* * *
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer:  Story mine, characters aren't.

A/N: Small manga spoilers up through volume eight, Girlycard (from Hellsing: The Dawn), some Alucard/Integra. OC narrator, suspension of disbelief encouraged. Written before the series ended, so it doesn't quite match up properly with canon.

* * *

He first met the lady Hellsing the summer when he was eight years old, and she was six. Their fathers leaned on the low stone fence between the lands of the Hellsing manor and their own property, chatting about grown-up things, and he lifted his nose and tried to ignore her. She was a girl, after all, and everyone knew that girls had cooties. Plus she was kind of weird, all dark skin and pale hair and eyes, and she was staring at him like he was a new and creepy kind of insect that had dropped onto her shoe.

He had a sneaking suspicion that her reaction to a creepy insect dropping onto her shoe would be to shoot it.

"My name is Integral Fairbrooks Wingates Hellsing," she declared, still staring at him. "I like fairy stories and history and reading. Who are you?"

"M'Greg," he mumbled, pretending he wasn't talking to the cootie-infested little girl. Six! He was talking to a six year old! The indignity of it all!

"Greg what?"

"Greg Keller." He gave her a glare. "I don't talk to babies."

Her pretty blue eyes widened, then narrowed again, glinting with tears. "I'm not a baby," she hissed, putting her hands atop the fence and leaning forward. "And you're just a stupid boy."

He put his elbows on the fence and glared back. "Baby!"

She glared fiercely and shoved her face forward. "Stupid boy!"

"Stupid baby!" He stuck his tongue out at her. "Stupid little crybaby!"

He was quite astonished when her tiny little fist slammed into his cheek. After that, it took a while for their fathers to untangle them - she'd cried when he pulled her hair, but his shin ached for a week afterwards, and it took a while for the bite marks to fade from his arms.

* * *

It was late June, she was seven, and he was nine, and she'd brought a book along to this week's casual meeting. He had a comic of his own, but he'd long since finished reading, and their fathers were still busy chattering away, so he clambered up onto the fence with her and peeked over her shoulder. "Whatcha reading?"

She was too absorbed in her book to realize that her hated enemy was sitting next to her. "A novel."

Babies didn't read novels, and he wasn't about to admit that they made him bored. "What's it about?"

"A princess and a dragon and a knight." She hadn't looked up. "It's fascinating."

He snorted. "Girly stories."

There was still nothing girly about the way she punched.

* * *

He was ten, she was eight, and they were munching on apples as their fathers rambled on about whatever it was fathers talked about.

"I want to be a knight," he told her. "And slay dragons and have a castle."

She was frowning thoughtfully. "You'd make a horrible knight."

He sat up straighter and fixed her with a glare. "Why's that?"

She smirked. "You're too much of a wimp."

He glared at her harder. "What would you know about it, baby?"

His shin hurt for two weeks after that.

* * *

He was eleven, she was nine, and she let him read over her shoulder only because they'd both been told to be on their best behavior, with a threat of dessertless nights should they start fighting again.

"I think the knight should have won," he said, "Knights always win."

She shook her head. "The dragon was stronger and smarter, the knight couldn't have won."

"Knights always win!"

"Not if they're stupid!" She jabbed a finger at the book. "You can't just walk up to a monster and kill it unless you're prepared!"

"How much more prepared do you need to be? He was a knight!"

"Even knights need to know what they're doing," she said, quiet and thoughtful, and when he looked at her, she was biting her lip and staring at her father.

"...he did," Greg told her, and she rolled her eyes at him.

"Then why did he get eaten?"

Neither one of them had dessert for a long, long time.

* * *

In the summer of his twelfth year, he discovered that she was cute when she smiled, and had to run to his best friend to get inoculated against cooties. Much to his horror, when he saw her again, her smile was still cute.

Integra gave him a very strange look when he ducked away before they could begin their customary scuffle.

"I don't hit girls," he made up on the spot, and she glowered at him for a long minute, perfectly aware that he was lying through his teeth.

The impact of her hardcover novel against his skull left his ears ringing for two days straight.

* * *

She was eleven, and he was thirteen, and he gave her a flower he'd picked for her. She looked at it funny, but kept it, and he ignored his father's knowing chuckle at his vibrant blush.

It wasn't his fault that Integra was prettier than the girls at school. Not his fault at all.

* * *

She was twelve, and he hardly saw her anymore, and when he did, she looked distracted and tired. Lord Hellsing wasn't around much anymore, and they came up to the manor for tea. She looked very pretty and proper in her dress, but wouldn't tell him why she didn't go to school like the rest of the children who lived in the area.

There was something very strange about her family.

* * *

She was thirteen, and he was fifteen, and he'd never seen her look so fragile. He stood by his father at the funeral, and wondered why she looked so alone, surrounded by the men of the estate and her uncle Richard. After the funeral was over, he tried to go to her, but one of the guards stopped him, and she slowly walked back to the house with her uncle.

He leaned past the guard - big, bulky, uniformed, and he didn't like the coldness in his eyes - and called after her. "Integra?"

