Underworld - The Turning

Written by
Wendy Dale Smith
st7ci@hotmail.com

STORY COMPLETED APRIL 20, 2004

A story based on the original Underworld concept and characters created by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, and Danny McBride.

***NOTE***
VERY special thank yous to Bronwyn/Moonmip and Nadia1 for beta reading this story. I could not have finished it without them.

***TO CONTACT ME***
If you would like to contact me personally, please use st7ci@hotmail.com.

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Chapter 1

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Life, I have found…is a series of painful adjustments…

To escape the bloodshed of a war that no longer held meaning, Selene brought us to the safety of the mountains…to a refuge known to her alone…

Here we have hidden…since the night she killed Viktor, the great vampire elder, her sire.

Almost two seasons have past since that night…the night I came into being…

I am the culmination of a dead lycan's dream…Lucian's dream…I am a hybrid of both lycan and vampire…and, to most…an abomination…

Coping with that reality has been the most difficult adjustment of all…living with the knowledge that I am an outcast among outcasts…a monster to monsters…

Through this trial, Selene has been my mentor…my patient guide…without her, I would be lost…

I see her disquiet, her worry…winter is coming…the nights grow longer...and time is running out for us…

Soon they will come…they will find our shelter in the mountains, and tear it down…brick by brick.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~

Michael decided to take a break. Carefully, he lowered the stack of shingles and sat down heavily on the pinnacle of the steeply graded rooftop. The sun had reached its zenith several hours ago and would soon disappear behind the western mountainside. He pulled off his fleece jacket. With a deep cleansing breath, he took in the magnificent countryside, amazed once again at the remarkable twist his life had taken.

The view before him was breathtaking. With its prime location in the Alps, the Montafon Valley of Western Austria was a large network of river valleys that provided a popular skiing destination for many Europeans. Relatively rustic and simple compared to the surrounding Alpine region, the Montafon managed to maintain a sense of timeless calm amid grandiose and rugged snowcapped peaks. The chalet-style farmhouse on which he sat was unexceptional, a common sight in this area of Europe. It was nestled in the remote southern valley of Vergalda, named for the tiny village huddled within it. From his vantage he could clearly see the village, as well as the equally small resort town of Gargellen in the middle distance.

It was October. He eyed the autumn sun warily as it sank toward the horizon. Michael judged he had only an hour or so before its heat could no longer damage his sensitive skin. He burned so easily now, since the turning. I miss being able to tan, he thought for what must have been the thousandth time. He recalled that, as a medical intern, he lamented having no time to see the sun. The irony was, now that he did have the time, it irritated him.

With a slight grimace, Michael felt yet again the sheer loneliness of the location. He would eagerly spot the occasional hiker or biker on the rural road below, but no one ever ventured into the quiet inlet in which the farmhouse sat. That was exactly what Selene wanted.

Michael sighed as his thoughts darkened.     

Selene had brought them here after they escaped Budapest, the night she killed Viktor. That journey alone had been a horrifying learning experience for Michael. They had managed to steal back into Ordoghaz to retrieve "some essentials," as she had called the weapons, ammunition and other mysterious items they had hurriedly stowed into an SUV.

The mansion had been in complete pandemonium. While the majority of warrior Death Dealers went to exact their revenge upon the newly discovered lycan horde, those indolent and dissolute vampires that remained behind were at a loss without a clear leader. All had heard of the assassination of Amelia and the Council. Kraven and his bodyguards were nowhere to be seen. No one yet knew of Viktor's demise, or that Selene had caused it.

Selene certainly did not enlighten them. Dismissing the depraved immortals, she ordered the few rookie Death Dealers left behind to continue guarding the gate. She left without saying another word. No one questioned her about the battle with the lycans, or wondered about the strange man who quietly waited for her outside. Selene almost regretted that no one tried to stop her. In her fury, she had been half tempted to finish the job she had started with Viktor. If it hadn't been for Michael and her desire to get them to safety, she would have.

She didn't spare a glance back as she peeled through the gate, vowing never to return to that nest of vice and deception. Viktor was dead. For Selene, the long war was over.

