Disclaimer: Not mine…

Warnings: Up to episode 1x12. This is the seconde cyle of a three cycles fiction.

Beta'd by: Anaman and wollstonecraft61. Thank you for your wonderful job at beta-ing this story. By now, any errors is mine.

A/N: Sorry for the long wait. The next chapter is written, all I have to do is type it and wait for my betas to fix all my mistakes. :P

The Mark

Cycle 2 - the Practice

Chapter 10

"It's about time you got back."

Mick flinched at the voice and raised his eyes towards the silhouette sitting in his armchair, sipping a glass of cold blood. He didn't say anything. He put his keys and sunglasses on the small table near the entrance and went to the kitchen. Recalling their last meeting, he hesitated to speak. He had run away like a coward and let Josef handle a situation he was responsible for. The present case forced him to talk to Josef, the well-being of the communauty came first. So, he poured himself a tall glass of A+, added some scotch, and went to sit on the couch.

Josef was silent, observing his best friend. He was angry at Mick for the way he had gave up Beth but he was curious and he wanted to know what Mick had to tell him. Josef wasn't going to be easy on him. He looked Mick squarely in the eyes and began :

"Well Mick, what was so 'urgent and important' ? "

Mick looked away and took a sip from his glass before answering, still not looking at Josef.

"There was a vampire murder the other night-"

"A vampire murder ? Gee, that was really important."

Mick suddenly looked at Josef and said :

"Cut the sarcasm for a second, Josef ! This is very important. Someone called the police, and if for not the vampire's freshie's unexpected visit, the cops would have found a dead vampire fully vamped out, a full syringe of silver still planted in the arm."

Josef's smirk disappeared. He stood up and began pacing.

"What was the vamp's name ?" he asked roughly.

"Patrick McNeal. He seemed like an okay vampire, he didn't cause any problems. I'm actually investigating the murder at the Cleaner's demand, but so far we have found out nothing. I don't think it was revenge.

Josef went to sit down again and looking at to Mick his face grave :

"Tell me all about this, from the beginning."

**********

A large and obscure room contained a long table of dark wood that sat in the middle of the room. Five silhouettes sat at the table. On the other side, someone stood up, his head bowed.

" You've been assigned a new mission, soldier," one of the seated figures stated.

" Do not disappoint us !" warned another one.

" No, sirs," the soldier replied.

Another mysterious silhouette, who had not spoken yet, pushed a folder in the direction of the soldier. He went to the table, took the folder and stepped back.

" You know what to do ! God help you killing this abomination. You may go."

"Sir, I will not dishonor your trust."

*********

Los Angeles, 3:12 AM

"LAPD, what is your name and what are you calling for ?"

" Murder ! A murder !" A rushed voice cried out.

"You need to tell me your name, please and your location"

"I'm calling from a payphone on Mean Street, there's a corpse in the middle of the street," continued the stammering voice.

"What's your na-"

The call disconnected before the policeman could finish the sentence.

*********

Los Angeles, Mean Street, 3:21 AM

Two police officers looked down at a body.

"Shit ! What is this ?"

"I don't know, but we're going to have to wake up the A.D.A."

"The newbie ?"

"Yes, he begins today, well, tonight."

They both shook their head and went to their car to make the call and wait for reinforcement.

********

A few hours later.

After a very long and exhausting night, explaining the case and trying to brush off the witty comments from Josef, Mick was finally about to catch some rest in his freezer when his phone rang. With a heavy sigh, he grabbed it and answered without looking at the ID.

"St John."

"This is the Cleaner, light("turn" not "light") on your TV and watch the last news."

"Why ? Somebody leaked the info on McNeal ?"

"Watch and come to the warehouse, ASAP !"

With no other words, the Cleaner hung up.

As Mick put on the TV, he understood in an instant: a new victim had been found. Except this time, the police were there first. Mick looked carefully at the gross footage of the body and recognized it immediately.

" No, no, no… It's not possible. What the hell is going on ? Damn !"

He hit a button on his speed dial.

