown of how things worked. At the top was, depending on who you asked, either England or the Church. I didn’t care for either (I had way too many questions for both that neither would answer even if they could), and for the most part those were distant ideals that had little to do with the daily workings of the organization. Walter seemed to insinuate that Sir Integra answered directly to the Queen, but once again, that wasn’t really my business. Plus, I never saw Sir Integra (or any of the mortal staff members, for that matter) attend any sort of services or read the Bible or even pray.

My ultimate authority, as far as I was concerned, was Sir Integra. As the head of the—letsee, it was the Royal Knights something something—Organization with a Long Freaking Name, and the last in a long line of monster hunters, she also had the dubious distinction of having a vampire and his brood as servants. I obeyed her without question not because of this, but because I respected her incredible inner strength and her ability to stand firm in a world filled with darkness.

Sir Alucard, my sire, was a slightly different story. Unlike Seras, I refused to call him “Master”, on the basis that my turning was very much non-consensual. He tolerated it as long as I did what I’m told and I didn’t get too fresh with him. I had a tendency to get a little smart mouthed when stressed, and more often than not I spoke before I think. I learned the hard way that sometimes it was just better to shut the hell up and grumble later.

Walter was—well, Walter.  No other description would suffice. He seemed to be pretty content with staying behind the scenes, but I valued his guidance as I learned the ropes. Walter taught me how to shoot with both precision and accuracy, how to use anything as a weapon, and how to minimize injuries to myself in a fight. Walter also customized all of our guns, and after using one of his “babies” I almost never wanted to even touch another weapon.

Seras Victoria, like myself, had been a rather ordinary girl—or, as Alucard liked to call her, “police girl”—until Alucard crossed her life. Unlike myself, she had become a vampire more or less of her own volition. She may have been a human shield at the time, but Alucard was at least considerate enough to ask her if she was willing to come with him. She was just starting to realize that she had gotten quite a bit more than she had bargained for, but she tried to put on her best face no matter how grim the situation. Her whole angst about losing her humanity annoyed me sometimes, though, so I tended to avoid her when we weren’t on missions.

***

And then, there was me, the new “kid”. Adjusting to being undead was, pun very much intended, hell. Now, I didn’t mind the nocturnal thing or the blood thing; I was always a bit of a night owl to begin with and enjoyed a good rare steak now and then. No, what I hated was the constant pain. Something I didn’t know about a vampire’s heightened senses was that the sense of touch is no exception. The human mind tunes out after a certain level of pain to keep its host from going insane, and even releases some nice endorphins to help make things tolerable, but the vampire has no such fail safes.  And I was out of shape with no social life and looking at boot camp that would make a Navy SEAL faint. On top of that, perhaps as revenge for not calling him “Master”, Alucard made it a point to design my training so that I would always be in agony. My typical day looked something like this:

  1. Dawn—Voice in my head tells me to get up or get a stake in the chest. Eat quick breakfast of medicinal blood, raw eggs, and toast. Jog for 5 miles.
  2. Morning—Endurance training. Pack own weight in live ammunition and supplies, march. Weapons training. Assemblage, maintenance, and firing. Learn how to deal with recoil. Learn how to pop dislocated shoulder back into place.
  3. Noon—Medicinal blood, roast beef sandwich. Single combat training. Group tactics. Urban warfare.
  4. Dusk—Reading break. History, the occult, military texts, and the (very) occasional graphic novel. Dinner of steak (rare) or chicken soup.
  5. Night—Stealth training. Sniper training. Sleep doesn’t happen until midnight or later, sometimes not at all.

The worst part, though, was the missions, because things could go batshit at any time, even for “routine” stuff. And since Seras and I were vampires, we got to take point, meaning more that often than not we ended up being cannon fodder. Being shot hurt like a motherfucker. That was why, in addition to my regular weapons training, I asked Walter to teach me the tricks of the trade. If I was going to point a gun at somebody, I wanted to make sure that they were dead after the first shot, quick and painless. They might have been my enemies, but we were just pawns in someone else’s stupid games, and I saw no point in prolonging their suffering.

***

Once, and just once, did I attack a human. She was a reporter for some tabloid paper that had somehow found a group of freaks that were making snuff videos. The mole was probably responsible for that, but I didn’t care about him, since the law could deal with traitors just fine. As Sir Integra herself said, there are some places where the law had no reach, and that was where Hellsing came in.

Sir Alucard invited me to drink, but he didn’t need to. I bit down on that scum of a woman right on her breast where it would hurt the most, while Sir Alucard squeezed her throat shut so she wouldn’t ruin the atmosphere with her screams.

“So, how does it feel, to be part of the show you just watched five minutes ago?” I asked her as I licked the blood from my lips. She, of course, couldn’t answer, but I could feel her terror. “How does it feel to have Sir Integra watch us devour you and know that she will not help you, even if she could?”

And I think that was why I did it—why I drank from her, that is. She wasn’t there to investigate the truth; she was there to watch a helpless victim be destroyed because she got off on it. I wanted to turn the tables on her for a few moments before she went to hell.

So I did. And it was wonderful. For about five minutes.

Then I discovered that I was allergic to non type-O blood.

Sir Integra gave me the day off to worship the porcelain goddess.

***

I didn’t have the “pleasure” of meeting Father Anderson the first time he crossed paths with Hellsing; instead, Seras gave a very amusing and dramatic blow-by-blow reenactment, complete with sound effects.

“—and then Master showed up looking all evil and really cool, like this,” Seras posed and tried to leer, but that just resulted in both of us laughing for a good minute.

“I take it this Anderson fellow skipped town after that?” I asked after I was able to talk without breaking into another round of titters.

Seras nodded. “He ran off promising to kill us next time.” She became more serious as her hand drifted to her neck, where one of Alexander’s blessed swords had pierced her, and she shuddered. “I sure hope there isn’t a next time.”

“From your description of this dude, I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen the last of him.” At the time, I was actually looking forward to a Hellsing/Iscariot rematch because I had this notion of somehow disillusioning the fanatical paladin with my knowledge of the darker side of his glorious religion.

I had no idea. I won’t bore you with all the details about the premise or the denouement and skip straight to the exiting part, which of course consists of lots of blood, gore, and gratuitous violence.

***

Seras was hyperventilating with panic as we stood back to back in the narrow train car, and to my irritation her fear was rather infectious. I was about to snap at her to stop doing that when everything went wrong.

(Give me a little slack for not being able to come up with a coherent term for how it felt to be stuck in a magical anti-undead barrier.  All I could think about at that point was that I wanted to get the hell out of it.)

“Hello, hello,” Fahter Anderson’s voice echoed from everywhere at once, and Seras whimpered. “So it seems the freak show is a bit bigger this time.” And then he was right in front of me, waving those sharp, sharp knives. “All the more for me to kill.”

All that training was more helpful than I thought, because I somehow managed to dodge the strike aimed straight towards my heart. Father Anderson, however, was not so stupid as to overextend himself, and pressed his assault, the next few which were much more successful.

By the way, being sliced by blades immersed with holy water hurt even worse than being shot. A lot more. A hell of a lot more, even. But back to the story. He chased me through the length of the train, taunting me all the way. By this point, I had no doubt in my mind that he could destroy me in an instant, but was just toying with me because he could. Meanwhile, Seras was in all likelihood curled up crying in a corner somewhere like the useless eye candy she tended to be in situations like this. We reached the caboose. I looked outside at the scenery zipping by and contemplated throwing myself out a window, but before I could make up my mind, Father Anderson was upon me.

“What will you do now, vampire?” He asked, spearing me in my shoulders to the seat behind me. I bit my lip to keep from screaming, my sharp fangs splitting them from the force I imparted. He drew another pair of knives from within his trench coat and traced one along my chin. “Any last words before I send you to hell?”

“As a matter of fact, I do,” I ground out. “Who the fuck died and made you God?”

