He had disobeyed her direct order. The vampire had never done such a thing before. Integra still could not believe what she had seen. She had ordered him to stay with her men and to protect them from imminent threats and not leave them exposed. Though he had acknowledged her then, Alucard had vanished from the battlefield, leaving her men exposed. Nearly half of the squad had perished as a result. Integra was both shocked and infuriated. In the five years he had served her, since saving her life, Alucard had been frustrating at times, but he had never so blatantly disobeyed her.
Once she had banished Alucard to his quarters, with the threat of dealing with him later, Walter confided, "He must be punished."
"And how am I to do that? Should I deny him blood for a month? And have him be completely useless on missions?"
Integra growled under her breath, glaring through her office window. The sky was beginning to lighten, heralding the sun’s arrival. She heard Walter's soft, patient sigh behind her. Somehow it did nothing but infuriate her further.
"What could I do to make an impact on that beast's thick skull?" The question was posed as much to herself as it was to Walter.
"You could punish him in the style of your ancestors, his previous masters," the old man pointed out.
Integra raised an eyebrow, half turning to observe her butler. "And how is that?" she questioned, her tone more intrigued than furious.
Walter inclined his head, frowning slightly as he closed his eyes, seeming to hesitate for a moment before speaking.
"I witnessed your father punishing him once. Arthur was mad with rage at the vampire's behavior and did not care to make the matter private. The Hellsings have a whip, created by Abraham, that is commonly used to punish Alucard for severe infractions."
"My father whipped Alucard in front of everyone?" she asked, stunned. The vampire was a prideful creature. She could only imagine he had not taken that well. It was a small wonder Arthur had lost control of the vampire.
She let the silence stretch between them, returning her eyes to the soft glow of dawn peeking out from behind the expanse of trees that circled the the grounds of the main estate. “No,” Integra decided, her tone sounding almost absent, as if her mind were on something else entirely. “I will not whip him. Those were the methods of my ancestors, and obviously, such tactics have not worked. Seeing as he's misbehaved - yet again.”
“Indeed, Ma’am.” Walter's lips curved with the barest hint of a smile. “However, he must be punished. Lives were lost because of his actions. Actions that went directly against the commands you had given him.”
“I realize that, Walter,” she growled in a low tone.
After so many years of the vampire’s complete obedience to her, what triggered him? Was he testing her?
“He needs to answer for his actions.” Integra waved a dismissive hand over her shoulder, watching light touch the tops of trees some distance away.
The vampire sat, a smug king upon his throne. Instead of summoning him to her, she had descended into the lower levels to confront him in his own domain. Too often he viewed these lower levels as some sort of escape, a haven to run to where the safety of the stone walls would protect him.
Integra knew better. She’d read the notes of her family in extensive detail and knew this was no domain for him nor a haven or escape. This was his Hell. These stones he fled to knew the sound and pitch of his cries and were as cold to him now as they were then.
“Alucard,” she called, entering his quarters, his cell, without any other fanfair. “Explain yourself. Now.”
The look in his eyes was far too pleased for her liking. As if he’d done something and gotten away with it without her knowing. Alucard tilted his head back, red eyes glowing in the dimly lit room and observing her with whatever foul thoughts worked their way through his mind.
“The mission was a success, Master,” he stated with the sly smirk he typically wore. “Were you not pleased? The targets were eliminated with perfect precision. Just as you commanded.”
“You disobeyed me.” His behavior continued to anger her. No only had he disobeyed, now he was mocking her for it. As if daring her to bare his nerves to the horrors she could bring him.
That mocking tone again. He was daring her to correct him, she could see it written in his body language. The vampire sat relaxed, calm, and smug. Integra was confident he knew he'd disobeyed and yet he was far too at ease.
Integra was not sure how to respond, as she'd earlier expressed to Walter. Alucard had never challenged her authority over him in such a way. She'd read her ancesor’s journals and knew what had been done to break the vampire. Perhaps because of this, Integra tried to treat him with a bit more kindness than necessary. After all, the only defiance Alucard had ever showed was grumbling and posturing.
That had been a mistake, it seemed. The journals warned against falling into a sense of acceptance of Alucard's servile behavior. Now her men had paid the price of her poor choices.
“What would my father have done?” Integra asked sharply, a deep frown etched into her features. There was a formidable seriousness about her. Alucard loved that expression, the hardness, like that of ancient stone.
He shuddered beneath that gaze, but not out of fear or concern. No. He shivered with delight. Alucard happily sacrificed whatever pain she would bring him to feed on her power, to feel her iron grip tighten around him and force him into his place. It was deeply erotic, and dead flesh hardened in answer.
“Answer me, vampire,” her sharp voice pierced him with all the force of Abraham’s silver bolts.
“My master,” he purred. The rough tone of his voice grated like river stones grinding together. There had once been a time when such growls had unnerved her. “Your father. What value is placed on the phantom actions of a man long dead?”
A searing, exquisite pain bloomed along the nerves of his body. Her anger, given life through the sorceries that enslaved him. The sensation along his body was like grease crackling in a hot pan.
Alucard felt his lungs seize with unused breath captured along the tubes and muscles that permitted him to speak. He could bask in her fury until his body withered to dust.
“I did not ask you about value, or to insult my father. I will not ask you again!”
His lungs were released from the burning grip, freeing him to speak without her ever having issued a verbal command. Integra was learning.
“Your father, master,” he gasped, fighting this vestigial reflex that his body somehow still remembered. “For this, he would have starved me, perhaps.” Alucard struggled, feeling her grip squeeze around him, following the trail of his nerves until the pain focused at his heart. This agony was only the start, he knew. This was only for failing to answer her question properly. This was encouragement.
A snarl pulled at Integra’s lips. Her upper lip curled, baring her blunt human teeth.
“For causing the deaths of seven men, Alucard, I should hope my father would starve you. However, I have a strong suspicion that is not all he would have done.”
Alucard inclined his head up to her with a slight sneer over his lips. “You are correct, my Master. He would have drunk whiskey, or perhaps scotch, as his uncle was so inclined to do.”
He expected a rush of blood to darken her face in anger. He expected her to snarl and scream at him, perhaps to physically strike him, for all the good it would do. Alucard wanted it. He wanted to see her enraged, wanted to know what she would do, to quell the mystery he had avoided for so long by being perfectly obedient to her every whim.
However, he received nothing. Her expression shifted to one he recognized as a mask of contempt. But there was no anger, not as he would have expected it. Even the pain he had been quivering with faded, her hold loosening its grip over his existence.
The vampire found himself confused and a bit irritated that she had not responded in the way he had expected. The way he wanted.
Integra looked into his eyes. She had touched his mind, felt his desire and it disgusted her. This beast had been so abused by her ancestors that he desired to be further abused. This was all done purposefully so he could feel the pain she would bring him. Unwittingly, she was rewarding this behavior. She controlled her emotions, pressing a mask over her face to prevent him from seeing the boiling of her blood beneath the surface.
“I will answer for you,” she stated, keeping her tone emotionless. “My father would have tortured you, though it would have been only a shadow of what my great uncle would have done.”
This behavior unnerved the vampire. But he liked her words, the fearful shiver that crawled along his spine in anticipation of her punishment.