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The Alternative (3/6)
space beauty
Warnings and other information can be found in the masterpost.

Dawn came, the sky tinted yellow and pink, and brought with it a sense of calm and relaxation that made the morning deceptively cheerful.
Paw slept in, dreaming of nothing, and woke up curled around Roses, who’d slid a hand behind his ear and was scratching him absent-mindedly.
“Mmm,” he muttered as he woke, resting his head against her chest.
“Mmm?” Roses asked, tickling him under the chin.
“Mmm,” Paw repeated, breathing deeply.
“Are you going to get up any time soon?” she asked pointedly. “It’s nearly eleven, and you said you were going to help Todd out at the club this afternoon.”
Paw mumbled something and pulled the pillow over his head.
Roses pulled it off. “Paw, wake up already.”
Paw covered his eyes with his hands. “Mmph.”
Roses sighed. “Paw, if you wake up, I’ll make you pancakes.”
The effect was immediate. Paw sat up, eyes wide. “Pancakes? Really?”
Roses grinned.

Half an hour later, perfect golden pancakes were sizzling in the pan. Roses and Paw were leaning against the counter, making out, and Lupa wandered in, constantly sniffing, following her nose to the pancakes.
She picked up one of the finished pancakes, ate it in three bites and leaned against the wall with an expression of pure bliss on her face.
Roses pulled away from Paw and smiled. “Morning, Lupa!”
Lupa let out a satisfied sigh. “Good morning.”
Roses flipped the remaining pancakes, turned off the heat and found some plates. Once she’d served them, she picked up the kettle. “Coffee, anyone?”
Paw shook his head. “No, thanks.”
Lupa was halfway through another pancake, so her enthusiastic ‘Yes, please!’ came out as ‘Mmmmmph!’.
Roses rolled her eyes and put the kettle on.

Once they were done with breakfast, Roses stacked the dishwasher, Lupa curled up on the couch, dozing, and Paw opened his laptop, sorting through various emails.
“I take it that Todd’s gone to the club?” he asked, not looking up from the computer.
“Yeah, he left a couple of hours ago,” Roses replied, turning the dishwasher on. “You should get going soon, Paw.”
Paw finished reading his email and nodded. “Yeah, good point. Hey, Lupa, want to go for a walk?”
Lupa sat up. “A walk? Sure!”
Roses gave Paw a Look.
“What?” he asked.
“A walk? Seriously?”
“I didn’t mean it like that!” he protested.
“Sure, sure.”

