Let the red mist descend.
Missing Christmas chapter to Hunter of the Shadows Book 1
When a non-lunar stray threatens his small family on Christmas Eve, Tobius Le Salle sees red.
Set not long after Sam's first change, hence featuring the return of
… yes, you guessed it…
Merry Christmas everyone!
This is dedicated to all those people, who like me, often have to celebrate their Christmas a day or so later, due to work or visiting family.
And it's sooo worth it.
And to Phx and Sendintheclowns; you lovely ladies deserve this...
Major Limp/sweet Brotherson Sam 15, Protective Fatherbrother Dean 19.
Protective Grandfather/Berserker Tobius.
Warning: Extreme violence and gore. Assuming I've done it properly, I should say that this one is not for the feint of heart.
Tobius smiled at his little family from his chair by the fireplace. Gently swirling a balloon glass of brandy, he closed his eyes and took a long, silent sniff.
He breathed in the scent of French sunshine, delighting in the small burn to his sensitive nostril hairs. This was, perhaps, his favourite time of the day, next to the hunting hours, of course. The only thing better than relaxing by the fire, with his precious son and grandson safe beside him, was running with them under the dark skies of midnight and early morning.
Of course, Sam was too young to actually hunt, but the pup loved to run alongside his family, sometimes stopping to sniff at the fresh, new and exciting smells he had never experienced as a human. Being so small, and with comically large feet – a definite sign of the pup's pending growth spurts, Tobius was certain – the youngster would bound and trip, clumsy and uncoordinated in his new form, whilst his fatherbrother watched over him, proud and protective.
Given that Sam was still recovering from a nasty encounter with Gordon Walker, and his monstrous torture devices, he couldn't always keep up, and tired easily. But that was no matter, for Dean would merely extend his muzzle, gently but firmly grip the young wolf by the scruff of his neck, and carry him the rest of the way home.
Tobius chuckled softly, and tilted his head to rest on the seat back.
Opposite, and residing just next to the mantel piece and coal bucket, the seven foot Christmas tree Tobius had personally chosen from the forest, stood proudly, tinsel and delicate crystal baubles of assorted colours glistening in the firelight. Brotherson and fatherbrother had decorated it between them earlier that week, accompanied by the usual good-natured bickering expected from close family members. And these two were certainly close.
Every now and then, when he least expected it, and Tobius would glance at his boys in fond amusement, a painful freeze of near-grief would steal over his heart.
Had Dean not turned Sam after the shooting…
I'd have lost them both.
Taking a huge swallow of brandy, Tobius forced his mind back onto more pleasant thoughts.
A small snuffle from the sofa made him grin.
Dean, in human form, was sprawled out on his back, mouth open, and a dollop of drool sliding down his chin. But the snuffling noise came from the small, red-furred puppy-wolf curled up on his stomach.
Placing his glass quietly down on an antique drinks coaster, the ancient werewolf leaned across and scratched gently behind the puppy's ears.
Sam snuffled again, leaned his little furry head into his grandfather's hand, but otherwise didn't stir.
"Merry Christmas, pups," Tobius whispered, softly, to them both.
Getting up, he grabbed a woollen throw blanket from the back of his chair, and with the lightest of touches, covered his little family. Cold wasn't an issue for werewolves, of course; the gesture was merely one of comfort, and love.
Strolling silently to the cabin door, Tobius took out a cigar and sniffed eagerly along its length, then closed the door quietly behind him. Once outside and a small distance away, he lit up and puffed contentedly for a few moments.
The smell of cigar smoke mixed with that of pine needles, was sweet and spicy to the senses. Tobius wandered further away from the cabin, eyes half closed, body relaxed and mind at peace. It had been a difficult year, to say the least, and trouble had clung to the three werewolves like barnacles to the bottom of a ship. Though for now, it seemed, they'd shaken it off, but…
For how long? Tobius mused.
He meandered forward amongst the trees, lost in his thoughts. It was a good while, maybe twenty minutes by his reckoning, before instinct came back on line, demanding his attention, and Tobius stilled. Keen eyes stared into the darkness.
Nothing had been disturbed in the area, not a leaf and nor a blade of grass was out of place amongst the snow. All seemed quiet on the western front.
Yet something was very, very wrong.
Breathing quietly through his open mouth, he watched the shadows. Ears changing, twitching and filtering out all the tiny, natural noises, the noises that were suppose to be heard, the werewolf soon found the one that wasn't.
Distant breathing, quiet but definitely there, as though someone was trying too hard to be silent.
Tobius leaned against a tree and sniffed the air again.
The territorial side of his nature would never let him tolerate an uninvited werewolf near his cabin, and especially not near his family. Humans never came out this far, fearing the long, harsh winters and the strong chance of being caught in a heavy snow storm. Once the way was blocked, there was no getting out until the big thaw.
Unless you were a wolf, of course.
Another sniff had Tobius pressing onwards, deeper into the trees.
