A/N: Greetings to all you lovely people! As promised, I've gotten a new chapter up a bit faster-although it has still been five months. I really need to improve my transit time as far as getting these chapters done goes...
Anyways, thanks to Witchy Bee, SpeedDemon315, QueenSquint, Scavator, and AssassinsArchAngel for their lovely reviews!
Disclaimer: You know the drill, I don't own Underworld or its characters, blah blah blah...
Consider this, the hint of the century
Consider this, the slip
That brought me to my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies come
Now I've said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream
That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep a view
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no, I've said too much
I haven't said enough."
-"Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.
Chapter Eight: Nothing but the Truth
While the bathroom may have made Michael's inner doctor cringe and want to start searching for the bleach, he had to admit one thing: It could have been a lot worse. There was running water—hot and cold, even—and the bar of soap he'd been provided with, while cheap and used by God only knew how many lycans before him, had cleaned off the dirt and dried blood caked on his skin. He ran a hand over his jaw, still damp from shaving. A shower and a shave had made him feel somewhat more like his old self—a comforting notion.
Slinging his wet towel over his shoulder, he exited the bathroom, plodding down the hall of the subterranean bunker the lycans called home. As he made his way back towards his room, he couldn't help but admire Lucian's ingenuity in regards to the housing of his pack. An old, abandoned underground bunker, left over from the days of World War II…really, if someone thought about it, the perfect place to house a rambunctious pack of lycans. There were rooms, a vast dining hall, communal bathrooms, and even room for Singe—the strange, rat-faced scientist—and all his equipment.
It was almost like college, Michael realized. Living away from his home, in a bland room whose only personality came from its occupants? Sounded an awful lot like dorm living. The fact that he shared a room with a complete stranger only added to the experience. Eating in the dining hall reminded him of his college's dining hall—although oddly enough, the lycan fare was more appetizing. The communal bathroom was reminiscent of the hall bathrooms from college, although the men he shared the bathroom with seemed far less private than the guys he had shared the bathroom with in college. There were even drunken parties every night, although the ones hosted by his new brethren were far rowdier than any of the ones he'd seen or been to in college.
I'm living in lycan college, he thought. It was enough to make him snicker.
A shout brought him out of his reverie. Looking up, he saw his roommate, the excitable, freckle-faced, auburn-haired lycan whose name he could never properly remember, sprinting towards him.
"What is it?" he asked, puzzled.
"Lucian sent me," the man panted, skidding to a halt before Michael. "He's in our room. He wants to see you." He grinned, making himself look even more impish. "And there's a woman with him."
The American lycan's heart skipped a beat. Could it be..? "What does she look like?"
"Tall-ish. Thin. Short black hair. Pretty hot, too—a solid nine, if not a ten." He wrinkled his nose. "Smells like a blood, though. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd still do her, but she reeks like a blood." He sighed. "I know we made peace with them and all, but I don't think it's right, bringing them fuckers into our den. What is she's one of those Death Dealers and this is some kind of trap?"
Michael had stopped listening when he heard his roommate mention that the woman smelled like a vampire. It was true—Selene was here. He shoved past the other lycan, who was still rambling on about his misgivings where vampires were concerned, and sprinted down the hall. His bare feet were very audible, making loud, meaty smacks against the cold floor as he did so. Finally, he reached the door to his room and flung it open, half-fearing that this was all a joke and the room was as empty as he had left it. To his immense relief, however, not only was Lucian standing in the middle of the room, Selene was with him.
She turned to face him, a spark of hope glimmering in her eyes. "Michael," she breathed—but that was all. She did not rush to embrace him like he had thought—hoped?—she would. But at the same time, he expected it. Though she looked different, stripped of her leather battle gear and dressed instead in civilian clothes, she was still the same Selene. All soldier. All business.
The twin Beretta pistols, holstered at her hip by two comically large and awkward holsters, only confirmed that.
There were so many things he wanted to do. To wrap her in his arms. To hold her against his chest, and never let her go again. To kiss her as she had kissed him, that night in the safehouse.
