Icy cold, the water pulled at one's clothes, the weighted fabric coaxing the body to sink deeper into the water's frigid embrace. The steam engine had blown and most of those on the ferry had been able to board one of the four life boats it carried. But some had not been so fortunate. One sailor had died in the explosion and now a few lifeless and yelling bodies bobbed or floated, face down, in the water. Those that bobbed, clung to drifting debris, their only hold on life. Green eyes moved through the floating and bobbing bodies, beside the blue gaze that was also searching. Then the green eyes blinked and locked onto the pale creature in its ragged garbs, and that is how the man, John Seward, came to know the icy water. He jumped in and swam to the limp demon that held onto a section of wood paneling, drifting with the swells. The human caught the piece of wood in his numbed hand with a scowl while another hand grasped Alucard's shirt and pulled on it. But the vampire did not relinquish his hold on the wood as the man tugged on him, clinging to the wood as well to keep himself afloat.
"Mercy, John Seward." A low whisper drifted over the sound of the breathing water, freezing the movements of the human's chilled limbs. The cries of the injured that were bleeding out into the sea and of those that were desperately trying to keep their heads above the water, took to the air. The man and the beast drifted in the water while John's body gave a sudden shudder from the cold. The whisper came again, parted by preserved seconds of chilled time. "Leave me here. Let the wood rot, and I, drown."
The green eyes stared, blinking at the water that trickled down from his brow. John glared at the prolonged contact his hand had maintained with the vampire's back, and he tore at the clothing as he wrenched at the creature to dislodge him from the wood. "Let go, Vampire! Dr. Hellsing!" John called, straining his neck and spitting out salted water when he looked back at the slowly approaching row boat. "Dr. Van Hellsing! The creature refuses to let go!"
With a sudden urgency, Alucard pushed the wood away and John had to quickly wrap his arms securely around the demon's torso in order to keep him from sinking like a stone in the water. With grunts and laboring lungs choking on one or two mouthfuls of sea water, the mortal made his way towards the boat and Abraham Van Hellsing's awaiting blue gaze. In his arms, against his own shivers that began to fight the cold assaulting his body, Seward was startled when he found that the creature he was dragging along with him was trembling in a pathetic, helpless way, with increasing severity as they drew closer to the blue orbs, as icy as the water they swam through.
John firmly grasped the side of the boat and men grabbed him and his clothing while other hands appeared, pulling up the shivering vampire. John watched Alucard as they were separated and pulled onto the row boat. Those on the boat softened John's impact against the floor, but the vampire was thrust into the wood, his head forced down into the collecting water that poured from his hair and garments. Red dye swirled into the water when the white face was scraped across the rough wood as the rocking of the boat challenged the men's balance. In momentary confusion, a man fell onto the demon but immediately shoved it away in disgust, pushing himself up to his knees and then to his feet. John sat in the water, without knowing it, so he flinched when a warm, gentle hand helped him to sit up on one of the boat's benches instead. A cloth like a blanket was thrown over the shivering man's shoulders and John looked up and smiled sheepishly in response to Abraham's aid, slightly embarrassed that he had needed such assistance. "Thank you…Dr. Hellsing."
Hellsing smiled back at the expression and nodded. Then the blue gaze found the black form of his vampire, and he lost the smile to have it become a snarl. John jerked at the hard kick that landed in the creature's stomach, forcing a wet cough to dribble water from Alucard's lips. The red eyes of the limp creature were closed, as they had been since John had retrieved the demon. "You, Slave, do not make things so difficult! You will be punished for this!" Hellsing hissed, grinding the bottom of his boot into the red clouded water beneath it, and then sat beside Seward with a sigh, apologizing for the accident he had no part in causing, as well as for the young man's trouble with the beast. Aged hands patted the young man's shoulders and fixed the rough blanket around him more tightly. "Don't let yourself become sick, John. I'd feel terrible if you did. I shouldn't have taken the vampire along. It was thoughtless of me to turn a simple trip into an assessment of the vampire's ability to endure transportation over water. I'm very, very sorry, John."
"I'm fine Dr. Hellsing, please, please don't bother yourself with me. I'm perfectly fine."
He smiled at the rambling older man, moving his shoulders to discourage Abraham's hands. "A little water isn't going to kill me."