The thousand kilometer drive had started that night and didn't end until well into the next evening. Complaining that the trip would take twice as long during the day, Selene had spent the daylight hours sealed tightly in a modified black body bag. She'd given him no warning she had planned to do this. She matter-of-factly stopped the vehicle at dawn, relayed a list of tasks and directions for him, then ignored his discomfort as she unceremoniously zipped herself into the death shroud. Her last words had been, "Let's just hope the sun doesn't affect you."

Selene was all business. In retrospect, Michael supposed she had acted that way for his sake, keeping him focused and just too busy to give into the enormity of what had just happened to him. She seemed to take the traumatic events of the previous forty-eight hours in remarkable stride. Michael, however, was a very different matter.

The entire drive, Michael could neither eat nor drink he was so incredibly on edge. He drove nonstop. With his new hybrid state, he couldn't cope with the sudden energy at his disposal. His senses were in overdrive. Abject fear, coupled with the disjointed memories from both Lucian and Selene, made him extremely punchy. After several hours of silence within the repulsive cloth coffin, Selene suddenly blurted out an inquiry to their location. "Where the hell are we?!" With a startled curse, he irrevocably bent the thick metal steering wheel and nearly sent them careening into yet another river. Selene didn't speak again until nightfall.

When the sun was well below the horizon, she had unzipped herself and quietly moved to the passenger seat. Noting the bent steering wheel, she cocked an eyebrow and said, "I suppose doctors aren't used to hearing voices from body bags." Her tone suggested he quickly get used to those kinds of oddities. Gripping the bent metal wheel, he stared at the wet road in front of them, saying nothing for the remainder of their trip. Selene ignored his stressed emotional state. She began to explain what was going to happen to him. His education had begun.

She had bought the Austrian farmhouse back in the early 1930s. Taking advantage of a depression that spread like a blight from America, Selene had acquired it through silent auction from a bankrupt landowner. No one in the coven knew about the transaction. She had used money given to her by Viktor, just before he went into his long two hundred year sleep. He had advised her to invest the money quietly, warning prophetically that Kraven could become a problem for her. Because she had been turned by Viktor himself, the Elder knew Kraven would not resist the heightened purity and power she possessed. Viktor decided he couldn't leave his favorite without some kind of leverage.

Ever the eager young pupil, Selene had done exactly as Viktor advised, hiring her own human brokers while secretly learning to invest as the most savvy Wall Street tycoon. Time was on her side. Thirty years later, she had accumulated more than enough wealth to buy several castles, and more if she desired such decadent conditions. But a more clandestine accommodation had been her goal. The relatively small and secluded Austrian farmhouse had been the ideal find. Through the ensuing years, it had been a place to escape, a secret refuge in the rare periods she wasn't hunting lycans.

Despite its remoteness, Selene had seen that the house was well maintained, even hiring a woman from the neighboring farm to watch over it in her absence. As time passed, care of Selene's home was inherited by the woman's granddaughter. Able to roam about in daylight, Michael saw the middle-aged woman at least once a week, much to Selene's discomfort. Selene never indulged in such familiarity with humans. She had always kept her relationship with her neighbors very formal. She let them draw their own conclusions about who she was. It was a safe bet any gossip would not involve vampires. She knew she had nothing to fear from them. And for the most part, Selene and Michael were left to their privacy. 

Gazing down the valley filled with vibrant fall colors, Michael acknowledged that if he had to pick one spot to hide, this would be it. He realized he couldn't blame his loneliness on this beautiful place. The peace it provided was probably the only thing that kept him sane as he learned to cope with who and what he had become.

Michael knew the real cause of his dejection was something entirely different, something sleeping safely in the cellar below the house, something icy, impervious, and completely irresistible. To be so close to Selene month after month, and yet to hold himself aloof from her, was becoming unbearable.

From the start, Selene dismissed the emotions they shared those brief and dramatic moments in Budapest. "A temporary lapse of reason, nothing more," she told him their second night in the valley. She had been showing him where he would sleep. It was quite apparent he didn't need to be sheltered from daylight so she sent him to the second floor. As far away from the basement as she could get him, he noted grimly.

She tried to reason away what he had felt for her even then, what he had hoped she felt for him in return. "You're obviously being influenced by Lucian's memories. They will fade eventually," she said with an impatient disdain that would later become very familiar to Michael. But in the beginning, it just pissed him off.

