Note: This is a little out of season, but I couldn't shake the story idea. This is based primarily off the television show, with bits of information from the books for background.
I do not own Bitten.
Snowflakes drifted silently down from an overcast sky to take their place on the already white-blanketed ground outside a stately old home. Had a passerby been able to see the building from the road, it would have appeared to be the perfect image for the front of a Christmas card, complete with smoke rising lazily from the chimney and a warm, welcoming glow seeping out from slightly frosted windowpanes. Instead, the home and its assorted outbuildings sat back away from the road, hidden from view by towering old trees and a winding gravel drive. A Land Rover sat parked near the front entrance, already covered with several inches of snow despite having been driven earlier in the day.
The owner of the vehicle sat safely inside his home near to the heartily blazing fire. Newspapers from all over the country sat on a table at his side, next to an unused glass and a decanter of brandy. Jeremy Danvers sat lost in thought, an abandoned newspaper clenched in one hand, and the other resting on the arm of his favorite armchair. Piercing blue eyes, framed by dark auburn hair and a neatly trimmed beard, stared unseeing at the painting which hung behind his desk across the room. Rather than contemplating some complex problem involving a rogue mutt, Jeremy was engaging in what certain members of his Pack might say was his favorite pastime: worrying. The members of his Pack, his family, should have begun arriving at Stonehaven hours earlier. They had all called within the last few days to inform him that they would be arriving between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. He'd even sent Clay and Elena into the city yesterday to pick up some foodstuffs and assorted necessities that could not be acquired in the small town of Bear Valley. Elena had decided to do some last minute shopping, so his son had called to inform him that they would be spending the night and returning the following day. Giving into an impulse he rarely indulged in, Jeremy sighed, ran his fingers through his hair, and stood, stretching his back and returning the newspaper to the pile next to his seat.
He stalked over to the window that looked out on the front of the house, not caring that he was backlit. Any mutt stupid or foolish enough (or both) to attempt an assault on Stonehaven in his human form in the dead of winter, with night rapidly approaching, would likely pose little challenge for an Alpha. Jeremy might not be as strong a fighter as his son, or even Antonio, his best and oldest friend, but he was formidable in his own right, as more than one mutt had discovered too late. Standing at the window, he watched the snow fall outside, savoring the contrast between the warmth of the fire at his back and the coldness given off by the window. He'd left several of the windows facing the front drive uncovered, aware that the glow of the lights would be a welcoming sight for his family as they came home.
The thought of his Pack drove him to scan what he could see of the long driveway, as if he could bring the cars up the drive through the force of his will alone. The worry began in the back of his mind, despite his own assurance that if something were truly wrong, he would know. Instead, Jeremy watched a fat snowflake drift to the ground where it disappeared amongst the innumerable others that had come before it. He stretched his senses beyond the room he was in, listening and smelling for the small indicators that all was well in his domain. The crackling of the fire faded away, and he heard the faintest kiss of wind through the tree branches, the hiss and plop of snow falling off a branch. Somewhere, out in the acres of untamed forest that comprised his estate, he heard the groaning and cracking of a tree that, weakened by previous storms and bearing the weight of an untold amount of snow, began its inevitable journey to the ground. Jeremy inhaled deeply, filtering the scents of winter: wood smoke, the musky scent of wet fur that he identified as a rabbit returning to its warren, the heavier, more elemental scent that told him a storm was on its way. Each piece of the puzzle reminded him of previous winters at Stonehaven, and the peace that usually came with them.
Another sound reached him, then, something not heard in nature. He listened again, more closely, to be sure, but his first instinct was confirmed: the crunch of tires on gravel, muffled slightly by the snow. He briefly lowered his forehead against the cool window pane, recognizing the sounds of the vehicle Clay and Elena had taken, before moving over to the foyer and reaching for his coat. By the time he had it buttoned up tight, Clay was pulling to a stop next to the Land Rover. Jeremy stepped outside, seeing Elena smile at him as if they weren't an hour late. He shook his head, and strode down the steps to offer a hand with the groceries and whatever other items the only known female werewolf had deemed it necessary to purchase. One glimpse at Clay, however, and the frustration and worry that had been a pit in his stomach for several hours began to ease. As his son stepped out from behind the vehicle, the light from the house highlighted the snowflakes trapped in his unruly blond hair.
It reminded Jeremy of the small boy he had introduced to snow the first winter after finding him half feral in the Louisiana swamps. It was one of the few instances where he had seen unsullied, child-like wonder on Clay's face. Of course, he had then had to answer the difficult questions of how, why, and where snow was formed, and where it went after it melted, but the image of his fascinated son was more than recompense. He'd tried to sketch the picture many times, but had never been able to catch the wonderment on the child's, his son's, face.