The man smiled as well, warmed by the humor. "Let's hope not." The two chuckled, and gradually the green eyes ventured over to the black form lying on the puddled floor, pressing itself into the side of the row boat under the handle of one of the oars that were soon to be in use. The green eyes were distracted when Abraham claimed his attention with the start of a substantial conversation pertaining to what could have caused the explosion.
John Seward had several interesting patients that consumed his working mind, though none of them were able to capture him in quite the same way as Reinfield had. But, with the recollection of the fear the vampire possessed, reserved for Van Hellsing, John could not help but become distracted. It interested him, deeply, now that he considered the memory in full proportions and what implications it hinted to, how an undead tyrant could come to fear a kindly mortal, such as Dr. Van Hellsing. Well, kindly only went so far, John's reflection frowned in the window he faced, reminding himself of the kick he had observed. Van Hellsing was kind to humans and moral individuals. His hatred could be said to be set aside for demons and their like.
But it was easy to pity any creature subjected to abuse, and whose mind is besieged with fear. John would have to speak to Van Hellsing about his methods of domesticating the creature and the nature of the use it was being put to.
Abraham stared at the young man until the pure color of his eyes undermined John's resolve, and his stance on compromising Hellsing's experiments to ease the strain that was being laid onto the demon, collapsed into a series of embarrassed coughs and apologies. Hellsing said nothing, watching the man's anxious, unnecessary movements. John let his attention fall to the charming correlation of wooden tiles of slightly different, yet perfectly natural, hues. When John became quiet, Abraham nodded with understanding softening his expression.
"Fear is the best tool I have at my disposal, John. If the Vampire did not fear me, he would challenge me at every turn, like an insubordinate child used to getting his own way. But, as a cunning, brilliant, and perverse child…his mind would twist my own, and he could perhaps overwhelm my intentions, or he might even convince me to release him. Keeping him in a state of anticipation, wary of every action he commits as his punishments are kept unknown and always varying, I am cutting down any determination he might amass to rebel against me. It seems like cruelty, and in many ways it is, but it is a necessary precaution I must maintain. He needs to fear me, to know that Man presides over beasts, that I control him and that he can never control me."
John looked at the man, listening quietly to his logic. When he was finished he kept his gaze leveled with Hellsing's. "But, as time progresses there arises the threat that the Vampire will grow used to one method or another, and the level of pain, the inducement of fear, must be raised…or else your tactic becomes…obsolete, so to say."
Abraham was already nodding, as if agreeing with a well-known and conservative stance. It was as if, to him, John's words were simply restating what he had already said. "Yes, so, as I said, the punishments are kept inconsistent and varied. One might be purely psychological, such as denying him his coffin, which is right now being implemented. He is reminded of his nonexistent rights as an individual being. He is under my control and at the mercy of my whims, without any hopes of changing any of this without pleasing me. Another punishment would be pain, which is the more disturbing, but very effective, though it is the one that he is most likely to grow used to. We use him in experiments, so not all of his punishments are purely destructive, although I can't say taming the monster is strictly destructive. We have collected a significant amount of data."
"But you also hurt him in other ways, Dr. Hellsing?"
The tone had darkened substantially, dimming the hospitality in Hellsing's eyes. Abraham watched the firm, removed expression on the man's face. "When it is necessary, John. You do recall that Alucard is a monster, that he did turn that dear girl you were so fond of…I'm sorry." Hellsing gave a grim, sympathetic smile to the flinch his words received, but his face relaxed with the knowledge that John had not forgotten Lucy's fate. "Would you like to sit down? There is no need for us to be standing, I have quite a few indulgently comfortable chairs." The smile brightened, lifting the darkness from John for a time as the two proceeded to the sitting chairs in the man's study.
John lowered himself into the sitting chair, and his eyes widened as the pliant cushioning molded to the contour of his body. His arms collapsed, lying languidly on the armrests as his fingers strummed the soft leather. He closed his eyes with a hum that humored Hellsing so that when John opened his eyes, the old man was chortling. John smirked, attracting the man's attention. "These are almost sinful, Dr. Hellsing."
Chuckling, the man grinned. "It's my vice. Books and comfortable chairs, John."
And so, the two returned to their friendly relation and enjoyed an afternoon of discussions and tea. The subject of the vampire did not reemerge until the sun was setting over the blushing horizon.
Books and comfortable chairs never seemed to be a real sin until John entered the dank and lightless crypt of the Hellsing manor, a dungeon crypt of stone that entombed the undead beast in the bowels of the Earth. It was hostile and cold. Green went to the old man when he spoke, observing the same characteristics of the cell that unnerved the young man.
