"Once a Monster"

Alucard sat in his favorite wing chair by the large stone fireplace in the main receiving room in the Hellsing mansion. It was late September and the weather was turning chill, though not cold enough for a fire to be lit within. So, the vampire sat, staring at the singed grey stones, a glass of blood still yet untouched resting on one of the chair's massive side arms.

"Do you mind if I take this seat across from you?" Integra asked, coming from the large dining room. "Or would you just rather have your private thoughts for company?"

In two weeks, she would be both knighted and become the sole ruler of the Hellsing organization. Walter had suggested that she become acclimated to her position of power and therefore, take dinner as befit the head of Hellsing. Integra had found the cavernous dining area cold, remote and intimidating. Integra could not help but feel uncomfortable being the sole diner at the massive but intricately carved wooden table in the center of the dining room. Servants rushed to cater to her every whim. Walter, being a butler and employee of the Hellsing organization, could not be expected to keep her company. So, she was forced to eat in a sterile, death-like atmosphere. Integra had escaped as soon as she ate the last spoonful of pudding. She had much rather preferred her meals in the cozy kitchen with Walter and the servants for conversation. There were just some parts of the job that Integra felt she would never get comfortable with.

Alucard turned toward his Master and regarded her intently, studying her unease with more than a casual interest. "No," the vampire said quietly. "I don't mind if you do join me tonight." With a wave of one white, gloved hand he gestured toward the empty chair.

Integra gracefully slid into the spot, a soft sigh escaping her lips.

"And how, may I ask, is my Master settling into her position as the sole head of the Hellsing organization?" the vampire asked, a knowing smirk crossing his face.

"Okay, I guess," Hellsing's new leader answered him. "Though I have been the leader of the organization unofficially for much longer." She continued, taking a breath, "But, I never really dreamed that taking on the sole responsibility of the organization, would be that daunting. Bloody hell, but I just had dinner tonight and even that was a chore!" Integra slumped back in her seat, seemingly resting the invisible weight she was carrying around with her.

"Well, Master," the vampire responded, "with new leadership comes new power. But also, new responsibility. Yes, everything worthwhile always is a two-edged sword, so to speak."

"Speaking of power and responsibility," Integra said to the vampire, "you promised me something, Alucard. A couple of years ago, well, actually, not much later than after I killed Sir Richard, I had asked you just how you came to be tied up in that cellar. "

"I didn't tell you then," the vampire admitted.

"No. No, you didn't. Your exact words were 'I promise to tell you everything when you are the true head of Hellsing'.

"You could have forced me to tell you then, you know, " Alucard said, picking up the wineglass with his left hand "And, because of the seals, I would have been forced to obey you."

"I know you too long, Alucard," Integra said with a short, sharp laugh. "There are ways of twisting the truth. If I commanded you then, you would have told me everything. And nothing." Integra shook her head "No, even then, I was smart enough to know to wait until you actually wanted to tell me."

"And now you think you're ready to hear it?" Alucard's hand visibly tightened on the goblet stem, though he did not attempt to lift the glass to his lips.

"As head of Hellsing," Integra responded to her servant's dare, "it is my job to listen to everything the servants want to tell me," she stared directly at the handsome vampire, "even the monsters."

"Well, then," the vampire answered her, "As my Master commands." He lifted the glass, downed the blood in one swift movement and placed it empty on the floor, near his feet. Alucard thought quietly for a moment, as if carefully measuring what his next words would be. "I killed your father's wife."

"Already beginning to lie," Integra taunted the vampire "You couldn't have killed my mother. I have memories of her when I was very young."

"Did I say 'your Mother'?" the vampire remonstrated his Master, "No, I said that I killed Arthur's wife, that is, the first wife."

"My father only had one wife." Integra blurted out loudly, confusion beginning to color her voice.

"No, he did not." Alucard assured her. "Arthur…your father and the former head of Hellsing had two wives. Though I think poor Arthur erased every last detail of her from the permanent records." The vampire thought further "I don't think however, he could have erased her from his heart. A pity."

"And what was her name, then ?"Integra's curiosity was warring with her amazement and, not unexpectedly, winning.

" Mary Elizabeth Highbridge," the vampire said firmly, "though I doubt you'll find anything about her anywhere within the walls of this mansion." Alucard leaned forward in his chair, intent. "My master, perhaps you should make that one of your first priorities as the new head of the Hellsing organization. Though you'll have to take it to Scotland Yard. Everyone around here has been sworn to secrecy not to tell you. You see, he..Arthur, made the staff swear that oath on his death bed."

"So Walter knows and can't talk about it?"

"Yes, that is correct."

"Why then, Alucard, were you not sworn to secrecy as well?" Integra asked the vampire. She was hoping to catch her servant in what she thought was perhaps his best tale yet. The young head of the Hellsing organization was not believing for a minute that any of this was true.

"Arthur didn't believe vampires had souls. Therefore, there wasn't in his mind, nothing to swear on. So, I 'got away with it' as they say. And now, I'm free to tell you everything." He smiled, showing sharp, white teeth.

"So," Integra said, her fingers tapping the tufted sides of the chair, "let's say for the moment that this is true, Servant. The next logical question would be then, 'Why did you kill her?'"

"Because Arthur lied to me." Alucard physically drew himself up straighter, though he did not rise from his seat. "And, as you know, my Master, in my human life, I detested two things, liars and thieves. I built my very reputation on expunging both of those sins from my country. After I died and became a vampire, I still hated those transgressions. I will always respond to them with the most brutality."

"What do you claim my father lied to you about?" Integra asked.

