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Adieu

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The hospital smelled of death. It lingered underneath the stark scent of disinfectant, like an apple that had turned rotten and wormy. Michael hadn't noticed it as a human. Back then, the hospital had smelled clean, sterile. It'd made him feel safe, like nothing could touch him there. But now, with his enhanced senses, he could smell the underlying sickness and death.

He waited outside the building, perched high on the roof. The wind toyed with the edge of his coat and ruffled his hair, sending several pieces flying into his eyes. Michael shoved it behind his ear, absently noting that he would need a haircut soon, as he watched the people hurrying in and out of the hospital and around the parking lot below. They were almost like a single, living organism, moving in and out and about; it was a carefully controlled chaos that even now felt a little bit like home to him.

He'd spent so many years pursuing that life, especially after the accident. All he'd wanted to do was help people, to keep others from suffering the same pain he had. It had consumed him. He'd been a warrior against death, saving people even when other doctors couldn't. He had been utterly focused, driven, the best. In hindsight, he could see that intense drive for what it really was: an unconscious desire to gain absolution for his wife's death, but at the time, he'd just known that he had a calling.

He was a healer.

It was in his blood.

And if he had a nickel for every time his blood came into question lately, he'd be a very rich man, Michael mused wryly.

A door over to the side of the hospital opened, and a pair of figures walked out. Michael recognized them instantly, even from the rooftop. Just one of the blessings of his newly heightened senses, he supposed. His old friend Adam and Corina, one of the new interns. She'd started at the hospital just a few weeks before the subway shootout. Tall, blonde and gorgeous, she'd been a regular feature in the fantasies of over half the guys on staff.

"So you really saw him afterwards?" she was saying as they headed out toward the parking lot. "What was he like?"

"Well, he'd always been pretty quiet," Adam replied. "Buried himself in his work. Never got close to anyone. A real loner. But when he came to the hospital that night, there was something different about him."

"Different how?"

"It's had to describe, but there was just something about him. He seemed... dangerous. He grabbed my arm at one point, and it was like there was something else looking out of his eyes, like he was some kind of animal."

His friend was more right than he knew, Michael thought with a sigh. His fingers toyed absently with Lucian's amulet, which hung around his neck once again. They'd gone back for it after the dust had settled. Even though it held no real purpose now that William was dead, it served as a reminder of what Michael had become and everything he'd been through.

"Were you scared?" Corina asked from down below, bringing Michael's attention back to the pair of humans as they walked past the rows of parked cars.

"I was terrified. I really thought he was going to kill me, like they say he did all those people on the subway."

"But you still went for the police? Even with him sitting right there in the other room? What if he'd found out and tried to kill you?"

"I couldn't worry about myself. I had to think of the greater good."

"That was really brave," Corina replied, slipping her arm through Adam's as they moved out of earshot.

Michael almost couldn't believe it. Everything that'd happened to him in the past few days, all of the horror and the bloodshed, and it had all been reduced merely to a story one of his last human friends was using to impress a pretty girl. Well, if that didn't put his life into perspective in the grand scheme of things, he didn't know what would. Even when everything he'd ever known was turned upside down, the world kept right on spinning. The universe certainly had a twisted sense of humor. Michael was still waiting for the punch line, though.

There were no footsteps to signal her presence, no sound to alert him to her arrival, but all the same, he knew the exact moment he was no longer alone. He didn't bother to turn around.

"What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you," she replied, moving forward to stand beside him. "I woke up, and you were gone."

"I didn't mean to worry you," he said.

"I wasn't worried."

It was a lie, of course. They both knew that. But all the same, he didn't call her on it. Ever since Markus had nearly killed him, she'd been quietly driving herself crazy worrying about him. One way or another, she'd lost everyone she ever loved because of the curse of the Corvinus line. Her family killed by a vampire, that self same vampire-turned-father stolen from her by his own deceptions. Michael didn't know what she would do if she lost him, too. Not that he was in any kind of a hurry to find out.

"I was just curious about what you were up to, Michael. You haven't been back here. Not since before."

Before. It carried so many meanings now. Before he met her. Before he'd been turned. Before he'd learned what it felt like to kill. Before.

He glanced down at the hospital parking lot. He watched as an ambulance arrived, its lights flashing, and the paramedics wheeled a woman out on a gurney. He watched as Adam opened Corina's car door for her, and she stood on her tiptoes to give him a kiss on the cheek. He watched as the life he once knew went on without him. Then he turned and met Selene's concerned gaze, and he realized that he wasn't nearly as upset about all of this as he thought maybe he should be.

The sun was setting in the distance, and its rays caressed her skin like an enamored lover, making her glow, almost as if she was made from fire. But her eyes remained as blue as the coldest ice. The contrast was arresting.

He found that he couldn't resist touching her. He skimmed his fingers across her cheek. When his thumb brushed over her lips, she nipped at it lightly with her fangs. There was a playful twinkle in her eyes.

Michael smiled. For the first time in a long time, he felt at peace. His life wasn't turning out at all like he'd thought it would, but somehow he was okay with that.

Selene arched one delicately shaped eyebrow. "You never told me what you were doing here."

Michael closed his eyes, letting the warmth of the sun soak into his skin. It felt almost like a rebirth.

"I was just saying goodbye."