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The Alternative (4/6)
space beauty
Warnings and other information can be found in the masterpost.

As it turned out, the back room was perfect for an impromptu interrogation, as all three of them found out when Paw hurled the Fae into the pile of broken furniture and smiled as his body impacted against the chairs.
“Paw,” Lupa began.
Paw turned a look on her that made her recoil. “Shut up.”
He turned back to the Fae. “Start talking.”
“About what?” the Faerie asked, smiling smugly.
Paw picked up the nearest chair and swung it into the Fae as hard as he could, grinning ferally at the crunch.
He’d hated the Fae from the moment he’d first realised what they truly were. It wasn’t just that they were so enormously powerful. It wasn’t just that they operated on an entirely different wavelength of morality. No, it was how superior they always acted, like they were put on Earth to rule, and everyone else were just pets, completely subhuman, their wishes and opinions irrelevant. They were always so shocked when people refused to subscribe to their bullshit.
Paw hated them like poison.
He pulled the chair away and hauled his prisoner up. “Did she send you here?” he spat, enjoying the furious look on the Fae’s face.
“I don’t know who you mean,” the Fae said calmly.
“Lupa, go get a steak knife,” Paw ordered.
Do it!” he screamed, eyes flaring.
Lupa bolted from the room, and Paw turned back to his prisoner.
“Having a bad day, are we?” the Fae asked, chuckling.
Paw took one step forward.
Paw, what the fuck are you doing? Todd asked calmly.
He hurt Lupa. He’s in my club. And he’s really pissing me off.
Your club? MY club!
Both of you, stop it! Roses shouted. Paw, calm the fuck down already.
If she sent him here-
Then we’ll deal with it, Roses replied soothingly. Just… just stop being so fucking crazy, will you?
Paw took a deep breath, and asked a single question, his voice level. “Did Tara send you here?”
The Fae froze, silver blood gleaming on his face.
“I know you can’t lie,” Paw continued steadily. “You can refuse to answer the question, and then I’ll make you answer. This is your only chance: did Tara send you here?”
The Fae remained still for a second, and then he seemed to deflate with a sigh. “No, she did not send me here.”
“Who did send you, then?” Paw asked.
“Let me rephrase: whose idea was it that you should come here?”
“No one’s idea but my own.”
Paw frowned, confused. “You are from Tara’s Court, right?”
“Tara banned her Court from coming here, did she not?”
“She did.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“No true queen would stop her own from going where they wish.”
“So you defied her,” Paw said, thinking. “You have left her Court?”
“But you no longer call her your Queen.”
Paw smiled, high on adrenaline and bravado, his eyes canine. “Well, you’ve already broken one law, right? Let’s break a few more!”
“Open a Way. Here, now.”
The Fae’s eyes widened. “What?
“Go on, tough guy,” Paw said, folding his arms. “I dare you.”
Paw, are you fucking kidding me? Roses screamed.
Oh, I’ve got a plan.
Oh fuck-
Paw blocked her out and grinned, despite the chills that ran up his spine as he spoke. “You’re not getting out of this room until you open that Way. You get the easy way and the hard way. You know what the easy way is, but I don’t think I’ve really explained how the hard way goes…”
The smug look in the Fae’s eyes was wholly gone, now, replaced with fear. He took a step back, and as Lupa cautiously walked back in with the knife, there was a sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, and reality split open in front of them.

