On the coldest nights in January, the church soup kitchen was always full. The homeless took refuge there to escape the blistering cold. But on that night, the basement cafeteria was near empty.

Old Mrs. Wharton recognized Alucard instantly and waited for him inside the door.

He looked unsure of himself. He rocked back and forth on impossibly long, black legs, sniffing the frozen air, making no breath. He wanted to come inside but he didn't belong there. He remained indecisive, half-hiding on the other side of the street, drawn to the light of the building on an otherwise dark block.

An older, shorter woman with a dirty apron and gold crucifix came to join the taller Mrs. Wharton at the door. "He wants another blanket? Wharton? Give one to him. Maybe he'll go away."

Wharton squinted. She was somber, dressed in gray, early seventies. She was a widow and had loved her husband and didn't think very much of widows who trussed themselves up. "I think he wants to sleep here again."

Mrs. Luft peered over Mrs. Wharton's shoulder. She was even older than Mrs. Wharton, and her prejudices were older. "Don't let him in."

Mrs. Wharton snorted at her fellow elderly companion. "You want I should make a list of desirables and undesirables? Should we put a guard by the door?" She brushed by Luft and grabbed a blanket from the stack. "I'll give him one," she said. "No one else is coming anyways." She went back to the door.

"He's a serial killer. People disappear since he been around." Mrs. Luft was a skinny woman who used to be fat, her loose skin bunched under her chick like a rooster waddle that flapped when she gossiped. "Look how nobody else comes tonight." She went back down the stairs to the cafeteria, muttering.

Alucard intently watched the old women from outside.

Mrs. Wharton wanted Alucard to hurry up and make up his mind so she wouldn't have to contend with Lena for the rest of the night. She wouldn't continue to blather on about him if he came inside. All on her own, Mrs. Luft had decided (simultaneously) that Alucard was a terrorist, a drug dealer, an AIDS patient and a war vet with post traumatic stress. Wharton wondered with some seriousness how Mrs. Luft could function in her own reality, so rich with danger.

Mrs. Wharton cracked open the door."Alucard?" she called, waggling her blanket at him. She didn't want to go outside. It was too cold. She could feel the moisture instantly evaporate on her hand and her skin turned white and dry. "Alucard? Come take this from me." She felt like she was calling a cat. Here puss-puss.

He didn't budge.

"You don't have to come inside if you don't want to, but take this. It's free." She looked him over carefully. His red coat didn't look winter worthy. "Take it already. I can't feel my fingers."

Alucard quickly crossed the street. When he reached out, Mrs. Wharton put her white, bony hand on his sleeve. "Rescue me from her," she said in a low, serious voice. "If you don't come inside, she'll start…it'll never end."

Alucard didn't move in either direction right away and Mrs. Wharton had a moment to look at his face. Alucard was a handsome looking man, his age indistinguishable. He had deep smile lines and heavy bags under his eyes, suggesting he was in his mid-forties, but he also had flawless skin and never had five o'clock shadow, never, and that shaved off a few years. He also spoke carefully with a clear, solid voice that she appreciated. The homeless smelled and rambled, crazies beyond saving. He didn't. But he kept to himself.

It saddened her a great deal to see this man was still wandering the streets. She had seen him off and on since the summer and didn't look to be doing any better then when she first laid eyes on him. "We have soup," she offered.

Alucard looked at her uncomfortably.

She let go of his arm. "Ok, Alucard. I don't want to be rude. I said you could have this blanket and you can have it."

He looked down at the blanket. It was brown. "I'll come in for a few minutes," and he ascended the stairs to join her inside the foyer.

Mrs. Wharton was always taken aback by Alucard's height. She was used to looking at him while he was sitting, eating. He was inhumanly large, and towered above her by at least a foot and a half. But then, since osteoporosis had set in, Mrs. Wharton felt everyone in the world towered over her. She had to crane her neck to see all of Alucard. She felt better after he went down to the basement and sat at one of the tables.

Mrs. Luft scattered when she saw Alucard come inside. She exploded into a string of German and disappeared into the kitchen.

"You want some soup?" Mrs. Wharton asked apologetically.

Alucard didn't answer, just shrugged off his red coat and set it next to him. He pulled the blanket over his shoulders.

The German cursing became louder and harsher and old Mrs. Luft appeared from the kitchen with a steaming bowl of soup. To Mrs. Wharton's surprise, she set it down in front of Alucard and set a spoon with it, then stormed off in appropriate Luft fashion without so much as a "How-do-you-do?" Alucard's red, red eyes followed the woman.

Such red eyes. Drug addict? Mrs. Wharton wondered silently, looking at those bloodshot eyes.