Father Anderson, having heard far worse from other vampires, was unfazed. “Is that all you have?”

This time, I smirked. He asked for it. I listed every infraction of the Catholic Church, from the Crusades to the most recent scandals. Some he countered with his twisted logic, others left him speechless, and a few even riled him up. Of course, that meant more pain for me, but at this point, I was too pissed off to care. “—and another thing! Do you think I enjoy killing people even if they’re hardly innocent bystanders or being a creature of darkness?” I was shouting at the top of my lungs now. “Do you think I like the idea that I’m probably going to hell all because I was a stupid fangirl that attended a stupid Halloween party—”

My blood ran cold as something in my mind clicked, and I remembered.

I remembered.

“You were there,” I croaked, grabbing the blades and pulling them out one by one. “Not some fanboy dressed as you.”

This rattled Father Anderson more than anything else. “Liar!” He shouted, swinging at me.

“You were there,” I repeated, dodging him with ease now that he wasn’t focused on taking me apart limb by limb. “I was drunk off my ass because some jerk off spiked the punch and I was throwing up in the toilet when Sir Alucard took me to your room and—”

Liar!” Father Anderson lunged at me again, but stopped almost in midair as his blades exploded into a million tiny shards.

Sir Alucard emerged from the shadows, his Jackal pointing straight at Anderson’s head. “Come, come, Anderson, there’s no shame in admiring Hellsing’s newest Captain. She not nearly as curvaceous as the police girl, but she’s cute in her own way.”

Father Anderson let loose a string of obscenities and curses as he disappeared.

***

Afterwards, I locked myself in my room and was about to wallow in some well-deserved self pity when Sir Alucard appeared in his usual irritating fashion.

“So you’ve finally recalled the moment of your rebirth.” He smiled. “Congratulations.”

He was baiting me, but I didn’t care.

“You,” I spat, keeping my voice cold, “might have preserved my virginity in the technical sense, so that you could make a pet out of me, but as far as I’m concerned, you raped me.” I stood up and glared at him, even though he towered over me. “Raped. Me. Because you thought it would be funny to make Anderson sweat over not only having carnal thoughts for a girl, but a heretical undead vampire girl on top of that.”

“Correct, Captain.” He put a gun into my hands. “So now what? Take your revenge for your life being ruined? Kill yourself and hope that the same God who has put you into this hell will somehow take you out of it?”

He wanted me to hate him, and I wasn’t about to give him that satisfaction. “I’m going to cry for a few hours and mangle a few pillows while I’m at it. Then I’m going to get on with my life. Unlife. Whatever.” I tried to give the gun back, and when he refused to take it, I threw it across the room. “Now, sir, unless you want to stand here and listen to me scream my lungs out, I suggest you leave the room and not bother me until I’m done.”

I stomped over to the bed, threw myself down over it, and began making good on my promise. I wept until blood came out of my eyes—or they always did and I didn’t notice before now—and tore through just about every piece of furniture in that room. Sir Alucard didn’t stick around for the show, because he didn’t care for such theatrics, and went off to annoy the other members of Hellsing.

After I freshened up as much as possible, I headed downstairs to report for debriefing. To my surprise, Walter was in the mess hall waiting for me.

He bowed in the way that he always did, slow and to the waist. “Sir Integra wishes to dine with you, Captain. Follow me.”

***

I found Sir Integra seated at the head of an elegant wooden table, a simple yet elegant meal before her. “Sit,” she said, indicating my seat with but the slightest nod of her head. I sat, feeling very self conscious about my messy, informal clothes. Walter poured me a glass of what Sir Integra was having and placed it in front of me.

“Sorry, Sir Integra, but I don’t drink. I never liked the taste of alcohol, and given what happened the last time I had any—” I trailed off, feeling guilty about having said too much as usual. “Uh, that night at the party, we didn’t—did we?”

Perhaps the light was playing a trick on my eyes, but for a moment Sir Integra looked like she was blushing. “No. That was also part of Alucard’s,” she paused, as if searching for the right word, “prank.”

“Some prank,” I muttered.

She sighed. “Walter has been investigating the circumstances of that incident. So far, he has had few leads, and unfortunately none of them are very promising.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You mean this wasn’t just some stupid junior grade joke?”

“If only life were that simple.” Sir Integra nibbled at a piece of her steak. “Neither Hellsing nor Iscariot would have been present if it really were merely a party gone horribly and tragically wrong, would it?”

“I guess not.” She stopped eating for a moment and peered at me through her glasses. “You seem to be pretty calm about all of this.”

I shrugged. “What happened, happened. It pissed me off to find out the details, but I’m done crying.” For now, anyway.

“I see.” Again, it might have been my imagination, but there seemed to be a tone of approval, almost, in Sir Integra’s voice. But she was already back to eating her meal. Meanwhile, my glass of wine had been exchanged for one of blood.

“Courtesy of Sir Integra,” Walter explained as he set it down with a rather amused expression. “Cheers.”

It took a while for me to understand what he said. “You mean?”

“I had some drawn today after I heard what happened,” Sir Integra answered my unspoken question. “I figured you could use a little virgin blood.”

“Oh.”

And then Sir Integra smirked. “Now will you drink it like a good vampire, or will I have to make you lick my finger like I did with Seras?”

According to Walter, I blushed all the way to the roots of my hair.

***

And thus was the beginning of my weird ‘relationship’ with Father Anderson. I didn’t know what to make of the man. On one hand, he was more right wing than Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, and the Spanish Inquisition put together. On the other, every time we met after that first encounter, he didn’t seem to be too enthusiastic about destroying me in the name of God or whatever. He just liked to cut me. A lot.

Sir Alucard, of course, enjoyed all of this to no end. He teased me nonstop about having a “Vatican dog boyfriend”, and made all sorts of lurid suggestions on the sadomasochist undertones of Father Anderson’s knifing skills. He almost made a joke about whether Sir Integra would approve of cross-denominational fraternization, but he made the mistake of doing it her presence. One good GLARE from her shut him up right then and there. (And boy, was that satisfying, feeling Sir Alucard’s obligation to Sir Integra through the telepathic bond I shared with him. Of course, he got his revenge for that, too, by pouring ice cold blessed water down the back of my shirt.)

Since we were fighting the same enemies, Father Anderson and I ran into each other quite a bit. The only reprieve I got was the time the Hellsing mansion was stormed by the Valentine brothers, and then it was right back to your regular scheduled freak show.

And then Millennium happened. You know those conspiracy theories about how the Nazis were experimenting with dark evil things and then escaped to South America to continue plotting the resurrection of the Third Reich?

Turns out those rumors were true. All of them.

***

In true evil villain fashion, they made themselves known during a Round Table meeting and announced their plans to invade England. Their messenger was some sort of gender indeterminate feline creature who called itself Schrödinger.

Big, big mistake on their part.

Say, Sir Alucard, I sent through my link as the members of the Round Table exchanged banter with the head of Millennium, how much do you know about quantum mechanics?

I’ve heard of it, but the intellectual wankings of those eggheads never interested me much. Is it relevant?

Is it ever! I then gave him an abbreviated, layman’s version of the infamous thought experiment of the cat in the box.

That was when conversation at the Table was interrupted by Sir Alucard’s insane laughter. “How very amusing!” Sir Alucard exclaimed between chortles. “A pussy that is both completely dead and completely alive, depending on how you look at the situation!” Schrödinger looked bored, at first, when Sir Alucard extended his dark powers. Then, as it realized what Sir Alucard had done, fear registered on its face for the first time. “Ohoho! The cat, for once, is in the bag, is it not?” Sir Alucard drew his gun and pressed it to Schrödinger’s head. “So what will you do now, little pussy? Will you go crying to your master and betray him for me, or shall I send you to him myself?”

The fat German Major on the liquid crystal screen mirrored Alucard’s expression. “Coming for me already, Alucard? You are so impatient! And don’t snivel like that, Warrant Officer Schrödinger. You are disgracing the memory of our Führer.”

