Notes: Spoilers for the Underworld film. All people and places mentioned in this story are from the Underworld wikia database.
Lucian's intelligence network said that Michael Corvin took a lunch break at the Varga café between twelve-fifteen and twelve-forty every day because the café served cheap food and was close to the hospital where Michael worked. Lucian made sure he was there early and had a good seat in an unobtrusive place in the shade.
Lucian had signed up for the assignment on the pretext that even his closest rebel generals were unsuited to such a delicate mission (they were), but he was also curious about this particular descendant of Corvinus. Of the various spiderwebbing family trees descended from Alexander Corvinus, Michael's had the fewest was one of the purest living descendants on the continent, and Lucian would be meeting him in less than two hours. The thought sent a small thrill through him. A few more hours, and their victory over the vampires was almost assured. It had been worth the risk of moving his core team to Budapest, so close to Ördögház where the Elders slept. Where Viktor slept.
Lucian ordered a glass of water and tried to control his breathing; it would not do to get overexcited too early. Even Viktor's complex and ancient plans had been overthrown in one night of blood and revolution. He touched the cold metal of Sonja's necklace at his throat, and the sharp press of its curved edge grounded him.
A group of hospital staff flooded the café at noon, and Lucian cursed under his breath. He had no idea what this Michael Corvin looked like, and he would smell like any other human. Lucian's view was further obscured when a man in dark glasses sat at a table directly in front of him and opened up a newspaper. Lucian cursed under his breath and considered aborting the plan. He clenched his hand around his glass. No, but perhaps—he stole a glance at the glint of a medical badge clipped to the inside of the man's jacket—perhaps he could establish some contacts and collect more information on Michael.
Lucian put on his friendliest expression, straightened his jacket, and walked over. He noticed the man was reading a dated copy of the Times. An Englishman, then.
"I thought Parliament had decided on the tariff issue last month," Lucian remarked. He'd always been talented at accents, and he could do a Welsh one very well. The words fit strangely in his mouth. He was out of practice.
The man looked up in surprise at hearing English. He had a strong jaw and hair that needed trimming. "Y-Yeah," he said. "I can only get my hands on the old newspapers, but I think I would go crazy if I had to read Hungarian all the time."
"You're American," Lucian said and sat down in the other chair. He could see himself reflected in the man's dark glasses. "What are you doing in Budapest?"
"I'm the resident trauma surgeon at the hospital," the man replied. "My mother is originally from Budapest, and I spent summers here with my grandparents. I thought I could…start over here." The man smiled. "As my grandmother would say, Man plans, God executes."
Lucian smiled back, unexpectedly charmed. It had been a while since he had heard that particular proverb. Sonja had been fond of it long after she had become immortal and stopped believing in God entirely.
"Sorry," the man said. He took off his glasses and held out a hand. His eyes were an arresting shade of brown. "I'm Michael Corvin."
"Michael," Lucian breathed and wondered if luck was finally on his side. Of course this was Michael Corvin. Of course. He had known the human line of Corvinus was striking, but he'd had no idea. "My name is Lucian."
He shook Michael's hand, and felt his powerful grip. There was nothing delicate about Michael despite his profession as a doctor. He had wide powerful shoulders like a swimmer, and his hands were large and square. He would be an impressive lycan.
"Lucian," Michael repeated. "That's an interesting name." He put down his newspaper and leaned forward with his chin resting on his clasped hands. "I guess I should ask what you're doing in Budapest, Lucian."
"I'm the head of a new company," Lucian said. It was a smooth easy lie, one he had used before. "We're in Budapest for a lucrative business opportunity."
A server brought a small strong cup of Turkish coffee, and he and Michael reached for it at the same time. Michael pulled back and gestured for him to take it. "Go ahead. You look like you need it more than I do."
"Thank you." Lucian took a long drink from the cup to hide his surprise.
The human eye was very slow compared to other animals, and Lucian's lycan blood let him capture microseconds of movement that he might have otherwise missed as a mortal man. Michael had unconsciously averted his eyes when he had offered Lucian the coffee. A sign of submission. He was acting like a newcomer in the presence of a pack alpha, but that couldn't be. Michael wasn't a lycan, or Lucian would have smelled it on him.
Michael sat back to study him over steepled fingers. "I don't mean to pry, but you look like you're about to collapse from exhaustion."
"We're a small company. I don't have the luxury of an assistant," Lucian said. He knew that many of the lycans in his pack found it very odd that he had no beta, but Lucian never wanted to rely on another person, never again.
