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Why hadn't she sensed anything?  The only sign had been a gunshot.   Just like the first time.

For over a century, Hellsing Manor had been the headquarters of a secret branch of the British government, an organization charged with defending the United Kingdom from paranormal threats.  Accordingly, the manor was carefully guarded, and the leader of the organization, Sir Integra Hellsing, doubly so.  When Seras Victoria had heard the gunshots from Integra's bedroom, she'd assumed the worst: an intruder, an assassin, someone or something capable of circumventing the manor's defenses as though they simply did not exist.   She had raced to the bedroom, kicked in the door, and burst into the room, armed with a pair of high-caliber firearms.    

And then she had finally been able to feel it.  It had been thirty years, but the sensation was unmistakable, like a hot wind whirling in her mind, and a coppery taste in the back of her throat.  The fang marks on her neck seemed to grow oddly warm.   Her red eyes widened at the sight of the intruder, as she realized who and what he was.    

He was back.  It had taken thirty years for him to recover from what had happened in the attack on London, but he had done it, and now the vampire Alucard, Hellsing's greatest weapon, had returned.  True, he was exhausted and famished, but now that he was home that could all be put aright.  With a macabre smile, Sir Integra Hellsing had bitten her own finger and let blood from the wound trickle down onto his waiting tongue.

By the door, Seras stood by and watched.  The Hellsing family had tamed Alucard and enhanced his powers, and so he revered Integra with an almost religious devotion.  Just as she began to wonder if she should leave the two of them alone, Integra withdrew her bloody finger and clutched it in her other hand.  

"That will do for now, I think," she said.  "I've no interest in standing here all night, feeding you like a baby bird.  On your feet, Alucard.  Miss Victoria will see you out."

He stood and lowered his head, grinning like a jackal.  "As you wish, my master," he said before turning towards the door.  Seras quickly stepped aside to let him pass, and was about to follow him when she heard Integra call out to her.  

"Do close the door before you go, Miss Victoria," she said brusquely. "I'd like to get at least some sleep before dawn."

"Oh, of course, sir!" Seras replied.  She pulled the door shut, only to find that she had broken the latch in her haste to get into the room.  She shrugged and ran after Alucard, who had never broken his stride down the hallway.  

"Master!" Seras called out.  "I knew you'd return, I simply knew it!"

"Now there's a sound I haven't forgotten," he said.  "You're loud enough to wake the dead."  He cast a backward glance at Integra's door.  "Or the living, for that matter."

Seras looked behind her as well, then chuckled sheepishly.  "I'm sorry, master," she said, lowering her voice.  "It's just that... Well, this has been such a shock.  Can I get you anything?"

"Hm.  What time is it?" he asked.

"Little after four in the morning, sir," she replied.  "The sun will be up in a couple of hours."

He looked at her. "You haven't misplaced my coffin, I trust?"

She laughed.  "No, master, of course not.  It's in the sub-basement.  We put it in storage, but I can have it ready for you shortly.  I suppose you haven't had much sleep in the last thirty years."

He nodded, making the same enigmatic smirk he always did.  

She had placed the large black coffin in the sub-basement near Alucard's chair, a high-backed throne with scarlet upholstery.  Beside the chair was a cup table, bearing a crystal goblet and an ordinary ceramic mug.  Seras was dispensing the contents of a blood bag into both.  

Behind her, Alucard sat on the lid of his coffin.  "Don't tell me they've got you doing Walter's job," he said.  "After all these years, you would think they could have found a new butler."

"We have a butler, sir," Seras said as she filled the cups.  "Hudson's been with us for nearly twenty years.  He doubles as a cryptozoologist and an historian.  He's been instrumental to the Hellsing Organization, and from what I hear he brews excellent tea."  She set the empty bag aside.  "He's also eighty-eight years old, addresses me as 'Sarah', and  constantly asks about my 'Cousin Dracula'."

"I see," Alucard mused.  "I've gotten spoiled, having former vampire hunters manage the household all those years."