She turned back to look at him, for just a moment, wet blue eyes and long pale hair, and something inside him hurt at the look on her face. Then, in a swirl of black, she was gone, and his father was hustling him away. Afterwards, his father wouldn't answer his questions, no matter how much he yelled and pressed him. He didn't like it. He didn't like it at all.

* * *

A week later, there was another funeral, one that was much smaller, and instead of being surrounded by guards, Integra stood almost alone. She was in black, but there were no tears in her eyes, and her mouth was a thin, drawn line. The Hellsing retainer - Walter, was it? - stood nearby, but he only had eyes for her, and the girl at her side. They stood quietly, arms and hands intertwined, and he and everyone else stared at the strange picture they made.

Integral was herself - clear eyes, dark skin, pale hair, mourning clothes, face grim - every inch the proper young lady. But the other girl - he'd never seen her before, he would have remembered her - she was beautiful. Long dark hair, longer still than Integra's, pale-skinned, clad in a shocking white suit, lips curled into a wide, mocking smile. She was the most irreverent thing he'd ever seen, and he wondered who she was, and what she was doing, curled so close to Integral, sometimes whispering into her ear, more often watching them all with bright, mischievous eyes - they couldn't really be crimson, could they?

The air was already rife with speculation, even before Richard Hellsing had been lowered into the ground, and he knew the scandal would last for months afterward. Shocking, simply shocking, and when the party (was that even the right word?) had finally disbanded, condolences passed on until no one was left save the girl, Integra, and the butler, he mustered up the courage to approach her.

He had just taken the first step forward from his hiding spot behind a tree when the girl in white spun free of Integra's grip and laughed, long and hard and wild. Integra started, stared, and lunged forward, swiping at the girl, who simply danced out of her grip.

"Alucard! Behave yourself!"

The girl laughed again, twirled gracefully, and kicked the newly-carved headstone. He watched in numb disbelief as a small chunk of granite tumbled to the trampled grass. "Is it not customary," the girl inquired, all sugar-sweetness, "To laugh at a farce?"

"Shut up!" Integra's eyes burned behind her glasses. "This shouldn't have happened in the first place. The traitor doesn't deserve a place here."

"Which is why it's a farce," the girl agreed, and giggled again, lunging forward and plucking Integra off her feet, twirling her around. "So laugh, little Hellsing!"

"Put me down!" Integra squealed, and went pale when the girl did so - plopping her right down on the headstone, the tips of her polished shoes dangling over the edge of the six-foot hole. The wild girl in white leaned up behind her, slim arms wrapping around her waist, and nestled against her, dark skin to pale, moonlight hair to midnight.

"Happy ascension day," the girl purred, "My master."

It was silent for a long time, and he stood frozen, staring at the tableau - dark and light intertwined above an open grave, with a smirking butler awaiting nearby.

Then, slowly, Integra nodded, reaching a white-gloved hand up to push up her glasses and swipe harshly at her eyes. "Thank you," she said softly, and her voice trembled just a little. "We're finished here. Let the groundskeepers take care of the rest."

"Of course," the girl agreed sweetly, and drew Integra off the headstone, slipping an arm around her waist. "Let's get out of this nasty sun."

Integra wiped her eyes again, then glared at the sky. "It's not a day for sunshine," she agreed coldly, and together, they walked away, back to the manor, the butler trailing afterwards.

Greg Keller stood there for a long time, staring blankly after them.

* * *

She was fourteen, and he was sixteen, and he didn't much like the look of the dog at her side. It was huge, it was black, and it was peacefully sitting at her feet, but he had the distinctively uncomfortable feeling that it was glaring at him.

She wouldn't answer any of his questions, either, so he turned their talk to school and novels, things he was still learning and she already knew. She seemed colder than usual, and didn't laugh when he cracked a joke - she only just barely smiled.

The dog gave a growl when he reached over to touch her - to shake her hand, not to kiss it or anything creepy like that - and she kicked it lightly in the side, but didn't let him grab her fingers, either.

When she walked away, he was left very cold inside, despite the warmth of the afternoon.

* * *

She was fifteen years old, and he'd followed the sound of gunshots to see her sighting down a silver pistol, the black-haired girl at her side. Dark hair swirled with light as the girl whispered into her ear, and the sound of the next shot was swallowed by the rumble of thunder from the stormclouds overhead.

Integral let out a stream of curses that a young lady of her position certainly shouldn't know, and he ducked back behind a tree again, wary of her temper being turned on him.

The girl at her side chuckled, and ducked the punch Integra threw at her pretty face. "Shut up, you great useless git!"

"Not my fault you got distracted," the girl singsonged mockingly, deftly weaving around the next swinging fist. "You shouldn't let nature distract you from your target."

"I'll show you distraction," she growled as the first drops of rain started to fall, and spun and cocked her pistol, eyes narrowing as the rain began to drum down harder. It was silent save the thrum of rainfall and the beating of his own heart for several long moments, then the crack of the pistol split the air and Integra gave a shout of triumph as a squirrel tumbled from a nearby tree. "Ha! Do you see that?"