Yes. Someone had been here, recently. The snowfall from a few hours ago had covered their tracks, and the scent was faint, almost undetectable, in fact, but in the face of eight hundred years of experience, it stood out like a traffic light.
I know you're here.
Tobius waited but no response was forthcoming.
A wise man would leave now and never come back.
Someone chuckled, though without humour, the sound full of malicious intent.
But then, you aren't a man.
And neither are you! Came at last, the answering, dull, enraged roar of another's mind. Traitor!
Tobius narrowed his eyes. He hadn't heard this voice in over two hundred years, but it still didn't seem long enough.
I am no traitor!
Yes! You hunt your own kind! Traitor I say! Traitor!
Tobius could feel his temper rising.
No. I am not a traitor, but you… you are a murderer, Archimedes!
The other werewolf snorted derisively.
Of humans? Pah! They are nothing but vile scum, useless, powerless and ineffectual against our kind. We are their superiors, Le Salle! You know this! You're one of us for goodness sake!
Tobius snarled, feeling his nose morph into a snout.
I know nothing of the kind. Sharp claws slid smoothly into place. And let me make one thing absolutely clear to you, Archy, his body hunkered down, gracefully, before the big change.
I was never one of you!!!
He slunk forward into the waiting shadows.
Who are you trying to convince, Tobius? You're still an animal, just like the rest of us.
Show yourself! Tobius growled angrily, ignoring the taunt.
And why would I want to do a silly thing like that!
Tobius, his heart missing a beat, heard the sound of pounding feet a mile up ahead, but made no move towards it. That would have been folly.
Because the true threat lay behind him. Back at the cabin. He could sense that now, that and the thin twang of silver in the air.
Oh God no! A decoy? I can't believe I fell for the oldest trick in the book!
Evil laughter sounded loud in his mind.
Perhaps, you're out of practice...
Tobius sprang round and, with barely a pause, took flight. Large, heavy paws pounded the earth, dirt and snow flew, wind ruffled his long fur, and the wolf now no longer cared about stealth.
Better run faster than that, Tobius. Archimedes mocked him. Your grandson… smells so sweet, so potently innocent. Not even made his first kill. How delicious. His blood is perfect payment for betrayal!
It was now far more essential Tobius got back to his pups.
Dean stirred lightly, eyes moving around under the lids.
"Hmmmm…. Gerrroooofffff…" he muttered and clumsily tried to bat away whatever was tickling his neck.
Sam was already awake and had crawled up from Dean's stomach to his chest, his little wet snout buried in the older werewolf's neck, and subjecting him to tiny puppy licks.
Dean's eyes opened to find a pair of wide, blue-greens, mere inches away and staring into his.
"How long you been awake, huh?" he smiled tenderly at his brotherson, and cupped a small shaggy ear, rubbing gently. Sam sighed and grumbled his approval.
Not long. Sam nipped at Dean's chin, and gazed at him nervously. Tobius isn't here.
Dean immediately wrapped his arms around the pup to prevent him from falling when he sat up abruptly.
"What? Where's he gone?" He sniffed the air, picking up his Father's scent.
I don't know. I didn't even hear him leave. Sam hung his head, as if ashamed.
"S'ok, buddy," his fatherbrother laughed softly. "Neither did I, and I got way more experience than you."
Not the point, Sam's tail drooped along with his head. You'd think I'd be good for something round here.
"Sammy, you haven't even begun training yet, ok?" Dean grinned and tugged gently on Sam's despondent tail. "And besides, you're still getting your strength back after… you know who…"
Sam raised his head, sorrowful eyes connecting with Dean's. Yeah. I know who, alright.
"Right." Dean wrapped the blanket around the pup and got to his feet, Sam huddled to his chest. "Now…"
Dean's eyes narrowed. Staring at the now vacant armchair by the fire, his gaze shifted, rose and moved to the floor space beside the sofa, heart softening when he realised where the blanket had come from. But he didn't stop there. His eyes slowly tracked across the floor to the cabin entrance.
Sam watched him with interest. This was something he was desperate to learn about someday soon, but there were way too many important lessons awaiting him in the future as it was.
Dean was using his nose like a surveillance camera. Each scent told him where Sire had been, how fast he was moving at the time, and as a result gave an impression of level of urgency. Dean could tell if his Sire had been anxious before he headed outside, or if he'd been strolling casually and without worry, just by studying speed and gait.
"He's outside," Dean sniffed again. "Taking in the night air and… a cigar… one of his new ones he bought especially for Christmas… spiced cinnamon and brandy tobacco. He lit up just outside about ten, maybe eleven feet away."
Sam rested his muzzle on Dean's shoulder. You're getting good at that.
"Hey! I am awesome at that," Dean corrected, mouth twisting into a smirk. "But my hearing's even better."
Shame 'bout your ego, huh? Sam snorted softly into Dean's ear, and wrinkled his snout in amusement.
"Watch it!" Dean reached back and tapped him sharply on the nose. "Or no visit from Santa for you this year!"
