Summary: Tucker makes a deal.
Notes: This came from a challenge on theatrical_muse. I like how it turned out, so I thought I'd share it over here.
Disclaimer: Tucker belongs to Joss, Mutant Enemy, etc. No ownership is implied or intended.
Outside, it's a cool California summer night. Inside the shop, though, the heat of the day lingers. Tucker walks past dusty bolts of fabric and assorted lace trims. He follows the shop's owner to the back room and through another door into a small office. A desk, file cabinet and stacks of paperwork make it seem like any other office. Tucker knows the truth, though. The moment he steps in there, he can feel the power. It's not just the smell - strong spices, musty herbs, and the sickly sweet scent of dead things left to rot - it's something more. It's like music - a heavy, throbbing bass solo that he can't quite hear, but he can feel the vibrations resonate through his chest. It's why he's here.
The shop's owner, Rick, a wrinkled, dark-skinned man of indeterminate ethnicity, opens the file cabinet and brings out a single sheet of paper. He hands it to Tucker.
Tucker looks over the paper carefully. It's the standard contract for this sort of thing, written in Latin for tradition's sake. His Latin isn't very good, but he's researched this carefully, and he knows what to expect.
Everything's in order. He hands the paper back to Rick. "Okay,” he says.
Rick nods, and sets the paper on the desk. He opens the drawer of the desk, and pulls out a syringe and a fountain pen. "Let me see your arm,” he says.
Tucker offers his arm, and doesn't wince as Rick slips the needle in, just below his elbow. Like going to the doctor, he thinks, but the doctor never looked at his blood as hungrily as Rick does.
Rick withdraws the needle and injects the blood into the fountain pen. He offers the pen to Tucker. "Sign right there,” he says, tapping the bottom of the paper.
Last chance to turn back, Tucker thinks, but he takes the pen without hesitation. He made this decision weeks ago, and sees no reason to change his mind now. He signs the paper with a flourish, and drops the pen on the desk. "Okay," he says, looking at Rick. "Do me."
Rick smiles wryly, and takes a small clay jar off a shelf above the desk. He dips a tiny paintbrush in the jar, grabs Tucker's arm, and paints an intricate symbol just below the elbow, near where the needle went in. A bit of blood trickles out of the puncture and mingles with the paint.
Rick sets the paintbrush down, and presses his thumb over the symbol. He chants in a low voice for several minutes, reciting long, guttural words in a language Tucker doesn't recognize. Finally he drops Tucker's arm and steps back.
Tucker stares for a moment. "That's it? It's over?" Then it hits him. Pain starts from the symbol and tears through his entire body. He cries out, and drops to his hands and knees. He grips the carpet and sobs in agony, certain that he's been swindled and he's going to die, right here, right now, in the back of a dirty shop in the L.A. garment district.
Suddenly, it stops. He gasps for breath, and looks up at Rick. He sees Rick's eyes flicker and change into something that could never be mistaken for human. Tucker shudders, and looks away. When he looks back, Rick's eyes are normal again.
"You're done,” says Rick. "Get out."
Tucker steps out of the shop, and shivers as the cool night breeze brushes over his sweaty body. He looks back at the door of the shop and sees things that weren't there before. Symbols drawn in blue light glow over the door. Protection spell, he thinks, and realizes, It worked!
He looks around, searching for more symbols, more proof of his new ability. He looks down at his arm, and sees that the painted symbol has sunk into his skin. He grins, at his new sight, his new tattoo, and the power he can feel growing, just below the skin. He hasn't lost anything yet. One day his bill will come due, but he has plans for that - by then he'll be able to pay it.
He walks away from the shop without a backward glance. He knows where it is. He knows he'll be back.