"He's no Walter," Seras said. "Oh, he's very good at his job, but he's extremely squeamish, to the point where he won't go near the phlebotomist we have on staff."  She lifted the cups carefully, and turned to face him.  "So in the interest of workplace harmony, I've grown accustomed to serving myself."

She handed him the goblet and raised her mug.  "To your health, Master," she said cheerfully.  

He stared at her curiously, and she withered under the scrutiny.  "Er.  Sorry?  I've never done this with anyone before.  I'm used to drinking alone.  Didn't... er, quite know the customs..."

"A toast... How appropriate," he said.   He raised his goblet and dipped his head slightly.  "Sănătate," he said, then upended the cup into his mouth.  He sighed with relief and watched Seras sip from her mug.  "It's been a long time for me as well, Seras Victoria.  Over a century since I shared a drink with my own kind.  Yes, it's kind of you to join me."

She was nervous, but then she always was around him.  He had killed her, after all.  And while the circumstances were understandable, and it had been her decision to give herself over to him, her relationship with Alucard had always been very intense for her.  As deeply as she cared about him, and as overjoyed as she was to have him back, she also felt very small in his presence.  It was as though the last three decades had never taken place, and she was still the nineteen-year-old rookie struggling to make sense of it all.  

"You seem troubled, Seras," he said.

"N-not at all," Seras said.  "Just excited."

"Is it because you've been sitting in my chair?"

The words sent a cold shiver down Seras' spine.  "Th-that was years ago!" she sputtered.  "How could you have possibly known about--?   No.  Of course you'd know.  You caught my scent on the cushion with your 'third nostril', or you've read my mind, or a hundred other tricks I've never even heard of."

"A wild guess, actually," Alucard said.  "You kept glancing at it, like you were waiting for something to happen.  I thought I'd indulge you."

She screwed up her face with embarrassment more than regret.  "That's me, Hellsing's trump card," she groaned.  "Good thing you're back, or else I'd probably give up the whole organization on a bluff."

He waved his arm toward the chair.  "Why don't you sit down?" he asked.  His tone was friendly enough, but his voice was as grave as ever.  Even a polite invitation from Alucard had a certain ring of doom beneath it.  Still, he had offered, and if he was going to scold her, it didn't really matter whether she stood or sat.  

"I meant no disrespect, sir," she said as she settled into the throne.  The fingers of her right hand grasped one of the armrests, while her left arm--a writhing mass of shadowy flame, coiled itself around the handle of her mug.  "Well, I suppose I did, actually.  I never doubted you would return, you understand.  I was sure of it.  But... well, one day I had the silly notion to come down here and wait for you, and I thought perhaps if I did something to make you angry, you would come back that much faster, just to shoo me away."

"It suits you," he said.  There was a wild look in his eye, one she hadn't seen since he fought Father Anderson.  "You cut a quite a fearsome figure sitting there.  A crimson-stained sovereign of the night, filling her enemies with despair."

"You don't have to tease me, master" she said indignantly.  "Oh, and before you trick me into confessing anything else, I ought to return this to you."  

She stood up and reached for a holster hanging from the belt of her burgundy uniform.  From this, she withdrew a large handgun, and approached Alucard to present it to him.  

"My Casull," Alucard said.  Specifically, this was a custom build of an automatic handgun designed for 0.454 caliber ammunition.  Unloaded, the weapon weighed six kilograms, making it far too unwieldy for any human, but ideal for a being possessed of vampiric strength.  

"It was found on the battlefield after you... well, after whatever they did to you that day.  Sir Integra arranged to have it returned to us.  A gun that heavy might raise a lot of uncomfortable questions.  We recovered the Jackal, too," Seras said, referring to her master's second, even more powerful handgun. "What was left of it, anyway."

"Walter sabotaged it," Alucard said dryly.  He examined the engraving on the slide and moved it from one hand to the other, enjoying the weight of it in his grip.  "I threw the Casull away just to be safe."