But he didn't. Instead, he turned to Lucian, who had been watching the two with an expression of forced detachment. "I was told you needed to talk to me?"
"I do—and I don't," he answered. "I do need you, but I believe it is Selene who will be doing most of the talking."
"I want to know if what he's told me is true," she chimed in, taking a step closer to Michael. Her arms were folded across her chest, her expression all business. "About the war. About…everything."
"I see," the American doctor answered. That's why Lucian needs me here. I've seen his memories. I know the truth, and she'll believe it if she hears it from me.
He nodded. "It's true…all of it."
Much to her credit, Selene's expression stayed steady, betraying nothing. The only change was that she folder her arms a bit tighter across her chest, a gesture of self-comfort rather than of businesslike impatience. "So Viktor started the war?"
"And he…he killed his own daughter?"
"And Kraven has been in league with Lucian for these past six centuries?"
"Obviously," the lycan master cut in. Selene shot him a withering glare, but he stood firm. "I should like to point out that we've been trying to end this war for ages. We succeeded, didn't we?"
She snorted. "Some success it was. Kraven's in charge and the Elders are dead."
"The Elders were a necessary sacrifice. Viktor would have never ended this war, not until every last lycan was dead. That, or every last vampire—whichever came first. Amelia was Viktor's puppet, she would have done the exact same thing. And Markus…" He trailed off, mulling over the proper way to share his thoughts on the remaining Elder. "Markus never cared for the war, and he loathed Viktor. I can hardly fault him for either—were I in his shoes, I would feel the exact same way. However, Markus allowed himself to be made a puppet, a slave to Viktor's will. He was weak. He had to go."
"So you killed them," Selene accused. "You killed the Elders."
"I thought we already established that," he sighed. "Yes, I did. And I haven't looked back since."
"How do you sleep at night, knowing that you've left Kraven in charge of both covens? Knowing that he will lead us to ruin?"
"Quite easily, actually." Lucian leveled his dark gaze on Selene, his expression cold. "Six centuries of genocide didn't give me much reason to care about what happened to the lot of you, in case you'd forgotten."
"So killing the Elders was your way of getting revenge for that, wasn't it?" Her expression was angry, but Michael was close enough to see the hint of tears glimmering in her eyes.
"I can't tell if you're stupid, or merely very stubborn," Lucian remarked icily, his eyes noticeably darker than before. "I've said it before, I'll say it once again, and this is the last time, so you'd best listen: I killed the Elders to end the war."
"Well congratulations," Selene snarled. "You ended the goddamn war. You also left Kraven to lead my kind to extinction. I hope you're satisfied."
Michael moved to reach for her—just a touch, something to cool her down. Before he could, however, she spun on her heel and stormed out, disappearing down the corridor. Behind him, Lucian merely shook his head.
"And, of course, I am the villain in all this," he remarked dryly.
The American lycan didn't reply, only continued to stand there, arm still outstretched. From far down the hallway, he heard a lycan shout angrily—and then a cold, unforgiving gunshot and a cry of pain. The lycan master sighed.
"And now she's shooting my men. How considerate of her. I won't hear the end of this for weeks."
Michael's temper flared at the scathing remark; he rounded on his maker, just barely restraining himself. "Leave her alone."
"Have I struck a nerve?"
"It's a lot for one person to take in all at once." He scowled at Lucian. "She needs someone to be with her. Comfort her."
"Forgive me if I don't trip over myself to rush to her side. I'd rather not be pumped full of silver bullets. She's livid. She'll shoot."
"She's not livid." It was true—she wasn't. Selene was something else, something that, even as an intern, Michael had seen his fair share of. "She's…grieving."
"Grieving?" Lucian raised a skeptical brow.
"Well, yeah," Michael answered, nodding. He knew what she was going through. The very same kind of grief had found him, caused him to uproot his comfortable life in America and take up an internship in Hungary. "Her entire way of life has been changed…and now, she knows that not even her past is entirely certain. It's a lot to process all at once."
