Outrage. Outrage would definitely be the appropriate response, she thought as he pulled away. You can start being outraged any moment now, Integra.
His arm was around her, which was pleasant in its own way, but, "You're hot."
He chuckled. "Vampires don't suffer from temperature extremes, remember?"
"Fine. I'm hot. Get off." She shrugged her shoulders and shifted until he pulled his arm away. It was enough to quiet the screaming voice, if not to still it completely.
"It's getting late," he said.
"Or early. Depending on how you look at it."
"I suppose so." The arm was gone, but his hand had stolen to her neck again, glove silky against her skin. "Master...."
"Don't," the part of her that wanted to run said.
"Don't what?" He turned to face her, straddling the bench. "Feeling better?"
"Better than what?"
"Before," he said with a shrug. "You're not quite yourself tonight."
"Who am I, then?"
"Someone who's not afraid to be vulnerable, maybe."
"I don't - I'm not...." Not sure what she was protesting, she stopped.
"Sh," and his thumb brushed across her cheekbones. "It's all right."
Not moving was the closest thing to surrender she could manage as he bent and pressed his mouth to hers. Almost-chaste and surprisingly gentle for Alucard, it made her breath hitch.
Outrage. Outrage would definitely be the appropriate response, she thought as he pulled away. You can start being outraged any moment now, Integra/. "Alucard..." Some combination of the hour and the setting gave the whole situation a dreamlike quality that blunted her emotions, making her anger unreachable. /What did he mean, someone who's not afraid to be vulnerable?
"This is where you start threatening to shoot me," he prompted. The smile teasing the corners of his mouth held nothing of the smugness she was used to.
"Is it?" She sighed, exhaustion pulling at her suddenly. "I suppose it is. It seems like so much effort, though."
He chuckled. "We could skip that part."
"Consider yourself threatened and chastised, then."
"What if I did it again?"
"I probably would have to shoot you. For the sake of my reputation." She was pleased that her voice remained utterly calm.
"I won't tell anyone. It certainly wouldn't do to have it about that Sir Integra got her first kiss from a vampire."
"It wasn't my first kiss," she protested, and wondered where on Earth her iron control had disappeared to tonight. Blood rushed to her face so fast it made her dizzy.
"It wasn't?" He sounded disappointed. "Are you keeping secret paramours about, then?"
"He was hardly a secret paramour."
"Very much so." The first boy she'd ever fancied; somewhat miraculously, he'd fancied her as well. His name had been Christopher, and he was in the year ahead of her. Sandy-haired, solemn-eyed on the last day before summer vacation, "Adieu, adieu, remember me," he'd said - the first time she'd read the words again in Hamlet they made her cry. A kiss, faster than Alucard's, soft and sun-warmed. His family was moving to the States. "I was twelve." Before vampires and pistols and death, when her bedroom had been decorated in pink and white and her days had been filled with piano practices and dance lessons and schoolwork. She'd believed her father would live forever, and thought to take over after he chose to retire. After she'd had a career as a ballerina. "It doesn't matter."
"Doesn't it, though?"
She shook her head. "I never saw him again."
"Were there others?"
"Jealous?" she asked, perversely pleased at being able to throw the words back at him.
"Children," he dismissed them. "Nothing more. Were there?"
"Oh, yes, I'm surrounded by men. I have to beat them off with a stick. Hadn't you noticed?"
He chuckled. "Considering that there are only two women in the entire compound? I would say you are surrounded by men."
"I thought so."
"You think being shot in the head is funny; you hardly qualify as the arbiter of humor."
"And /you/," he pointed out, "never answered my question."
"Suddenly sarcasm is not an answer?"
"I think it's a reasonable question. There might have been another boy at school, after all."
"No. There wasn't." The admission brought the color to her cheeks again. But nobody talks about their /second kiss, so I suppose it doesn't matter that it took more than ten years for me to get mine./
"And if there had been?" she challenged.
He wouldn't meet her gaze. "I knew there wouldn't be - you're not meant for the likes of schoolboys."
"Even when I was a schoolgirl myself?"
"And who am I meant for? Self-congratulatory vampires who need to be taken down a peg?"
He was showing altogether too many teeth for her comfort. "Perhaps."
"I rather think not."
"Then stop me." Vampire-swift, he claimed her mouth with his own, invading, tangling gloved fingers in her pinned-up hair, the other hand on the small of her back. His mouth was warm and cool at once, intrusive but not unpleasant, tasting faintly of copper, more like well water than blood.
This time the anger came to her hand. "You're playing with me." She flung the accusation at him.
"Is that what you think?" There was a growl underlying his response.
"Obviously. I won't be toyed with, Alucard. This isn't a way to convince me of anything." Vulnerable means he can take advantage of me. Damn him, he's been playing me all night!
"Obviously not." He stood. "The sun will be rising soon. Master. Goodnight." Stiff and starkly dignified, he swept off.
"I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted," she whispered. The words gave her strength enough to get up.
Her hair was falling out, and she put it back up, ignoring the way her hands were shaking. Clouds had come in whilst they'd been - she refused to define exactly what it was they had been doing. Talking. There was a breeze, unnoticed until now. It was kicking up dust, causing her eyes to sting. She pulled off her glasses, reducing the world to indistinct chaos, and rubbed at them. They were not wet, she was not crying, she had not let herself believe, even for a second, that the vampire actually cared about her.
It was just the heat.