"I had it carefully checked, master," Seras said.  "I thought you might want it when you returned, and in the meantime..." She grew excited as she spoke. "Well it is a simply magnificent piece, sir!  I couldn't stand the thought of leaving it in some cabinet to gather dust.  And no one else can properly shoot the thing, so I started using it in the field.  I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all," he said.  "I agree completely.  But why not have a new gun commissioned?  I'm sure Hellsing could find someone up for the task.  And you always preferred larger, deadlier armaments."

"I do, master," Seras said.  "At least, when I'm providing long range fire support for you.  But you've been away, and I've had to tackle jobs that don't always give me the luxury of firing from a stationary position.  I needed something easier to transport."

"True, but in thirty years' time you could have had the Jackal reconstructed," he said as he inspected the empty ammunition chamber.  "Walter's design specifications are probably still on file somewhere.  What's so special about the Casull?"

"What a silly question, master," she said.  "Don't you remember?"  She took hold of the slide and tugged the barrel towards her, until he was pointing it at her chest.    

"This was the gun you used to shoot me," she said.  

For a long moment, there was silence in the gloomy dungeon, as both vampires stared at the weapon that had so violently brought them together.

"As I recall, it was a beautfiul night," he said.  "Though you must have a very different perspective."

She put her hand on the side of her neck and chuckled.  "You... ha-ha... You could put it that way, master," she said.  "It was memorable all right, but I don't know about beautiful.  Painful, terrifying maybe.  The funny thing is, I was more worried that you'd let the bastard go.  Or you were bluffing because you'd run out of bullets.  The sound of the gunshot was almost a relief.  But we got him!  He was our first kill together."

"Yes, I suppose he was."

"I remembered what you said when you put down all those ghouls.  'Nothing I shoot ever gets back up again.'"  She tilted her head back with pride.  "But I got up again, master.  Thanks to you, I mean.  There's something empowering about a weapon you've felt from the other end.  I could have a new gun made, but I'd hate to mothball the Casull.  I really think one of us ought to carry it."

"Perhaps we should take turns," Alucard offered.  "After thirty years, my aim has probably gotten rusty.  I think I should hold onto it until I can get some target practice."  

"Very good, master," Seras said.  

"But that still leaves the matter at hand," he said.  "What is it that disturbs you, Seras Victoria?"

She pursed her lips and went to the table to get her mug.  After downing the rest of its contents and making a heavy sigh, she decided there was no other way to stall, and so she told him.  "It's my fault, master," she said.  


"I should have drunk the blood when you told me to, back in Badrick," Seras said dolefully.  "I was foolish and scared, so I hesitated.  And for what?  Here we are, thirty years later sharing a pint without a care.  I thought I was being so noble by refusing to drink, but now it feels childish.  I was going to do it eventually.  Putting it off was a waste of time."

"The matter ended in our favor," Alucard said.  "As you say, it was inevitable that you would drink.   What difference does it make?"

"All the difference, sir!" she gasped.  "I became so much stronger.  If I had done as you'd said from the beginning, then... then none of this would have happened!   I could have secured the Eagle in your place, leaving you in London to save it from Millennium.  Or I could have repelled the vampire soldiers and stopped them from sacking the manor and killing Captain Bernadotte and his men."

Alucard stared at her curiously.  She looked into his red eyes and thought he resembled a serpent dispassionately viewing its surroundings. 

"I could have killed that vile little Schrödinger myself and stopped him from poisoning you.  Even if I couldn't have done that, I could have drank his blood in your place, and spared you from his trap.  I might have... Well, I don't know what, exactly.  But anything would have been better, wouldn't it?  You wouldn't have vanished for thirty years, and Sir Integra might still have her left eye...  But instead I resisted.  I thought I could cling to my humanity, and you and everyone else paid the price for my foolishness."