Don't do that, she chided herself. Don't judge people. So what if he is? And besides, that doesn't mean anything. Mrs. Wharton suddenly became aware that Alucard was staring at her.

"Excuse me. I'll get some rolls, " Mrs. Wharton said pleasantly, hurrying away. She practically ran to the kitchen, going through a set of double doors. It was a mistake, because Mrs. Luft was waiting there, anxiously stirring the large soup pots.

"Why do you let him in here?" Mrs. Luft hissed. "What's wrong with you?"

"It's what we volunteered to do."

"I volunteered to feed good, unfortunate Christians, not junkies," Mrs. Luft sulked.

"I'm Jewish," Mrs. Wharton interjected, as if that made any difference.

Apparently, it didn't to Mrs. Luft because she blathered on without listening: "I volunteer at the blood drives, too. I've see him hanging around there, sniffing around, sneaking around, looking for needles. He's a pusher. He's no good. Don't let him stay here much longer, he doesn't deserve the refuge of God's house."

Mrs. Wharton wanted to tell Mrs. Luft a few choice words, but instead she took a basket of dinner rolls and a handful of napkins and headed out of the kitchen.

Alucard had completely disregarded the spoon. It laid uselessly on the table. His head was pressed into the bowl and he was actively lapping the broth with his tongue. He ignored the beef.

She sat down across from him and put the napkins on the table.

He didn't look at her directly and he faced his bowl, looking for all the world like a dog guarding his meal. He even put his hand on the table, as if he thought Mrs. Wharton would try to take the bowl away.

She sat quietly, looking at his hand. It was large and bony, like hers, and completely white. His fingernails were very long and yellow and there was dirt in them. "I'm really glad you came back tonight. It's bad out side."

Alucard nodded slowly. "I was hungry."

"Feeling better yet?"

"No. Not yet." Now he was looking directly at her.

"Have you found any work yet?" That was the thing Mrs. Wharton remembered most about Alucard when she first met him. He'd said then that he'd lost his job suddenly, unexpectedly. His eyes had raked over the workers and he spoke feverishly to Mrs. Wharton when she said "Hello" to him—as if he hadn't had a conversation with another human being for a while. She'd made simple small talk, and he listened intently and nodded, as if she was giving the weather report.

"No," Alucard responded.

"What did you say you did before?"

"A servant." His shoulders relaxed a little. "I wanted for nothing."

Mrs. Wharton didn't understand. "Where have you been living now?"

He pointed at the door. "Out there."

"You should have a friend put you up-say, what about your little girl? Your daughter."

Alucard stirred his soup.

"Didn't you tell me you had a little girl?"

"Seras isn't speaking to me." He set down his spoon. "She's much more loyal to her mother."

Mrs. Wharton paused. She remembered Alucard telling her that his wife was dead, and she found a special comradely with him in that sense. He was so young to have lost a spouse. Now he was giving her conflicting accounts of his life, and liars made her nervous.

Alucard sensed her confusion. "My wife is dead. Seras's new mother is….a kind of adopted mother. When I didn't live up to my duties…she stepped in….took over…." He waved her off. "I'm an old man. Don't try to make sense of my family history. It's long a complicated and not very interesting. I hate listening to people gush on and on about their families. I keep mine to myself."

"He-he, 'old man,'" she chuckled. "You're an old man. Okay. I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to be nosey." Mrs. Wharton stood up. "I'm going to go help the curmudgeon."

Alucard's red eyes glazed over. "She pretends to be hard. But she's saying a prayer for me."

Mrs. Wharton blinked. She turned around and looked at the kitchen doors. "You can hear her from here?" She looked back at him. She frowned. "What's wrong?"

Alucard was swaying, his head bowed over his bowl.

She leaned down. "Alucard?"

Alucard's boney hand reached out and touched Wharton's wrist, his eyes wide. His hand was white, his fingernails long and yellow, black tattoos (or burns) etched into his flesh.

She yelped at his icy skin.

Alucard's eyes were great big red saucers, staring at her. They were impossibly deep.

But Mrs. Wharton was too distracted by Alucard's icy skin to fall into his haunting depths. She yanked her hand back, rubbing her wrist as if he'd burned her. "Good God!" she scolded. "Your hands are cold! Why don't you have gloves? We give away gloves, you know."

Alucard sat still a moment. Then he withdrew his hand and put it under the table.

"I could get you a new coat," Mrs. Wharton said. "I have a coat that would fit you. We have a coat drive…"

At that, Alucard frowned. "I like this coat," he said defensively, looking down at his folded coat. "It was a gift from my former employer."

"From your former employer?" Mrs. Wharton said in disbelief. "Do you know what cheap things corporations give away?"