Sam rolled his eyes. Dude, I'm fifteen not five. I've known for years Santa don't exist.
"Yeah, but don't tell Sire, ok?" Dean chuckled. "You'll break his heart! Now c'mon, Sammy. Time to change…"
He hadn't meant Sam to take him literally, but in the next moment Dean fell to the floor with a human Sammy sprawled out on top, and incidentally almost crushing the life out of him.
Sam! He growled. Get off me!
Sam grinned, hastily grabbed up the blanket to cover himself and climbed off. "Sorry dude," yet he didn't sound all that apologetic. "Still getting the hang of these changes, ya know?"
But Sam's eyes twinkled with something akin to mischief.
Dean puffed out a breath and raised his head, scowling furiously. "Yeah, right!"
In truth, Dean was delighted. The boys were another step closer to that old camaraderie they'd once shared as human brothers. But as father and son, it went much deeper, and stronger. This was also the first time Sam hadn't seemed all that worried about being naked, not that he'd been completely exposed, what with the blanket wrapped half around him.
Maybe, Dean reflected privately, he might just lose that shyness one day, though he suspected it would still be some years yet before the youngster left his lingering human, bashful nature behind.
Werewolves were accustomed to nakedness. After all, in wolf form they were naked all the time, therefore being naked in human form didn't bother them.
Unless their name is Sam Winchester, in which case, there weren't enough clothes in the world. It was a dark by-product of his days before Dean and Tobius rescued him from John Winchester, Sam and Dean's human father. The kid had been starved, neglected and beaten on a daily basis. He'd suffered some terrible injuries and scars to his body, all of which healed shortly after Dean turned him into a non-lunar werewolf.
But that was another story.
"Help me up, runt!"
Sam obligingly held out a hand and assisted Dean to his feet.
"Go get into your PJs!" Dean ordered, sternly, and pointed towards the bedrooms, but lightened his tone when he added, "and I'll whip us up some mulled wine, huh? Tobius'll probably want some when he comes back from his night time stroll."
"Very Christmassy," But Sam sounded excited. He loved mulled wine. "Just gimme a sec and I'll come help."
"S'already made, Sam," Dean winked when Sam's smile grew. "Put it together a few hours ago, just gotta heat it up. Now go!"
Sam's blanket wrapped form scurried out of the living room. Dean shook his head, fondly.
God, he loved that kid. Of all the possibilities in his young life, Dean had never envisaged being a werewolf and father at the tender age of nineteen, and much less to the teenager who had once been his brother.
And he wouldn't change a thing.
Dean hummed under his breath and sauntered into the kitchen. The large saucepan of mulled wine sat on the stove, waiting for his ministrations. Tobius had taught him the recipe a few weeks ago. All he had to do now was to drop in the muslin wrapped bundle of herbs and spices, set the heat to a medium flame, and simmer for ten minutes.
He stirred away, still humming happily until the liquid began to steam.
"Then… add some brandy, and voila!! Dean grinned, and sipped a tiny spoonful, smacked his lips and declared it ready to go.
Ten minutes… Dean's head snapped up and he whirled around. "Sammy?"
There was nothing out of the ordinary, no suspicious smells and no sounds, yet instinct was screaming at him, telling the young father that his son was in danger.
Sammy where are you? Answer me!
Dean left the kitchen silently, claws already extended, teeth lengthening, but he didn't get very far. A sharp pain to the back of the head sent his world spinning like a whirligig, and Dean slumped unconscious on the floor.
Sam emerged from the bedroom dressed in his usual sleep attire of dark blue tee-shirt and soft sweats, bare feet padding across to the living room. He smiled when he caught a whiff of the mulled wine spices drifting from the kitchen, and was about remark upon it, when an iron-like hand clamped over his mouth and nose. Any attempt to call for Dean's mind went south with all conscious thought in an instant, and the youngster fell limp in his captor's grip.
Archimedes glanced up at his companion and nodded approvingly.
"You sound surprised."
"Well, your training in the ancient arts of alchemy aside, I admit I didn't entirely believe the scent cloak would work quite so well." The werewolf smirked in disgust. "You are human, after all…"
"But not for long," the other man stepped closer, half pleading, half demanding. "You promised me… tonight… you would turn me."
"Hush now, my dear friend," the werewolf crooned and gently stroked the alchemist's face.
Archimedes' smile was almost kindly, but the human, in his distress, didn't notice the underlying twisted edge to it. Not until it was too late, and his lifeless body fell to the floor with a dull thud, neck cleanly broken.
The werewolf shrugged. "I just never said what I would turn you into. But a corpse suits my needs perfectly."
Brushing himself down, he turned to a mirror hanging nearby and ran a critical eye over his reflection. Archimedes knew he was handsome enough, and as with all werewolves, regardless of variety, carried that certain something that humans just couldn't resist.
Smoothing a hand over his long, dark hair, and regarding his olive skin and glowing, dark cherry red eyes, the non-lunar smiled with satisfaction. The dark Armani suit was definitely becoming.