"Oh, I know what you're about to say," Seras went on.  "'Regret is a human failing, Police Girl.'  Something like that that, right?  'What difference should thirty years or a few million lives mean to the likes of us?'  Well I'm not so new at this anymore, sir.  I've been a vampire now longer than I've been a human, and I feel guiltier every year.  So if there's a way to be rid of these regrets, I wish you'd show it to me."

He began to laugh, and she stepped away almost involuntarily.  As low and soft as Alucard's laughter was, there was a sinister quality to it.   It was one of the many reasons he made her nervous, no matter how dear they were to one another.

"I'm truly flattered.  That was a masterful impression of me," he said.  

If Seras wasn't already dead, she felt as though she would have died where she stood.  She had been imitating Alucard for years.  To some extent, this was simple hero worship.  The Hellsing organization had depended on Alucard's vampiric powers for decades, and in his absence, Seras Victoria became his understudy, called upon to fill the void he had left behind.  They wanted her to be Alucard, at least in a strategic sense.  Posing as him, even in jest, helped her get a handle on the role.  

Mostly, though, she did it because it cheered up Sir Integra, though Integra herself never would have admitted it.  Though Integra was her master's master, Seras never felt any special presence from the leader of Hellsing.  They were nearly the same age, and while Seras was intensely loyal to Integra, it was mostly driven by professional respect.  The Hellsing family line surely had some sort of mystic hold over Seras, but what truly bound them together was Alucard.  Seras' master was Integra's most valued and trusted servant, and Seras found that impersonating him reinforced that sacred bond between them.  

But to imitate Alucard in the presence of Alucard was something else altogether.  Even if he approved, Seras was far too self-conscious around him to do such a thing deliberately.  Instead, she had done it unthinkingly.   He had been away for so long and reappeared so unexpectedly that she had forgotten to mind things like that.  

"A fine performance, but somewhat flawed," he said.  It was hard to tell if he was unaware of her discomfort or relishing every moment of it.  "You may know my inflections, but the words are all wrong."  He patted a section of the coffin lid beside him.  "Come sit with me."

She hung her head low and did as he said.  Part of her expected him to put his arm around her, and another part of her wished that he would, but instead he let his hands hang down between his knees, and he continued to make that baffling grin of his.  

"Regret is what defines the vampire, my faithful servant," he explained.  "Humans don't have to live with their regrets for very long.  They grow old and die long before they see the ultimate consequences of their actions; that luxury is denied to us.  You and I have centuries to watch all the dominoes fall.  None of us will ever truly know why Walter betrayed us, but it may well have been precipitated by something I did eighty-five years ago.  Perhaps it was something I didn't do.  Whatever the cause, my fate was sealed before your parents were born, Seras Victoria.  There was nothing you could have done to prevent it."

"But sir--"

"Be quiet," he said, though not as harshly as she would have expected.  "Nothing I say will convince you to abandon your regrets.  They are a silent burden we must bear for as long as we exist."  

He glanced at her and raised an eyebrow.  "You look just as you did thirty years ago.  Frozen in time, while Sir Integra has grown beautiful with age.  You see it yourself, don't you?"

She nodded stoically.  By mortal standards, time had been kind to Integra Hellsing, but it had not ignored her altogether.  At fifty-two, there was more silver than blonde in her hair, and the lines in her features had deepened gradually.  Though she kept herself in excellent shape, she still moved a trifle slower with each year.  At first, Seras felt sorry for Integra, doomed to go the way of all flesh.  But as the years wore on, she came to see the ageing process as a thing of beauty in itself, and her pity transformed into something just shy of envy.  Now, she looked forward to seeing Integra Hellsing at fifty-three, or seventy-three, or ninety-three, or however far she managed to get.  It would be a grand, glorious metamorphosis, one that Seras Victoria could admire, but never experience.

"I've taken something precious from you, Seras Victoria.  It might not seem important to you at first, but as the years become decades, and the decades become centuries, you may rue the day you met me.  You may wish you had chosen to truly die that fateful night in Cheddar."  