“But, Major,” Schrödinger whimpered, “he’s scaring me.”

“Alucard.” Sir Integra, on the other hand, remained her usual impassive self. “Fire.”

***

So Sir Integra sent Sir Alucard, Seras, and a bunch of mercenaries to South America to track down the evil laughing zombie Nazis, while I stayed behind to guard the “roost” with Walter because I opened my big mouth and asked what happened if Millennium had operatives in Great Britain already and was just waiting for all the nasty vampires to clear out. I had resigned myself to the bland monotony of the usual routine when Sir Integra got a very interesting phone call.

As it turned out, out my instincts had been correct, and not in a good way: in addition to Millennium having a presence in Britain, one of the agents was a priest. A Catholic priest.

“Something tells me that a certain paladin will show up, too,” I muttered as I packed my guns.

Walter almost smiled. “You must be psychic, Captain.”

***

If I were really psychic, or at least a bit smarter, I should have realized that if the other side had a Catholic in their ranks, they’d not only have plenty of ammunition suited to make my life pain, they’d have things to deal with a paladin, too. But I’d gotten careless from mowing down all the red shirt freaks and started fantasizing myself as unbeatable. And, to be honest, part of me did have quite the death wish. I ran into Anderson right on schedule just as I was done clearing out another hallway full of freaks, wondering to myself where Millennium got its seemingly innumerable recruits.

“We have to stop meeting like this,” I remarked as we pointed our respective weapons at each other.

He made a few half-hearted swipes at me before more freaks showed up to crash our touching (or something) reunion. “Be very glad that you are not the enemy this time, vampire.”

“Overjoyed, Father Anderson.”

And the only reason I’m not going to shoot you in the back is it would be a stupid waste of ammunition, I thought to myself.

It was almost a scene out of one of those old caper films. We fought the freaks with bullets and each other with words. We got in each other’s way as often as we saved each other’s rear ends. And we burst through the final set of doors, together, to confront the traitorous priest in his lair. Yeah, it was stupid of us. But it looked cool. Until we noticed the magic. I almost tumbled to the floor as I found myself in a barrier that would probably even give Sir Alucard the willies, but I managed to grab onto the frame of the door and sink my fingers into the wood. Father Anderson was not so lucky: the most recent wounds he received hadn’t quite closed up yet, and something was interfering with his regenerative abilities.

“What dark arts have you been playing with, traitor,” he growled, struggling to get up off the floor.

The priest—Jones, I believe, but I was never good at names—walked up to Father Anderson and kicked him, sending him to the floor again. “Funny you’d say that, Iscariot dog.” He turned his eyes on me, and pulled out a wicked looking gun. “And what do we have here? If it isn’t one of Hellsing’s infamous undead squad!”

He was close enough for me to punch the gun away from him before he could fire. The gun was made from pure silver, and in all likelihood doused with blessed water for good measure.

“If I could move, I would rip you in half,” I growled, trying to ignore the pain from my burning hand.

“But you can’t, can you? You can barely even stand!” Jones tried to sweep my legs out from under me, but I executed a clumsy overhead flip, landed behind him, and fired at his head.

The space around him contoured, and I found myself at the business end of my own bullet.

Jones stood over me and stomped his shoe into the hole in my stomach. “Don’t look at me like that. I’m doing you a favor.” He brought out another gun. “After all, if you destroy Millennium, then you will have outlived your usefulness.”

“You underestimate the human capacity for evil,” I replied, grabbing his leg and throwing him as hard as I could. I rolled to my feet again, using a nearby desk for support.

Meanwhile, Father Anderson, being no wimp himself, has managed to get up as well, and drawn his blades. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”

“Jeremiah 17:9,” I blurted out, surprised that I still remembered the verse, and recognized it despite the different wording.

Before either of us could get into an enlightening discussion on scripture, Jones produced two more guns and fired at the both of us, causing us to scramble for our lives.

Where does he keep getting his ammunition from? I thought to myself as another bullet tore into my body. Dammit. And I liked this shirt, too.

We managed to do pretty well considering the significant handicaps. We even injured Jones a few times because his strange space-twisting trick only works when he is concentrating on it, and it was a bit hard for him to focus with two psychotic maniacs trying to kill him at the same time.

Then Jones blew off one of Father Anderson’s kneecaps. At this point, my feelings for Father Anderson were still rather mixed, but I was quite certain that I didn’t want his death on my hands. Saving him would not only be major bonus points for Hellsing, but it was my chance to be heroic. My mind churned as my eyes darted around the room and spotted the gun I had punched out of Jones’ hands before. Now, how in the world was I going to get a shot off without him invoking that stupid warping trick again? Insert one mental light bulb here.

“Hey! Jackass!” I shouted, catching Jones’ attention. I pointed the gun at him, ignoring the fact that it was starting to eat into my hands. Well, here goes nothing.

We fired at each other. I ticked off the moments in my head, and then fired again, and again, putting just enough delay in my shots and hoping that my idea—that the stream of bullets would cause him to reverse the path of round he’d reversed moments prior—would work.

I think it did, because his head exploded in a messy red spray, but I couldn’t quite tell because the bullets he managed to redirect impacted into my torso at about the same time, taking out a good chunk of the left side. I have the vaguest memories of pulling Father Anderson from the room with my good arm and falling to the ground, my effort spent.

“Draculina,” he began, almost looking shocked that I had not left him there to bleed to death, and amended himself. “Captain.”

“You should be happy, Father. In a little while, I’ll be in a lake of fire and brimstone weeping and gnashing my teeth, or something.” I couldn’t hold back a whimper of agony. It hurt. It hurt so damn fucking much. “I’m sure you’d rather send me there myself, but I’m definitely going, and not the fast, painless way.” He didn’t answer me, so I kept talking. “I know it wouldn’t do me any good, but—could you—give me last rites?” My eyes were losing focus, so I couldn’t see which way he reacted. “I was born a Catholic and even had Communion a few times, so I sort of qualify. I mean, other than being a creature of darkness and all.” I forced a smile. “Just do it in the vernacular or something, so it doesn’t have any real soul-saving power.” He was mumbling something to himself, but I couldn’t make anything out. Then he took a deep breath and hovered over me.

He drew the sign of the cross with his thumb. “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

I closed my eyes and waited. “Thank you, Father Anderson.” “Amen.”

***

“AMEN!” Another body fell to the ground in a million quivering pieces. He shook his head and reloaded his gun.

“Aren’t you overdoing it a little, Sister Irene?”

“Don’t pretend that you’re not enjoying this, Alex,” she replied, grinning as she wiped the bloodstains off her hands and onto her habit. In the blink of an eye, she had reverted to her other, somewhat less murderous personality. “Elaine loves the sound of evil heretics dying in the morning! It brings joy and laughter to her dear little heart!”

He allowed himself a small smile as he peered through the sight and squeezed the trigger. “You’re a bad influence on me, Sister.”

She cackled. “Of course I am, Alex! I’m madly in love with you and I won’t give up until you feel the same way!”

He pretended not to see the fishnet stockings that showed through the ridiculously high slit of her dress. “I have a vow to the Holy Mother.”

“Then let Elaine be your Holy Mother, Alex!” She danced over the field of corpses, cutting a swatch of blood as she moved. “Or Irene! Or the both of us! We don’t mind sharing!”

“No. And stop calling me Alex already.”

“Not until you give yourself to me!”

***

I stared at the bland, almost too bright walls. “Funny, I thought hell would be a little more interesting than this.”

“That’s because this is Hellsing headquarters’ intensive care unit, not the underworld, Captain,” Walter’s voice sounded from somewhere behind me.

I tried to look up to see where he was and regretted it at once. Yup, I was shot in the chest all right, and several other places, with the standard anti-vampire equipment. “Close enough. I thought I was going to die.” Wait, I was already dead. “Un-die.” No, wait, I was already undead. “Un-un-die.” I scowled as a smile tugged at the edge of Walter’s lips. “Whatever.”

