Author's note: Story takes place after Integra arrives at the Hellsing mansion during the Millennium War without her trusted 'butler, Walter.

The Gift

"Bloody hell!"

The hairbrush that Integra had been holding only moments earlier sailed full speed across the bedroom, shattering the armoire mirror into an intricate network of large shards. Some of the glittery, sharp pieces fell to the floor in a tinkling heap. Another casualty of Integra's tightly coiled and rarely seen temper.

The head of the Hellsing organization rarely felt helpless, but when she did, her reaction to that emotion was quick and violent. Sir Integra worked hard to be a strong, fair leader and so, rather than taking out her anger on her employees, she found immense pleasure in destroying inanimate objects. Integra looked at her reflection in the broken mirror. Several blurry images stared back at her. And they all showed the same thing.

A young girl with long, disheveled hair that had a tight, pinched look around her eyes. Integra studied the reflections closely. They all look like shit, she decided with a sad, half-smile. Well, the Hellsing leader couldn't say that she actually felt better on the inside.

It had been one hell of a day. On the way back to the Hellsing mansion, soldiers of the Millennium group had surrounded Integra's car. Walter, former garbage man for Sir Integra's organization and a gentlemen to the end, had stepped out of the car to meet them. Before leaving Walter to his duty, Integra instructed her trusted retainer to stay alive and return to the mansion at any cost. For hours, Sir Integra had kept a vigil in her office, believing beyond a doubt that she would see Walter walk through her door that night. Oh sure, certainly there would be more scars on his weathered face. Perhaps, there would even be some of their enemies' bright red blood creating streaks on his finely tailored clothes. But Walter would return. And he would be smiling.

Now, in her bedroom, Integra closed her eyes and just for a moment, could almost hear Walter's strong voice commenting on how difficult the job was but how the trash was taken out in the end, just like always. The Hellsing leader shook her head and opened her eyes. No, no, she would not continue to torture herself like this. It was almost midnight and Walter had not walked through the door of the Hellsing mansion. Integra was young but not stupid. She knew her worst fears had been realized.

Her trusted retainer and confidante was now a prisoner of the Millennium group. For all she knew, at this very moment, Walter might be being beaten, tortured. Fear coiled in the pit of her stomach as Integra realized that it was a very good possibility that her butler was not even alive anymore. Major and his compatriots were the best at doling out punishment. If emotional abuse did not break you, well, there was always a variety of physical ways to beat a human into submission. Integra knew that extracting information from Walter would be difficult, if almost impossible for her enemies. He had an extremely strong constitution. Unfortunately, Integra's adversaries matched his, skill for skill.

The Hellsing leader walked over to the wood stained dressing table and bent down to pick up her hairbrush. Integra sighed audibly. Perhaps, she could clean up this mess before the maids arrived. While Integra hated menial chores, she didn't want her servants to gossip about her. At least she didn't want to give them more to talk about than they had already had.

Resigned to the task at hand, Sir Hellsing picked up the hairbrush. She placed in on the table above her and then got down on her knees, searching for all the individual broken glass shards. They gleamed in the soft light, laying heavily on top of the thick, plush beige carpet. Integra had just leaned over to get a large shard of glass when she noticed that something was stuffed into the corner of her bedroom, between the dressing table and the wall. It was a medium sized, expertly wrapped present. All of the folds were neatly tucked, no creases showing on the bright, flowery paper. A large blue bow sat on top. There was no note identifying who was the giver but Integra knew immediately. Only Walter could wrap a present that efficiently and with that overall tidy appearance. If it was indeed her trusted butler's gift and it was there, in her room, then Integra decided that this must be meant for her. What had Walter wrapped up so lovingly and left for her to find upon her return to the mansion? Integra was still upset at her butler's disappearance but the negative emotions were quickly being replaced by those of intrigue and wonder. Her trusted retainer always planned ahead. Perhaps, he realized on their last mission out of the Hellsing mansion, that he might get captured one day and that she would be left behind with one less garbage man. Integra's face lit up as she reached for the present. Walter would have seen that this would be useful for her if he was no longer there to be.

With shaking, impatient fingers, Integra tore at the wrapping and opened the plain white box. There was some equally white tissue to wade through but the Hellsing leader did it with a renewed gusto. Surely, there was something here that level the playing field in the war.

Integra's hand closed around something long, rusted and metal feeling. Her hand came away from the box, clasping the item which separated cleanly from the delicate tissue inside. Just what the bloody hell was Walter thinking? All she held in her hands was one key. And an old one at that. It looked like what was known as a 'skeleton key' in the late 1800's. The rusted key looked like it would open some door in a Victorian mansion...

"...or in an Opera House."

Integra's body gave an involuntary jolt. She had not sensed Alucard presence, had not realize that he might be watching her, until he spoke to her. She slowly stood and turned, facing him.

"I thought we agreed that you would respect my locked bedroom door, Alucard." Integra's voice was colored with a touch of anger.

"Usually, yes," was the vampire's amused reply. "However, I couldn't help but overhear your thoughts. I was actually worried about you tonight."

"Then, I must have been in really rough shape for you to be concerned about my welfare."

"I am always concerned about my Master's well-being," Alcuard said. "I am here because I heard your question echo in my head and I thought it needed answering."

"And," Integra continued, "so what is so important about this key?"

"The importance lies not in the key itself," the vampire assured his master, "but in what it will unlock."

"I'm not in the mood for your games, Alucard."

"I assure you master, I am very serious about this."

Alucard looked questioningly at Integra, "Did Walter be so kind as to include a note with the gift?"