Stepping over the body of the late alchemist with little more than a cursory glance of dismissal, he turned to his young captives; sitting gagged and bound on the sofa.
"You're awake, how delightful."
He felt the young father's furious gaze on him when he helped himself to a glass of brandy. Taking a delicate sip, Archimedes tilted his head to one side and considered the flavour.
"A superb year," he gave a small bow and grinned when the father growled into his gag. "But then, I expected nothing less of Tobius."
Dean's eyes widened at that. He wasn't getting a scent off this guy, yet he obviously knew his Sire.
The stranger circled the sofa slowly.
Dean caught Sam's eye and nodded reassurance.
Sam's frightened gaze roamed his face, as if searching for something, then shook his head in a panic. He began yanking at the chains binding his wrists behind him, until Dean bumped his shoulder and glared at him in disapproval.
"My name is Archimedes, but you may call me Archy," the stranger glanced at Dean and added a little sarcastically. "That's what your beloved Sire calls me at any rate."
He actually laughed when Dean's expression managed to successfully suggest that his Sire likely had many names for him.
Archy grinned. "I am a non-lunar by the way, but of a slightly different breed to you."
Something in Sam's distant memory twinkled brightly.
"...there is a common misconception amongst today's scholars that all werewolves are lunar dependent and rely on the full moon in order to change... Since the late seventeen hundreds Eastern European culture has maintained there are at least three varieties of lunar-dependent and four known varieties of non-lunar werewolf..."
It had been just after Dean was turned. Sam had desperately researched on a European website about werewolves, and found a wealth of information on the subject.
"You might have noticed that you cannot thought project around me, unless I allow it," Archy paced up and down, like a school master dictating the lesson, hands clasped behind his back. "This is simply because our minds work on the same wavelengths, but at different frequencies, in other words… pay attention, damn you!"
Dean had been rolling his eyes in distain, head bobbing in a here we go, the loony non-lunar's about to do the whole Bond villain thing manner.
If they hadn't been so tightly bound, the young werewolves might have jumped off the sofa in fright when Archy downright roared at them.
Eyes narrowed, the werewolf regarded them for a long, heavy moment, then nodded and continued.
"As I was saying, in other words, my thought projections, being of a higher frequency, can block yours," he shrugged and quirked a disinterested eyebrow. "It's not a conscious thing, it just happens, but has proved extremely useful over the years, particularly when dealing with the likes of Tobius Le Salle."
Archy crouched down beside Sam.
"Such a sweet looking boy. Your grandfather must be so proud." He grinned when Sam eyed him fearfully. "There aren't many of us around these days, young Sam. We are a dying breed. Wouldn't you like to become one of us? I could show you so much... you'd be strong enough to take it, I'm sure."
That was bad enough, but when Archy brushed a hand through Sam's hair, Dean stiffened up with another muffled growl and pushed his upper body between the two of them, eyes narrowed threateningly. His message was clear.
Never touch my son.
Archy threw back his head and laughed. "Oh I heard that, alright, dear boy," the werewolf announced, then pushed his face into Dean's, hissing venomously. "And what are you going to do to stop me, hmm?"
He suddenly grabbed Sam by the throat, and lifted until his feet left the cabin floor.
Sam gasped though his nose, struggling, his bound legs trying to kick out, but the heavy duty chains were specially designed to restrain werewolves. Thin, carefully manicured fingernails ever so slowly morphed into claws, piercing Sam's neck.
Blood welled up and poured down his body, soaking his clothes, and Archy closed his eyes blissfully, breathing in Sam's scent.
The hiss of metal being unsheathed was ominous in the relative silence of the room, and Sam's gaze snapped downwards when he felt the painful prick of a blade at his gut. Panting through his nose, Sam tried not to panic, but the smell of silver was unmistakable.
Dean shook his head frantically and writhed violently against his bonds. He could hear Sam's muffled whimpers of pain, see his eyes scrunched up in agony, and it was killing him.
Archy laughed, long and loud, the noise echoing through the cabin and bouncing off the walls, but for some reason, Dean got the impression it was forced, all for show.
And he must have been right, because the cabin door suddenly exploded inwards, large splinters of wood sent hurtling forwards, and spiralling flurries of snow drifted in and scattered round the room.
It eventually cleared to reveal an extremely angry Tobius.
"Put him down now, you bastard!"
Archy quirked a mocking eyebrow. "Glad you could join us, my old friend."
Tobius snarled in response. "You are no friend to me, Archy."
Tobius took a step forward, and Dean noticed that although his Sire was mostly in human form, his claws were still sharp, biceps rippling and nose quivering. He was holding back for now, but gearing up for an attack.
"That's right!" Archy hissed back. "A traitor has no friends…" he glanced at Dean, then at Sam in turn. "But he does have his oh-so-precious bastardized family…"
Without another word, his arm reached back, and swung the blade down in a wide sweeping arch, aiming for Sam's heart.
