I do not own Underworld or its characters or settings. For these, I would like to commend Len Wiseman, Kevin Grivioux, Danny McBride and everyone else who worked on this fine film, especially Ralph Flores Jr. Surely you are a lord among gaffers. Further disclaimers follow.
This is still a bit of a work in progress, so all criticism of a constructive nature will be welcomed with evil cookies courtesy of Chaos Baked Goods. Try the muffins. Or else. This is the third draft of this chapter.
(Bows to T. Stoppard)
Taylor shifted in his seat and swallowed hard. "We shouldn't be here," he murmured.
"Shut up," Pierce hissed back. "You'll keep your courage if you want to beat the bloods into the earth."
Taylor shook his head. It hadn't been too long ago that the scariest thing he'd consider doing was taking the graveyard shift at the docks without a piece. So much for the good life. With the wolf's bite had come strength, purpose and such a new sheen on his senses that he'd wondered why he'd ever considered himself alive before, but damn it, he wasn't a fan of the gun-toting drag queens who wanted to make his pelt into a seat cover. He sighed nervously. At least it would probably be for a Jag.
Nothing about this place felt right, not the unhurried murmur of its occupants, not the way the light eddied against the floor, not the sound of metal clinking against metal in the room behind the swinging gates. Even the rasp of cloth against his skin felt alien. This was enemy territory, plain and simple.
Pierce gave a derisive snort. "I can't believe Lucian sent me out here with a new mark like you to watch my back."
"Yeah?" Taylor felt his face heat. "Well I can't believe we're in a cop diner!"
"He said to make it look real," Pierce answered defensively.
"Let's see," the waitress rasped in the voice of a thousand cigarettes. "That was a burger and fries for you, and one chef's special..." She trailed off, plunking a mostly-clean plate in front of Taylor. Over her shoulder, he could see the opposite row of booths, half-full of customers, half of them in uniform, catching a quick meal before shift change or just slurping down a cup of something hot and caffeinated that really didn't deserve to be called coffee. Thankfully, none of them were looking this way. "Can I get you anything else?"
"Uh..." Taylor reached. "Could we have another minute?" he asked, smiling as he fumbled with the gooily laminated menu. He knew his newly peeled cheeks still had just enough baby fat to pull it off. Forget thirty; thanks to Lucian, Taylor was going to get carded until he was three hundred.
It might've worked if it hadn't been the graveyard shift. "It i'n' life and death, pal," she husked at him.
"You're the boss." The waitress blinked her kohl-caked eyes and slouched away.
"This is where the real ones go," Pierce explained, adjusting the collar of the uniform that had until a few hours ago, belonged to the hapless Officer Stern. "I've seen 'em."
"Oh God..." Taylor muttered between his teeth as one of the other patrons looked up. The guy didn't look like much, hair going gray and just a hint of a gut, but he could have been an off-duty in civvies. Taylor smiled weakly and the human looked away.
Like most of the more recent additions to the lycan clan, Taylor's human life hadn't left him with much fondness for law enforcement. Taylor didn't like cops. Next to the death dealers they looked like the goddamn Avon lady, but he still didn't like cops. In fact, if someone had asked him, years earlier, whether he thought himself more likely to be bitten by a werewolf or to find himself standing in a cop hangout wearing a cop uniform trying his damnedest not to tick off the cops, he'd probably have picked the first one.
Fate had a sense of humor that could stun a yak.
"We should've just stayed in the car 'til he called us," he said, dropping his voice nearly out of human hearing.
"He said to make it look real," Pierce repeated in the same demon undertone.
"We could've made it look real from the car. We're gonna get fucking caught!" Taylor sliced one hand in Pierce's direction, moving the other to not-so-surreptitiously shield his face. "That Adam guy at the hospital bought it like anything, but we're not going to fool real ones."
"Nonsense. Humans are like sheep..." Pierce began.
"You mean you come and visit when you're lonely?" Taylor muttered under his breath.
"I mean that they follow the herd, you disrespectful piece of shit," Pierce went on. "As long as we don't do anything to stand out, they'll just sit there chewing their cud like contented little—"
"Sheep don't chew cud."
"Yes they do."
"Whatever. You're the expert," Taylor muttered as he ran his eyes across the far side of the diner. People were starting to look.
The scent of nicotine wafted down to him. "Something wrong with your food, officer?" asked the waitress. "You haven't touched it."
"Um..." Taylor gulped. The dietary restrictions of being lycan had taken some serious getting used to. There had been days in which he'd have died for a burger and fries, but now the scent bitch-slapping his nose made his stomach seize up and do calisthenics. The meat wasn't cooked; it was burned and soaked in grease. The bun wasn't bread; it was some dry and rotted thing that would choke him as soon as he forced it down. "I guess I wasn't as hungry as I thought."
The thing was, Taylor realized as his eyes found their way to the only appetizing thing in view, he really was hungry, actually hungry for something an immortal could chew and stomach and turn into strength...
"Hey!" Taylor blinked to find one nylon claw waving in front of his nose. "My eyes are up here," the waitress pointed.
"Uh..." Taylor winced at how pathetic he sounded. "I guess I just stared into space for a minute there. Sorry."
"There's plenty of space that i'n' my chest, pal."
"I said I was sorry!"