"Don't say that, master," she pleaded.  "You know I'm grateful for what you've done for me."

"Yes, but I also think of what might have been.  Had I acted more swiftly, I could have destroyed the vampire priest before he could have taken you as a hostage.  Then I could killed him with ease, and made you fall into a deep sleep, and I would be nothing more to you than a forgotten dream.  Or, I might have found a better line of fire, and managed to kill the priest without fatally wounding you."  He held the Casull up and pointed it into the darkness of the sub-basement, pretending to aim at an imaginary target.  "Perhaps you might have joined the Hellsing Organization after all, but as a human operative.  We might have become friends."

"I could have invited you over to my flat for dinner," Seras said with a grin.  "The neighbors would have been thrilled to have you skulking around.  Come in, Alucard, come in!  Have you met Agnes from 311?"

"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Agnes," he replied.  If Agnes were real, Seras imagined she would have been charmed and terrified all at once.

Seras smiled and began speaking in stage whispers.  "Now Agnes, I know he seems rather daft, but you must understand he's from Romania, and that's why he insists on eating nothing but borscht.  He's actually quite pleasant once you get to know him.  I hear he's even friends with the queen, if you can believe it."

"I miss borscht from time to time," Alucard said idly.  "Another regret.  Sometimes, I imagine a human Seras Victoria, but one who becomes my greatest nemesis.  A vampire hunter to make Alexander Anderson pale in comparison.  By now you'd be a seasoned veteran.  Hundreds of vampires beheaded by your hand.  Your children would beg you to retire before your body succumbs to old age, but you're driven by the last great challenge, Integra's lapdog."  He pointed to himself and grinned savagely.  
"Master!" The very idea of them as enemies was too horrible to contemplate.  He had destroyed and re-created her in his image.  She could no more betray him than she could turn against herself.

"You would make a formidable adversary as you are, but the honor of destroying me should rightly go to a human of indomitable will.  Turning you into my servant could be considered an act of supreme cowardice on my part."

"That's not true--"

"Perhaps, when I shot you, it was an act of self-preservation.  I looked into your cold, blue eyes and caught a glimpse of my own doom.  I flinched!  My heart racing, I pulled the trigger--!"

"Master, please don't talk that way.  I would never..."  

"Of course you wouldn't," he said wryly.  "I've made sure of that."

"It hardly matters, because none of those things could have possibly happened, master," Seras said.  "Even if I had survived the vampire attack in Cheddar, or the bullet from your Casull, I'd have died when the Valentine Brothers attacked the Manor, or during the battle of London."

"And so you see the conundrum I face," Alucard said.  "You and I made a choice that night we met.  I chose to offer you an reprieve from death, and you chose to accept it.  At the time, there seemed to be no harm in our decisions.  But to make you what you are, I had to rob you of everything you once were.  To accept my power, you had to yoke yourself to my obligations.  You belong to Hellsing as much as I do, if not more so.  We can look back and wonder if we chose correctly, but what's done cannot be undone.  In the end, our only solace lies in what is.  For good or ill, you and I are together again, and we have just shared a meal in our home.  You can be my faithful companion or my greatest enemy, but not both at once.  All I can do is accept one as real and forsake the other as impossibility."

He pointed the Casull at her and smiled.  "You say this weapon represents something sacred between us," he said.  "If you truly believe that, then you should feel the same way about the time when you refused to behave as a true vampire.  Cherish one as you would the other."

"I think I understand, master," Seras said.  "As much as I've missed you, as much as I wanted to seek your guidance, these past thirty years have been a tremendous opportunity for me.  I've done things I never would have had the confidence to try before."

"I meant what I said.  My throne suits you, Seras.  You've become worthy of it, just as you've proven yourself worthy to wield my weapons, and worthy to serve Helllsing in my place.  You've served our master well."

"It was the last command you gave me, sir," Seras said.  "It wasn't easy, and I'm sure you would have handled things better, but I want you to know I did my best."