Tobius leapt the instant the knife began its journey, knocking Archy and Sam to the floor. Sam, caught on his back, tried to wriggle away, flopping like a fish out of water.
Nearby, Tobius fought with the other non-lunar. Dean watched on helplessly, eyes wide with fear as the battle raged.
Tobius tore into his enemy, ripping at his flesh, but Archy fought back with equal ferociousness. The two rolled over and over, until their path was blocked by Sam's helplessly bound form.
Tobius was on top, and clawing at the other, seeming to gain the upper hand, but Archy found a second wind from somewhere, bucked up powerfully and threw Tobius off. He wasn't flung far, but it was far enough to give Archy the time he needed.
The knife came up once again. Sam stared fearfully at the glinting blade above him, and watched as it plummeted downwards. He did his best to shift onto his side, but all he succeeded in doing was changing the target at the very last second.
Sam gasped as the silver blade plunged into his gut.
Tobius' furious roar completely drowned out Dean's muffled anguished cry.
Archy, sensing the other's fury, realised the foolishness of another attempt on Sam's heart, and backed away, smiling grimly.
There's time enough for that...
But Tobius stalked him, ragged breaths more like the snorts and grunts of a wild, furious animal. His nostrils flared, eyes narrowed and pupils turning a dark, stormy, emerald green. The whites were startling against the thick black irises, irises which seemed to broaden the closer he got to his enemy.
Archy, for all his showmanship and bluster, was feeling distinctly unsettled by now. He'd known Tobius would be angry, but this was out of control.
The other non-lunar seemed to grow in size, muscles bunching, teeth bared… and the rage Archy sensed rolling off Tobius was truly astounding.
But Archy wasn't the type to let that put him off, and began his own change, albeit reluctantly. He heard his fine clothes tearing apart at the seams and mourned their loss.
But not for long.
Tobius' last remnants of rational thought could almost see Archy's decision being made.
Those remnants made their own decision. It was time to let go, and damn the consequences.
Released for the first time since he learned of his Lady Anna's death, the savage centre of Tobius Le Salle emerged.
Archy had barely started his change when he was knocked down with the full force of a werewolf gone feral.
Dean didn't need to feel the hot tears on his face.
Rolling off the sofa, and landing with a harsh grunt on the floor, he wriggled his way over to Sam, desperately trying to call to him.
Sam just lay there, shivering, his wrists crushed beneath his back, blinking rapidly up at the ceiling, and wheezing through his nose. The blade was still firmly embedded in his gut, right up to the hilt, and fresh blood pooled at his waist, staining his clothes and the rug underneath his body.
Dean fought his way closer, until he was finally pressed up against Sam's side and curling round him, keeping him warm as best he could.
The metal chains were too strong and tight for a change, Dean couldn't work his way free to remove the blade, and he couldn't communicate with his dying son.
It was little wonder the poor boy couldn't stop crying.
Tobius was effectively gone.
Whatever made up his humanity and love for his family had been temporarily pushed into a dark closet and locked away.
What now stood in his place was an enraged monster.
He tore into Archy, claws ripping out kidneys, lungs, liver, and pancreas, fangs gnashing and chewing each morsel. The gall bladder made for a tasty snack until his wild eyes caught sight of the intestines. He unravelled them, stripping them out length by length, squeezing and tearing at the gut as he did so, until he found the contents of Archy's last meal… and ate that too.
All the while, Archy was still conscious and screaming in agony.
Blood ran in slick rivers, coating everything that came into contact. Some of it sprayed the walls and ceiling, turning the living room into a surrealist's nightmare.
Bone, muscle, tendons and sinew were no barrier.
Tobius opened his jaws and chewed out the eyes, incidentally ripping off the nose in the process and taking most of Archy's smooth, olive skin with it. The throat went next, finally silencing the enemy.
Tobius had left the best part until last.
He threw back his head and howled long and deep, eyes closed, and heavy paws still holding down his prey.
Archy's mouth was still working. Perhaps it was a silent plea for mercy, but it made no difference to the outcome.
Tobius lowered his head, feral green eyes glowing with madness, and ripped out the heart.
Once every ounce of cardiac muscle was chewed and swallowed, the show was over.
Dean hadn't watched, but he could hear.
Curled next to Sam and staring down into his eyes, the only encouragement he could offer, his heart broke over and over again each time his son whimpered in pain.
Sam was growing weaker from the blood loss, and the silver blade was causing more damage the longer it remained in his body.
Behind the boys, the carnage ensued, and Dean knew without looking, who would be the victor.
It seemed like hours, but in fact was mere minutes, until Dean felt gentle hands rolling him away, and Tobius, dripping with blood from head to foot, now in full human form, gently but quickly withdrew the blade from Sam's gut.
As though this was the trigger he needed to finally escape the pain, Sam's head rolled to the side, and he lost consciousness with a soft sigh.
Tobius removed the gags from them both immediately, but placed a finger over Dean's lips.