“You were very fortunate, Captain. The bullet missed your heart by mere centimeters. As it was, I found you in critical condition. Even the doctors couldn’t remove all of the pieces, for fear of destroying you.”

That explained why my chest still felt like it was on fire. “What about the Millennium agents?”

“There were a few freaks left in the vicinity, but I took care of them.” And of course, when Walter said ‘took care’ he meant sliced into bits with what Seras and I had dubbed ‘the Killer Floss of Doom’. (Ah, the look on Walter’s face when we first came up with that term, and the near spit-take Sir Integra did into her tea.)

“The leader?”

“Dead. He was, as Alucard might put it, ‘just a fleshy human with a bag of tricks’, but I doubt even a freak could have survived a silver bullet in his head and a blessed blade in his chest.”

“Blessed blade?” I felt the burn again. The direction in which the bullet had missed did seem to correspond with the motion of someone who had been hit by a sudden lateral force to the right. Father Anderson was, of course, right handed. It almost went without saying that he was just as good with the other one, but when we fought together I was able to notice the subtle preference.

Meanwhile, Walter hadn’t noticed the thoughtful look that crossed my face, or pretended not to, and continued briefing me. “There was no trace of any Iscariot agents by the time I got there. Given the copious amounts of blood in that room, I would think that he was too injured to bother with you.”

“Something like that.” Walter raised an eyebrow, and I gulped. Time to change the subject. “How is Alucard doing?”

“His reports are understandably brief and, per his nature, irritatingly vague, but it seems that he is just fine. Despite what banter was traded during the initial throwing of the gauntlet, Millennium had not expected to be found so soon, and Alucard’s raid of their nest was quite disruptive.” Walter smiled. “All of that became possible thanks to you, Captain.”

I felt my face flush. “I just happened to read a few books on physics, that’s all. You probably know more than I do.”

“Perhaps, but I was not there, was I?” A nostalgic look crossed Walter’s face. “As my mentor once said, sometimes all life is, is being at the right place in the right time.” He smiled again. “Or perhaps, in your case, the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I winced. “Please don’t remind me.”

“My apologies. Sometimes I can’t help myself. Oh, and by the way,” he tapped the IV. “More regards from Sir Integra.” That made me smile. “That’s the second time this year. Alucard will go insane with jealousy when he finds out.” Walter winked. “I won’t say anything if you won’t.”

“Bloody good that’ll do. He can read minds.”

“Ah, yes, I had almost forgotten that.” Walter shot me a Significant Look. “Useful skill, don’t you think?”

“Quite.”

“I must go to attend to Sir Integra.” He bowed. “Have a pleasant day’s sleep, Captain.”

“Thanks, Walter.” I closed my eyes, and began to dream.

***

He checked his ammunition. “How many are left?”

“Too many bad guys, and not enough bullets.” She made a casual flick of her wrist, and more melodic screams of heretics leaving this earth echoed down the hallway. “Elaine didn’t know that they could breed this fast.”

His rifle roared, taking down several more heretics. “I can take another fifty with this thing, tops.”

“Then use your blades, if you haven’t conveniently forgotten them again.”

“I haven’t. I just don’t like using them.”

“You use them well enough.” But she was so much better at it. She was a natural. She was born to dance with the blade. He was a clumsy oaf, and will be for the rest of his life, compared with her.

“Perhaps.” She returned the sword to its sheath. “It’s gone quiet. Too quiet.”

“They’ve holed up again.” He cursed this place. It was a maze of hallways and doors and stairs and dead ends, and they were strangers here. The heretics were not. “And they’re waiting for us to come to them, so they can pick us off.”

“Well, Elaine is in no mood to be picked off.” She shifted so that her chest was pressing into his back. “There’s a shaft behind you. It’s a bit of a squeeze, but I think we can make it.”

He popped off the grate. “You’re going first this time. I don’t enjoy the thought of you ogling me.”

She giggled, climbing in nonetheless. “But you have such a cute butt, Alex!”

He followed after her, doing one last canvass of the area before joining her in the darkness. “Don’t call me Alex.”

“What should Elaine call you, then? Father? Paladin? Hit man? Bayonet? Killing judge? Angel dust?” He had to laugh at that last one, remembering the rather embarrassing circumstances it had come about.

“You know what I mean, Sister.”

“You’re no fun.” She shifted again. “By the way, I’m not wearing anything underneath my habit.”

He was grateful that she could not see him color despite his struggle not to. “You better be joking.”

She didn’t answer. Instead, she drew her sword again, and he understood. It was time for the killing to begin anew.

The dance began again, her sword and his rifle in perfect harmony in comparison to the frantic chaos of the infidels beneath. He switched to his blades as the last of the rounds ran out, and the metal sang as it whistled through the air.

And then the dance ended, as all things were destined to end. But this time, it was too soon. She looked at the fresh red blot darkening her already bloodstained habit. “It’s funny—” she began, and then she fell, her sword falling to the ground.

He caught her. She was smaller than him, as most women were, but this time she felt lighter than ever. “Don’t worry, it’s just a flesh wound.”

“Liar. Elaine knows that her time has come.” She grimaced as the pain registered in her mind. “After all, ‘it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment’.”

“The mission hasn’t finished yet, Sister. The hunt goes on.”

“Don’t you get it, Alex? It will never be done, as long as there is evil in the world. Long after you and I have gone to Heaven they’ll still be churning out more little Alexes and Irenes and Elaines to chop down the heretics and burn the unclean words and—” Her eyes began to dilate. “I don’t want to take the Lord’s name in vain, Alex, but—oh—”

He had seen many men die, good men of faith, holy servants of the Lord, loyal warriors of Christ. But now, she was dying. She was dying.

His light was dying.

Her hand reached up to touch his face. “Before Elaine and I go, Alex, could you give me a holy kiss, as the Word of the Lord commands?”

“Gladly, Sister.”

He was about to oblige when she stopped him and pointed to her lips. “No, Alex. Here.”

***

Sir Alucard wasn’t quite thorough enough in his extermination of Millennium, despite having slaughtered almost all of them in savage glee. Of course, the ones he’d missed were the big fish. As Seras, Sir Alucard and a much smaller number of mercenaries raced back to London, Millennium stayed just far enough ahead of them to launch an offensive against Hellsing manor. But unlike the debacle with the Valentine brothers, Hellsing was ready and waiting.

And, by necessity, Iscariot.

If you ever meet a fair-haired woman with a slight Germanic accent accompanied by a mousy-looking Asian nun wearing glasses, make your peace with God, fast. Because you might not have a chance to ever again.

It was on days like this that I hated being a vampire.

“You did that on purpose,” I said, glaring at Sister Yumie, bandaging the umpteenth cut on my arm. What was it with these fanatics and cutting?

“We may be fighting a common enemy,” Sister Yumie replied, her unspoken ‘for now’ hanging in the air like the sword of Damocles. “But at the end of the day, Iscariots prime targets are heretics and heathens and agents of the devil.” Always that song and dance. Couldn’t they ever say anything different? But this time, I managed to keep my mouth shut. Almost. “Argue later. Kill freaks now.”

Sister Yumie grinned, an expression even more frightening than her scowl. “Now that is something I can agree with.”

So we defended Queen, Country, and Protestantism, or Pope, Faith, and Catholicism, or whatever, whatever, and whatever. By the time it was all over, I was too exhausted to care about what we had accomplished other than massive collateral damage. I sprawled onto what was left of a sofa, shot to pieces a long time ago. “This is going to be such a pain to clean.”

Sister Heinkel continued to check for freaks despite the excellent job we had done of eliminating them and my reassurance that Sir Integra had dispatched of the head freak herself. “Boo hoo, cry me a river.” She looked over at Sister Yumie, who had long since reverted to Sister Yumiko, and frowned. “Yumiko! Where the hell is Father Anderson?”

