She'd cut herself.

Awfully strange, she thought, blotting the cut with a piece of tissue paper. But you could get a cut from anything, even a business card. Even a photograph. You didn't even have to try. She remembered her schoolgirl days, reaching into her backpack and feeling the sharp edge of paper against her skin. She wouldn't feel the cut until later, as air drew pain out of her exposed nerve ends. The most annoying cuts were the ones in the soft flesh between the fingers, close to the palm. Those hurt the most and were impossible to bandage.

The tissue was the cheap kind; she had to wad it up so that it didn't bleed through. Funny, how they could have so much money, but couldn't get good toilet paper in the restrooms or tissue paper that didn't chafe when you blew your noise. But Integra smoked expensive cigars.

She thought about blood as she went to the bathroom, seeking a bandage for her finger. Blood was everywhere as a matter of course, but she noticed these things more frequently now. For instance, you got hundreds of tiny cuts in your mouth simply from brushing your teeth. She'd read it, but hadn't really thought about it until recently. Now, of course, whenever she brushed her teeth she invariably thought about blood, especially when she felt her canines. She couldn't resist running her tongue over them every morning, feeling the sharp points.

Brushing her teeth was probably pointless, but it was a comforting daily routine, similar to brushing her hair.

The Hellsing mansion was full of medical supplies, from petroleum jelly to plaster strips, right down to Band-Aids. She found that somehow ironic as she pulled off the waxed plastic tabs and wrapped the band-aid around her fingertip, hoping it would stay. Sometimes the little gauze square would become so soaked so quickly that the Band-Aid wouldn't stick and would come right off.

She hated paper cuts. They never seemed to stop bleeding.

"Cut yourself, police girl?"

His voice came from behind her. He sounded amused. But he always sounded amused. She couldn't find it in herself to be angry or annoyed, though; he always inspired a mysterious thrill in her, even when he was being infuriating.

"Yes," she said. "I was filing some papers."

"Filing papers?" The voice held no trace of surprise. It still sounded as if everything was a very funny joke. She found herself wondering, not for the first time, where her master was from. He had a foreign accent that reminded of her America, and yet it was different. "That's not part of your duties, is it?"

"I'm not like you, master," she answered bitterly. "I can't occupy myself the entire day just by sleeping and making fun of others."

"Aah," he said. "Well, you'll get used to it before long, police girl."

He was gone without a sound. She hadn't seen him come or go, but she knew he'd left.





Seras realized, about three months into her new life, that she had stopped menstruating. She didn't know why she hadn't noticed before. She supposed it was because she had been distracted, with so much to do and so many changes in her lifestyle to adapt to.

On the one hand, she was relieved. The slightest sight or smell of blood sent her senses reeling into madness, and she didn't need any more distractions. She didn't miss the cramps either, or dealing with tampons and maxi pads, or the smell. Then, too, it was another reminder of how she was no longer human. Somehow, she felt she was no longer a woman, either.

There were other things that she thought would remind her of her vampirism, but for some reason didn't. Hellsing was nothing short of a religious organization and the mansion, their headquarters, felt no lack of holy symbols, but they didn't bother her at all. The kitchens were well-stocked, and that included garlic, but that didn't bother her either. Not that she ventured into the kitchens often, or even the mess hall, but she smelled the garlic. It didn't make her mouth water like it used to, but it didn't send her reeling in agony. Holy water wasn't so easily found, but she thought she would feel no fear of that, either.

Strange.

She thought of questioning her master, but she dared not ask him anything. Besides, it was nearly impossible to communicate with him; even if she called, he was the one who chose whether or not to answer. Integra regarded Seras with a mixture of suspicion and disdain, so asking her was out of the question as well. Being a vampire and a woman--or something that was regarded as a woman, in any case--made it impossible for her to mix with the common soldiers, so she couldn't ask them, either. Not that they would have any answers for her.

But there was one person who was kind to her, and so she asked Walter.