The Court was a scene of falsehood and marvels. The air was filled with the sweet scents of jasmine and rose, a strong, heady scent that fogged the mind. If one listened, one could almost hear the sound of tiny bells- almost, but not quite.
The air seemed to shimmer, light refracting off nothing, colours gleaming on clear walls, all to confuse and befuddle lesser minds. One who did not know what to expect would be entranced within minutes.
The floor and walls were made of something like marble, a stone that drank in the light and dazzled all who looked at it, haunting them with the thousands of colours within the stone.
The very sight made Paw want to throw up.
Similar to the room were its occupants, all tall, beautiful creatures with fine features and colourful appearances. They seemed innocent, almost harmless, to the casual observer, but it was all misdirection, as was their ruler.
The Overqueen of the USA was draped over an ancient throne, a beautiful piece in pale stone that had been intricately engraved with dozens of patterns. She wore jeans, leather boots and a plain blue shirt, a costume that stood out among the fantastic and elaborate costumes the others wore. She looked human, an anomaly among the beautiful, alien, creatures surrounding her, with long, plain red hair and almost normal features. Her eyes, however, changed colour by the second, flashing through shades and hues into colours most people had never seen before.
It wasn’t a widely accepted look, but Tara made it a rule to never go with tradition.
After all, never going with tradition was how she’d become the Overqueen in the first place.
She frowned as the Way opened, and her frown changed to an expression of fury and vitriol when Paw stormed in, threw the noble to the ground in front of her throne, and stepped back, glaring at her with just as much hatred.
She opened her perfect, beautiful mouth to speak, but Paw cut her off with a snarl. “This was in my club. He invaded my space, harmed my pack and told me that he no longer accepts you as his Queen. He’s yours to deal with, Tara.” He met her gaze with his own, tension crackling between them.
Tara remained perfectly still for several long, terrifying seconds, and then she began to idly tap out a beat on the arm of her chair with her nails.
The sound carried through the court like a scream in a chasm, and it made the atmosphere become even more tense.
Abruptly, she looked expectantly up at Paw, who stared back at her, fists clenched.
I know what you want. You want me on my knees again begging you to accept my apology. You want me chained up and whipped so you can laugh at my pain. You want me as your toy so you can fuck me up and get off on it. Well, you’re a few years too late, Tara. I’m nobody’s bitch, especially not yours.
Tara pursed her lips, as though she could hear what Paw was thinking, and abruptly stopped tapping. Thoughtfully, she stared down at the broken, bleeding noble sprawled on the marble floor, and sighed.
“You know, I really fucking hate it when you motherfuckers bleed on the marble,” she said to no one in particular, and twitched her fingers.
Silver light flowed from her fingers to the noble. It rested on his skin for a second, creating a ghostly patina, and then it vanished with a flash of very bright light, so bright that everyone watching turned away, crying out with pain.
When they looked back, the noble’s wounds had healed, and the blood had vanished.
Slowly, he rose to his feet, looking down at his non-existent wounds in surprise. Finally, he looked up at Tara. “Thank you, your Majesty.”
Tara frowned, a tiny, almost imperceptible frown. Finally, she spoke. “You went to the wolf’s club?”
The noble nodded.
“The club I told all of you to stay out of?”
He nodded again.
“And you told him you don’t follow me any more?”
Another, almost imperceptible nod.
Tara twitched her fingers, and the noble let out a scream as his muscles tightened, his limbs flying out and his head tilted back.
“You disobeyed me,” Tara hissed, sitting up on the throne. “Nobody fucking disobeys me.
The watching fae shrank back, unwilling to be noticed. Paw remained still, arms folded and face expressionless.
Behind him, Lupa peered around his shoulder, too curious to let her fear override her, and gasped as she took in the beauty of the Fae.
Paw sighed. First rule of the Fae: don’t talk to them, don’t accept any offers, don’t touch, don’t offer to help and don’t listen. And don’t drop that knife, whatever you do. In other words: stay back in there, understood?
But… they’re so pretty.
Yeah, that’s how they lure in their victims. His tone was bitter, reminiscent of old wounds.
Lupa let out a squeak and stepped back.
Tara kept the noble hanging for a few long seconds, and then let him fall. She got to her feet, giving Lupa a good look at her conspicuously plain appearance, and stepped forward, looking down with contempt.
“You fucking broke my laws, shattered a fucking truce and harmed the pack mate of my… ally,” she hissed, her eyes afire with silver light and her voice like a howling gale. As she spoke, the very air seemed to scream, as though she was rending it with her speech. Paw clenched his teeth, resisting the urge to cover his ears against a sound he couldn’t really hear.
“You defied me! You turned against me. I am going to motherfucking end you!” Tara howled.
With that, she turned to the side and screamed a single name. “Nash!
The atmosphere went from frozen to sub-zero in less than a second.
Lupa, get back, Paw thought frantically. Right now!
What? Why?
I don’t want him seeing you, get back!
You don’t want who seeing me?
A lone figure emerged from a side corridor and walked into the room.
On the surface, he looked normal- all right, he did look like an extra from True Blood, but normal enough- until one really looked.
He was a stocky man, not especially tall, clad in form-fitting black leather that Paw had to admit did make him rather easy on the eyes. His hair was long, brown and in a ponytail, his beard was meticulously trimmed, and in his hand he held a sledgehammer as though it was a hairbrush. Paw's eyes registered each long, deliberate scratch on the sledgehammer's handle, and he winced.
His eyes, though… They were the eyes of someone no longer there, the eyes of a person who had died, but their body was still living. He was smiling, a manic grin that looked as though it had been stapled onto his face, and his eyes made the smile a million times worse.
They were the eyes of someone who had been so broken and twisted that the person they had used to be was permanently gone, and nothing could ever even try to bring them back.
The watching Fae shrank away from him, many turning their faces away or trying to move out of his sight. He glanced around the room almost contemptuously, looked curiously at Paw, and then turned to his queen.
He slowly walked to Tara and dropped to one knee in front of her, his head bowed.
Tara reached out and stroked the top of his head, running her hands through his hair. She threw Paw a contemptuous glance and smiled down at her slave.
“He turned against me,” she ordered. “I want to know who else has. I want names. I want everything. Make it happen. And once you’re done, feed him to the hippos.”
Nash nodded once, rose and picked up the noble, throwing the paralysed fae over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. He walked casually out of the court, tossing his hammer up in the air and catching it like it was a rattle, and whistled ‘I’ve Been Working On The Railroad’ brightly as he walked.
As the whistling died away, the tension subsided, as though everyone had let out a breath at once.
“I trust this matter has been dealt with to your satisfaction?” Tara asked with distaste, as though merely talking to Paw left a bad taste in her mouth.
“It has,” Paw agreed, his mouth twisting with disgust.
“Consider this to be a debt I owe to you for finding and bringing to me a traitor,” Tara said formally. Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Tara said curtly to Paw, waving a hand imperiously at the hole in the air. “I sincerely hope I never have to see you again.”
“You and me both,” Paw replied, carefully leaving the word bitch off the end of the sentence. With that, he stepped backwards through the Way, careful not to turn his back on the Fae.
Tara snapped her fingers as he left, and the hole vanished.