"And your memories? Will they fade too?" He couldn't resist the quiet taunt, or the satisfaction of seeing her wince. It had been the most disturbing aspect of his change, to experience someone else's memories like they were his own. To experience Selene's memories was twice as hard because she had so strongly imprinted her recent experiences. Many of them involved Michael. To remember her emotions, projected back upon himself, often left him holding his head in agony. Michael had felt nothing but relief when her emotions had finally faded from his mind.

She had confessed her attraction to him and dismissed it all in the same breath. In Selene's mind, to feel such things meant next to nothing. "Look. You don't know me," she had told him coldly. "Worse, you don't even know who you are. Not anymore." 

"You mean what I am," he had replied, bitter and resentful. The change he had undergone had just begun to sink in, and the realization that he had not asked for it. Now he had nothing and no one but the woman who stood before him, and she was all but rejecting him.

"Exactly," she finally said, refusing to assuage his fear of becoming a horror. "I'm sorry, but it's not my job to accommodate your urges. I'm not in the habit of rutting blindly like a lycan." She stared him down, not batting an eye. After a few moments, he looked away, completely at a loss for words. Right from the start, she'd had that ability to make him back down, to give in to her will. It was inexplicable to him how she managed it. No matter how angry or frustrated he would become, she would put him in his place with one simple cold look.

She was heavy-handed with him, sparing him nothing. She saw no point. If the pain was unavoidable, better to have it come quickly and get it over with. Yet Michael still tried to resist the change. "So what…I'm just supposed to take this, forget everything I feel, and follow your rules without question? I just can't stop being me." he said incredulously.

"Look, there's something fundamental you need to understand. The life you led before is over." Selene took deep breath, willing more patience. "I was born 127 years ago, yet I'm relatively young for an immortal. Since my family was…" she paused, Viktor's betrayal still a raw wound she could barely manage. She took a calming breath. "Since the death of my family, I've never sought my human life. Never seen the house where I spent my childhood. Never once looked for relatives, now long dead. You cannot give in to that curiosity, Michael. You are no longer that person. You no longer have a family." She paused suddenly, as if she were about to say more but stopped herself.

Her words cut into him, as he knew she'd meant them to. Michael waited for some reassurance that at least she would be there, that he wouldn't be alone. He waited in vain.

"Do you understand?" she said instead.

Michael simply nodded. He couldn't help his crushing disappointment. She must have seen it in his face. He knew even by her world-weary standards, something profound had occurred between the two of them. He didn't understand what it was then, or why he felt the way he did. He just knew it was overwhelming him. For her part, Selene certainly did nothing overt to encourage his rampaging emotions. In fact, she came to avoid him most of the time.

At first, she had no choice but to spend the majority of her waking hours working with him, teaching him the basics of immortal existence. Otherwise, she explained, he would have been a danger to himself and to others. He had no idea how to deal with what was happening to him. He had no real understanding what a lycan or vampire was, what he had become. As a Death Dealer, she had knowledge better than most about the natural tendencies of lycans. She could anticipate potential problems in that regard along with whatever vampire traits that would also surface. The difficulty, however, came in predicting what aspects of his makeup would be lycan and what would become vampire.

Realizing it would take time to answer that question, she immediately put him on a strict physical regimen, showing him the fundamentals of the defensive and offensive arts, much to his utter reluctance. She simply observed him as he progressed through his training. Eventually, they came to the hard-won conclusion that he had more or less every trait from both vampire and lycan, with his wolfish tendencies the dominant. He had all their drawbacks as well, but they were much lessened, as Selene had to repeatedly assure him.

What was extraordinary was his raw strength and agility. It far surpassed lycan and vampire both. Coupled with his enhanced five senses, they gave him almost a sixth sense of his surroundings, much to Selene's initial alarm. She only became fascinated with that aspect of his abilities once she realized the trait wasn't true clairvoyance. Michael wasn't a mind reader, but he had a near precognition about someone's actions. Like a chess master, he was at least three moves ahead of his opponent. It wasn't long before he could easily overcome every move she threw at him, as he discovered one night when he nearly ripped her throat out. He had stopped his hand not a hair's width from her jugular. He could have killed her, and she knew it. If it bothered Selene that he was able to defeat her, even in his human form, she never revealed it.