“What does she put in those pancakes?” Lupa asked as the pair made their way down the street. The house was in a relatively nice part of town- by which Todd meant that it was both in a middle-class area and in a spot that didn’t see much supernatural activity- so Paw didn’t eye the people they passed with too much animosity and suspicion.
“No idea,” Paw replied honestly. “She says they’ve just got normal ingredients, but I think she’s got a secret recipe.”
“They’re amazing,” Lupa said with the starry-eyed look that most people got when talking about Roses’ pancakes.
Paw smiled.
They turned a corner, crossed the road and were halfway down the road when Lupa spoke. “Can I ask something?”
“Sure,” Paw said absently.
“We only met yesterday, and we’re acting like we’ve known each other for months…”
“It’s a werewolf thing,” Paw said shortly. “Pack members unconsciously send supportive feelings to new pack members to help them integrate themselves into the family. Roses and Todd may not be wolves, but they’re still linked in.”
“What’s with that?” Lupa asked, rubbing her forehead.
Paw shrugged. “Some of the historians I talked to think it’s another adaptation, back in the days when werewolves weren’t as strong as we are now. For when we had to take down stronger prey quietly, you know?”
Lupa nodded, and then paused as they passed a group of chatting teenagers. “Um… so, we can talk about this stuff in public?”
Paw nodded. “If anyone asks, we’re writing a book. Or practicing for a LARP.”
“Oh, OK. So, is this city, like, a major supernatural hub or something?”
Paw stopped at the crossing and thought about it, head tilted to the side. “Not really. There’s parts of town where you see almost nobody supernatural. I mean, sure, we’ve got vampires and fae and all kinds of assorted arseholes, but try places like New York or Los Angeles- you can’t move with all the supernatural people around.” The lights changed, and they kept walking.
Lupa blinked. “Fae? You mean faeries?”
“Yeah, pretty much. They’re all fucked up, though. Seriously, don’t go near them. If you get stuck, don’t try to bargain, don’t talk to them, and just fight your way out.”
Lupa looked down. “I don’t know how to fight.”
“You’re a werewolf. It’s not hard,” Paw said curtly.
“Oh,” Lupa said, lacking anything else to say.
“Look, just stick close to me or Todd or Roses. Don’t go wandering off by yourself, OK?”
Lupa nodded obediently.
“You’ve met Snob. You know what vampires smell like, right?”
Lupa shuddered, pawing at her nose. “They smell… wrong. Bad. Alien.”
Paw pulled her hands away from her face. “Don’t, you’ll scratch yourself. Exactly. So, you smell a vampire, and you get the hell away from them, OK? They know us, we know them, and there’s no way to disguise yourself.”
“So… are they our enemies?”
“Sort of,” Paw replied. “In the bad old days they were, when it was just us and them as the two major predators, fighting over territory. Eventually, the Arcane and the High Council agreed on a truce: we have our bits, they have theirs, and we keep them up to date, and vice versa.”
“Can you tell me more about the Arcane? Roses didn’t explain much.”
“The werewolf equivalent of the High Council. Once a month, all the pack leaders meet up and talk about stuff.”
“You don’t like them,” Lupa guessed.
“No,” Paw said bluntly. “The most senior members are all morons, conservatives who get pissed off whenever anyone goes against their precious traditions. And they hate me like poison, make no mistake.”
“Because you killed your old Alpha?” Lupa asked without thinking.
Once her brain caught up with her mouth, she froze, horrified.
Paw folded his arms and sighed. “Roses?”
“Um. Yeah.”
Paw shook his head regretfully. “I should have known.” He shrugged.
Despite his blasé demeanour, Lupa felt him tense up, wondering how much Roses had told her, fear underlying his thoughts.
“Yeah, because of that,” he continued. “But mainly because I didn’t take over. They really hate that, because it’s some old bullshit rule that whoever kills the Alpha has to take over. I left the state, and…” He paused, but didn’t continue that line of thought. “…came here. They hate me even more for that, because technically, this city belongs to Spoony.”
“Technically?” Lupa asked tentatively.
“We get along pretty well,” Paw shrugged. “We got stuff in common, and he hates the High Council like I hate the Arcane, so he said I could stay here if want. Basically, I’m in charge when it comes to werewolves. Nobody stays here unless I say they can.”
Lupa’s eyebrows shot up. “He let you?”
“Yeah, like I said, we get along pretty well. Thing is, that’s him and me. His pack don’t like me, and they’re definitely not going to like you. Spoony and his posse are not our friends, they’re our allies, so stay away from them.”
Lupa nodded fervently. “OK, OK. Um, where are we going?”
“The Shadow,” Paw replied, directing her into a side-street. “Todd’s club. It’s- why are you laughing?”
“The Shadow?” Lupa asked, sniggering.
“Yeah, it’s a stupid name,” Paw agreed. “But it’s the main hang-out for supernatural people, so it’s OK, I guess. If you’re at the club, you know why it’s called that, period.”
“Right,” Lupa said. “So, there’s going to be fae and vampires there?”
“Vampires, yeah. Some of the younger ones like clubbing. Todd lets them in as long as they don’t make trouble. Fae, no. Todd banned them.”
“Banned them?” Lupa asked, surprised.
“Yeah. The Fae Queen and I don’t get along, so Todd banned them from the club. Fae… make me angry.”
Lupa looked intimidated. “Um. Why?”
“They act like they own the place,” Paw growled. “They strut around like they’re better, no matter who you are. I hate the fuckers.”
“Um. Calm down? Please?”
Paw blinked and looked down at his hands. “Shit.”
He took a breath, shifted back and pointed down the street. “There. That’s the Shadow.”
“Doesn’t look like much,” Lupa commented, peering at the entrance.
“Like I said, if you know where it is, you know what it’s like.”
Paw unlocked the door and gestured. “Come on in. We’re helping Todd set up for tonight.”
The Shadow was quite big for a club. Unfortunately, it was also in a state of disrepair that was best characterised by two phrases: ‘Shit went down’ and ‘Alcohol was involved’. There were stains on the floor, broken glass scattered everywhere and chairs had been thrown across the room.
Lupa ground to a halt mid-step. “The fuck happened here?”
“Bar fight,” Paw said ruefully. “Happens all the time.”
Lupa blinked. “It does?”
“We cater to the supernatural,” Todd said, emerging from the shadows directly behind Lupa and making her jump. “When they get drunk, it’s all too easy for someone to find someone they hate.”
Lupa glared at him. “Don’t do that!”
Paw chuckled, and held up a hand to ward off her glare.
“Sorry,” Todd said without a shred of sincerity.
“Anyway, we got this fight under control pretty quickly, but it was late and we were all too tired to clean it,” Paw admitted. “So we just went home.”
Lupa gestured around her. “You call this ‘pretty quickly’?”
“The average vampire can make a hell of a mess in a minute,” Todd informed her. “And stopping the fight made even more mess.”
“So, how do we do this?” Lupa asked.
Todd held up a hand, closed his eyes and focused.
Around them, the shadows came to life, flying together and forming a huge, dark mass that hovered in mid-air. The mass dove to the floor and spread out until the floor was invisible under the shadows. Todd twitched, and the shadows flowed back together into a huge ball, dropping all of the dust, glass, miscellaneous detritus and spilled congealed alcohol into a small pile by Todd’s feet.
Todd opened his eyes and smiled.
Paw applauded, and Lupa stared, eyes wide. Finally, she found her voice. “That was awesome.”
“Thank you, thank you,” Todd said, bowing to an imaginary audience. “I’m here ‘til Thursday.”
Paw sighed. “Aaaaaand you just ruined it.”
“Oh, fuck you,” Todd snorted.
“Please do,” Paw said, spreading his arms invitingly.
Todd flipped him off.
Lupa coughed politely. “So, uh, how are we doing this?”
Paw and Todd gave each other knowing looks.
Lupa rolled her eyes.
“Start by picking up all the furniture,” Todd suggested. “If something’s broken, put it by that wall.” He pointed.
“Wait,” Lupa said. “Can’t you just do that with your shadows?”
“Oh, he could,” Paw replied. “He just thinks it’s better exercise if we do it by hand.”
“Because it is,” Todd concluded, ignoring Paw's eye roll and Lupa's groan. “Let’s go, already.”
Reluctantly, they got to work.
Twenty minutes later, the club somewhat resembled a place one could actually drink in, though about a sixth of the furnishings had been removed. While Lupa catalogued broken bottles behind the bar, Todd and Paw moved replacement chairs and tables from one of the back rooms and neatly positioned them.
“What’s in all the back rooms?” Lupa asked curiously as she handed Todd the list of broken bottles.
Paw led her to the back corridor and opened the first of the three doors beside the bathrooms. “We mainly keep spare stuff in this one.”
Besides the broken furniture and replacements, the room held crates of various drinks and quite a few unmarked containers.
Lupa took a deep breath, wrinkled her nose and frowned. “There’s no lock?”
“It’s a magic lock,” Paw explained. “The door only opens to me, Rosy or Todd.”
Lupa nodded and stepped out of the room. She pointed at the other door. “What about that one?”
Paw looked bemused. “Ah. Well… Roses uses it for her magic, so it’s kind of dangerous.”
“So, I can’t go in there?”
Paw shook his head. “Mostly Todd and I don’t go in there either.”
“So, if I see someone go in there, should I panic?”
Todd popped up behind them. “Nah, just assume that Rosy’s got it under control.”
Lupa and Paw jumped.
“Don’t do that!” Paw snapped at his boyfriend.
Todd grinned under the mask and handed Paw the list.
“And the other one?” Lupa asked.
Paw went back into the first back room and started picking up bottles. “That’s Roses’, too, but you can go in there. That being said, if she’s working, be careful that you don’t screw anything up. Hold this…”
Once they’d restocked the bar, Lupa leaned against it. “What about the staircase?”
“Up there?” Todd shrugged. “There’s a balcony, a couple of small rooms we let groups use to… chat… in.”
“Most of the time they bring their own drinks,” Paw explained. “So, if someone tries to get you to go up there, for any reason, say no and get one of us.”
Lupa nodded, and changed the subject. “Todd, what exactly do you do in the club?”
“I run it,” Todd shrugged. “Paw does the music, Roses does the bar, and I cover for them both and make sure everything runs smoothly.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“Help Roses, to begin with,” Paw suggested. “You ever do any waitressing, or bartending?”
“Yeah, I was a waitress for a while…”
“There you are, then,” Paw replied. “Keep an eye on what’s going on. If there’s something wrong, tell me or Todd or Rosy, OK? Don’t get involved unless one of us tells you to.”
Lupa nodded. “I can do that.”
“Good,” Paw said. “What’s left, Todd?”
Todd surveyed the club thoughtfully. “We’ve got the bar restocked, swept the floor, got the furniture… the glasses!”
Paw groaned. “Fuck!”
“What?” Lupa asked.
“Washing-up. Lots of washing-up.”
Lupa swore under her breath.