"Naturally.  There was never any doubt," Alucard said.  "You've become a worthy heir.  Yet still you quail in my presence.  You'd think you'd be used to me by now."

She slouched and stared at her boots.   "To be quite honest, I had almost forgotten how it felt.  Do you even know what it's like for me?  Being around you, that is?  You've only ever served human masters."

"A moth circling the flame," Alucard said.  "I suppose that kind of awe would be distracting.  I could suppress my presence.  Would that make things easier for you?"

"No, please don't!  I mean... it's fine, master.  Though I shouldn't be surprised you can conceal yourself from me.  How else did you manage to get into the manor without my noticing?"

"You're referring to the shadow you cast over this place," Alucard said.  He stood and approached the wall behind his throne.  He scratched at the stone surface, and then a black film appeared.  It rippled and vibrated, then it faded away.  He looked back at Seras and raised an eyebrow.  "Remarkable control.  It registered my touch, but you stopped it from hurting me.   And you've extended it across every surface in the manor.  Amazing application.  How do you maintain something so large and complex?"

"It took some practice, Master, but... wait, you mean you don't already know?"

"Iscariot's envoys can't make a move in this place without you knowing it," he said smugly.  "The papists must despise you."  

Seras smiled proudly.  "I've given them plenty of reason," she said.

"Getting around this was an intriguing puzzle," Alucard said.  "I could have simply asked you to let me in, but I wanted to see how you've grown.  Perhaps you could show me how it's done."

She fought the urge to scream and simply gasped instead.  Then she clasped her hands over her face and screamed anyway.  "Me?  Show you?  I'd... I'd love that, master.  I'm sure you'd pick it up easily."

"Tonight then," Alucard said.  He gestured for her to get up off of his coffin, and when she did the lid slowly opened.  "Until then, I think it's time I lay down to rest.  This has been a most memorable homecoming."

"Master?  Before I go..."

He had already seated himself in the coffin when she spoke.  She caught the earthy scent of the soil that lined the interior, and it reminded her of her own coffin in her quarters.  They would both need to sleep soon, but she couldn't let this wait until evening.  

He leaned back until he was lying face up, his arms crossed over his chest.  His crimson eyes stared up at her expectantly.  

"I just want you to know, sir," she said, "you made the right choice that night in Cheddar."

"Indeed?" he asked.  

"Like you said, we can look back on things and ponder all the what-ifs, but in the end what's done is done.  Still, I think back on that night a lot.  Most police officers manage to go their whole career without ever drawing their guns.  I never did, although I wasn't a police officer for very long.  But I knew some who had, and they go over it a lot after the fact.  They wonder if they could have avoided it somehow, looking for mistakes they might have made."

He closed his eyes.  This, coupled with his pallid complexion and blank expression made him look like a cadaver.  Seras knelt down, reached into the box and touched one of his hands.  

"You had no other option but to shoot through me.  None whatsoever.  That monster had to be stopped before he could hurt any more innocent people.  Any cop worth his salt would have gladly sacrificed himself in that situation.  I would have.  Er, well I suppose I did, actually.  So that's how I know.  In fact, that's what they wrote in my obituary: died in the line of duty.   I have it framed in my room if you want to see.  It's what they wrote about my father.  In an odd sort of way, I'd like to think he'd be proud of that.  

"And you've given me a chance to carry on afterward.  It's bleak and frightening and awful sometimes, but so am I now.  This is where I belong.  Serving under you has been a privilege, my master.  So if you have any regrets about me, well, you just shouldn't, that's all."

The lid began to close on its own, the hinges creaking as the shadows fell upon the creature inside.  She stood back and watched.  Perhaps he didn't believe what she had said.  Perhaps it didn't matter, and he still felt remorse for failing to save her all those years ago.  Or he may not have cared one way or the other.  It was always difficult to read his moods.  What counted was that she had said the words, telling him what she had waited far too long to say.  As the coffin closed, she felt the hot wind die down, and the coppery taste in the back of her throat was muted considerably.  She turned and fetched her mug, and headed up the stairs to find her own resting place.