Sssshhhhhh. Not now, Dean. There's time for explanations later. Right now, Sam needs to hear you.
Dean blinked when he realised they could once again thought project, and understood exactly what that meant. A quick glanced over his shoulder confirmed it, and he grimaced at the sight of all the blood.
Sammy? Can ya hear me now?
The lack of response had Dean terrified all over again, and he looked to his Sire for assurance.
S-Sam's gonna be ok now, right?
His father nodded, confidently. Now that the blade has been removed, he'll make a full recovery in a few weeks, provided he rests properly. I also have some chelating agent and sedatives for the pain.
Dean also nodded and sighed, feeling only a little embarrassed at the feel of dried tears on his face.
Ok, but can ya get us out of these damn chains?
Patience, pup! But Tobius smiled and set to work freeing the boys.
Dean sat in the rear foot well of the Impala, legs sticking out the open door. He was stroking Sam's hair whilst the kid slept, sprawled out on the backseat, and covered in a warm blanket. Dean had wrapped Sam's poor stomach in bandages, even though he could already see that some of the damage was starting to heal.
The crunch of boots on snow made him glance up to find his Sire carrying the last of the duffle bags from the cabin.
Tobius had disposed of Archy's remains in a classic salt and burn, along with the body of the unfortunate alchemist, whilst Dean packed Sam away in the car, as far from the bloodied living room as possible.
Tobius planned to make arrangements for the cabin clean-up as soon as his boys were in a safe and secure place. Poor Dean was badly shaken up, and as for Sam...
A quick shower, a fresh set of clothes, and the ancient werewolf was feeling almost back to normal, though he admitted to still having that deep thrum inside him, that thrum of left over anger and the reminder that, just for a few terrifying minutes, the monster inside had come out to play.
How is he?
Dean pinched the bridge of his nose, tiredly. He's sleeping well, no nightmares just yet.
Right. It's the middle of the night, Christmas day approaches, and I have packed all our presents in the trunk. Tobius slid behind the wheel, not all surprised when Dean offered no protest. The young werewolf's attention was solely on his son. Where do you boys want to go?
Dean just shook his head, a little too overwhelmed to be making decisions right then.
His Sire nodded. Hotel it is, then.
Sam shifted and rolled over, gradually coming awake. Finally pulling open his eyes, he was in for a surprise.
"Dean?" he croaked out. "What we doin' at the hotel? Thought we were spending Christmas at the cabin?"
Dean was sitting against the headboard of his own bed, watching TV with the sound turned down. Seeing the youngster awake, a big broad smile broke out on his face.
"How ya feelin' kiddo?" Dean got up and sat down on the edge of Sam's bed, the mattress dipping under his weight. "You were out for a while, there. Mind you, the chelating agent and sedatives were pretty powerful, so…"
"Dean." Sam stared at him, groggily. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Dean opened and closed his mouth, folded his arms and frowned worriedly. "Don't you remember, Sammy?" he asked gently. "The non-lunar that broke into the cabin and attacked us? You got hurt…?"
Sam blinked slowly and narrowed his eyes as something came back to him. It was accompanied by a sharp twinge in his gut, and the rest caught up.
"Oh." He replied in a small voice. Sam's gaze fell to his blanket and he hung his head. "Y-yeah. Sorry Dean."
There was a pause of several heart beats before Dean felt able to comment on that.
He shook his head, confused.
I let him get the drop on us. Sad eyes turned his way. He could've killed you.
Dean was utterly amazed.
Dude, I was hit on the head by a human. You're the one who was attacked by Mr Special Non-Lunar Variety guy. Then the bastard stabbed you…Sammy, he couldn't think of anything else to do but shake his head again. I got off lightly!
Sam didn't say anything to that, just sniffed and hung his head again.
He didn't notice anything was amiss until the mattress dipped once more, and then Sam was suddenly enfolded in Dean's warm embrace.
I was so damned scared, Sammy. I couldn't free myself to help you, couldn't talk to you. Just kept staring at that silver knife, knowing that if I didn't get it out of you soon, you'd die. Dean wept silently, amazed once again at just how his emotional state was running away with him. Too much in one year, dude.
Sam buried his face in Dean's neck and sniffled. What was it all about Dean? Who was that guy?
Tobius stood in the kitchen catching snippets of the youngsters' conversation. He was preparing their belated Christmas lunch, which consisted of a large goose with roast potatoes, caramelised parsnips, boiled carrots and thick gravy, followed by a traditional Christmas pudding and brandy cream.
The kitchen staff had made provisions once they were aware that their employer was returning after a disastrous trip to the cabin, and stocked up the suite's kitchen with all the food one ancient and two young growing werewolves would need.
But his hotel staff, loyal to the bone, had gone way above and beyond the call of duty, by taking down the beautifully decorated Christmas tree from their private quarters, and lugged it into Tobius' lounge. Even now, the presents lay underneath its generous fronds, brightly coloured wrapping paper gleaming in the light of the lounge fireplace.