"Jeremy?" Elena's voice brought the man in question out of his reverie. The object of her concern quickly moved to join the woman he considered to be his daughter-in-law at the rear of the vehicle. Her pale blond hair was mostly hidden by a woolen knit cap, but her face was flushed from the cold and her blue eyes sparkled brightly. Elena grinned at him and tipped her head towards the drive. "We ran into Antonio and Nick on the way through Bear Valley, so they are just behind us." She held up one of several bags in her grasp and her grin widened. "I don't have time to hide these properly, so may I stash them in your room for now?"
Jeremy smiled, and nodded his assent, watching the woman who had become like a daughter to him bounce up the front steps and into the house. Had anyone else, even Clay, asked to hide Christmas presents in his room, he would have denied them outright. But Elena was different, and usually got her way with few complaints on his, or anyone else's, part. He turned back towards the drive and again heard tires crunching through the snow and gravel. Soon, the Sorrentino's SUV came into sight, headlights reflecting off the snow. Antonio Sorrentino sat behind the wheel, while his son, Nick sat next to him, twisted partially around to speak animatedly with someone in the backseat. As the car pulled in on the opposite side of Jeremy's Land Rover, the younger Sorrentino hopped out, followed closely by the two remaining members of his pack: the red-haired and gregarious Peter Myers, and the passionate and reserved Logan Jonsen. Jeremy barely had time to greet each before Clay loaded each man's arms with groceries and shepherded them towards the kitchen and pantry at the rear of the house, Nick's vocal protests about being used as a beast of burden echoing back down the hall.
"Everyone's here, then?" Jeremy turned to see his oldest friend watching him closely.
"Elena's upstairs, hiding presents."
Antonio laughed as the two men embraced, then stepped back with his arm still slung over the Alpha's shoulders. "You do know that Nick will find them, don't you?" He shook his head, "I suppose the better person to ask that question would be Elena. I don't understand why she hides them, anyway. A present is a present, so what does it matter if it gets unwrapped on the 21st or the 25th?" The two men moved towards the front door of the house. Jeremy shrugged, slightly.
"It makes her happy. I doubt most humans understand the intricacies of the Christmas holiday anymore than werewolves do. Besides, if Nick finds those presents, it means he was snooping in my room."
Antonio stopped and stared. Jeremy was known for his privacy. "You mean...?" His voice trailed off at the slight rise of his Alpha's eyebrow. "Well, one thing is for sure, that woman has made a place for herself in this Pack."
Jeremy just nodded, and both men were silent as they moved up the last few steps and into the foyer.
"Antonio!" Elena didn't cry out, or run down the stairs, but the genuine smile on her face and in her eyes made her happiness at seeing the elder Sorrentino evident as she came downstairs. Antonio, true to character, met her before she reached the bottom step and grabbed her in a bear hug as he twirled her around to land safely on the floor.
Nick came around the corner from the study and beamed a playful smile at his Pack sister. "Elena! Come here, you gorgeous creature." Laughing now, Elena allowed herself to be swept into another hug. Just as Clay came around the corner after him, Nick brought his lips down on Elena's in a not-so-chaste kiss. Clayton growled a warning as he brushed past them to greet Antonio with another back-slapping embrace.
"Hey! Who wants a drink?" Peter's voice called from the study, and the group in the foyer moved naturally to follow the enticement, shedding winter clothing as they went. Peter and Logan had found the tray of glasses and the decanter of brandy that Jeremy had set out earlier for this exact purpose. After Elena had greeted the other two Pack members, and everyone had a generous amount of brandy, the room faded into silence as everyone waited for Jeremy.
"To family," he said, raising his glass and drinking. After his Pack copied his movements, good natured teasing broke out amongst the five younger members, and Jeremy had to raise his hand for silence. "Tomorrow morning we will go out to find our Christmas tree and then put up decorations. I would like to get an early start." The last was directed at Nick, who had already finished his brandy and was reaching for the decanter.
He grinned. "It's good brandy." Jeremy's eyebrow rose again as he watched the younger man pour more into his glass, but said nothing. He was too content, watching each member of his Pack catch up on what the others had been doing. Nick began regaling Peter with a story about a woman he had met in a nightclub in New York City. Elena, Clay, and Logan had entered into a debate regarding the finer points of some new law that was being proposed. Antonio stood to his right, quietly sipping his drink.
"It's good to be back," He said.
Jeremy nodded, saying nothing as he watched the others. His family was home. For the time being, all was right in the world.