A/N: Be prepared, my writing sometimes blurs and the characters I dish out often cross lines they shouldn't. I'm having trouble caging my original characters to prevent their intervention with my fanfiction, they just don't understand that they can't do that until there's a category for them, too. Except for Mikael (known by about a dozen other different names, but it all boils down to the same guy), he's a wild one and does what he pleases ;)
The follow-up to Image Becomes Reality (unfortunately you have to read it to get what's going on)
Muse: Never Surrender - Jason Shyboy (DMC4 theme)
It was difficult to shake off the dizziness that heaved down her eyelids. There was a faint throbbing in her temples, and her bones felt like sludge but Jenny fought hard against the effect. There was a fleeting moment of complete and utter silence, and then thunder droned around her. She forced her eyes open, wider and wider. The throbbing increased. She was lying on something hard, and it chilled her skin where it touched her.
"You okay there, goldy locks?" Mikael's voice said, and Jenny instinctively turned toward it.
Her eyes were open. Mikael was crouching down beside her, light blue eyes crumpled in silent laughter. An orb swirling with pastel colours hovered above his open palm. The light it provided was barely enough to illuminate them both. Jenny whipped her head around, glancing at the solid darkness around them. A constant draft froze her hands and feet. She had the distressing sensation that they were underground.
"My teleporting skills are a bit rusty. I don't need to use it that often. You are okay, aren't you?" Mikael pressed.
Jenny slowly surveyed her surroundings. Thunder droned around her again, making her teeth clatter together. She pressed herself up off the ground and unsteadily climbed to her feet. Were those train tracks?
"What... are we in the subway tunnel?" Jenny asked, glancing from one side to the other in alarm.
"Hmm, it's the only place nearby that was dark enough for me," Mikael said, gracefully straightening to his full height. "I have sensitive eyes."
"What do you want?" Jenny stepped out of his reach when he extended his hand to her.
"What I want is simple. I want Andrea," Mikael said impatiently.
"I don't know where she is!" said Jenny.
"You asked," Mikael said, giving her a funny look. "I know you don't know where she is, but I do."
"Then why don't you go get her?" Jenny sobered a little.
"If you know Julian at all, you'll understand that it's not as easy as walking in and demanding a compromise. He's a conniving little sneak. Always has to complicate things." Mikael gestured with his hand and then dropped it to his side with a feeble sigh.
"So... what, you're going to hold me hostage until Julian decides to trade Andrea for me?" Jenny asked, fighting to hold back tears of panic. How did this happen? How did she get into this situation?
"A trade?" Mikael repeated, and shook his head. "Have you not been following what's going on?"
"What?" Jenny asked uncertainly. She didn't really want to hear it because the look in his eyes told her more than she wanted to know.
"We've passed that border a long time ago, goldy locks. There won't be any trade."
Jenny closed her eyes, using all her control to remain calm. "It's Jenny." She opened her eyes and frowned at him. "Julian won't say no if you proposed a trade."
"'Course he won't," Mikael said and tapped his head with a finger. "But I don't suffer from a severe case of stupidity, either. Why hand you over to him if I can use you as my ammunition?"
"You're not going to use me," Jenny said hotly.
"Oh, yes I am. Unless you and I come to an agreement to help one another," Mikael suggested.
"What can I possibly do to help you?" Jenny asked, taking another distrustful step away from him.
"Uh, let's see. Do what I say, play by my rules, and don't betray me? Easy enough to remember and keep to, I believe."
"Okay. Why should I help you?" Jenny said.
"You want your friends back, correct? In one piece and preferably with their souls intact," Mikael said and shrugged. "I can make your every wish come true, Jenny. But in return I ask that you trust me."
"You'll get my friends back?" Jenny repeated, stumped, and suppressed a hopeful spark. "I had the impression you're not capable of caring about others."
"Oh, don't get me wrong," Mikael said with a curt little laugh. "They're friends of Andrea. I wouldn't give a damn about them otherwise." He leaned forward and gave her a charming grin. "If you weren't a friend of hers, you'd be dead right now."
Jenny's mouth went dry at his words. He was still holding his hand toward her, his fingers twitching in a coaxing 'come here' gesture. Jenny didn't budge.
"What if he kills her first?" Jenny asked, and closed her eyes when her head throbbed dangerously again.
Mikael dropped the cajoling smile from his face and caught her chin in his hand. He brushed a fingertip from her forehead down to the tip of her nose, and Jenny flinched away with a deep frown. "He won't. If she dies, you die, it's that simple."
"You call that simple?" Jenny exclaimed, rubbing her nose with the back of her hand. A peculiar coolness spread through her head like a soothing stream, and while the pounding subsided Mikael's gaze became quietly satisfied.
"You'll be the spoils of war, Jenny. All this is happening because of you two. Now, are you going to come with me, or do I have to carry you again?"
Jenny hesitated, and burst into motion when Mikael took a threatening step toward her. She kept at a distance from him as they walked down the black tunnel, sending cautious glances at him ever so often. Their feet crunched across gravel and the sound echoed up against the walls.
"Where are we going?" Jenny asked nervously after her body had reflexively stiffened for the hundredth time upon hearing the thunderous metal shriek of a nearby passing train.
"To my lair," Mikael drawled. The way his lips twitched up in the corners and the dancing light in his eyes told Jenny that he found her fear of him entertaining.
There was a large hole in the wall, and Mikael took hold of her hand before Jenny could dodge his touch. He ducked into it, and pulled her with him. He led her down a very black, handmade corridor to a camouflaged rock door situated at the end. Mikael pushed at it with his hand, and it swung open noiselessly.
"Are we in the shadow world?" Jenny asked, wrenching her hand from his grasp.