"It's far from cheap." Alucard picked up his coat. "This coat is over one hundred years old. And it was worn by Abraham VanHelsing on the day I came into his service." He turned it over and opened it, showing the lining. "It's Moroccan leather, which gives it its red color," he boasted. "It has a reinforced lining and hundreds of large and small pockets to carry…really, anything…"

"'Abraham VanHelsing…," she repeated slowly. "'That name sounds awfully familiar. Where have I heard it?"

"'Dracula.'" Alucard answered directly.

Mrs. Wharton pursed her lips. She wasn't understanding his joke.

Suddenly, Mrs. Luft was at the table. "Wharton, come help me. Now."

Mrs. Wharton gave Alucard an apologetic look and stood up. Alucard watched them go.

Mrs. Luft took Mrs. Wharton's arm and dragged her into the kitchen. "What? What?" Mrs. Wharton asked.

"Look." Mrs. Luft went through the double doors and to the narrow window. From their sub-floor, the window was only a narrow pane looking out on the sidewalk and the street. But there were five black vans with no markings and dozens of para-military troops swarming around them in Kevlar and body armor carrying automatic weapons, bullet proof shields and riot helmets.

Mrs. Wharton gasped. "What is this?"

Mrs. Luft said nothing. She hid behind Mrs. Wharton, staring in silence over her shoulder.

They both heard the front doors being kicked in. They cried out and fell to the floor, staring at the double doors. Boots hammered the stairs as unseen soldiers poured into the building.

As Mrs. Wharton lay on her belly on the floor, she hissed urgently; "Alucard! Alucard!" She held her breath and shut her eyes, expecting any moment for the thugs to bust through the kitchen doors.

But no one came. The sound of boots stilled.

There was silence for a time.

Mrs. Luft and Mrs. Wharton panted on the floor, then gathered their legs and scooted to the corner. They held each other and waited in a mixture of terror and confusion. But still, nothing happened.

"Why would anybody raid a church?" Mrs. Luft sobbed quietly. "What is this?"

Mrs. Wharton had no answers. She just stared at the door.

A moment later, the soup boiled over on the stove.

Mrs. Wharton watched the thick broth bubble up and over the pot, globs of soup running down the side and into the flames on the stove. The flames licked the soup, creeping up the pot. Nervously, she crawled over to the stove and with a shaking hand turned off the flame, and the licking flames sizzled to nothing. She had to rise up on her knees to do it, and just as she did she could peer into the port-holes on the double doors and she could see a woman pass by.

Mrs. Luft whispered, "Wharton! Come back here!"

Mrs. Wharton slowly rose to her feet and crept forward. She crossed the kitchen and edged towards the door, peering up on her tip-toes, looking out the little circular windows on the double-doors.

In the cafeteria, Alucard still sat at the table, head hanging over his bowl.

A woman was walking towards him. Shuffling, really. A tall woman in a dark suit. She walked stiffly.

"I waited thirty years for you. And then you run off."

Alucard lifted his head and greeted the faceless woman. "Good evening."

The woman sat down across from Alucard. "I've been looking everywhere for you. I even went to Hungary and Transylvania and searched your castles."

"Are they still there?" Alucard asked with a hint of longing.

"They're museums now."

"Are my wife and children still buried there? Or were their headstones turned over to make way for gift shops and highways?"

"No, they're still there."

Alucard asked, "Their graves….?"

"Are property of the state. They're lovingly tended to and adorned with gifts and flowers from tourists."

Alucard relaxed.

The woman asked, "You've never gone back to see for yourself?"

Alucard shook his head 'no'. "They are my ancestral lands. If I went back…I'd feel honor bound to reclaim them for myself. I'd rather honor my wife and my children by not starting another war I can't win." A smile ghosted across his lips.

"That's….eerily mature and rational, Alucard."

Alucard didn't respond.

The woman said, "It's not like you. Maybe your thirty year absence has skewed my perception of you."

"No," Alucard said. "Your memories aren't wrong. But killing the three million, four hundred twenty-four thousand, eight hundred sixty-seven souls inside me…has spoiled my appetite for blood." He stirred his spoon in the soup.

"You were hungry enough to drink my blood," the woman pointed out.

Alucard continued to swirl his spoon around, not looking at her.

"Weren't you?" she pried.

He didn't answer.

Softly, the woman asked, "You didn't really expect me to still be a virgin after all those years, did you?"

Alucard's head drifted down a little. "No, not really."

"'Not really?'"

"I wasn't expecting the husband." He set down his spoon. "I'll be honest. I wasn't expecting that." He smirked. "Well. I had my hopes. Maybe, just maybe your blood would be unspoiled. That we could…spend our days together, count and countess. Two vampires."