She took three steps toward the stair before she heard his voice echoing in her mind.    

"Such sweet words from such a melodic voice," Alucard murmured.  "I can think of no more soothing lullaby."

Seras smiled as she continued on her way.  

"So your cousin Dracula's finally come home to roost, eh?  Splendid news, absolutely splendid.  Good for you, Miss Sarah."

Seras had been too excited for sleep, and so she had ended up wandering the estate, mentally cataloguing details that had changed over the past thirty years which might be of interest to Alucard.  He had seemed so aloof in the old days, but that may have only been because he was so familiar with the manor, and he was so accustomed to having Walter handle all the logistical details for him.  Eventually, she found herself in the library, where she met Mr. Hudson, who had been poring over a book on cult activities in Scotland.  He had found a promising lead on a band of satanists Seras had been tracking, completely unaware that the case had been closed a week ago.  Seras had eviscerated the last of them personally.  Eager to change the subject, she had told him of Alucard's return.

"It's 'Seras', Mr. Hudson," she said under her breath.  "And he's not my cousin."

"I should like to meet him sometime, with Sir Integra's permission, of course," the elderly butler said.  "Fascinating to talk with a man who saw the Ottoman Empire firsthand."

"I'm sure we can arrange it," Seras said cheerfully.  "I need to introduce him to the staff anyway.  It may take a while for him to warm up to you, though."

"Er, let's make it after he's had his supper, if you don't mind," Hudson said nervously.  "Not that I don't trust the two of you, you understand.  It's just that the, er, supper in question makes me a bit weak in the knees.  If he neglected to wipe his chin, I might see it and die of fright.  It'd be terribly unprofessional of me."

Seras quickly hid her mug behind her back.  It was empty, but she hadn't cleaned it out, and she didn't want to risk Hudson fainting on her.  Again.

"Of course, at my age, things happen," he said.  "I've spoken to Sir Integra about it you know.   If I should happen to pass on while performing my duties, feel free to tuck in, Miss Sarah.  No, it's quite all right.  As long as I don't have to look at the red stuff, it's no bother to me at all.  Waste not, want not, I always say."

She struggled not to roll her eyes.  The gesture was sweet, but he didn't have to be so forthcoming about it.  "We have more than enough donors to supply two vampires, Mr. Hudson," she assured him.
"Hrm, quite.  I'd still feel better having something to offer the Count in exchange for his time," Hudson muttered.  "You're sure he doesn't take tea?  No?  Pity.  Not much use being immortal if you can't savor a good pot of tea now and then.  You know, he's very fortunate to have someone like you looking after him."

"Like me?" Seras asked.  

"Another vampire, I mean," Hudson said.  "You reach a certain age where a lot of your old friends pass on, you know.   Making new ones isn't so easy.  You keep a stiff upper lip, make yourself useful where you can, but I can only wonder what it's like for him.  He must be around six hundred years old by now.  And he's been away from other people for so long.  No tea, sleeping during the day, and confined to the estate until Hellsing has a mission for him.  Must be dreadfully lonely, I should think.  At least you know what it's like, you can relate to him more than anyone else.  And you can nurse him back to health after his ordeal."

"He seems to be perfectly fine," Seras said.  "He just needed, er, supper, and then some rest."

"Good man, good man," Hudson said.  "You know what's behind that, don't you?   It's all that stout English blood he's been noshing on for the past century.   It's strengthened him, you know.  Made him more resilient.  These Hellsing chaps who donate.  Strapping young lads.  Britain's finest.  To say nothing of you.  He must have drunk you dry, didn't he?"

Seras chuckled awkwardly.  "I suppose he did."

"Good for him that he did, I say.  Otherwise, he might have been stuck for fifty years instead of only thirty.  At least that's the way I look at it.  Glass half full, you know.  I just hope he appreciates your contributions."

"He does," Seras said quietly.  "We both do."