"It's me. There's been another one. It's Mickael Peters. I just found out, I got a call from the Cleaner a minute ago. I know this is bad ! Listen, I have to go see the Cleaner but I'll come by after. I think we may have a big problem, I think there is a vampire hunter, Josef !

*******

Ben Talbot had always been a man in a hurry. He graduated high school a year sooner than his friends, chose the best college to study law, and there again, graduated in record time and with flying colors. Now, at just 27 years old, he had been assigned to be the new A.D.A of Los Angeles County. Of course, the job description was dangerous, even more when you knew that your predecessor had been murdered because of a case. A normal person would have opted a safer job but not Ben Talbot. Ben Talbot was an ambitious man. He wanted to mark his time, and he didn't care if it meant putting his life in danger or getting little sleep").

That's why Ben Talbot was walking down the morgue corridor, at 4:25 AM on his first day. He opened the door without knocking and entered the room as if he owned it. The assistant looked at him coldly, not liking the way he made an entrance.

"So, where is the Mean Streets body ?" asked Talbot.

The assistant sat motionless, silently assessing Talbot. Talbot then realized that in his haste, he hadn't even said his name.

"Oh sorry, I guess I was so impatient to take a look at the body that I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Ben Talbot, the new A.D.A., I'm replacing Jo-"

"Josh Lindsey, I know. He was a great man, it's a shame," replied Guillermo curtly. He didn't like this guy.

"Yeah, I guess…" replied Talbot, not sounding convinced. So, is this the body ?"

Guillermo took out a folder and looked at the number of the drawer where the vampire body was. He opened the drawer and pushed aside the white sheet covering the body. There on the metal, lay the corpse of the vampire, eyes wide open, the iris an ice blue color. Talbot inspected it a few moments and then asked Guillermo the cause of the death.

"As you can see, the autopsy has not been performed yet," snapped Guillermo. He knew the reason of the death, but he was not going to make an effort for Talbot.

Talbot glanced at Guillermo, not happy by the tone of his voice. He wanted to ask another question but he understood that it wasn't worth it. This damned assistant would not say anything. Talbot could not understand why Guilermo was so hostile…

"Right. Call me as soon as the autopsy is finished."

Talbot left the room without saying goodbye, and for some reason that really rankled Guillermo. What an arrogant jerk, he thought. He waited two minutes before taking his cell out of his pocket and dialing a familiar number.

"It's me. I wanted to call you sooner but this asshole of an A.D.A. newbie passed by. Yeah… he replaced Josh. His name's Ben Talbot. I don't know, but I have a bad feeling about this guy.

Yeah… so the vamp, he was killed by silver injection. The good news, I'm going to take care of the fangs and file them. The bad news, I can't do anything about the eyes ; the newbie saw them. What's this mess with Mick ? That could endanger all the community…Okay, I'll see you later. I finish my shift at 7 AM. Bye."

Guillermo took a last look at the body ; he sniffed the air, trying to decipher some odors but found nothing more that a lot of human one. He sighed, shook his head and began the examination, drawing some blood to test it.

********

Mick was exhausted. Since the Cleaner's call, he hadn't stopped. First, he looked at the report on TV, then he went to the crime scene but there were still too many people, police officers and journalists. He needed to be discreet on this case. He then went to meet the Cleaner at their headquarters. He was greeted by Amanda once again. She looked upset and barely spoke three words to Mick. After a short review with the Cleaner, they came to the conclusion that there were only two reasons possible : either it was a revenge spread and then the two victims were linked somehow or more alarming there was someone hunting vampires in L.A..

Mick promised to investigate all day and report to the Cleaner the following night. They also agreed that the situation was worrying enough to inform the Los Angeles lead vampire: Josef.

Mick drove to Josef's mansion , as the night was barely over and knowing that he wouldn't be in his office.