Mikael laughed. The orb hovering in front of him did a dazzling display at feigning lightning, blazing through the room in a million bright streaks. Fire reared to life in torches mounted on the walls, and Jenny took another uncertain step deeper into the cavernous room.
There was a shabby looking sofa bed shoved against one wall with what she guessed had once been a blanket. There was a small bar fridge, its door hanging skew on one hinge, and a large woven rug in orange and black colours in the middle of the floor. Old newspapers from years ago lay deteriorating on the ground, and empty rusted cans lay strewn about. The room smelled of damp neglect.
"No," Mikael said, dropping onto the sofa bed with a content sigh. "We're in the city of lost angels. Or under it, to be more exact."
Jenny stared at him in stupor. Angels couldn't possibly live here, and if they did Jenny thought heaven was very overrated. Or maybe it was hell...
"We're in Los Angeles? We're still on earth?" Jenny asked, bewildered.
"Have you been taking in anything that's happened today?" Mikael leaned back on his elbows, staring at her in dismay. "We are at war. Everything done from hereon has to be a strategic move."
Jenny chewed her lip, and vulnerably glanced around the room again."Yes, I understand that..."
"Do you really?" Mikael said sceptically. "You're taking it a lot calmer than I'd thought you would."
"He'll come after me. War or no war," Jenny said, suddenly very tired. She sank down onto the edge of the bed, staring miserably at the uneven walls. "I'm never going to escape this."
"How this game goes depends on what pawn you pick to be," Mikael said indifferently. Jenny wondered if he'd heard what she'd said. "Play my prisoner, and I'll incarcerate you. Play the hostage, and I'll use you as my shield. Play the victim, and I'll play the murderer."
Jenny got up and backed away from him. "If you hurt me, Julian will hunt you down..."
"Or, you can choose to play my accomplice and fight for your freedom," Mikael said attentively. "I do rather prefer the latter. I don't have patience for weaklings."
"I'm not weak." Jenny found her voice, taken aback by the unprovoked insult and mystified at her own response to it.
"Good," said Mikael indulgently, but he shook his head.
"I'm not weak," Jenny repeated, and felt a surge of anger beat through her veins. "You don't know what I've had to go through. You don't know what it's been like."
"Of course not. It must have been terrible. All the torments he put you through, all the pain he caused, all your loved ones you lost because of him. I'm sure no one will blame you for throwing in the towel. Anybody else would have," he said derisively.
"Shut up," Jenny said, staring at him wildly.
"You ought to be rewarded for giving it your best shot, though. Not many people would have lasted as long as you have. Even if Julian did conquer in the end." Mikael carried on ruthlessly.
"Shut up!" Jenny cried out, flattening herself against the wall when he sat up.
"I mean, you're just a girl. A mere mortal." Mikael got to his feet and walked over to her.
Every step she took away he matched with a step closer, and they began to circle one another in a slow, strange sort of dance. Mikael's expression was calculated, a predatory gleam in his eyes. He was purposely aggravating her, to intimidate her perhaps – Jenny couldn't make heads or tails of him. He was as capricious as Julian, and doubly as frightening.
"Julian is a god. Stuff of legend. You never had a chance, Jenny. You knew that from the beginning, didn't you?" Mikael continued, and their eyes locked in silent battle.
"I don't know," Jenny whispered,
"You don't know," Mikael said sarcastically. "Of course you knew. What could you possibly have done to fend off a devil? Nothing. How long did it take you to realize this? How many people had to die – how many lives were destroyed because of him?"
Jenny didn't answer. She was too angry to speak. It was a white hot fury that coursed through her and set every fibre in her body on fire. She was aware of a constant tremor racing under her skin, and Jenny gritted her teeth, looking back at Mikael with blazing green eyes.
"And they died for nothing, right? Because Julian had it all in the bag from the word go. You lost, Jenny. Nothing you did was good enough, because Julian was simply better."
"I tried," Jenny snapped at him.
"Oh. You tried," Mikael repeated, and stepped up to her. Jenny tried to step away and came up short against the wall behind her. Her breath hissed in, and her stomach churned with icy knots of fear. He leaned a hand against the wall and drew closer to her, holding her gaze evenly. "Trying didn't save Tom, now did it?"
Jenny felt her eyes scrunch up and she fought back painful frustrated tears.
"I couldn't save him," Jenny said shakily, another wave of anger crashing over her. Her own vulnerability made her see red.
"Why not?" Mikael demanded.
"It was impossible! How could I have known what was going to happen? I couldn't possibly have gotten him out of that car in time..." Jenny trailed off at Mikael's smirk.
"When the prize is more worthy than the angels at God's feet, the fight for their cause will not end when the prize is taken out of sight. Ask yourself, Jenny. Was Tom worth the fight? Is his memory worth the struggle?"
The angry fumes were subsiding into a steady, cold burn, and Jenny's mind became clear.
"Mankind has been given the gift to move mountains. You could have wiped Julian off the face of the earth, if you had the knowledge, the nerve, the strength. But instead you let him manipulate you, you allowed him to deceive you, you were too weak to..."
"I'm not weak," Jenny said quietly, filled with sudden perfect conviction. Something was building up inside of her, something solid, and fiery, and furious.
Mikael cocked his head to the side, intrigued. "You let him get away with murder. You let him claim you. How is that not weak?"
"I won't let him win," Jenny said fiercely.
"You mean, you won't let him win again?" He said menacingly.
"I won't let him get away with this. He hurt my friends... he took Tom away from me. I will never forgive him for that. He'll pay for what he's done, even if..." Jenny's voice was picking up strength with every word.
She caught her breath when Mikael softly put a finger to her lips. A triumphant smirk curled over his face, and his eyes were a deep, heavenly blue. His voice was filled with delight when he spoke.
"Take hold of this fire, and the next time you are face to face with him - use it."