Paw stepped away from the space where the hole had been, fists bunched. He carefully examined the space and forced himself to relax. “It’s all right,” he said curtly.
Lupa stepped out from behind him cautiously. “What just happened?”
“Tara dealt with him. In her own way.”
“Who is she?”
“She’s the Overqueen of the West,” Paw replied, sinking down to the ground. “She’s one of the most sadistic, spiteful bitches I’ve ever had to deal with, and I hate her more than anything.”
Lupa decided not to ask why, and changed the subject.
“Who was that guy she called?”
“That was Nash,” Paw said quietly. “He’s Tara’s enforcer. If you value your life, never go near him. Ever.”
“He could kill me?” Lupa asked quietly.
“He could take all four of us without breaking a sweat,” Paw replied. “He could take Spoony one on one and win in about five minutes. He could take everyone in Spoony’s Court on at once and win.”
“But… he looked so… how?” Lupa asked, befuddled.
“Protection spells,” Paw explained. “Tara’s covered him with protection spells, so it’s nearly impossible to hurt him. He’s really good at using that hammer.”
“But couldn’t a witch or a fairy take the spells away? Wouldn’t cold iron fuck them up?”
“The spells are out of Roses’ league. A talented fairy could do it, but there’s one problem: he wears iron. All the time. Those leather clothes he was wearing- there's iron on the inside, but the leather's thick enough that Tara can put spells on the outside. It’s why he’s so good as an enforcer- fairy weapons and magic just fail when they touch him, and even if they broke through the spells, he's wearing iron. Once they try to attack him and fail, he takes them down with his hammer."
Lupa paused. "How does Tara keep him loyal to her? I mean, if he's that powerful, then couldn't he just kill her if she pissed him off?"
Paw shook his head. "She uses magic. It's not pretty. As for killing a ruler he already has. You saw his hammer? Thirteen scratches. Thirteen dead queens.”
Lupa’s eyes widened. “Thirteen?
“It’s how Tara became Overqueen. There are lots of queens and kings ruling the land in the fae world that parallels the US. She sent Nash to kill the other rulers until someone was crowned who'd follow her rules. All the monarchs know that if they do anything she doesn’t like, they’ll wake up one morning and Nash’ll be standing there, smiling.”
Lupa shuddered. “But… he’s human, right? Couldn’t they just get an enforcer of their own to take him out?”
“In theory, but it’s never worked, and somehow he always knew who tried and who got them to do it.” Paw shuddered in turn, and Lupa decided not to ask for details.
“Where did he come from?”
“Nobody knows. Tara just… found him, and… did something… to his head. He pretty much worships her now. The only thing that’s human about him is his biology. He’s lived so long in her Court that he might as well be a fairy.”
Lupa trembled.
Paw slid an arm around her shoulders. “It’s OK.”
“But… what if they come after us?”
“They’re not,” Paw reassured her. “Tara knows well that if she invades our world, everyone will team up to take her out, and she can’t withstand all of us. All we have to do is not do anything that could count as provocation, and we’re good. So don’t go near them and let me do the talking, all right?”
Lupa nodded. “How do you know each other?”
Paw paused, his eyes dark. “Don’t ask.”
For a second, he looked hunted, and then he relaxed. “Just… don’t, OK?”
Lupa nodded wordlessly.
“Good,” Paw said. He shuddered again. “I fucking hate that place. I’m going home, I need a drink.”
Lupa watched him leave, her eyes haunted.