"Can you believe that human beings were kept in conditions like this, John? They once rounded up potential Jews and witches and tortured them and then threw them in cells like these until they either confessed to what they were accused of being, or their body's systems broke down with a lack of exposure to the sun."
Abraham eyes continued to roam about the cell, standing in the doorway. John's eyes were fixed onto the man. "And yet you keep a demon in here?"
Hellsing's gaze flicked to the younger man and some of his relaxed demeanor stiffened. "Vampires don't need sun, John." He returned, quietly, and then stepped forward to remind his friend that the demon was in the cell, listening to them. His lantern lifted, shedding light on the opposite wall of stone, and then traveling to a corner, and then to the left. There, the white of the vampire's skin picked up the light and revealed his withdrawn position in the corner, staring at the men with wide eyes that darted between the two. As they came closer, the creature visibly leaned away from them, into the stones.
He's afraid of us, John breathed, staring at the creatures flickering eyes that gained and lost the light of the lantern as they moved. The demon was sitting, his knees touching his chest as his hands dug into the grooves of the stone floor, gripping them so that the tendons in his hands rose with strain and the stones themselves seemed to become compressed in the slightest way, threatening to shatter in the demons hands so that their vengeful shards might pierce his flesh, driven deeper by his own clenching fist.
The monster is a stone, and Van Hellsing is the hand that has captured it. John blinked, unable to look away from the hands until he felt the urge to see the vampire's face. It was pure, unadulterated, helpless terror that coaxed a whimper from the beast's throat as his eyes were fixed on his master's face. No being should ever acquire such fear of another. It was sickening to watch, but John endured his churning stomach acids as Abraham went forwards and set the lantern on the stones, dropping the handle so that it struck the metal cap while the man crouched beside it. His hand, stretching out towards the creature, widened the red eyes until they could grow no larger and the demon had flattened himself into the corner completely, stricken with paralysis when he could move no farther. A whining keen started up and continued when the vampire's eyes snapped closed and Abraham's hand petted his hair, all in the semblance of a man touching a dog. When the creature began to shiver John's throat burned with bile. But when the vampire began to cry with blood dribbling from his eyes, too viscous to be water, John turned away, his teeth grating so savagely against one another as his jaw clenched, they felt like they would fracture at any moment.
Abraham nodded at the tears, satisfied, and he patted the demon's head before looking back at John. He saw only the man's back, so he stood and slowly walked towards the open door, with his lantern in hand, following John who had begun to walk when he heard Hellsing take up the lantern. They entered the dimly lit corridor of stone outside the cell, and Abraham shut and latched the door. When enough distance had been put between the humans and the monster's cell, John finally spoke with an exhaling growl.
"It's too cruel, Dr. Hellsing."
Van Hellsing shook his head, glancing at the young man and then the blocks constructing the corridor as their shoes clacked against the stones. "It only seems that way, John. You must keep in mind…what Alucard is."
"Why did you name him Alucard?" John shot back suddenly, heat in his tone and a glare directed to the man. His hands moved with a jerk through the air, illustrating his anger as he hissed at the corridor, no longer looking at Abraham. "You possess him like a beast, Dr. Hellsing, but that creature is not an animal. And even as an animal, it is wrong to treat him as you do. It is debased cruelty."
Abraham blinked, his mouth a dull line, watching the side of the man's face. "Debased is not what it is…there is no displaced honor in doing something that is unpleasant, but absolutely necessary."
"It is!" John insisted with a glower.
Van Hellsing stopped and scowled at him, disappointment and frustration growing imminent. "If you were in possession of a kingdom that was to be attacked by an enemy force, would you not gather your soldiers and wage a defensive war in response? Would you not slaughter your enemy to save your own people?" John moved his hand, about to interrupt, but Abraham raised his voice and lifted his own hand. "Would you not torture the captured enemies to gain information that would save hundreds of your subjects? Spare villages from the pillage, rape, and plunder that would burn them to the ground? Would you not do everything in your ability to save them?"
John jaw clenched and released before he could spit out his words, vehemence poisoning his tongue. "You think yourself a king now, Dr. Hellsing?"