The woman said firmly, "I told you a long time ago, I wasn't going to compromise my humanity…"

"I know," Alucard said.

They were both quiet.

"It's just…," Alucard started.

The woman waited.

"A solider goes to war…leaving behind his bride…he hopes…"

The woman said, "You were the one who told me 'Good-bye.' Not, 'I'll return.' That 'Good-bye,' was the most painful thing I ever heard." She paused. "Especially after you had just told me how good it was to be home. That 'Good-bye' was very, very hurtful."

Alucard said, "I'm sorry."

The woman nodded.

"Sir Irons treats you well," Alucard said. "And your children are very well behaved."

"There's been some snickering about our age difference in certain social circles," the woman chuckled. "But he never shied away from a strong, older woman. He always understood it was my house. But he's always been a strong man in his own right, inheriting his duties as the leader of the Round Table. We've been a strong duo and Hellsing is better for it."

"He looks like his father."

She nodded. "He does."

Alucard said nothing.

She waited.

"You love each other?"

"Yes."

He sat still. "You're sure?"

The woman said slowly and resolutely; "It wasn't the girlish crush I had on you. I wasn't overwhelmed by a supernatural force larger than myself that whisked from the shadows to save my life. What he and I share is mutual, loving and genuine. And it's between two human beings who love life, not death, and can navigate an imperfect path to whatever end."

At that, Alucard nodded. "Forgive me. I still find you…overwhelming."

The woman smiled. "Come home, Alucard. You are long over due."

Mrs. Wharton watched as the two rose together. Alucard followed the woman with some difficulty, but she kept his hand clasped in her arms and he went where she led, his head down.

When they were gone, the soldiers left as suddenly as they arrived.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

In February, there was a coat drive.

Mrs. Wharton and Mrs. Luft sat at a table, accepting coats from people standing in line. As a family shuffled aside after dropping off their donation, a familiar man stepped up.

Mrs. Luft gasped.

Mrs. Wharton looked up in surprise. "Alucard!"

Alucard stepped up to the counter. "Hello again." He was dressed in plain black. His red coat was folded neatly in his arms.

Mrs. Wharton had so many questions, but all she could do was look at his red coat. "You're giving it away? But you love that coat."

"It's just a thing." Alucard handed it to her. "It's good to let go of things you don't need anymore."

Mrs. Wharton accepted the coat, but she was afraid Alucard would leave right away. Quickly, she asked, "Is everything…better?"

"I have my old job back," he answered simply.

"Good, good!" Mrs. Wharton praised nervously. "And….and your daughter….?"

"We're talking again."

Mrs. Wharton nodded. "And….her mother?"

Alucard shrugged slightly. "We're talking."

Mrs. Wharton nodded again.

Alucard added. "We take it one day at a time."

Mrs. Luft suddenly said, "I pray for you, Mr. Alucard!"

Mrs. Wharton looked at Mrs. Luft in puzzlement.

"Thank you, Mrs. Luft," Alucard said. He looked at Mrs. Wharton. "And thank you, Mrs. Wharton." With that, he left and he vanished in the crowd.

Mrs. Wharton looked down at the leather coat in her hands.

"I don't think I've ever told him my name," Mrs. Luft mused, looking at her friend. "Have you?"

Opening the coat up, Mrs. Wharton looked inside the collar and it read; 'Made for Abraham VanHelsing - 1890.'

The End.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Author's Note:

I wrote this story because I terribly dislike OCs in Hellsing fanfiction.

But before I get labeled for unjustly hating them as a concept due to some irrational prejudice, let me say this: I find them irritating. They're always a love interest to one of the main characters, which baffles me because Kohta Hirano wasn't coy when it came to pairing up his own characters. And I say "love interest" loosely; they are infrequently, if ever, interesting, and never a pleasure for me to read about.

And so, with that in mind, I've had OC's on the brain a lot lately. As a reader, what would an OC have to be to please me? Well, not a love interest, first of all. And they would have to fulfill some function that the existing cast of characters could not. On top of that, their role would have to be pivotal in such a way that it couldn't be fulfilled by a nameless, walk-on character. In other words, an OC would have to be created out of necessity to fulfill the needs of a story….not the opposite, not creating a Hellsing fanfic to display an OC and then fashioning a story around that OC.

And so…what's the time stamp on this file….Jesus, I've had the beginning of this story saved on my hard drive since 2007. Why have I not finished it and posted it until now? Because I don't enjoy reading about OC's and I can't imagine anyone else does, either. So why post something I know may be self-serving? Everyone claims they hate Mary Sues, but thinks their own Mary Sue is an exception.

I have no reason to believe my story will be received any differently. So I appreciate your candid feedback.