One

Integra's slippered feet made hardly a sound on the polished wooden stairs as she carefully made her way down the spiral staircase in the center of the largest hallway in the Hellsing mansion. It was well after midnight though the young teenager walked with purposeful strides toward the massive sitting room. From her position in the hallway, Integra could see that the room was not illuminated save for the light given off by the large stone fireplace which, was significant. The vampire, Alucard sat in his favorite tufted chair, staring into the flames. Though it was still early in October, the weather had turned unexpectedly chill and so the large, roaring hearth had been lit early. Integra did not enter the room immediately but stood in the massive oak doorway, watching the dark, solitary figure. She was clad in finely tailored white silk pajamas and a matching robe, which she unsashed and retied more tightly against the cold. As Integra remained standing, she found that she could make out a few more details by squinting her eyes against the darkness.

The vampire appeared to be drinking his nightly supply of warmed medical blood out of his favorite crystal goblet. The frosted decanter on the small table next to him was still half-full with blood, the dark, swirling liquid adding more than a touch of foreboding to the entire scene.

"I know you're standing there, my Master," Alucard said into the surrounding air, "so you may as well come inside, instead of lurking there in the doorway like a ghost."

During the day, when Integra was out in the bright sunshine, she had no trouble convincing herself that the vampire posed no threat to her, physically or emotionally. Standing here, in the darkened Hellsing mansion, it was another thing entirely. Oh, Integra realized that, because of the magical seals, the vampire could never do anything to her against her will. However, in the darkest hours of the night, the young Hellsing leader was uncertain whether she could have the strength to oppose the increasingly seductive invitations of her servant. Or more frighteningly, whether she would not want to.

Integra stepped into the wood-paneled sitting room, feeling not quite like prey being toyed with by a very large and very hungry predator. Another tufted chair of the same color and manufacture was sitting beside Alucard's, with only the small table and blood decanter between them. Integra sat down quietly, reclining against one of the brocade pillows.

The vampire turned and regarded the girl with hot, hungry eyes but said nothing, only catching her gaze as he paused to refill his glass.

Staring into the flames, Alucard began drinking more of the blood. Integra looked over at her servant and watched as the red liquid passed through his lips and down the long, white column of bare throat. The vampire's throat glowed eerily white in the firelight. He swallowed, his throat working. Once, twice.

"Shouldn't you be in bed, my Master?" the vampire asked, his sibilant dark voice, rich with sinful promise.

"I had insomnia. Again." Integra said simply. "Though I was warned that dissertations do take a toll on you."

"But you'll be graduating soon," Alucard pointed out, "and think about how much better you'll feel once it's all over."

"You know," Integra confided to her servant in a low, soft voice, "I almost feel like giving up. I mean, I'm only seventeen. I could probably pick it up again later on in my life."

"But then, if you don't you might regret it," the vampire answered her. "And regret is not something you want to live with much of." Alucard regarded the bloody glass and finished the blood remaining in it in one single swallow.

"And the big, bad vampire knows something about regret?" Integra asked, her voice mockingly louder. "I thought an immortal being like you would not feel something so trivial an emotion as regret."

"Immortality confers a long life, that is true," the vampire agreed, "but with a long life comes many choices to be made. And as a result of those choices, can be regrets."

"Oh, come on, Alucard," Integra chided her servant, "what regrets could you possibly have? No," she held up her hand toward her servant, "don't tell me about all the women that you could have had but were magnanimous and let them go. Tell me about your biggest regret, Alucard." The teen settled back in the tufted chair with a self-satisfied smirk on her face. She adjusted the soft pillow in back of her for her maximum comfort and crossed her legs. "This one, I just have to hear."

"Mina…It was Mina," Alucard said in a quiet, but compelling voice. The vampire looked over toward directly at his Master, his eyes burning into hers, "Know this," he commanded, "I don't regret the entirety of my relationship with Mrs. Harker. Only how it ended is the one true regret that has haunted me these many, many years."

"And that is?" Integra asked her servant.

"Ah, well, for that I have to go back and explain some details," the vampire said. "Otherwise what I have to impart to you about my regret will make no sense."

"So, explain it, then," the young Hellsing master said, impatience coloring her voice.

"Ah, the young, the young," Alucard made a clucking sound with his tongue and teeth, "always wanting things rushed. Never savoring the moment. The experience." The vampire regarded his master and smiled sensually, saying,"You know, so many things should be taken slowly, Miss Integra. Or they tend to lose their….emphasis, as it were."