Sister Sister Yumiko winced and muttered something about bad words before speaking up. “How should I know, Heinkel? Yumie was too busy—” she almost said ‘killing’, but froze and forced herself to use a more pleasant sounding term, “—taking care of things.”

I queried Sir Alucard, and only got an earful of his usual rantings about how much fun it all was. “I think Sir Alucard’s having another pissing match with him.” I flushed a bit as another one of Sir Alucard’s comments intruded on my thoughts. “And now they’re goading each other about the size of their weaponry.”

Sister Yumiko colored pink as well, catching the innuendo, while Sister Heinkel just made a derisive sound. “Men. They’re all the same.” She rested her gun on her shoulder and tossed back her hair. “We’re going, Yumiko. Father Anderson can swim back to Rome, for all I care.”

“Coming!” Sister Yumiko stuttered, nearly tripping over her own toes. Before she left, she turned and bowed to me. “I’m really very sorry about Yumie!”

“Don’t worry about it.” I made what could be interpreted as a gesture of papal-like forgiveness, and let myself have a small smile as Sister Yumiko recognized it and paled a bit, her hand darting to her glasses. “After all, I know a thing or two about inner demons, being one myself.”

Afterwards, we were commended by the Queen over the phone on what a magnificent job we had done. Her words were little consolation for the damage the Hellsing manor, as well as its ranks, suffered, but it was a nice gesture. Walter put together a list of all the fallen and held a memorial service for them on the lawn with the remaining members. Seras commissioned a small tombstone with the name “Pip Bernadette” on it and placed it in her room.

And then life went on, more or less.

***

So this was death. The numbness, the approaching dark, the cold.

He was so, so very cold.

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

He fought the familiar wave of panic as that passage rose into his mind again. He was a good and faithful servant. He had done the will of the Kingdom. He had brought justice. He had been loyal to the cause.

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

He was not afraid to die. He was not afraid. He was not.

I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.

Shadows loomed over him. Have they come to take him away? “This is the one who took on that group of terrorists single-handedly?”

“Yes, Father Maxwell. Sister Irene unfortunately perished during the initial storming of the base.”

“Sister Irene? Oh, yes, the berserker.”

He wanted to leap out of bed and rip out this shadow’s throat. How dare it speak of her in that tone of voice?

“My, my, he’s still quite feisty after all that he’s been through. Excellent. I believe we have the first candidate for Project Longinus.”

***

Enrico Maxwell was not a likable man. Imagine the most egotistical, stuck-up, misogynist, childish, snotty, and down right disgusting person you know. Yeah. That guy. The one in your junior high school class that all the other bullies would gather around because he was perfect, and the rest of the world wasn’t.

We were, for diplomatic reasons that didn’t become clear until we got there, forced to meet with Iscariot. Maxwell chose the location, Sir Integra chose the time. That was how we—Sirs Integra and Alucard, myself, and Seras of Hellsing, Fathers Maxwell and Renaldo, and Sisters Heinkel and Yumiko of Iscariot—ended up in an open-air Parisian cafe in the middle of the winter.

The minute Sir Integra walked into view, Maxwell stood and offered her a boquet of yellow roses, leering at her with crocodile teeth. Sir Alucard appeared behind her and leered back by stretching his lips until they almost reached his ears.

“Behave yourself, Alucard.” Sir Integra did not take the roses, but instead proceeded straight to her seat, which she pulled out herself. She then sat down, crossing her arms as she did so. The rest of us minus Maxwell remained standing, as the table only had one other chair, and shit tended to hit the fan fast whenever Iscariot was around. “Why have you called us here, Maxwell? Come to gloat about how Hellsing required the help of Iscariot in the defense of its own mansion?”

“That, as satisfying as it would be, is not the case.” Maxwell was all business now. “I have come to demand restitution for the loss of Iscariot’s best soldier—” he amended himself, “—no offense to either of you, Sister Heinkel, Sister Yumiko.”

The aformentioned Sisters nodded in silence, while Sir Integra frowned. “Alucard, what did you do with Anderson?”

“Just the usual hack and slash, Master,” Sir Alucard replied, ever the picture of feigned innocence. “I returned him in one piece. Mostly.” Maxwell scowled. “I am not referring to your lead dog.” He turned his glare at me. “This—this abomination of a vampire has somehow confused Anderson’s mind, and he was taken by the Grand Inquisitor to be questioned.”

“How’s that supposed to be my fault? He’s the one that has creepy pedophile stalker vibes!” I shouted before I could stop myself.

Sir Integra didn’t move, but if she could grow eyes in the back of her head and glare at me, she would. “Captain.”

I gulped. “I’ll shut up now, Sir Integra.”

“Despite my disapproval of my subordinate’s outburst, I agree with her.” Integra brought up her gloved hands and interlinked them in front of her mouth. “Your priest was already a most annoying distraction before the Captain joined our ranks, and he has only gotten worse since.”

“That Vatican dog does have a strange sort of fondness for the Captain,” Alucard added. “That was why I had made her my kin in the first place.”

“So it was your doing after all!” Maxwell stabbed an accusatory finger towards Integra.

Sir Integra almost smiled. “I neither confirm nor deny the allegations you are making.”

Maxwell slammed the table. “I’m not here to play games with you, Protestant swine! I want vengeance! Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life!”

Sir Integra arched an eyebrow. “Last I checked, neither Anderson nor the Captain here were capable of dying.”

Just as the tension was getting to the point of possible murder, Maxwell’s phone rang. He answered it, still glaring daggers at Sir Integra. “Maxwell here.” He glowered even more. “I see. That will be useful in the negotiations.” He hung up, his expression one of death now. “Anderson has just confessed. He gave that thing,” and here his eyes fell on me again, “his blood.”

Delayed reaction coming in three, two, one—

“WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!?” Seras shrieked in disbelief.

“That explains a lot,” I muttered.

“Captain.” Sir Integra’s body language suggested that if we were not in public, she might have shot me. In the face. More than once. “Are Maxwell’s allegations true?”

“I think so, Sir. During the raid previous to the attack on the mansion, I got shot up pretty badly. Walter can attest to that.”

“Yes, he mentioned how fortunate you were in surviving.”

The familiar burning sensation rose in my chest again. “I was dying, sir. I remember that quite clearly. I had sort of jokingly asked Father Anderson for last rites, and then I woke up in the hospital.”

“Highly circumstantial evidence and hardly damning,” Sir Integra remarked. I sighed. Time to drop the bombshell.

“And while I was recovering, I had visions of Father Anderson when he was younger. I thought it was the morphine talking, but now that I think about it—” I fought the blush that rose to my face without much success. “Father Anderson is a virgin, isn’t he? Vow of celibacy and all.”

Sister Yumie’s sword sliced across my neck, drawing a thin red line of blood. “I will enjoy sending you to hell, undead whore.”

It was Sir Integra’s turn to answer a phone call. “Walter, I’m still in the middle of talks with Maxwell.” Walter could be heard answering. “I see. I’ll have Alucard pick them up, then.”

Sir Alucard stepped into the shadows. “Already on my way, Master.” A moment later, he had returned, a manila file folder in his hands. He tossed it on the table without care.

Sir Integra pushed the folder to Maxwell. “Before you make any further demands, Maxwell, I suggest that you peruse the fruits of our research. It makes for a most enlightening read.”

Maxwell looked suspicious, but he opened the folder nonetheless. Disbelief, shock, rage, and then a dangerous smile crossed his face. “You are right, Sir Hellsing.” All of us blinked at his usage of a somewhat more civil term, while he continued. “This does complicate things quite a bit. However, we must verify this information ourselves before we make any moves.” Sir Integra smiled behind her gloves, I was sure of it. She had won.

“In the meantime, I’ll have my subordinates retrieve Anderson for you. Hellsing does owe you that much.”