It was difficult to find a time when Walter wasn't busy, though. He was almost always performing some important task for Integra during which he could not be interrupted, and when he was free, he could be anywhere in the rambling mansion. Finally, though, she found him dusting some things in one of the sitting rooms. There were maids to do such things, but she thought Walter rather enjoyed performing menial tasks.

"Walter," she said as a way to start off the conversation, "how much do you know about vampires?"

Walter ceased his dusting, and his face took on a thoughtful cast. "Quite a bit. As you know, I used to be a field operative for the Hellsing organization. Why do you ask?"

"Well," Seras said, hating how fidgety she felt, "I had some questions for you, that's all."

Walter turned to look at her, and she thought that there was a rather fatherly look to him about the eyes. She felt her stomach do a flip. Walter gestured for her to sit down, and she did, though he remained standing and continued to dust already spotless figurines on the mantel. "I'll try to answer your questions as well as I can."

"I was just wondering," she mumbled, twisting her skirt in her hands, "about. Um. Well, I was wondering why I'm not afraid of crosses or anything. Or garlic. Holy water. Things like that."

Walter's expression was inscrutable. Then, finally, he softened a little and said, "Miss Victoria, you've been reading far too many storybooks. You've seen the way we fight vampires. You've seen how they work. Very little except a few good bullets stop them."

"Yes, but--why don't the crosses and things work? I mean, everyone knows about them. We haven't been believing in lies all this time, have we?" Now, she found, the words came out in a rush.

"Well, yes and no," Walter said as he dusted the painting over the fireplace. "Just because they don't work now doesn't mean they may not have worked in the past. But vampires evolve, just as humans do." He smiled a little. "It's a question of faith, Miss Victoria. And while I have faith in God, I also put my faith in automatic rifles."



Seras had never thought of Walter as a fighter. She knew that he'd been in the field at some point, but, well, that must have been some years ago, when he was young. She'd also heard that he had fought in World War II, which put his age at somewhere around eighty. He was in pretty good shape for a man of advanced age, but she hadn't thought him up to combat anymore. Until, of course, they fought together, and Alucard had referred to him as an "Angel of Death." Walter had said, then, that you wanted to avoid your enemy when you could, but then sometimes you had to confront them.

It was beneath Walter to be critical, but Seras knew he disdained the new men. They'd had no choice but to recruit foreigners and atheists after the Valentine disaster in which they'd lost most of their troops. Walter knew that, but that didn't mean he had to like it. Integra disliked it as well and was more vociferous about it. Seras found that she didn't care at all as long as they took her seriously instead of looking at her breasts. Walter said cryptic things about how it took more than combat gear to make a man, and more than a license to own a gun.

One of the things that most amazed her about Walter was his speed. Really, she thought, it wasn't as if he moved at all; it was as if the world itself shifted underneath his feet so that he simply seemed to be somewhere else. But when she asked him how he'd trained, he'd simply chuckled and said that a gentlemen will walk, but never run.

Sometimes she thought she regarded Walter as a father. He certainly treated Seras like a daughter of sorts, and after a while she found herself taking her problems and questions to him. At first it was because the other two authority figures of the organization--Alucard and Integra--were so inaccessible, but after a while it was because she trusted Walter, and because he was so warmly responsive. The more of the world she saw, the more she admired Walter; gentleness and sobriety were so rare in today's society. He gave good advice, too.

"Manners make the man," he said, after she expressed her frustration at not being taken seriously by the soldiers. "Or the woman, in your case. It takes a strong person to suffer ignorance and smile. Just be yourself," he added at the end, somewhat irrelevantly. She wondered if he meant that she should take advantage of her vampiric powers.

So she did, and she found that the men respected her a lot more after she bent something formidable and steel in half.

One night, she asked him why vampires were allowed in the Hellsing organization when they were an affront to everything they fought for. Walter gave her an inscrutable look and said, finally, "At night, a candle's brighter than the sun."



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