Abraham gasped, a force striking his front with the accusation. His eyes burst with light as true anger flared in the man. "A king, John? What is this? Since when have you had this perception of me?" He gestured to himself with a growl. "It was an analogy that perfectly fits the situation! I stand at the helm of the human force that is wading into the waters of death to protect the living from the rising dead! I am a leader, nothing noble, but a leader that has the responsibility of saving mankind from an invading enemy force!"
It was quiet, the anger fading, only kept by stubbornness as John looked away, his arms crossed over his chest and a frown still tipping his lips. "It's medieval and barbaric."
"And what would you do differently?" Hellsing stepped forward abruptly, startling John who stared at him as the older man's raised volume echoed briefly, hitting the stones.
John had to look away again, close to defeat. There was no complete victory now, only a resolving compromise was possible. Calmly, with easing features he looked into the bright blue eyes until they too softened and calmed. When the atmosphere was cooled, John cautiously proceeded. "Is isolation necessary for him as well?"
Hellsing frowned, reading into what the question implied. "Do you think it's better to have two Vampires in that cell? That one is not enough?"
"No." Came the curt response, loathe to that outcome. "But… What I'm saying, or rather asking, is whether or not I might-"
"I want him to fear humans, John." Abraham kept his frown.
"What about one exception?" John smiled awkwardly, surprising Hellsing into losing his frown and slipping his hands into the pockets of his trench coat. "You control him with fear, but you could also control him by attaching him to another. Fear and his only release from it, his sanction in your hand, you only strengthen your grip."
It was quiet as Hellsing took the time to mull over the proposal, looking at the wall to think, and then at the man to consider the possibly pros and cons of the option. He could always end it if he changed his mind.
John smiled at the question, making Van Hellsing sigh and resume walking again. "I would benefit from having you company more often as well, to put that in your mind. And the answer to my question?"
"Once a week, but I'll send a telegram to warn you prior to my intrusion."
John gazed warily upon the metal door, breathing steadily. Abraham had offered to accompany him, but they both knew the creature wouldn't benefit from his presence, so he had not objected when John declined his offer. The vampire wouldn't be able to harm him, not even if John told him too. That was both reassuring and disturbing. For a creature to be denied the right to his prey, and instead made to fear its prey… John closed his eyes with a deep breath that jolted his previous rhythm and he nodded sharply to himself.
The door screeched as it slid open, bringing John to wonder if it had been this loud during his last visit. Light stretched towards the wall and then climbed the stones. The door was abandoned this way, and the yellow light of the lantern floated as a halo in the midst of the gloom in the cell. John adjusted the focus of the light, concentrating it into a hazy beam he allowed to drift along the wall, to the left corner, and then the right where he found the huddled creature staring back at him. It was unnerving to have eyes watching one in the dark, without being able to see them as well. John watched as the light glinted in the red eyes. With soft steps, he approached the corner, in the manner he had determined would be the best way to move towards the creature.
Ten feet away from the vampire, John hesitated as he saw that Alucard still wore an expression of fear on his face, though it was milder than his fear of Van Hellsing. When the man took another step, the mortal gasped. The demon had disappeared, but a blur of motion took the green eyes to the left corner of the cell. The vampire occupied the corner, watching him with the same tormented eyes. John paused, and then went forward, to go to the demon. Ten or so feet away from the creature, it suddenly disappeared again, turning John's head back to the corner he had just left. But it too was empty. The man spun, with the lantern swinging slightly, and found the next corner of the cell, behind him.
The red eyes glinted, reflecting the light, as watchful as ever.
Damn he's fast. The man blinked a few times and then started in the vampire's direction. Alucard fled from the human, leading John in an endless circle. Finally, the man admitted defeat when the demon disappeared when he was barely thirteen feet from the beast. John sighed, lifting his lantern to search for the red eyes. They peered back at him, a pale hand touching the ground, showing that Alucard was ready to disappear again if the mortal continued. John removed his eyes from the demon and walked towards the center of the cell, taking the moving red orbs with him, though they now burned in the shadows, without the light on them. The man stopped, bathed in the light coming from the open door, and his hand slipped into his coat when he drew out a small book. Without looking at the vampire, John bent down and set the book, swaddled in a clean handkerchief, on the stone floor and then left the cell, closing the door and latching it behind him. He waited for what seemed to be a few minutes, before opening the door again. He watched the light move across the stones until it reached the place he had set the book down. It was still there, and the handkerchief remained undisturbed. Patience allowed the man to close the door and leave the cell to say his farewells to Van Hellsing without too much disappointment bothering the man's conscience.