She tossed her overdyed head and slunk off.
"Stop fighting with your food," Pierce muttered sullenly.
"Gladly," he muttered back. People were still looking. Taylor started sweating in stolen clothes. This was a cop hangout. This was a god damn cop hangout and any minute now, someone was going to notice—
"Sent me out here with a fucking new mark..." Pierce griped again. He pointed his nose at Taylor. "I don't know what a scrub like you is even doing with us."
Taylor gulped as he noticed more than one head turn their way, "Ah, Pier—Stern..?" he hinted.
"You should have stayed out where we found you," he jabbed, "feeding fish guts to that damn stray."
The young lycan's whole body seized up. "That has nothing to do with this or why we're here."
Pierce wasn't done. "You think that just because you can shoot straight that you can hold your own with what walks in this city?"
"I can control my change and that means I'm of age!" The words came out as a snarl. Taylor found himself on his feet. "The boss thinks I'm good enough for this job, and that—"
"Doesn't mean shit if you can't hack it!" Pierce was standing too. "Why do you think he paired you up with me? He hopes your dumb ass will learn something, dickhead."
"Then why choose a sheep-hugging asshole for a teacher?"
"'Cause you're not worth anyone else's time 'til you change your attitude!" Pierce slashed one hand almost to Taylor's throat. "If you stop thinking that you already know everything about this job then we might not have to bury your damned carcass."
"You are such a—" Taylor cut off at a roar assaulted him from all sides. For a second he thought they were under attack. He tensed, one hand going toward his weapon as he cast around the sea of faces for the pasty-pale skin that meant death dealer.
Then he realized that half the clientele were on their feet. And they were applauding.
The gray-touched man from earlier took a step away from his booth. Laughing just a bit, he nodded to Pierce. "Partnered you up with a rookie, huh man?"
Pierce cocked an eyebrow. "Something like that," he answered. Taylor felt his face burn.
"You should listen to him, kid," the human went on. "Sounds like he knows what he's talking about. It's harsh out there."
If Taylor hadn't been watching, he wouldn't have seen the gloat hovering around Pierce's fangs.
"You're all right, pal," the human laughed, "except maybe for that sheep part. That's sick, man." He turned to Pierce, brow creasing the tiniest bit. "You look new. Just transfer in?"
"Yeah," Pierce answered.
Someone dumped ice water into Taylor's angry blood.
"Up north a ways," Pierce answered.
"Where abouts?" asked the cop, smile dimming just a hint. "Which precinct?"
"Sixteenth..." Pierce improvised. Taylor could only watch. From the corner of his eye – hell, from all of his eye, the damn guys were everywhere – he could see some of the other patrons get up and come closer. Some of them were in uniform. Some were probably off duty, but damn it, in this part of town that didn't mean nobody was carrying.
"Stern," Taylor interrupted, trying his baby-fat smile again. "You know we're not from sixteenth." He wasn't expecting it to work, of course. "We're from—"
"What's your captain's name?" the gray man was asking, all the ease gone out of his manner.
"Lu— eh Bob," Pierce lied again. Taylor could feel the eyes settling down on them both, could feel the sweat leaking down Pierce's brow, could feel hands moving toward radios, toward sidearms.
Damn damn but fuckdamnit... Taylor hated getting shot.
The gray man's eyes narrowed again. "What's your badge number?"
"Uh..." Pierce faltered. "Five?"
Breaking news: Carnage at the South Street Diner. Five police officers and one employee were found horribly mangled not two hours ago. Surviving witnesses seem confused, but preliminary reports suggest feral dog attack. The department of animal control has been dispatched to apprehend—
Lucian clicked off the radio, planting one palm on the corner of Singe's lab table. "I," he began, voice pulsing with leashed rage, "gave you one job to do!"
"Lucian," Pierce began, "we did what you asked us to; we got the new mark's location—"
"Which does us no good if the vampires realize what we're up to, come after us in force and kill us all," Lucian didn't have to shout. He never had to shout. "If I could spare the men," he said, fixing them each in turn with that predator's eye, "I would have both your heads for putting our cause in danger. This is not some daylight raid for food or equipment," he said. "These next two nights will determine whether our species vanishes from the earth," he fumed, "and it's moments like these that make me wonder if the vampires are the real reason we're dying out."
Pierce took a breath. "What I don't understand is—"
"All you have to understand," Lucian commanded, "is the task I've set for you. Since I cannot replace you," he said, "I will have to trust you one more time. Can I rely on the two of you not to start any more brawls with the human police?"
"Yes, Lucian," Talyor answered immediately. Pierce growled his assent.
The leader dismissed them with a nod of his head and they turned toward the exit shaft.
Pierce grumbled as the door clanged shut behind them. "I still don't—"
Taylor snarled in exasperation, both hands twitching. "It's the number that's stamped on the badge, Pierce."
Pierce twisted the silver shield around in his palm, both eyebrows lifting. "Huh," he nodded.
Where to send the blame: drf24 (at) columbia . edu
Disclaimers: This piece is – God, I love fanfiction – almost completely unresearched. I freely admit that the diner, the police officers and even the waitress are styled after U.S. and not Hungarian models. I don't pretend to know crud about real police officers and where they hang out. I can, however, commend the police forces of more than one American city for their restraint and professionalism.