Father Renaldo stepped forward and placed a small square of paper on the table. “This is where Father Anderson is being held.” He laid a small business card on top of the paper. “And this is where we are to meet again.”

Sir Integra took one look at the information, memorized it, then threw it into her wineglass and burned it with her lighter. “I warn you, I make no guarantee for the lives of anyone in that building.”

Maxwell handed the folder to Father Renaldo. “We shall ensure that there are no innocent bystanders.”

“Good. Then this meeting is over.” Sir Integra stood. “Alucard. Seras. Captain.” We snapped to attention.

“Your orders, My Master?” Alucard purred, his eyes already taking on an edge of bloodlust.

“Search and destroy.” A small smile played at the edge of Sir Integra’s lips. “But don’t forget to retrieve the Judas priest.”

***

We found Father Anderson on the bottom floor, broken both in body and in spirit. Seras, being of weaker constitution than I was, excused herself to make sure that we had cleared the area. Alucard disappeared somewhere with a smirking comment about lovebirds. That left me. I paced around him, looking at the symbols carved into the floor.

“Lovely. More of this stuff.” I sighed. This was somewhat my fault after all, so it was appropriate that I be the one to brave the gauntlet. I stepped into the circle, grimacing as the words reacted to a being of the underworld.

Father Anderson opened his eyes. “Why are you here?” His voice was weak and cracked.

“Well, I figured that since you saved me from hell, I should return the favor,” I answered with a lot more cheerfulness than I felt. I reached out to examine his chains, and pulled my hand back as they balked me. “Okay, looks like I’ll have to try a different approach.”

“They won’t come off. They’ve been sealed by the Grand Inquisitor himself.”

“No offense intended, Father Anderson, but the Grand Inquisitor can go bugger himself.” I braced myself and tried again. Agony coursed through my body. No dice. “Just because you had some funky thoughts about a vampire doesn’t mean you should spend the rest of eternity being punished for it.”

His gaze refused to meet mine. “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

“First of all, I don’t think I count as a woman any more. And second, I highly doubt that you have one lusty bone in your body.” I pulled out my gun and fired at a link. Nothing happened. “You’re probably such a fucking saint that you don’t even molest altar boys.”

For a moment, a bit of the old Father Anderson came back. Then he was moping again. “It does not matter. I have sinned and shamed the name of the Lord.”

I grabbed him by his collar, not caring about the pretty little sparks the seals were giving off. “I thought that was the point, you stubborn asswipe. ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ and all that. Besides, there were extenuating circumstances.”

“The wages of sin is death.”

“The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” I shot back. He seemed on the verge of quoting more scripture at me, so I shook him a few times. “Come on, Anderson, stop acting like you’re in Seminary and tell me how the hell to get you out of here!”

“You could try using the keys,” Sir Alucard suggested, reappearing behind me with said keys dangling from a lock of his hair.

“GAH!” I almost dropped Father Anderson, but I managed to set him down. I turned to Sir Alucard and held out my hand. “All right, then, give them to me.”

Sir Alucard glanced at Father Anderson with a mixture of amusement and contempt. “Are you sure?”

“Of course. Sir Integra has commanded it.”

“And if she didn’t?”

It was my turn to regard Father Anderson. Despite what he thought, nobody deserved to be treated like this, not even him. Not even Master Alucard, for that matter. “I’d probably still do it anyway.”

Sir Alucard tossed the keys towards me with a negligent air. “That attitude will get you killed someday, Captain.”

I bobbled the keys like a hot potato. “I’m already dead.” I unlocked the chains and helped Father Anderson move into a more comfortable position. I frowned as I saw the state of his legs. “Man, they really fucked you up. Are you sure you’re not a masochist?”

Father Anderson seemed relieved for a moment, and then the stoic mask was back on. “You’re making a terrible mistake.”

“Maybe. Maybe not.” I gave him a fanged smile. “But at least I’ll get to rub this in your face later.”

Sir Alucard cleared his throat. “This is all very touching, Captain, but Master is getting impatient.”

“Then warp us out of here.” A thought occurred to me. “You can do that, even with all this holy magic around, right?”

“Of course.” Alucard grinned again. “But it would be infinitely more amusing to have you carry the Vatican dog out of here by foot.” I was about to protest when he repeated the order in my mind. Dammit. I was so used to calling him Sir that I nearly forgot the real relationship. “Fine, be that way.” I began pulling Father Anderson onto my back, thankful that he was too surprised to react. “Give me a hand, will you?”

Sir Alucard boosted Father Anderson the rest of the way, and then disappeared, leaving me to make the long ascent by myself.

I trudged along in uncomfortable silence for a while. Then I decided that it might be a good idea to talk to Father Anderson so he doesn’t slip off into another spiral of self-pity.

“So.” I scoured my mind for topics of conversation and couldn’t help feeling a bit mischievous as I remembered the visions again. “Did you kiss Sister Irene where she asked you to?”

That got a bit of a rise. “None of your business.”

Time to push a little. “You do know I can read your mind, right?”

He stewed for a good minute before saying something other than the usual doctrinal garbage. “She was a child forced to grow up far too fast. Her whimsy was just a front to cover the pain she felt.”

“It happens. You have to go a little mad to stay sane in a war. Besides, she’s in a better place now.”

“I—” he hesitated. “I wish I could believe that with all my heart.”

Oho. So he wasn’t without his doubts. But I wasn’t about to continue down that line of thought, or my good intentions might backfire on me. “By the way, has the regeneration kicked in yet?”

“I feel less constricted, but that’s about it.” He shifted, and managed to move his arms upward so that they were no longer so close to my chest. Speaking of which, I could feel bits of silver working its way out of my body. To distract my mind from the pain, I started to sing. “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing. Our helper He amidst the flood of mortal ills prevailing.”

He didn’t miss a beat. “Martin Luther.”

“Yup.” Time to try some theology again. “He didn’t mean to start any heresies, you know. He was just a man of conscience who grieved at the rot in the Church.”

“Can’t you sing something else?”

“If you insist.” A certain Monty Python melody floated into my head, and I couldn’t help myself. “Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great! If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate!”

He blushed so hard I could feel it through my clothes. “A different song!”

Too bad he wasn’t more specific.  “It’s a small world after all—”

“No! Anything but that!”

***

Father Anderson’s regeneration kicked in as we pulled away from the building. I, on the other hand, was starting to bleed as my wounds reopened themselves. I muttered a curse under my breath. “Father Anderson, please turn away for a minute.” When he didn’t, I shrugged and started unbuttoning my shirt. “All right, suit yourself.”

“What do you think you’re doing, vampire!” Father Anderson shouted, covering his eyes and turning red again.

“Picking out the bits of silver still stuck in my lungs, that’s what.” I crossed my arms across my chest, feeling a bit self-conscious now. “Seras, could you please?”

Seras didn’t look too happy at the idea. “Do I have to?”

“Would you rather Sir Alucard do it? Knowing him, he’d probably lick them out with his tongue.”

Father Anderson was the shade of a tomato. “I didn’t need to hear that!”

Seras scooted closer, still pouting. “All right, fine.” I braced myself as Seras undid the bandages and reached in.

I didn’t scream this time. That was an improvement. I only broke a little bit of skin when my hands clenched into fists, too. But I couldn’t do anything about the whimpers that escaped from my throat. I sucked air through my teeth, blinking to keep my vision clear.

And then it was over, at least until the next time this had to happen. Seras dressed the wound with a new roll and helped me put my shirt back on, as my fingers were a bit unresponsive. I sank against the seat and let out a long sigh. “You can look now. I’m done.”

Father Anderson lowered his hands, his eyes on the pile of gauze spotted with bits of red and black. “How long does it take you to heal?”