Greg's eyes widened as she spun to face the other girl, who was watching her with an outright stare. "Well?"

The girl grinned much too widely at her. "Did you know that you're wearing a very thin white top?" she inquired lightly, leering at her.

Integra threw her gun at her head and clutched her arms across her chest while the girl laughed and ducked. "Shut up, you pervert!"

"This is what happens when you're unprepared," the girl chided, and pulled off her heavy jacket with a flourish. "For you, my lady."

Integra glared, huffed, and grabbed the jacket, yanking it over her shoulders and buttoning it closed. "Bloody pervert."

The girl tilted her head back and laughed, twirling once more around her, seeming to revel in the storm, ignoring that she was completely soaked. "Every gentleman appreciates a lovely young lady, my lady."

"You're no gentleman, you're a monster," Integra snapped. "Bloody pervert!"

The girl - no, wait. Greg frowned and squinted through the rain. Long, inky black hair, those strange eyes, and that wild smile painted across delicate features, but - but the rain revealed that there was something distinctly lacking in the bosom department of the strange not-stranger at Integra's side.

His insides clenched as Integra swatted at the too-pretty boy who had seized her by the waist. "Unhand me, pervert!"

The boy buried his face into her wet hair and laughed, and he couldn't fail to miss the flush of color that suffused Integra's cheeks as she was pulled against his body. "Bloody pervert," she growled, but her eyes were shining, and she let him linger for several long moments until her elbow slammed into his gut. He went tumbling as she stalked regally away, but he could see the tiny smile curling her lips, and the boy was laughing even as he tumbled to a stop against the fence, leaping up gracefully and shaking out his long hair.

Greg started as burning crimson eyes snapped to fix on him, even as he cringed more deeply into the shadows.

The boy's lips curled into a devious smile as he leaned over the fence, white-gloved hands braced against the ancient stone, silent laughter in the rain.

"The lady Hellsing doesn't like spies," he all but purred, and his stomach turned in a sick knot as he stumbled backwards. How could he have ever thought this boy to be beautiful? "Go away, little boy. She has no time for you."

He took another step back, eyes suddenly burning - he didn't want to hear, he didn't want to see, he didn't want to know - and the boy's head snapped up suddenly, lips curling up even farther, revealing teeth that were far, far too sharp.

"Alucard!" That was Integral's voice, he knew, annoyed and impatient all at once, and the boy sprang away from the fence in a swirl of white and black, bright eyes gleaming.

"Shoo," he purred, and Greg was running even before he realized he'd gone.

* * *

She was eighteen years old the next time he saw her, on a rainy afternoon in early June, walking bareheaded through the rain. She was a knight now, he knew, and marveled at the difference three years made. Taller - much much taller than before, clear eyes bright and calm, and she walked alone save for the huge dog at her side.

He hid himself away when she settled onto the fence and tilted her face to the sky.

She stayed there for a very long time, stroking the dog at her side, very still and silent and beautiful.

Greg turned away and left her in peace.

* * *

She was twenty-one years old, and walked bareheaded in the rain again, neither touching nor speaking to the man who walked beside her. A garish red Victorian coat dwarfed her despite her formidable height - doubtless the property of the dark-haired stranger at her side - and she did not stop at the fence.

Greg caught a glimpse of crimson eyes, and hid a shudder. He didn't want to know.

* * *

In the year he turned twenty-five, the world ended. He hid himself and his family safely away as the Hellsing manor was ripped apart, saw things that did not exist, and watched in numbed disbelief as London burned.

In the aftermath, he hauled corpses away from his home, but there were far too many to bury, even with everyone in his family helping.

Several days later, they were all gone, and no one knew why.

* * *

He was twenty-six, and while London was still in ruins, the world went on. He walked the fence in late summer, wondering if anyone from the manor house had survived. He hid when he heard footsteps - better safe than sorry, even now, and he clutched the rifle to his chest and tried to remember how many blessed silver bullets he had on him.

His jaw dropped when he peered out from behind his tree - the same tree he'd always hidden behind, the same tree he knew, and just as always, Integral Hellsing walked down the same trail she always had, saber and pistol at her side, arm-in-arm with the same young man he'd seen years before. When they reached the fence, she pulled away, sat down, and turned her face to the sky.

The man knelt at her feet like a knight of old, and she smiled faintly, sighing. "I think I'm tired," she murmured, and reached out to tangle her gloved fingers into dark hair.

The man grinned and pressed against her touch like a lover would. "You've earned a rest, my Countess."

Her smile slowly widened. "You think so, Count?"

He raised a dark brow, a smirk curling his lips. "An eternal one, perhaps?"

She snorted, dark lashes fluttering shut. "Get a new line, Alucard," she grumbled, and the man tilted his head back and laughed, wild and familiar and alien.

Greg watched, quiet and numb, as the man flowed to his feet and swung her up off the fence and into his arms, pulling her close, much too close, closer than Integral Hellsing had ever allowed anyone to be.

He turned away, not wanting to witness the inevitable. It was a long walk back to his home, and the rain was falling harder.

No one would be the wiser - the rainwater would hide his tears.

* * *


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