Over the ensuing five months, he came to unsteady terms with the lycan and vampire within him. He learned to drink the blood she provided, no matter that it still disgusted him, and during the full moon he learned to stay inside and away from wandering farm animals. Full moon was the only time the bloodlust would overwhelm him, made him crave raw meat and fresh blood, made him crave the hunt. He came to the basement one stormy June evening coated head to toe in blood and gore, from one of the neighbor's sheep, it had turned out. He had hunted it down and killed it, eating half its innards before his human brain realized he had just ripped an animal to shreds. He'd never been so sickened, and proceeded to regurgitate all that he had consumed. What he'd done horrified him. It had taken Selene that whole night to clean up the evidence.

After that dangerously disruptive incident, Selene made sure he stayed inside and occupied with the most mundane tasks. He could control his turning as long as he remained calm and at ease. With that in mind, Michael expressed his desire to continue his medical training, to build a medical laboratory. He figured he could put it to good use discovering what was happening to him. She allowed the purchase of it with Michael's express assurance that nothing on earth was more tedious and serene than scientific medical study. Michael hated the fact that he was at the mercy of his emotions. He suspected his lycan instincts disturbed him even more than they did Selene, if that were possible. She told him "A vampire without blood would soon commit acts just as heinous," but he suspected she said that only to make him shut up about it.

Learning her personal rules, as he thought of them, had been a whole separate aspect of his education. The first thing he had learned was to never disturb her during the day. Feeling sorry for him, she had allowed him to stay in her basement for that first night. Before he knew it, he had fallen asleep, exhausted, sitting up on the floor. Several hours later, he had suddenly shot up from his cramped position, in full nightmare panic and not at all awake. Michael's irrational mind had been convinced that Selene was burning up in the sunlight above. Intent on saving her, he immediately shouted her name and took off for the basement entrance. When he pulled the cellar door wide, the mid-morning sun shot a perfect beam of light down into the very center of Selene's subterranean chamber. Thankfully, she had slammed her bedroom door shut in time, blocking the burning light. She stood as far back from the door as possible, all the while shouting at the top of her lungs to "Close the bloody door!"

That's when he learned how touchy vampires were about sunlight. Lucian's memories didn't hold a candle to first hand experience. When he closed off the light, she came barreling out of her bedroom at him, eyes electrified blue, fangs bared, gun in hand. He figured the pathetic look on his face was the only thing that saved him. Once it was safe to open the cellar door again, she unceremoniously kicked him out of her quarters. It was weeks before she left the basement door unlocked.

Not all his mistakes were as catastrophic as her near incineration. He smiled involuntarily thinking of her face as she stoically controlled her irritation at his frequent, small mistakes. Except for full moon, his body pushed him to slumber at night. He was simply more human in his sleeping habits. He had tried to get into the practice of waking up several hours before dawn, just so he could spend more time with her, but even that wasn't accomplished without some upheaval.

All he had wanted one very early morning was a cup of strong black coffee. As an intern, he used to live off the stuff, and he had wondered if it would still do any good. Selene had walked into the kitchen and caught him staring blankly at a porcelain and steel coffee pot sitting in pieces on her kitchen counter.

"Haven't you ever seen a percolator before?" she said, incredulously.

"I think I saw one once…on TV," he said as he inspected the old-fashioned coffee-maker with obvious confusion, not completely lucid at four o'clock in the morning. "It was a Western, with a campfire…and cows..." he trailed off, feeling embarrassment from her blank look. "I'm a Mr. Coffee guy. How do you keep the grounds from coming through?" 

"You don't. Give me that." With a swift roll of her eyes, she snatched the pot from his hands. "Mr. Coffee indeed…You know, sometimes you make me feel incredibly old," she chastised lightly.

He was too asleep to mollify her. "There's no coffee anyway," he lamented with a tired shrug.

She looked at him soberly, then down at the pot. She flipped it over, and he finally noticed it was completely rusted through where the porcelain had chipped away. "I don't drink coffee," she said softly, reflectively. "Tea," she said, clearing her voice uncomfortably. "I drank tea." She looked away, clearly thinking of some long forgotten memory.