“Depends. Minor cuts and nicks don’t bother me much. Broken bones aren’t too much of a problem as long as I set them right. Bullet wounds close up pretty quick now, but it takes an hour or so for my body to spit out the slug. The holy stuff—” I pressed my hand to my chest, “I haven’t been around long enough to know, but none of mine have healed all the way.”

Seras pulled down her collar, showing the scar from her first encounter with Father Anderson. “Same here.”

“The wounds never stop hurting,” Sir Alucard informed us, poking his head through the partition. “It’s part of God’s cruel joke on us, whose who turned our backs on His advances.” He leaned his shoulders through, as well, so that we could see he had turned his head all the way around. “Hell has no fury like a Deity scorned.” Father Anderson flared, but said nothing.

The rest of the trip continued without any further dialog until we neared the rendezvous point and Sir Integra rolled down the window of the partition. “Captain.”

I snapped to attention. “Yes, Sir Integra?”

“You will accompany me into the building.” She turned her attention to Sir Alucard. “And you will not enter unless I command it, Alucard, nor will you antagonize any of the clergy.”

Alucard almost looked genuinely hurt. “What am I supposed to do, then, Master? Cruise the beat with the police girl?”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something.”

“That’s not fair,” Alucard pouted, and I coughed into my hand to keep from laughing. “Why does she get to go in and not me?”

“Because this concerns her most directly. You may be responsible, but the Vatican isn’t so stupid as to attempt to demand your head on a silver platter.”

“They want a scapegoat,” Father Anderson realized with the slightest touch of a snarl. “And what would be more convenient than one of Hellsing’s infamous vampires?”

“I have no interest in letting the Vatican destroy one of my agents, Father Anderson.” Sir Integra put out the cigar she had been smoking as Walter pulled the car to a stop. “Besides, the Captain isn’t the only pawn in this game.”

***

I was starting to get a headache. Why did these idiots never take the easy way out?

Sir Integra looked both amused and annoyed as she pretended to be caught in the traitorous bishop’s grasp. “You are even more fanatical than I thought, Smith. Would you risk the reputation of the Holy See as well as the wrath of God just to destroy me?”

Smith’s face went purple with rage. If he wasn’t occupied with holding onto Sir Integra with one hand and the detonator with the other, he would have slapped her. “Shut up, you insolent sow! What makes you think you are some agent of God? The last time there was an upstart like you, we burned her at the stake!”

This time, Sir Integra smiled. “And then you then you had to venerate her as a saint so that the people of France would not riot and storm your churches with torches and pitchforks.”

His Holiness watched the spectacle with tired eyes. “Enough of this, Bishop Smith.” His English was almost perfect, just the slightest touches of Eastern Europe. “Your actions were extreme, but they were committed in the best interest of the Holy Mother.” That was a bald-faced lie, and everybody in the room knew it from Smith’s rantings. The man acted out of sheer spite, his insane jealousy of Maxwell driving him to arrange for Anderson’s supposed indiscretions. For the time being, though, Sir Integra’s safety was more important than the truth. “If you will kindly release Sir Hellsing—”

“Never!” Smith moved, and I got a good look at the bombs strapped to his body. They looked to be home-made, nothing too powerful, but enough to deliver a fatal punch. “I’ll send this bitch to Judecca even if I have to go with her!”

That was when three things happened almost at once. First, Sir Integra put her self-defense lessons to good use and twisted out of Smith’s grasp, wrenching Smith’s arm in a very uncomfortable position. Second, Father Anderson leaped out of his seat with supernatural speed and punched the now defenseless Smith in the stomach, driving the bomb through the his skin and into his flesh. Third, I appeared behind Smith and caught him before he could crash into the wall behind us, and jumped for all my worth towards the high, vaulted ceiling.

Then the bomb detonated.

That motherfucker Smith. He’d filled his explosive with nails and shards of glass and Greek fire on top of that.

I remembered landing onto one of the pews below, getting the world’s worst splinter in the process.

Sir Alucard was right. We’d found a kind of eternal life apart from God, but He would get the last laugh.

And God had a very, very weird sense of humor.

***

I woke up to the sight of another bland ceiling. “Not again. I hope this doesn’t become a habit.” I looked at the blood bag hanging above my head. “I wonder whose that is this time.”

Walter appeared in my vision. “If I told you, Captain, that would ruin the surprise.”

At times, Walter could be just as bad as Sir Alucard about appearing out of nowhere. “What happened?”

Walter smiled. “I believe, Captain, that somebody set up us the bomb.”

I groaned. “I meant after that.”

“I suppose I don’t really have to say that Smith didn’t survive the blast, but I figure you would feel some small satisfaction in hearing the news.”

“I’m not the vindictive type, Walter, you know that. Besides, he probably died immediately, the lucky bastard.”

“Yes, that was most unfortunate.” Walter adjusted his monocle. “But you will also be relieved to hear that no one else was injured, as the explosion was minor. Smith had indeed only planned to take out Sir Integra; he did not wish to accidentally send His Holiness to the hereafter in the process.”

“How thoughtful of him.” Lancets of pain radiated whenever I moved, which was a lot more often than I’d liked. “I guess this means that Father Anderson’s back in with Iscariot.”

Walter nodded. “He kept trying to confess something, but His Holiness would hear none of it. There was the mention of a Genesis 2:18, and Anderson did not make any more attempts to argue after that.”

“The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’,” I recited out loud. “What the heck is that supposed to mean?”

“Actually, Captain, that’s the reason why I’m here instead of back in London.” Walter peered at me. “How would you like to be a regenerator?”

“Hm. I dunno. Sounds kind of nice.” Then I realized what Walter had actually said. “Wait, what?” I sat bolt upright, but just for a moment, then fell back into the pillows, cursing with pain.

Walter drew out a handkerchief from somewhere and dabbed at the blood that seeped through my stitches. “You have done a great service to both Hellsing and Iscariot, and both sides agree that there should be a return favor.”

The throbbing began to subside. “I’d rather go back to being a boring old anime fangirl.”

“That’s rather impossible, I’m afraid.”

“It’s still a nice dream.” I began to relax again. “What does Sir Alucard think?”

“He’s not entirely happy, of course, but in his words, ‘at least the Captain will stop griping how I didn’t give her a choice any more’. End quote.”

Yes, a choice. That was all I had asked for, wasn’t it? “Is the procedure painful?”

“Very.”

“Figures.” Another thought crossed my mind. “I won’t have to become a Catholic or anything, do I?”

“His Holiness has waived that particular requirement, and Sir Integra brilliantly negotiated for your continued employment in Hellsing.”

So, all that was left was for me to say the word. I then became aware of another stream of thoughts and emotions coming from just outside the door. A fierce struggle was ensuing there, too, between denial and discipline and deep yearning. Whispering a silent word of thanks towards my unseen guardian, I made my decision: it was time to move on.

I gave Walter a bleary smile. “Where do I sign up?”

***

I started feeling just a bit nervous as they clamped me down with metal cuffs. “Is this really necessary?”

“Just a precaution, Captain. The change can be quite dramatic.” A small mouthpiece was brought into view. “And this will also be necessary as well, so that you do not bite off your own tongue in the process.”

“I knew it. The Church is into bondage,” I muttered before submitting to the gag. I felt a syringe pierce my arm, and the world went white.

My life flashed before my eyes. Everything that had happened to me replayed itself on all my sensations in a single agonizing moment. I was in all likelihood screaming my lungs out, thrashing and trying to get the hell off the operating table.

And then someone took my hand. I clutched at it, my single line back to the world of the living.

A voice sounded in my ear. “Perseverance, Captain. This too shall pass.”

I’d recognize that accent anywhere. Father Anderson. The pain was still intolerable, but now I was finally able to regain some clarity.

That was when he began to sing.

“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.” I hummed along, tears streaming out of my eyes. “The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.”

***

Time passed, and stuff happened.

Well, all right, I suppose I should be a little more specific.