"The story, Alucard, the story." Integra was glad for the darkness. It hid the coloring that had crept its way into her cheeks.

"Anyway," the vampire continued, "though you may not want to believe it, Mina was mine in every way that counted, after our first night together."

"Not according to Stoker," Integra offered.

"No, " the vampire conceded, "but then, his source was Mrs.Harker's husband, Jonathan. And, of course, you understand that Harker's tale is colored by his emotions toward me. But, no matter," the vampire waved his large white-gloved hand dismissively, "Mina and I were lovers and passionate ones at that. Each night, well, more nights than Stoker has given me credit for, I'd come to her window and scratch lightly on the window pane. After putting her husband into a deep sleep with a little persuasive suggestion, Mina would run quickly to the window and open it, allowing me entrance into her bedroom. She'd fall into my arms and cling to me, almost painfully, much like she was trying to push my body into hers, trying to make us one. We'd then either end up making love on the nearby settee or depositing Jonathan on such said furniture before taking over the bed. Ah, I enjoyed her," Alucard added, smiling mischievously at his Master, "she was always such an eager and athletic partner. As I know you'd be….Integra."Alucard's voice was low and seductive in the surrounding darkness.

"You know nothing of that sort," Integra answered Alucard, with more coldness than she felt.

"Oh, but I've watched you in your private, intimate moments, " the vampire persisted, "and you are so full of…potential."

"Get back to the story, Servant," Integra said, quickly, "After all, this is about you, not about me."

"If you wish, my Master," Alucard answered, smoothly. "So," he continued, "we come to that fateful night in Stoker's book, just around this time of the year, in fact. The wee hours of the morning of October 3, if I am correct. That night, Mina's passion for me surpassed anything I would have expected of her. She was totally uninhibited, wild…simply magnificent. The men were out hunting me, most of them anyway, so I was free to come to her early and enjoy pleasures for a good part of the night. Though she experienced fulfillment several times over the course of the night, I remained guarded in my passion, almost closed off. As we laid together, sated from our previous activities, Mina asked me if she could do anything that would increase my pleasure. Sort of a gift from her to me for all the sensual experiences I bestowed upon her. So," the vampire continued, "I explained that there was no greater fulfillment for me than if she drank from me as I had done to her. Mina, knowing the intense pleasure that she had experienced when I drank her blood, wanted me to feel that from her."

"So you regret exchanging blood with her, " Integra offered.

"No, not at all," Alucard said, "It is an experience unsurpassed by everything else. I could never regret that."

"Then, where is the regret?" Integra asked the vampire.

"Ah, well, that comes from what happened later. As I'm sure you know by having read the book. Yes, the vampire hunters caught us in a pretty high state of passion. And, of course, you know the rest, of how they chased me away with their host and I fled. No, I do not regret that night, " Alucard said, solemnly, " I regret not coming back for her. Not coming back to Mina and telling her that I wanted her above all else. But I felt something for her that I had not felt for anyone since I had been changed. And, that confused me, upset me. For once, I looked into myself and found my courage wanting. Somehow, I knew that if I faced her again and saw the hatred that she had for me in her eyes, it would destroy me as surely as any physical stake through the heart. Perhaps, if I had come back to her, we could have talked about things. And, maybe," Alucard concluded, softly, "everything would have ended just a bit differently."

"You're deluding yourself," Integra said with a short, sharp laugh "After being branded, Mina finally realized all that you were evil, a monster."

"Perhaps," Alucard agreed, "though I do not know for certain how things would have turned out had I returned to her."

The vampire's eyes fixed on his master, dark and challenging. Integra found herself unable to look away from her servant. She felt all of the taunts built up in her mind to be used at a later time toward the vampire slip away from her. For once in her life, Integra could not think of a rejoinder to level at her servant.

"And, not even you," Alucard continued, "not even your grandfather could be able to tell me what would have happened, what might have changed, had I returned to Mina. And that," the vampire said simply, "is my one, single regret."

Alucard, almost without making a perceptible sound, picked up his wineglass and decanter. "It is always a pleasure spending time with you, Miss Integra. However, the hour is growing late and I fear that both of us need to attend to other things."

And with that, the vampire, got up, out of the tufted chair in one single, boneless motion. With not even a glance backward at his master, he willed himself to vanish into thin air and reform in the dark cellar, near his coffin.

The Master of the Hellsing mansion remained in her chair, staring at the dying fire. It was sometime later, just when the sky was turning pink, that Integra removed herself from the sitting room and went to bed, falling at once, into a deep, dreamless sleep.