"Oh," was all he could mumble. Michael realized the coffeemaker was at least fifty years old, if not much older. He had wondered why she kept in the first place.

Selene bought him a brand new coffeemaker that very next night. And though he never requested it, she made him coffee every morning. To Michael's relief, the stuff still worked. Sometimes the smell of it alone would wake him. He felt guilty that he took such pleasure in Selene performing this one simple chore for him. She'd already done enough for him in practically every other respect. With a pang of shame at his selfishness, he realized it wasn't enough that she guided him, took care of him. None of it compensated for the one thing he really wanted. Michael shook his head at his own stupidity. For the millionth time he wondered how he ended up falling for a woman so completely out of his league.

Finding his self pity repulsive, he quickly brought his mind back to his current predicament. He was never going to get back to his lab work if he didn't finish fixing the damned roof.

He was repairing a hole in the main roof, one that revealed itself in a steady maddening drip that appeared in his room every time it rained. Selene had shrugged dismissively when he mentioned it. "I have a man come by once a year, in the spring, to take care of any minor problems with the house or grounds. You can either fix it yourself, or deal with it until he arrives." Figuring he would slit his wrists before then, Michael decided to fix it himself. He had experienced one grueling summer job as a construction worker. He could repair a few shingles. He spun around to grab the hammer hanging from his tool belt, thinking how good it felt to be out in the crisp fresh air.

Suddenly, his cell phone beeped loudly, for the very first time.

Twisted in a precarious position, the unexpected sound sent him jerking in the opposite direction, and he slipped. With a loud "SHIT!" he slid down the steep incline. He tried to stop himself, reaching out with both hands, but his powerful fingers simply dug into the shingled roof like butter. Wood and debris flew into the air he slid off feet first. Feeling the sickening sensation of nothingness, Michael quickly balanced himself in midair, landing neatly on his feet three and a half stories below. The wood and debris quickly followed. He ducked his head as it rained down on him.

Now covered in the remains of the roof, he shook his head like a dog. He looked up just in time to see his hammer coming right toward his head. With lightening speed, he jumped to the side as it impaled itself in the ground at his feet. He glanced at it, at the claw end buried in the hard dirt. He figured now he had a few more holes in the roof to deal with. "Selene is going to kill me," he whispered, feeling a rising panic.

Suddenly, he frowned. The cell phone was still beeping. He could hear it. It was now somewhere up on the roof. With another loud "Shit!" he couched low and jumped. With preternatural strength he leapt the three stories, gripping the roofs edge as he flipped himself to a standing position. Eyes scrambling about, he quickly spotted the cell phone. Picking it up, he rapidly schooled his panting breath. He flipped open the small cell phone. "Yeah," he said coolly. He managed to sound calm enough.

"What was that noise?" It was Selene of course. It was her cell phone she insisted he carry during the day. Good idea. Swallowing with difficulty, he looked down at the twin furrows he had just plowed into her rooftop.

"Nothing," he managed to get out in a half whisper, half growl, the guilt instantly eating at him. He looked at his hands. It was going to take days to get out all the splinters. But he felt no pain. Had he been human, he certainly would have broken his neck. Falling off the roof, and ripping a huge whole through it in the process, was mortifying enough. Selene would never let him hear the end of it. That is, if she found out about it, which she wouldn't.

"Are you all right?" Now she was sounding concerned. He was touched, but he wished she would just shut up for one second. He looked up at sky, taking a deep breath, trying desperately to rid himself of the self-disgust he was feeling at the moment. God, I hope it doesn't rain in the next couple days.

"Michael!" she barked, getting angry.

He could tell she was frustrated at her inability to investigate. He thanked heaven she couldn't come out in the daylight. He cleared his throat. "Yeah, I'm fine. What?" he said a bit tersely. He knew he should have listened to her and let the maintenance guy, whoever he was, come and fix the roof. But it was her fault he fell in the first place. He deserved to sound a little irritated.

Just a little.

Ignoring his tone, she said "Can you come down here? There's something important I need to show you." It was not a request.