"Your father was getting up in years." the vampire answered, "Arthur and I had done everything together. Even surviving the Second World War. And unlike us," the vampire gestured toward Integra, "we were even lovers for most of our time together." "Yes, " Alucard concluded, "no two people were closer than us, Arthur and I."

"And how did he break your trust?" Integra asked, impatiently, " Come on, come on, Alucard. Don't act so coy with me. I don't have all night to listen to some perverse romantic story that you probably concocted minutes after I sat down across from you."

Alucard dark eyes met Integra's blue ones. And the vampire said in a low, solemn tone, one that Integra didn't think she would ever hear from so deceitful a monster "On my Unlife, my master. I swear to you that what I've been telling you is the truth."

Inward, Integra felt shaken, as if the world had suddenly shifted under her. Though she tried to stay outwardly calm, the vampire seemed to almost scent the difference in his Master. And like the predator that he was, closed in for the kill.

"Arthur was advancing in years," the vampire began, "and we would often sit around and discuss what would happen if and when he died. He…your father, assured me that he never would marry because," here Alucard stopped and then added, a hint of malice coloring his voice "he wasn't of that inclination, as it were. And, therefore, he assured me, often when we were in " here the vampire looked over to Integra "intimate situations, I will so delicately put it, that when he died, he would free me from the seals that bound me to the Hellsing organization."

"There were nights," the vampire continued "when I would lay with him after we were…intimate…and that's all I would think about. All that would consume my thoughts. The day that I would finally be free."

"And then what happened?" Integra's voice broke the silence that had permeated the large sitting room, echoing off the walls.

"Then," Alucard said, "suddenly, Arthur began spending days, months, without me. At first, I thought it was because of our workload, you know Hellsing was popular even then. However, rumors soon started flying around that Arthur was engaged. And then, that your father was going to marry. But, servants always gossip," the vampire gestured toward Integra "and, as you know, if you believe everything they're saying, you'll go crazy trying to determine the truth from the lies. So, you ignore most of it. Or you keep some of the interesting gossip for later in the back of your mind." The vampire's voice sped up as he became more emotionally involved with the tale, "I would say to Arthur, on numerous occasions, 'I heard this' or 'So, is this true?'. And every time, every single time," the vampire drew out the former part, "Arthur would deny the rumors. Every last one. And he would always add "I promise you, Alucard, after I die, you will be free."

"So how did you know that the rumors were true?" Integra asked the vampire.

"One day Arthur left for what he called a 'vacation to the country.' And then he returned, a month later, to the Hellsing mansion. Married. With her." the vampire settled back in his chair, anger seeming to surround him, "You can imagine then, my shock at seeing her. The new Mrs. Hellsing."

"And she was a beauty, " the vampire added, wistfully, "so young. So innocent. But, in the end, I had to kill her, you see. Because she was the visible reminder of the broken promise between Arthur and I."

"But you couldn't have killed her, " Integra argued, "because you're bound by the seals of Hellsing and can only do what I command you to do. You can't carry out an order contrary to my wishes."

"Ah," the vampire corrected his Master, "you see the key phrase is 'while bound by the seals'. I planned my revenge on Arthur for months. One night, I let Arthur drink just a bit too much. And he released me from the seals. Oh, not for a long period of time you understand. Just long enough for me to torture and kill his wife." Alucard leaned down and picked up the empty glass, "I really did make certain that her death was not, how shall you say it, 'quick and easy'. When Arthur found her later that night, I left some 'interesting' evidence to show that she had died in pain." The vampire picked up the empty glass, twirling it around so that it reflected the dim light, "I wanted Arthur to feel the pain that I was feeling. So, he did. All of Hellsing remembers how loudly he cried and raved."

Alucard stood up, getting out of the chair in one fluid, graceful motion. He looked down at Integra and continued, "So, he got the Hellsing scientists, who as you know, both double in magic and in science, to cast a spell to immobilize me. I was wrapped up and placed in the cellar." Alucard looked intently toward the fireplace, "And I think, Master, you know the rest."

Without a backward glance toward Integra, Alucard silently walked toward the door, leading out of the room. It was now his Master's turn to think on it further.

"Alucard, wait." said his master, quietly but with a tone of command in her voice.

The vampire stopped and turned, "Yes, my Master? What is it?"

"I have a question," Integra said slowly, carefully, as if choosing every word, "If you were so mad at Arthur and what he had done, why do you continue to serve me dutifully without any trace of malice? I would think that the hate you felt for the father would continue to the daughter."

"Oh, that's an easy one, " the vampire said with a cold assuredness to his voice that chilled Integra to the bone, "because you're the one who will give me what I truly desire. And more." With that the vampire left the room and Integra to think on the new, dark knowledge that she had just been confronted with.

The vampire had just reached the door leading to his basement when he felt Walter approach.

"You still lied, Alucard, " the butler hissed in a low voice, "I was listening to the story you were telling her. And you forgot one small, very important detail."

"That is?" the vampire challenged the butler who was so much more than a simple Hellsing servant.

"That Arthur's wife was pregnant when you killed her. With a son."

"I don't think that would have made a difference," the vampire answered quickly. "And besides, you're sworn not to tell her."

"No, but some days, Vampire, I look at that poor girl and think that she really ought to know."

Alucard thought for a moment, "Well, perhaps someday, I'll tell her."

"Yes," Walter said, his voice low but cutting, "after she's a vampire and you're free. You'll never admit that while she's still human and you're under the Hellsing seals."

"No probably not," the vampire agreed. "You see, Walter, she is the path to my freedom. And, of course, to her own. Now, let me pass, Butler."

Walter bit back a retort and stood still watching, as the vampire descended the stairs to his coffin.