Sir Integra got around the whole “marry and beget and heir or be turned into a vampire so Hellsing will still have someone to run it” issue by the wonders of modern technology. As a compromise to Sir Alucard, who was furious about being thwarted (but relieved that Sir Integra didn’t have to give up her virginity), Sir Integra did not bear the children herself, but instead asked me to be the surrogate mother.

Oh, yes, I was quite capable of becoming pregnant. All of the plumbing was still there, after all, with my body forever frozen at the right age.

It was not an experience I cared to relieve, ever. In appreciation for my, um, contribution to the Hellsing line, Sir Integra allowed me to help name the future heirs, so I dubbed them after my own “children”—that is, my first two fictional characters. On a cold and very unpleasant day in December, Sirs Adam Edward Farbrook Hellsing and Michelle Lenore Wingates Hellsing came into the world. We called them the Twin Terrors.

Father Anderson always seemed to find some excuse to drop by while I was stuck in the house during the first decade or so and was, to everyone’s surprise, an excellent parental figure. I had forgotten that he helped run an orphanage when he wasn’t running around destroying creatures of evil. Outside of the battlefield, Father Anderson was a big teddy bear. And between him, Walter, and Sir Alucard, they spoiled the kids rotten. But like most children, they grew up to be fine, well-adjusted adults, and they were Sir Integra’s pride and joy.

In the Twins’ thirteenth year, Walter passed away in his sleep, but not before training a young boy named Norman to be the next Angel of Death. It was during Walter’s funeral that I saw Sir Integra shed tears in public for the first—and last—time that I knew.  Afterwards, Sir Integra began delegating more and more responsibilities to the Twins, so that by the time of her retirement she was the head in name but not in fact.

Sir Alucard was almost inconsolable when Sir Integra died twenty years after that. He didn’t show it on his face, of course, but random objects around the mansion kept breaking, the destruction escalating until it seemed he wouldn’t stop until he had torn the entire structure to the ground. Sir Adam, ever practical, didn’t mind the vandalism as long as Sir Alucard didn’t hurt anyone, since everything else was replaceable, but Sir Michelle was starting to get annoyed by all of the senseless violence.

Cue one Iscariot paladin, stage left.

Nobody was certain what transpired during the battle—we all cleared the area—but they emerged from the depths of the mansion grinning like maniacs, Sir Alucard having returned to his usual acerbic self. They became great friends after that, aside from the usual bickering and trying to kill each other, anyway. The Vatican elected a new Pope sometime after that, one who was quite forward thinking and in the true spirit of the Lord. The Catholic Church, and therefore Iscariot, was transformed into a much more benevolent force concerned with true social justice instead of the hypocritical, heretic-slaying kind. This kept Hellsing very busy, as the Pope attracted a number of enemies from all sides due to His Holiness’ unconventional ways. I was fine with that, of course, because this meant I got to see Father Anderson quite a bit.

Ah, yes, Father Anderson. Things always came back to him, didn’t they?

We were—in rumor, at least—a confirmed couple. In reality, we had a mutual “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” agreement. Father Anderson was quite serious about his vows of chastity, and I was a bit leery of sex myself, considering the traumatizing memories associated. We were friends, comrades, family, and heading towards something more, but we respected each other’s boundaries far too much to be pushing the envelope. Besides, he had already given so much for me—his blood, his job, his time, and most important, his presence—and I hadn’t even begun to repay the debts that I owed him.

Fine, fine, I’ll tell you about our first kiss, but that’s it.

***

I had finished putting Sir Candace Farbrook Wingates Hellsing, Sir Integra’s great-granddaughter, to bed after relating to her the (much abridged and censored, of course) story of how I had become a member of Hellsing—and, after all these years of faithful service, how I never received a promotion, hint hint. She promised me to think about it before heading off to the realm of dreams. I closed the door behind me and almost screamed as Father Anderson sneaked up from behind.

“Sir Alucard’s having a bad influence on you,” I gasped.

“I don’t deny it. After all these years, somethings bound to rub off on me.” He smiled.

“You’re a good storyteller.” I scratched my cheek. “Actually, that was a sort of dream of mine, before.” I didn’t finish the sentence because he knew what I was referring to.

“You ever consider pursuing that now?”

“Not really. I used to write because I loved to imagine great adventures.” We went down the hall so our talking wouldn’t disturb Sir Candace. “But now, the truth I experience around me is weirder than anything I could possibly make up.” We sat down in the kitchen. I poured Father Anderson a steaming mug of coffee and myself a glass of milk. “I wouldn’t have time to write anything anyway, what with all the places Sir Hellsing sends me traipsing off to.” I drank the milk in almost one gulp, while Father Anderson sipped at his. “And what about you, Father Anderson? Did you have any dreams other than to destroy heretics and heathens?”

He took a moment to ponder. “I suppose I wanted to join the choir, as a boy, but my words were rather incomprehensible even for the members of my own family.” I chuckled.

“It’s too bad. You have a wonderful singing voice.”

His earlobes turned pink. “So you figured it out.”

“It was elementary, my dear Father Anderson. You were the only suspect who would be so considerate as to stay by my side during such a harrowing procedure,” he opened his mouth to protest but I cut him off, “not to mention survive getting the hell squeezed out of his hand.”

Father Anderson stared into the half-empty mug. “I—” he began, and stopped. I felt that he was at the edge of something important, so I said nothing. I just waited. I got up to place the glass in the sink when he spoke again. “I loved her.” Her. He didn’t need to say her name. I turned around and leaned against the counter. He took in a deep breath. “But it was only as a sister. Nothing more. And when she asked me to kiss her—” he pressed his hands over his eyes. “I was too foolishly dedicated to my cause to see that it would have been harmless to give her what she wanted. She died with a broken heart.” He’d said it. Why he was drawn to me, why he felt and acted the way he did.

I walked over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Well, I’m not her. I’m not going to die, not now, not ever, and I’m content to walk this path with you by your side until the end of time.”

He didn’t look up at me. “Even if—”

“Even if we have to spend eternity like this, yes. I have to admit, it’s a little frustrating at times, but I can live with it. Besides,” and here I smirked, “unlike you, I have no qualms about relieving my sexual tensions in a non-traditional fashion.” This time, his face burned. He was so cute when he became embarrassed. “As much as I’d like to continue this particular line of thought, I’m afraid I can’t stay any longer.” I began heading out the door. “After all, the night is still young.”

“Wait.”

I stopped at the threshold. “What?”

“Before you go, could you—” He drew in another breath,deeper and longer than the previous, and let it out with just as much deliberate slowness. “Give me a holy kiss?”

I didn’t dare turn around, feeling my own face starting to warm. “The kind on the hand, or the kind on the lips?” His fingers brushed against mine, and an electric thrill ran through the both of us.

“The second.”

All of a sudden I felt like a schoolgirl. “I’ve never kissed anyone like this, you know.”

“Neither have I.” From the quiver in Father Anderson’s voice, he must have felt the same. We bumped noses on our first attempt.


Unnecessarily Long and Tiresome Authoress’ Notes:

It had started as a tongue in cheek r.a.a.m. challenge on how you would respond to waking up in bed naked with certain anime characters. For whatever reason, the Evil Muse wouldn’t leave me alone on coming up with a more detailed follow-up concerning the happy little vampire-hunting group at Hellsing.

The continuity depicted here is a sort of rehash mix of the anime and manga continuities with a good dose of my own speculation thrown in, especially where Anderson’s past is concerned. (Sorry, Pip fans, he only gets a passing mention because I hadn’t gotten to that part of the manga when writing the ‘fic.)

The bits of the bible being quoted by Iscariot members are from the New American Standard Version. If I really wanted to be nitpicky, I’d have them quote the Latin Vulgate or something, but I’m not that fanatical. The version that I quote from, on the other hand, is the New International Version.

Longinus is supposedly the name of the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, and according to some legends was cursed to wander the earth for all eternity. I figure that makes an appropriate name for a project concerned with making regenerators.

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