Raising his eyebrows, Michael couldn't help but think of several important things she needed to show him. "Fine," he said instead, employing what he thought was heroic restraint. She hung up. He slapped the phone shut and tossed it in the general direction of the ground twelve meters below. With a sneer of satisfaction, he heard it shatter.

No more phone.

~.~.~.~

Fifteen minutes later, and none the worse for wear, Michael hesitantly entered the basement, Selene's private domain. Michael had often found himself pacing the secret entrance above, trying to come up with some excuse to intrude without permission. He knew she kept the really interesting stuff in her bedroom, but the door was always firmly closed. He barely had time to give the main room a curious glance when Selene burst out of her bedroom, walking determinedly toward a smaller alcove in the corner. "Over here. What kept you?" she said in annoyance.

He shrugged in reply and followed her. She wasn't wearing the loose-fitting black sweats she liked to wear when training him in hand-to-hand tactics. He sighed, relieved that she no longer used him as her living punching bag. She was dressed simply in a navy tank, black leathers, and her favorite pair of military issue combat boots. Everything fit snugly, as she preferred, "so nothing could accidentally get caught or used as leverage in a fight." Yeah, cause that happens a lot here in the cellar in the Alps. He knew she behaved that way out of habit. It just got annoying when she tried to make him do the same. Leather made him sweat in the worst way. He liked cotton. Irresistibly, he snuck a glance at her backside. Quelling a lust-ridden smile, he had to admit he really didn't mind this particular habit of hers after all.

She escorted him to the barred room in a corner of the workout area. Living in Selene's private home over five months now, he still found it odd that her personal area, apart from the attached cavernous bedroom he could just see through the opened door, contained a fully appointed workout facility and armory. It looked like it had been a wine cellar at some point. The weapons stash she kept locked behind iron bars was fit for a small militia. Or a military museum, he thought as some of the weapons were relics from a previous era. Everything was in pristine condition. He shook his head in silent wonder.

"Since your hand-to-hand training is coming along nicely, I think it's time you started learning at a more advanced level." The iron gate stood open. A ceiling lamp glared light upon a worktable strewn with modern weapons in various stages of disassembly. She rounded the table and sat on a well-worn wooden stool, picking up what looked like a cross between one of her pistols and a machine gun. Wasting no time with preliminaries, she went immediately into her lecture.

"The TMP is not my weapon of choice, but it's ideal for beginners. It's quite simple to operate really." She unloaded the magazine as she spoke, and pulled the ejection port so quickly Michael didn't catch the motion. She then stood and moved next to him and held the weapon up for his inspection.

Michael felt his nostrils flair. She rarely ever let him stand this close to her, not even during physical training, not since their first meeting in Budapest. She had taught him how to fight hand-to-hand by beating the hell out of him. But the discomfort he was feeling now wasn't any better.

Selene didn't seem to notice his reaction. She was focused on the small machine gun. "Take a look at the trigger," she said softly. "By increasing pressure, you go from semi-auto to full-auto fire - at least if the safety-catch here is pushed half way across. If moved all the way, it allows full automatic fire only," she said as she pushed a small level behind the weapon's trigger. "Keep it in the halfway position until you learn to time the bursts properly. Have a look." She handed him the now harmless sub-machine gun. She quickly sat back down and started doing something to one of the larger machine guns on the table, effectively putting distance between them. Michael let out his breath.

Michael held the weapon, surprised at its light weight. It didn't feel like metal, more like some sort of plastic. Selene continued, "Of all the SMGs I have ever fired, that one best combines the features one should expect from that sort of weapon. Your grip will be instinctive. You'll have superior control and a high hit ratio. Relatively speaking, of course."

Of course. Michael had no idea what she was talking about. He couldn't tell if she wanted him to shoot the gun or make love to it. Selene was animated as she spoke, completely in her element. She talked about weapons like normal people talked about the weather. It reminded Michael in sharp detail just what kind of person Selene was – a soldier, a warrior, the antithesis of everything he worked so hard to become. The realization was discouraging. Perhaps Selene had been right to distance herself emotionally from the start. She probably realized instantly what he was only now struggling to understand, that she came from a very different world than the one he believed in.