While most of the club’s patrons had quickly departed, the larger of the three back rooms was still full. Its denizens danced to the song continually blasted over the speakers, a long, droning techno tune with a thumping beat. They moved in unison, their movements odd and jerking, like puppets on strings.
An adept would have seen the collars around their necks: transparent black bands like thorny stems, made of an otherworldly force. The ‘stems’ had long black thorns that were embedded in the wearer’s throat, making them bleed silver light that drifted through the room as they danced, though no one seemed to notice.
No one spoke, or sang along, or watched from the side of the room. They just danced, deaf and blind to anything else, the toys of a force beyond their knowledge, unable to comprehend what was happening to them.

The room next to them was nearly empty. Several backpacks sat near the walls, and in the middle of the room, someone had drawn three circles in a target shape.
In the middle of the target sat Roses, focused on the gleaming silver ball levitating above her hands, silver light flowing through the wall and into its depths.
Despite the fact that the ball was opaque, she stared into the orb as though it was clear.
And then she screamed.
Clumsily, she climbed to her feet and bolted out of the circles, the ball falling to the ground and dissipating.

In the other room, the dancers abruptly stopped, many falling to the ground from the sudden halt. Some clutched their heads, others sank to the floor, their legs shaking. This wasn’t normal. Normally, the music stopped and then they all went home, exhausted but high off the feeling of being connected. Instead, they were all exhausted and confused.
The music continued, but the magic was gone.

Roses bolted through the club, calling her boyfriends’ names, and ran straight into Paw, knocking them both to the ground.
He looked up at her dryly. “Well, I know I’m irresistible…”
“Paw, it’s important!” Roses exclaimed crossly as she rolled off him.
“What did you see?” he asked, getting up.
Roses paused, and a chill ran down Paw’s spine.
Finally, she spoke. “They’re coming.”
“Who is?” he asked.
“Tara. Nash. Her inner circle.”
Paw froze.
“In about a month,” Roses continued, babbling in her haste. “I couldn’t see why, but apparently it doesn’t have anything to do with us…”
Paw unfroze.
“Fuck,” he muttered, one hand at his forehead.
“What?” Roses asked.
“I might have…”
“You know that… disturbance… earlier?”
“I might have beaten the crap out of one of Tara’s people… and then I might have made him open a Way to her Court.”
“You did WHAT?” Roses shrieked.
Paw clapped his hands over his ears and whined in pain.
Roses relented. “Sorry, sorry, I just… what?”
“He hurt Lupa,” Paw said, uncovering his ears. “And he was rebelling against Tara, so I had to tell her. She would have flipped if I hadn’t.”
“OK,” Roses said thoughtfully. “We need to-”
“-beef up our defences,” Todd said from the back corner, stepping out of the shadows. “I’m not having any more Fae in my club. I don’t know how that fucker got in here, but it’s not happening again.”
“And we need to warn Spoony and Linkara,” Roses said.
“Do we have to?” Paw whined.
“Look, I’ll tell them,” Roses said comfortingly, draping an arm over his shoulder. “Then they’ll owe me a favour.”
“I like that idea,” Todd grinned.
“Paw, this isn’t your fault,” Roses said. “Like I said before, the reason doesn’t have anything to do with us…”
“Yeah, the reason may not, but I got her attention just fine, and then it’s just one fucking slippery slope from there…” Paw sighed, his shoulders dropping. “Fuck it! Let’s go home.”
“I’ll get the last few people out,” Todd said.
“I’ll go talk to Lupa, I have to pack my stuff up anyway,” Roses said.
Paw shrugged and started walking, his mind dark.

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Tara was terrifying as the Fairy Overqueen (that part about feeding the traitor to the Hippos, omg). Also Nash was really creepy too! I wonder what she did to him to cause him to be like that *shudders* And Paw has a story with her too. Intriguing.

Tara makes a very good bad guy. And yeah, hippos have been known to chase and kill people, so I figured it wouldn't be too much of a stretch for Tara to have people-eating hippos.

Nash is... well, there's barely anything human left in his head. Fae have some very brutal ways.

Paw and Tara really do not get along well. Their past ended *very* badly.

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