"You need rest and less coffee," Michael said. "Not my professional opinion, but I was a medical student once."
"I can rest once I've finished my job."
Once we've found the Corvinus carrier, Lucian thought and felt weariness pulling at his bones. He had been a fugitive for six hundred years, and Michael could be the one to end it all. But Michael was just a man, and Lucian was the one who would interrupt his life and make him into a god. He had only known Michael Corvin as a name on a tackboard, but for the first time Lucian wondered whether Michael would hate him for making him a pawn in someone else's war.
He stretched his arms above his head and felt his shoulders rotate and pop in their sockets. His shirt strained over his shoulders but hung loose over his ribs. He wondered about a pack whose alpha, the one that had first pick of all the spoils, looked so lean. They had been fighting for far too long and living underground like animals.
Michael was staring at him with a strange expression on his face. "How long are you in Budapest?" he asked.
"That depends on our successes," Lucian replied and brought the cup to his lips again. His nostrils flared and picked up something else under the thin layer of Turkish beans. Michael's scent had changed. It was muskier and prickly like pine needles.
Lucian almost choked on his coffee. He knew that scent. He had smelled it before on other humans, but never so strong and intoxicating. Michael was attracted to him.
Lucian cursed himself for a fool. This complicated things, and he didn't have the time or patience for complications. He decided he would let Raze kidnap Michael like they had taken the others. It was impersonal and clean.
He froze as another scent drifted his way, an impossible scent. There was something nearby that was cold and dead like the grave, and it was all Lucian could do not to Change in front of Michael. He couldn't fight the subtle lengthening of his canines and his widening pupils. There was a Death Dealer somewhere nearby. He looked across the street and saw a car with blacked-out windows idling at the light. So they hadn't come for him or Michael. He should have expected Budapest to be crawling with remnants of the highly disciplined Ördögház scouting units that Viktor had favoured. He always marvelled at how little vampires changed despite living for hundreds of years, but perhaps that was the only way immortals could stay sane, to be the single immutable thing in a frenetic aging world.
He could smell that the scout was alone and could be easily dispatched. He rose from his chair and followed its taillights as it turned at the intersection. He could track it easily enough, and he could do with some exercise. "I'm sorry," he said and his voice came out in a low growl. Instead of shying away, the scent of pine only intensified, and he realised with a little shock that Michael actually preferred him like this. "Thank you for the coffee, but I have another appointment."
Michael looked bewildered. "Uh, okay. Well." He cleared his throat. "If you ever need a contact while you're in the city, I would be happy to, ah."
"Yes," Lucian said immediately, and then in a more subdued tone, "That's very kind of you."
He handed Michael is dark weathered mobile phone and marvelled again at his luck. Having a direct link to Michael Corvin would solve many problems at once. He watched Michael tap away at the tiny keys and thought that his broad fingers had a grace learned from years of manipulating delicate surgical instruments. He would have to tell Raze to ensure that Michael didn't damage his hands if he fought back. Raze was very good at stealth for such a hulking man and knew how to incapacitate with the least violent force. Lucian wouldn't have trusted the task to anyone else.
"Here," Michael said and handed back the phone. "I don't have a mobile phone yet, so you can just call my home phone."
Lucian knew there was a human nuance to that, but he couldn't for the life of him remember what it was. "Thank you," he said and pocketed the phone. They shook hands.
"I'll see you," Michael said and then casually, "Maybe we can go out to dinner sometime."
"Yes, perhaps," Lucian said and then walked off after the car. He could feel Michael's gaze on him as he ducked into a side street, but he couldn't afford to look back.
He waited till he was safely hidden away in the alley before giving into the compulsion to take out his mobile phone and press his nose to it. He breathed in deep, and Michael's scent hit him like The Change with all the rush of adrenaline but with a sweet edge to the pain. He felt an answering thrum go down his spine. It had been a very long time. In the beginning, he had been lost in his grief for Sonja, and then he'd thrown himself into waging the war against the vampires and keeping his people safe. He'd never had time for…and perhaps Michael was right. He was tired.
He pocketed his phone and straightened the collar of his jacket. He needed all of his concentration on the Ördögház scout now. He would see Michael again soon enough. He knelt to remove his shoes and stretched his feet more fully to expand the claws on his toes. He took a running leap towards the wall and then clung to it with his hands and feet. Grunting with effort, he began to scale upwards to the rooftops of Budapest.