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“Is… anyone here?”

The question melted the glacial silence of the Manor library, warming the floors and walls, an auditory version of the light that dissipated from the open double doors at the head of the library into the room. Upon getting no reply, the speaker (a young girl of ochre skin, blonde hair, and crystal blue eyes) gingerly stepped into the room and closed the doors behind her.

The silence curled around her once more, watching her with catlike curiosity as her sharp eyes scanned the library, only to fix onto the center of the chamber, where a lone figure sat with a candle before him. Quietly making up her mind, Integra descended from the entrance to the center pit of the library, the sound of her polished raven boots her only company. 

For the moment, at least.

“Master Integra. It’s quite past your bedtime.” Crooned the figure, rumbling the air around it as if it was said from both everywhere and nowhere at once. 

Integra said nothing and sat beside him on the only couch facing the library windows. Before them was a slender coffee table, adorned by a single candle. It was just bright enough, just barely enough, to see the shadows and outlines play across their skins.  

Alucard looked to her with a dulled curiosity, his eyes vacant of the twinkle that usually resided in them. Her blue eyes darted at the sharp frame of the man who watched her and then back at her hands, which sat perfectly on her lap. A heartbeat later, she moved just a bit closer, just enough for their knees to touch in basic comfort, Alucard cocked his head, realizing that she had something under her arm. 

“What did you bring, Little Master?” He asked, voice a little softer, stripped of the basic layers he normally kept to cover his self from others. It was late, and it was his little Master, after all.

“A book, Alucard.” She said. “I want you to help me with my Romanian.” She said, not asking at all. Alucard felt the edge of his lips curl upward.

“Who am I to deny such a dedicated pupil?” He teased.

Integra huffed. Her mask melted just enough for him to see the crinkle of her eyes, stars against the dark crescents that marred the underside of her eyes. Sometimes he felt sad when he saw them. They seemed much too heavy for such a slip of a girl, no matter how hard her core.

He took the book from her, opening the book to where they last left off, and placed it between them with one cover on his lap, and one cover on his. “Shall I begin?” She asked.

Alucard gave a small flourish with his hand and she obliged, her voice young and honest and human , filling the library with a presence so different from his own. Idly, almost unconsciously, he corrected her stumbles and stutters; all the while, Alucard let his eyes wander away from the book and towards the window before them, resting his eyes on the gaze of the full moon. The night goddess felt no negligence from him, not lately, especially not when she had been his companion since his… rebirth, or re-death, of sorts. 

As his little master’s voice quieted before the end of the story, Alucard craned his neck to meet her eyes, cocking his head slightly. “Is there any reason you stopped, Little Master?”

She shrugged, marking and closing the book before placing it on the table before them. She leaned back into the couch, bringing her knees to her body, looking so, so small as she did so. Alucard was struck by a sudden remembrance.

She’s just 12…

The thought left a bitter taste in Alucard’s mouth, and the longer he saw her vacant stare into the night before them, drinking the same celestial comfort as he had mere moments ago, the bitterer it became. Alucard was many things, lacking in many more morals, but the little humanity left in him ached for the little girl beside him.

“I couldn’t sleep.”

Her admission made him sigh. “That… would make two of us.” He admitted as well, for the very first time since he had lost his darling Mina. He wondered if, just as he often saw the haunted eyes of his first victims, she was seeing the bastard, Richard. She didn’t deserve it, not like he did. It was a cruelty from the gods.  

She looked at him from the edge of her silver rimmed glasses, eyes both curious and sympathetic, a warm azure so very unlike the eyes of her grandfather. He would have scoffed at the mere thought of Alucard having emotions. She was so… trusting . So easy to break. He didn’t deserve that delicacy.

Alucard wrenched his eyes away from her gaze. 

“Alucard?”

Silence. An infinite silence. A silence to end all silences. A silence so loud it filled his thoughts with these sentiments. A silence that clawed at his bones. A silence with sharp teeth and -

“Would you read to me?”

She had placed the book on his lap, and he looked at it, uncomprehending of just what it was. All he could feel was its weight, so different from the mercurial, gaseous, vapid emotion that had ensnared him. He felt it, opened it, stared at the patterned ink markings on the thinly sliced tree carcasses, trying to will himself to understand it enough not to disappoint his master. It took him a few moments.

It was a long few moments. Integra had noticed. She didn’t say anything.

But soon, he began to read, voice so much more sonorous, so much more aged than her own. And yet, for its age and history and magnitude, Integra could feel a hollow note underneath it all. If she was honest with herself, beyond the musicality of his voice, she couldn’t understand anything he was saying. She wasn’t sure if he was actually reading the book. Her head was swimming, trembling from the fatigue of insomnia, but she didn’t want him to stop. 

There, they continued, two tangentially touching glass bubbles containing unique yet parallel storms, deafening on the inside, silent on the outside. There, they continued, drowning out the internal thunderclaps with sounds of their own. There, they continued, both together and apart, old and young, slave and master, one and the same. 

Hours later, when the light from the outside world drowned the library with the warmth it thirsted for, Alucard stirred, opening his eyes after closing them against his will. 

Sluggish, he soon realized the weight that leaned against his side was another being: his master, Integra. There she slept, peaceful as he was mere moments ago, one of her arms curled into herself as the other looped around his arm. Between their legs, on the floor, was the discarded book.

His amber eyes scanned over the young but delicate features of his new master, an uncomfortable cauldron of emotions bubbling in his hollow core. He didn’t know very much about her. She didn’t know very much about him. Yet, a dangerous brew of affection and loyalty welled in his heart’s graveyard at the very sight of her. 

Quietly, he reached out to stroke her golden hair, feeling, even through his gloves, their gentle, cool texture. Feeling just daring enough, he ran a single thumb across her cheek, feeling his core tremble at how soft and breakable it was. She was so small. So human. So delicate. 

She was a doll, but she was his master. A ballerina in armor. A knight in a frock and heels. 

“Alucard?” The sleepy murmur broke him out of his thoughts. He retracted his hand, moving away from her as she surely would want - but her hand reached out to grab his. “Mm… stay.” She mumbled. 

“Walter surely seeks us.” Alucard gently prodded.

“Perhaps, but this has been the most peaceful awakening I’ve had in weeks.” She said, eyes opening a little wider, a little too wide to fall back asleep. “I don’t know if I want to leave.”

Alucard chuckled, gently taking his hand back. “You must. You have your duties.” She whined under her breath, looking entirely like the child she was, and Alucard found himself amused at her childishness. He stood, untangling himself from her. “I will tell Camilla to bring your breakfast here. Rest.” He began walking away.

“Alucard?” She called.

The vampire paused. “Yes, Master?”

“If...” There was a shift from the sofa - steps began approaching him. “If I can’t sleep again, can I join you here?”

Alucard turned to face her. “Of course, Master.” He was glad he had turned, for she smiled with a sunshine so potent, at his little statement, that he couldn’t help but smile back. Not a smirk, not a curl of the lip. A smile.

“Thank you, Alucard.” She hummed.

No, Lady Integra, thank you.

Because although the duo aged, although their emotions became caged; although they seemed like light years away, one could often find Alucard late at night, reading Romanian to his Lady Integra to chase the nightmares away.