Lucian didn't stir from his air mattress bed when Michael knocked on his door and let himself in. They were attacking tonight. They would steal a vial of Amelia's blood to make Michael into a hybrid while their other troops prepared themselves for Ördögház's expected retribution; they would make their stand in the underground where they had trained and knew the territory. They had spent hours going over the many tunnels and grates, the weak indefensible positions and the ingresses the vampires would most likely use to mount an attack. Michael had been invaluable as his beta, jumping in to support him before Lucian even thought to ask and working tirelessly with the troops. Most importantly, unlike Lucian's other generals, he had people skills. He had a doctor's bedside manner that had earned him the respect of the other high-ranking lycans that would have otherwise resented him for his rapid advancement. He and Singe got along famously.

"How are the troops?" Lucian asked. He heard the clink of beer bottles and then a snap as Michael popped open the cap with a claw and drank.

"Alright. Nervous, but a little is good. It'll keep them on their toes." Michael came to sit on the edge of the mattress. "When's Amelia coming?"

Lucian rolled onto his back and folded his arms over his stomach. "Her train is arriving at midnight. Kraven's promised us a clean kill."

Michael snorted. "I don't like that guy."

"No one likes him," Lucian said. "But we need him. For now. Besides, he doesn't need to know about you. You're our touchstone."

"Your Hail Mary," Michael said, and then must have seen the confusion on Lucian's face. "It's a football thing. We'll watch it sometime."

"Hm," Lucian said noncommittally. It was obvious sometimes that Michael had never been born a lycan. He made plans for the future and promised Lucian hundreds of things like an evening out at the cinema or a short visit back to Long Island. Someday, he always said. But Lucian had been born with a lycan inheritance that never let him hope for anything more than the present, no matter how much he wanted to believe in Michael's dreams.

Michael put his beer aside and stretched out on the bed beside Lucian. "Getting some shut-eye before the fight?"

"Yes," Lucian said. He rather liked the American term 'shut-eye,' as if lycans didn't sleep even when they were resting. "I feel we should all be well-rested, especially you. You still haven't adjusted to being nocturnal."

"Hospital graveyard shift," Michael replied with a grin. "Midnight to eight in the morning, every day for three months. I think my body's telling me that my quota is filled up."

Lucian laughed at that. Michael was very good at making him laugh. His silly self-deprecating American humour hadn't faltered in the wake of joining Lucian's army, and Lucian was drawn to the charming foreignness of it, so different from the dour intensity that pervaded both the vampire and lycan clans.

He and Michael both stared at the ceiling and listened to the rumble of the train pass by. The beer bottle rattled on the floor. It was unusually warm for Budapest, and Lucian had left the window open.

"Hey, Lucian," Michael said. "I know this might not be the best time to ask you, but…we won't have time tomorrow."

Wewon'thavetimetomorrow, as if they didn't all know they were sacrificing their lives to achieve one small improbable victory. But Lucian didn't have the heart to correct him. "Yes?"

Michael wouldn't look at him. "I just…what did I do? Did I make a mistake?"

Lucian's insides froze. Michael had doubts. Of course he had doubts; he hadn't been a lycan for long and was already preparing to die for them. "What do you mean?" he said as coolly as he could manage.

Michael rolled over till he was staring down at him. Lucian stared back and watched a series of unknown emotions go across Michael's face. Michael licked his lips a few times. "Lucian," he murmured. "Why didn't you ever make me your mate?"

Lucian was caught between shock and laughter. Of all the things he had expected Michael to say, he had never guessed it would be that. He felt a surge of warmth go up his spine like the Change and didn't speak till he had subdued it. "Because I needed you to be my beta for the sake of our people," he said finally. "More than I wanted you for my own sake."

"Why can't I be both?" Michael asked, and his face was suddenly very close. "You probably—you have to know how I feel about you. Hell, half the pack knows. They think it's hilarious."

Lucian wanted to push him away, because this was precisely the kind of complications he had intended to eliminate at the café when they had first met. But it had been a dreary life without complications and silly humour and promises to see old films in the park.

Michael huffed out a breath and then moved to get up. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have anything. I'll leave now."

"No." Lucian caught his wrist. Promises, maybe that's why humanity was still young and vibrant after thousands of years. "Michael, come here."

He pulled Michael against him and let him smell how Lucian had noticed his eyes when he had first taken off his sunglasses. He liked to listen to the outdated music and foreign news that Michael managed to coax out of the transistor radio, liked the warm feel of his pathetic one-room flat when Michael was there. Michael's bewildering jokes, his odd playful moods more suited to brash young whelps.

"Oh," Michael said sank down to bury his face in the crook of Lucian's neck. It reminded Lucian of when he had bitten Michael, when Michael had said Sonja's name and mourned her the way Lucian could not. "Oh-h. Oh my god, you smell so…you smell like…god, you."

The scent of pine needles surged into Lucian's nose, and it took all of his strength to restrain himself. It had been far too long since he had allowed someone so close. He had forgotten the gentle touch of someone's fingers on his face. "Michael," he gasped. "Michael, you have to stop, or I won't be able to…"

"Let go." Michael's voice was muffled, and Lucian could feel the movement of his lips on his skin. "You don't have to be in control all the time." Michael's mouth curved into a smile. "That's why you have a beta."

Lucian felt another wave of wantneedtake go through him and didn't try to resist. Michael was making little ecstatic sounds of wonder with his lips pressed to the curve of Lucian's shoulder, and Lucian grabbed Michael's face in his hands and pulled him away.

"What?" Michael asked hazily. His eyes were unfocused. "What are you—"

Lucian ran a thumb across the dark circle under Michael's eye. "We won't have time tomorrow," he said and pulled Michael down to claim his mouth. The inevitable kiss.


Feedback is welcome.

Author Note: Sorry to be snippy here. Perhaps I've been receiving feedback requesting more chapters because I did not explicitly write THE END when this piece was done. In that case, sorry for not being clear. This has been rectified. In general, please check if stories are marked Complete (as this one is) before asking to "please update" or "Please continue," as this will completely confuse the writer. (Personally, I just stared at these reviews thinking, "I'm sorry, there's nothing more to give. What do you want from me?")

The author has to physically go and click Story is Complete if they are finished writing. Otherwise, FF Net assumes the story is ongoing. Therefore, complete stories are not labelled by mistake. No amount of prompting will make an author write any more than he or she has deemed appropriate, and any requests of that nature are more likely to annoy than inspire. Thanks for your understanding.