Lucian merely continued to stare at him, brow raised. Sighing, the young lycan turned around, back towards the door. Selene's footsteps had completely faded away; he hoped she was all right—at least, all right physically. He couldn't make any positive assumptions about her mental or emotional state at the moment.
"Would you just go to her already?"
"Huh?" Michael was dazed by the sudden statement.
"Just go to her," Lucian ordered, his voice firm but not unkind. "I don't know if I can take any more of you just standing there, staring forlornly out the door. It's really very pathetic. Go."
He nodded, before making a gesture to shoo the doctor out the door. Michael left his room, following the hallway in the direction he had heard Selene go. He passed a scruffy, bearded lycan in the hall; the man was clutching a bloody rag to his shoulder, and gave a cold glare as Michael passed.
Eventually, he found Selene—or, rather, she found him. He found himself far outside of the den, past the sewer gate that led down to the back entry to the den, passing a dark little niche in the wall when he heard the familiar click of the safety of a gun being shut off. He whirled around, finding a pair of luminous blue eyes looming out of the darkness at him…and the muzzle of a Beretta pistol mere inches from his skull. He threw up his arms defensively.
"It's just me!"
There was a pause, then, she lowered the pistol. Without a word, she disappeared back into the niche in the wall. Michael moved to stand in front of it, to talk to her, to try to comfort her.
The space was too small to sit down, even for someone as slender as the vampiress. Instead, she slumped against the wall, her shoulders hunched forward, head bowed, everything about her posture screaming defeat. The sight of it made the young man's heart ache.
A ragged breath escaped her. "What do you want?"
"I wanted to see if you were okay."
"Okay?" Her laughed was choked, heavily forced; in the dimness, Michael swore he saw a few tears roll down her cheeks. "I'm perfectly fine. I've only just found out that the man I trusted the most killed my entire family and kept me to turn into the ruthless killing machine he failed to make his daughter."
Her sarcasm stung, as if she had slapped him. "You don't have to be rude. I was only trying to help."
"Help? There's nothing you can do to help. What's done is done. Viktor's gotten his perfect little lycan killer out of me. Of course, those skills aren't going to do me any good any more, now that Kraven's taken over, ended the war, and is driving our species to extinction."
"Surely it can't be that bad," Michael replied, trying to sound soothing. He only managed to sound very uncertain.
Selene lifted her head, finally meeting his gaze. Her teary, red-rimmed eyes were solemn—and much to Michael's surprise, they were worried.
"You don't know what he'll do."
"But I do."
Both heads turned at the sound of his voice. Selene's fingers twitched, tightening impulsively as they would around the grips of her Berettas…but to her credit, she kept them holstered.
"I thought you didn't care about what happened to my kind," she remarked.
"I don't," Lucian answered, making his way towards them. "That doesn't mean that I don't know what he'll do, though."
"What exactly will he do?" Michael cut in, still a bit lost.
"The same thing he's done for centuries now," Lucian answered in exasperation. "Care only about himself and what becomes of him. This time, however, he has an entire coven whose fates he must keep in mind, and an entire coven who will, in turn, suffer for his gross negligence."
"At best, he'll run the coven into the ground," Selene chimed in, her voice bleak. "At worst, we'll be driven to the brink of extinction. Probably by humans."
"If my kind doesn't kill you first, that is," Lucian informed her.
The vampiress directed her attention to Lucian very quickly at his comment; her entire body went tense. "We have a truce!"
"That we do. But, if I may be frank, the terms of this truce are utter bullshit. The lycans have, as I foresaw, been neglected as the spoils of victory are being tabulated. Really, the only difference has been that my men aren't coming home riddled with bullet holes anymore."
"But you can't order your men to attack," Michael spoke up. "That would break the terms of the truce…wouldn't it?"
"It would. I can't outright order them to attack…but that won't stop them from doing it themselves."
"Fantastic," spat Selene. "So it's to end with the coven either fading out of existence from neglect, the humans slaughtering us all, or the lycans tearing us to pieces. Just perfect."
"Now, now," Lucian began, "don't lose your head. There is another option."
"And that would be..?"
He gave a lopsided, wolfish grin. "We stop this before it starts."