It looked like a Big Staff Christmas bonus was due this year.
But now, having heard Sam's questions, Tobius stopped what he was doing, and thought long and hard.
He only vaguely remembered what happened after seeing the knife plunged into his grandson.
From where he had stood, the blade appeared to have gone straight into Sam's heart, and from then on…
Tobius just saw red.
He knew what he'd done, allowed his rage free reign and mindlessly torn Archy to pieces.
The thing was… the thing was… Tobius just couldn't bring himself to care. He'd killed for far less during the course of his long life, so killing for the sake of his family was no hardship at all. It certainly wasn't another notch on the bed post of his conscience, and by God he had plenty of those.
So when Sam asked, after a fun filled dinner of over-eating, popping Christmas crackers and crummy cracker jokes, Tobius didn't hesitate to tell him.
Settled by the lounge fire, stomachs comfortably full, and mugs topped up with mulled wine, Tobius began his long tale.
"Archimedes was a brutal murderer with absolutely no conscience whatsoever. He killed many humans in his lifetime, often just for the pleasure of it, and made no attempt to cover the evidence. However, he certainly covered his tracks exceptionally well, and he led me on quite the merry dance around the world."
Those days had obviously been difficult for Tobius, given the troubled frown on the werewolf's face.
"The first time I came across him was in 1666, at the start of the Great Fire of London. I knew then that he'd be trouble, and I've spent everyday since wishing I'd listened to my instincts. But, I just felt sorry for the poor lad."
Archy was a mess, newly turned, and unable to hunt. His would-be Sire had overindulged one night and stumbled upon Archy begging on the streets. Knowing a poor beggar wouldn't be missed, he fully intended to kill the boy, for fun, but being too damn drunk to finish the job properly, accidentally turned him instead, then upped and left him with no training or guidance.
"Whilst London burned, Archy, weak and helpless, tried to drown himself in the River Thames. And that's where I found him, a pitiful, drowned rat of a boy, sobbing his heart out and covered in… erm… let's just call it special London mud, and leave it at that, shall we?"
Dean smirked, whilst Sam wrinkled his nose in disgust.
"Yeah," the youngest spoke up. "We kinda get the picture… ewwwww!"
Tobius smiled, faintly amused and relaxed in the warmth of the fire. He yawned long and wide but continued on in his head.
I got him out of the ruined city and took up residence in The Lake District. I had a country estate up there. Very private, plenty of locals, but mostly superstitious enough to keep out of our way.
Tobius had trained the young lad, taught him to fight, to hunt, to survive. He became fit and strong, a protégé to be proud of.
Tobius shook his head and tutted. "But still, there was just something about the boy that sat wrong with me, and that feeling only grew the more time passed us by."
For a start, he was exceptionally aggressive, even for a non-lunar, and eventually he no longer just hunted for food. He began hunting for pure pleasure, and leaving the dead animal carcasses in full public view. Not only was it a blatant insult and a dreadful waste, but it also made life risky with him around. The last thing Tobius needed was a mob armed with flaming torches and pitch forks knocking on his door.
It wasn't until a visiting non-lunar friend, by the name of Luca Gorman, tried to thought project in Archy's presence, that Tobius realised something was really off. The two friends were being blocked somehow. Luca knew a little something about another species of non-lunar being able to achieve that, but couldn't be sure. So he left, promising to return a few weeks later, but Tobius never saw him again.
Rumour had it he'd been attacked and savaged, by a rabid dog, his organs torn out and his heart missing.
Archy had mysteriously disappeared during that time, but showed up a few days later, literally stinking of Luca. He denied it all, of course, but I threw him out of my home, promising death should he ever return. Big mistake on my part.
It was a while later I discovered he'd started murdering humans for fun.
Dean blew out a breath, but otherwise kept his peace.
Sam just gazed up at his grandfather, eyes wide with interest. Dean rolled his own eyes in amusement. The kid always was a sucker for a good story.
Tobius took a sip of mulled wine to clear his throat.
"Luca's wife, however, came to see me. She was also a non-lunar, a very beautiful lady with a heart so big... well..." Tobius discontinued that line of thought, but the air of sadness hadn't escaped his boys. "She'd found her late husband's research notes. Between us we were able to confirm that Archimedes was no ordinary non-lunar. To cut a long story short, or at least this part of it, we contacted a mythology specialist in Germany, and questioned him about the various myths surrounding werewolves."
Tobius' eyes gleamed in the firelight.
The specialist had described three different species of lunar-dependent, and four of the non-lunar.
The first variety of the non-lunar? Tobius nodded. It was Archy, alright. Without a doubt.
He was text book, in fact.
His very presence could block thought projection, his aggression, lack of a social conscience, and even his strange eye colour… well, strange by werewolf standards, at any rate. It all pointed to non-lunar type one. The deadliest of all the non-lunars.
Sam thought about that for a moment. He said there aren't many of them around, now. And he mentioned something about turning me, said I'd be strong enough, or something.