The fact that she was a vampire and he a hybrid, an abomination by every vampire's reckoning, was depressing enough. 

Trying to conceal his reluctance, Michael gripped the weapon and held it in front of him as though aiming to fire. "See, you're already holding it in the proper position," Selene spoke with encouragement.

Michael nodded with a half smile and put the gun down on the table, quickly placing his hands in his pockets. His brain was desperately trying to come up with something, anything, to say. His olfactory senses were overwhelmed with the odor of gun oil, ozone, and the unique smell of Selene. Everywhere he looked was metal and stone. It was cold. It was her, utterly. He just stood there, blatantly uncomfortable, looking at anything but his now silent, tinkering companion.

"You don't like this do you?" she finally said quietly in her soft, English accent. He glanced up at her questioningly. She was focused on the weapon. Michael's medical mind registered her actions as some sort of bizarre surgical operation. Her beautiful face was skewed into a frown of concentration. Her long, slender fingers held tools he couldn't identify.

She hates it when you play dumb, Michael, he thought. His mind scrambled in desperation. "I don't…What do you mean?" he said quietly in return, resigned to his own stupidity. He swallowed with difficulty. Did she have to look so fucking beautiful all the time? His chest constricted. Blinking rapidly, he fought to focus on their discussion.

She glanced at him. If she was irritated, he couldn't tell. She continued her gun surgery, letting him stew for a moment longer. "I'm not a simpleton, Michael. You hate that I'm a Death Dealer…or was," she quickly amended with an annoyed expression. "You hate that I'm a killer."

Out of an instinct to assuage her fears, he was about to deny what she said, but suddenly stopped himself. No point in denying what was an obvious truth. He was a doctor after all. Even a simpleton could draw the conclusion that they were completely unalike. And yes that did bother him profoundly. Even after all that he had witnessed from her, he could not make himself believe that she was a cold-blooded killer.

Selene suddenly intruded into his troubled thoughts. "Michael, I'm not going to ask that you let go of the man you once were. That will happen, whether you want it to or not. You must accept that." She then frowned, almost sorrowfully. She lay down the tools and stood up slowly, using their near equal height as an emphasis. "I only hope that, eventually, you learn to accept who I am." She caught his eye and held it, a profound caution in her voice. "Because I'm long past redemption." 

Michael wondered once again how she managed to read his thoughts. He was the one who absorbed her memories, not the other way around. But her memories had faded quickly from his consciousness, much more quickly than Lucian's. The loss of them had left him only confused, doubting the memory of emotions that she now kept firmly hidden from him.

But, God, she made him ache for her regardless.

"I don't believe that." The words slipped from him before he could stop them. He bravely kept his eyes locked with hers. He could still look down at her, just barely.

 Her amber eyes still solemn and forlorn, she gave him the smallest of wistful smiles. "I know."

They were standing not a foot apart. Michael stared into her eyes, transfixed. He could not move, could not breathe. She had kept her distance over the long months, sensing his torment. But this…this nearness. It was excruciating. It took every bit of willpower he contained to remain stock still. She does not want this, Michael.

Then Selene did the unthinkable. She glanced at his mouth. It was the briefest glimpse, but it was enough. Seeing the immediate change in his countenance, Selene realized her mistake. She turned her head to the table with uneasy eyes, breaking contact.

Michael's skin tingled with the shock that shot through him from that one glance. He continued to stare at her as she hastily sat back down to resume her work on the weapon, saying not another word. Somehow, without him moving, she had sensed his strong reaction. It was primal. He could have taken her right there on the table. He was strong enough to do it. He wanted to do it.

Whether she wanted it or not.

Michael's knuckles turned white as he balled his hands into tight fists. He bared his burgeoning fangs as he gritted them together. He had to leave. Now.

"I've got to go," he quickly whispered, and almost ran from the basement, escaping into the light, for once relieved she couldn't follow.

He burst from the secret entrance under the stairs and stalked blindly into the salon. Stopping before the fireplace, he gripped the marble mantle until he heard the stone crack. He took several deep breaths as he stared into the soot-filled fireplace, fighting desperately for control. Suddenly, he looked up into the mirror above the mantle. What he saw made him catch his breath in shock.

His eyes were solid black.

~.~.~.~