His last conversation with Josef had been about the case. Josef didn't say anything specific about Beth, and Mick didn't dare ask. He wanted to know how she was doing and most of all, how she was coping with her turning. He knew that he had no right to worry about her, he shouldn't have given her up. As soon as he came back, after he ran away from his apartment, he realized his mistake. Every evidence of what happened had disappeared : the chest was nowhere to be found. The only remaining things were the faint and familiar smell of Josef and the new scent of Beth.

Mick shook his head, trying to whisk away these thoughts. Josef's house was now in view ; he didn't want to face Josef with his regret, grief and guilt floating in the air. When he walked in Josef's living-room, he saw him feeding on the neck of a freshie. There was no finesse in the way he did it. Mick knew Josef felt him come and had put on this little show to make him feel uncomfortable. Pissing off Josef wasn't something he would let go of easily, and Mick was paying for that error right now.

Josef let go of the freshie, licked the remaining blood from his lips and teeth, and finally looked at Mick.

"Mick ! I hadn't see you coming," he said with a cruel smirk.

"Yeah, I'm sure you were too busy organizing this scene."

"I don't know what you mean… So, you told me there has been a new murder ?"

Mick relaxed a little, took a seat next to Josef and explained to him the circumstances of the new case.

"Okay… Tonight, around 3 AM, the police received an anonymous call telling them there was a body in the middle of Mean Street. When the police arrived, they effectively found a corpse. By the pics, it's Peter's. Guillermo called me a few minutes ago and told me that the cause of death is silver, just like McNeal."

Josef listened carefully. Two murders in 3 days and with the same method … It couldn't be a coincidence. It was a bad time for a hunter alert, with Beth still a fledgling. Beth… he hoped she wouldn't hear this conversation.

"We have another problem, Josef. This time, the police know. Tthere is already an A.D.A. assigned to the case. We must figure out this whole mess before the humans became aware of some peculiarities in the victims."

"I know that," snapped Josef.

He and Mick both remained quiet, thinking about who could be behind these murders. Beth chose that moment to enter the room.

"I want to help," she said.

"No way !" Josef snapped. "You're not ready to be around a crowd of humans all day long and I'm not even talking about the sun."

Mick, who had smelled Beth when he arrived, glanced at her briefly before looking down, ashamed. She was beautiful, more than he remembered. She was wearing long white linen pants with a purple blouse. Her hair was down, in heavy curls.

"Josef, I'm good at investigating and I obviously feel concerned. I want to help."

Not many people dared to contradict Josef or to speak that way to him.

"And I said no ! I'm sure Micky here can do fine. At least, concerning this ca- "

Mick interrupted Josef. Lifting his head, he said :

"Actually, I could use some help."

Josef turned his attention toward Mick.

"Oh, really Mick ? You're going to take care of Blondie here after having run away as fast as you could ? Let me contemplate the irony of the situation for a minute please."

"But we don't have a minute, Josef ! That's the problem. Each minute is important and you know it well.'

Josef looked Mick directly in the eyes.

"You're sure you're not going to screw up again ? Give up on her ? How can I trust you again ?"

"Josef, I won't. I will not let her down this time. I know what I've done is unforgivable, but please, Josef, give me a chance to make up for it."

Josef said nothing, contemplating the situation.

"Okay… but a few ground rules : not too much sun, no crowd if possible, never and I say never, let her alone. She's still a fledgling, even if she seems in control."

"Okay, I promise."

"Hey ! I'm in the room, you know !" exclaimed Beth, not pleased with how the two vampires were talking about her.

"Oh, I know," smirked Josef, adding to Mick : "She's still feisty, as you can see."

Beth huffed and stormed outside.

"I'll be waiting by the car," she said without sparing a glance at either Josef or Mick.

Josef approached Mick and put a firm hand on his shoulder.

"I'm serious, Mick. Don't mess this up ! I care about Beth as much as I used to take care of you."

Mick sadly noted at the use of the past tense and made his exit. He watched Beth, already sitting in the passenger seat in the Mercedes. He knew here was the opportunity to explain himself and beg his pardon from Beth. But most of all, he knew how incredibly difficult it was going to be to gain her trust and love again.

End of chapter 10 – cycle 2