It was midnight. In a corner, cloaked in his shadows, Todd surveyed the club.
It was business as usual at the Shadow. The club was packed to the brim with sweaty, uncivilised patrons who constantly redefined ‘rowdy’ while drinking far too much alcohol and ‘dancing’.
Todd sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. As snobby as he sounded, it was true: if he’d had a choice, he would have preferred to not serve alcohol, but without booze, there would be no one there. All they could do was institute a limit and keep to it, and even then there was still a fight at least once a week.
He looked around. Roses and Lupa, at the bar, were mixing drinks. In the DJ booth, Paw was listening intently to the loud, poppy song currently booming over the speakers.
Moving like a ghost, he slid through the crowd and into the back corridor. The back rooms were empty, just as they should be, and Todd returned to the main room, satisfied that all was moderately well.
Todd, Roses thought to him. Do me a favour and unlock the back room, will you? It’s time.
Todd gasped theatrically. It is?
Yes. Go unlock the door, minion.
Todd rolled his eyes and went back to the corridor.
Truth be told, he didn’t like what went on in there, and would have preferred that it didn’t happen at all, but the benefits outweighed the issues, and they were kind of essential, especially in this city.
That was what the city did to you. It made you waver, it made you compromise, it made you turn your back on morals for the sake of survival.
He swore under his breath and found his key.
Once he’d unlocked the door, he moved back into the main room, dodging past the people drifting ‘aimlessly’ toward the back.
Putting it firmly out of his mind, he returned to the crowd, and watched them intently, looking for any sign of a disturbance that could turn nasty.
Behind him, a figure slid through the crowd, unnoticed by all.