The Hellsing leader plunged her hand back into the box. She moved the tissue paper around and then pulled out her hand. "No, I'm afraid there's nothing else."

The vampire swore quietly, as if to himself. Then, to Integra he said with a sigh, "I guess, then, Walter expects me to be the one to tell you."

"Tell me what?" Integra looked questioningly at her vampire.

"My master, do you remember the story of how the Millennium group was defeated the last time?"

"Yes," Integra replied. "Both you and Walter were instrumental in its collapse in the 1940's. However, the Millennium group wasn't totally wiped from the face of the earth. They just retreated to South America to regroup. Perhaps," Integra challenged the vampire "if you had been more thorough, we would not be facing the problems we are now."

"We did all that we could," was the vampire's brief, cold answer. "However, I'm certain you're not aware that there was another...operative involved in those days."

"And he would have been?"

"Be, Integra, be. The man that you inquire about is still alive or rather," Alucard smiled, "as alive as I am now. But, that's another debate for another time. I am not here to talk semantics but, rather, to provide you with information about a possible 'replacement' for Walter."

"Don't talk about Walter as if he were not coming back!" the retort came out as a strangled plea.

"I never said he wasn't," the vampire tried to placate his master, "however, we, you, the Hellsing Organization must be practical. While Walter has, shall we say, talent, there is another which can 'fill in' for him, in his absence."

"And that man...vampire would be?" Integra somehow knew that they were talking about another one of Alucard's kind.

"Erik, the Phantom of the Opera."

Integra let out a strange, sad laugh that throughout the bedroom. "Alucard, I can't believe you think that I'm that gullible. The Phantom of the Opera is some character in a cheap horror novel, not a real life person."

"Tell me, Master, " Alucard's impatience was showing in his voice "before you met me in person in the Hellsing basement all those years ago, wouldn't you have classified me back then as the same thing?"

"Well.."

"Then, think, Integra. The person that I am talking about is not fiction. However, he is the same person as mentioned in the book." The vampire stopped talking and thought for a moment, before continuing, "Actually, now that I think about it, Erik's and I have much in common besides the obvious. He's had about the same luck in literary circles that I've had. Well, no matter. Erik is a powerful vampire, less powerful than myself, of course, but useful to us. Very useful."

"Well, Alucard, just what are Erik's special talents?"

"Oh, the vampire is, simply put, a genius." Alucard was happy his Master asked him to expound on his knowledge and so continued boastfully, "Erik has many useful talents. The Phantom can compose music, draw, paint, sing and most of all, kill with the utmost speed and efficiency. Erik's lasso is his weapon of choice."

"So, how do we use this key" Integra waved the old skeleton key in her hand "to locate this vampire?"

"Erik, like me, is a little...complicated. He values his solitude."

"And, so what is Erik's 'problem'?" Integra asked suddenly. "Any man that has all of the talents that you describe plus vampirism would be a very important asset to any group that included him.

"Erik is, how shall we say, 'ugly'", was Alucard's simple reply.

"Ugly?" Integra was nonplussed. "Just how ugly is he?"

"People have run from him screaming, " Alucard assured his Master. "The Phantom's face, some say, is shaped after a living skull. But then, the author who made me famous, never did say anything good about my appearance either. And you, Sir Integra, find me attractive..."

"Stop it, Alucard." was Integra's short command. Then, she asked the vampire, "So how does he deal with his...ugliness?"

"Erik wears a mask, stays out of the light like every good vampire and, ever since I've known him, has lived in the underground caverns, beneath the Paris Opera House. The key that you are holding unlocks the fifth dressing room door on the right. Inside the actual dressing room, there's a large mirror with a concealed button. Touch it and the mirror opens to reveal the passageway to Erik's home. He isn't happy about people finding it...or finding him. However, under the circumstances," the vampire concluded, "I'm certain that Erik would help me, would help us, the Hellsing organization."

"I don't think I'm going to ask how you two creatures 'met' each other, " the Hellsing leader gave a sad laugh.

"Let's just say that Erik helped me out of a rather 'tight' spot a long time ago, " the vampire replied. "For his help, and because I recognized his genius, I rewarded him by making him like me. A vampire."

"Some reward," Integra answered, her voice barely above a whisper.

"Not everyone thinks becoming a vampire is a bad thing, my Master."

"I'm not going to argue with you tonight about that, Alucard. "I just don't know if I feel comfortable having two very powerful vampires around, " Integra thought out loud. "And one not bound to the Hellsing organization."

"Well, I guess then, you can just save the key until you think that the organization needs it." the vampire theorized.

Integra thought about Walter and all of the men that she had lost in the war, not only today, but in days past. "The Hellsing organization may need his help sooner, rather than later."

"You have no fear, Sir Integra. Erik is a solitary man and doesn't travel outside of Paris. However, for a reunion with me or for an opportunity to test his killing skills, I think Erik would make an exception and come to London. Perhaps, if we visit him in Paris, he might even find you interesting and acquiesce to your demands."

"Let's not rush this Alucard. I have to think this through, that is, the possibility of adding another vampire to my staff. I might also need to talk with the roundtable about this development. Give me a couple of days, Alucard, and then you'll have my answer."

"Whatever my master commands, " was the vampire's obsequious reply. And then, he was gone, melting into the wall before Integra's very eyes.

Integra went to her closet and took out a book from the uppermost shelf. Here, she placed the old, worn key between some thick pages. Hopefully, the war could be fought without Alucard's friend's help. However, having the key gave the Hellsing leader an extra measure of peace. At least if things went bad, they could call on this Erik for help. Yes, Integra thought as she undressed for bed. Their situation in the war effort is looking up indeed.