Snapshot in Time

Integra walked into the Hellsing family library only to find her vampire standing there already. That in itself would not have been cause for concern, because she'd given him free reign of the house and grounds ages ago. The dim room was cool even in the summer months, and one of her own favorite retreats. But what shocked her was that Alucard looked up as if he'd just been caught. She had never once seen him look guilty before. Usually, if he were caught doing something anyone else would feel guilty about, he'd look absurdly proud of himself. Remorse was not something he expressed very often.

But this time, he practically jumped, wary of her reaction.

She was immediately curious. What had he found? What was he looking at? She crossed the room, and he did not flee before her, though he was noticeably uneasy. If she had been someone else, she might have thought about what would make a man react that way when a woman walked into a room, but she was not accustomed to seeing situations in that way.

And so she had no qualms about putting her hand out and saying, "Give it here."

Reluctantly, he turned, and put the rather large album in her hand. Confused, she set it on a desk and opened it. They were photos. "These…these are me," she breathed, surprised.

It was an album of baby pictures. She switched the desk lamp on to get a better view. She flipped through, seeing herself progress from a baby to a toddler. "Where…where did you find this?" she asked her vampire at last.

"It was here," he said quietly, gesturing towards an empty space on the bookshelf.

"I didn't know we had this," she said, still looking at the book. "My mother must have put it together."

"So that is why it ends abruptly," he said. The last picture showed a smiling Integra with flowers in her short blond hair sitting in the grass on a sunny summer day. The pages after that were empty.

She nodded. "Mother died when I was three. I barely remember her."

She flipped back looking for a picture of her with her mother. In one, her mother held her hands as she walked across some sort of low fence post, bundled up in a warm coat. Unfortunately, it was on the page right across from the obligatory naked bath picture. At least there was bubble bath, she reflected.

"What happened?" Alucard asked. He seemed strangely subdued, not to tease her. He was always curious about what he had missed in those twenty years he'd been confined to the dungeons, though.

"There was…there was a baby. I would have had a brother. But…we lost them both. She might have been sick already; Father never wanted to talk about it."

Alucard was not good at expressing sympathy, so he changed the subject. "You were so different then."

She smiled ruefully. "I suppose I was. I grew up quickly."

"You certainly weren't a laughing child who loved sunlight when I met you," he agreed. "I would not have known these were even you, except for this one." He flipped back a few pages, and there on a chair stood a very defiant two year old Integra, arms crossed and face scrunched up in an expression that clearly said, 'NO.' Something was smeared all over her face.

She had to laugh at that. "Is that how you see me now? A child who throws tantrums?"

"No. I see your strength, Master."

She smiled ruefully. "It has been so long since I've sat in the sun." She had not thought about her preference for late nights, drawn curtains and dark interiors as an expression of lost childhood innocence before. But standing next to a vampire in her family library, she could not help but see how far she had travelled from the days of her youth. It was not altogether comforting.

"Thank you for finding this, Alucard," she said, and tucked the album under her arm. He suspected it would be reshelved in her own room. That little girl would never come back, but she could be reminded of her, at least.