It was late, and the crowd was thinning out. Most of the humans and metahumans had gone home, but there were always a few who stuck around until closing, along with the vampires and other assorted denizens of the night.
Paw was cycling through songs to add onto his playlist when he felt a mental shriek of fear and pain from Lupa.
He went very still.
Mechanically, he added random songs to the playlist until he’d doubled its original length. Then he stepped out of the booth and looked in Lupa’s direction.
She was in a dark corner, backed up against a wall by a person Paw didn’t recognise. She looked terrified, and when he inhaled, he smelt blood on her hands from open wounds.
Paw saw red.
Around the room, people rapidly moved aside, pulled friends out of the way or moved to the exit. Paw ignored them as he stormed through the meagre crowd, toward his stricken pack member.
Paw, calm down, Roses snapped in his head. You can’t help her by destroying everything.
Shut up, Paw snarled back, and in one lithe movement, he grabbed Lupa’s assailant and hurled him away from her, and into the wall.
The assailant landed with a sick thud, and Paw took the opportunity to land a couple of punches that would have broken the nose and cheekbones of a human enemy.
He took a breath, stepped past the assailant and took Lupa’s hands, examining the wounds. Are you OK?
She was shaking, terrified. I hit him, and he just laughed, and he-
Paw stared down at her hands. Her dark-red blood had mixed with his blood, a repellent shade of…
“Silver,” Paw snarled, turning back to the assailant. “Fae.
The faerie smiled. “Correct, wolf.”

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Oh no, a faerie in the club, this is not gonna be good.

I loved reading all the interactions in this episode. I liked how Paw and Lupa's coversation helped establish the relationships of Paw and his partners with the other factions of the city.

The fae are evil fuckers.

Aw, thanks!

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