Tobius' eyes flared briefly, and Dean shrewdly detected the anger in there somewhere.
He was quite correct on that score.
Non-lunar type ones found it extremely difficult to breed with other werewolves, and even harder to turn a human. Tobius believed it was down to that aggressive streak, either because of a hormone imbalance that just chemically contraindicated the process, or maybe because the aggressive act, in itself, killed the recipient outright.
In any case, no one had been able to get close enough to find out.
Or course; there was also the little matter of being hunted by non-lunar type two, the second deadliest of the non-lunars. The only difference being, type two had a conscience.
Type one, by its very nature, is highly possessive and rises to jealousy very quickly. Tobius was thinking aloud. That might explain why he only briefly entertained the notion of trying to convert you to type one. He only considered it to get to me, then decided to stick with his original plan.
Tobius added. It doesn't take much to trigger a type one off into a bout of anger or vengeance, though I must say, Archy certainly seemed to have calmed down since I last saw him. He was wielding a silver blade this time…and he merely broke that poor man's neck rather than tore him apart… that was almost civilised of him.
Dean growled low in his throat, but it was ignored.
Sam frowned. He seemed… well… kind of civilised somehow. I mean, his clothes and hair were well kept. And he was well spoken, if you get my meaning. Sounded like you, in fact. He glanced at his grandfather a little nervously when he said that last part.
No, Sam. Tobius smiled, sadly. That was just his vanity. And he learned a lot under my tutelage in the short time he was with me. And he'd been around a few hundred years when you met him. He was bound to have changed, if only just a little.
The smile faded in remembrance of yet another sorrow.
Archy had gone on to savagely murder Luca's wife and children in cold blood. And that had been the turning point, as far as Tobius was concerned. A feud between grown wolves was one thing, but Tobius drew the line at involving females and their pups.
He spent the next near enough one hundred years hunting him down, and the bastard seemed to taunt him every step of the way. Leaving a trail of human bodies in his wake across Northern and Eastern Europe, Russia, Japan, China, Archy eventually headed towards the Middle East and disappeared, never to be seen again.
Tobius was forced to give up when every trail ran cold, and returned to England years later, defeated and bitter.
Then Archy showed up at the cabin and attacked Sam and Dean, sending Tobius into a blind rage.
Dean scratched the back of his head. "What about that guy? The alchemist? How dya think he got involved in all this?"
Sam nodded his agreement. "Yeah, that seemed a little unlikely. He was human after all, so how did he get back to the cabin so fast?"
Tobius leaned forward and chucked another log on the fire.
"From what you two overheard, it seems the alchemist found a way to cover human and werewolf scent, though who propositioned who, I couldn't say and I suspect we'll never know. Perhaps the alchemist discovered Archy was a werewolf somehow and offered his services in exchange for immortality, or maybe Archy approached him when he found out his latest project was based on, say, animal pheromones, for example. It's anybody's guess, really." He frowned. "As for the speed of the human against a werewolf..." Tobius shrugged. "I've no idea. I can only imagine it was some kind of spell. After all, Alchemy and witchcraft were once closely linked. Perhaps there's something in that."
"Well, either way," Dean mused, staring into the firelight, one arm slung around Sam's shoulders, hand absently rubbing the kid's arm. "He sure signed his own death warrant, huh? Poor bastard."
"Why did Archy call you a traitor?" asked Sam, curiously.
"Ah, yes." Tobius laughed quietly. "Archy was nothing if not the ultimate hypocrite. He believed it was a betrayal for a werewolf to hunt down and destroy another, even if it was just for killing humans, though that was a term he never pointed at himself, in spite of what he did to Luca and his family. Archy hated humans, and saw them merely as his own personal playthings, only there for werewolf amusement."
"Jeeze! Talk about narcissistic!" Dean declared, quietly. "Was it just because he was a type one, or was that actually him? I mean, no offence, Sire, but you didn't know him before he was turned."
"And that's a fair comment." Tobius nodded slowly, thinking that through. "You're quite right. And my answer? Again, I just don't know."
He could see what Dean was driving at.
Could Archy have been excused right off the bat because of his non-lunar status? As in: Not his fault.
Or had he been a sadistic lunatic in the making to start with? Tobius just couldn't say.
The three wolves fell silent, each lost in their thoughts, just watching the logs devoured slowly, flame by flame. Outside the window, snow began to fall once again in soft flakes, lining the window ledge, and settling gently on the hotel roof.
In spite of everything, Sam didn't feel quite as bad as he had before. A weight had been lifted, it seemed, and it was noticeable by the renewed light in his eyes and the lift of his shoulders.
He felt at peace, with Dean and Tobius safe beside him. And for what it was worth, he intended to train as hard and long as he could in order to keep it that way.
Tobius sat up suddenly. "You realise we've forgotten something?"
The ancient werewolf grinned. "Presents of course!"
Dean raised an eyebrow at Sam. "Dude. A Bubble Butt Boy?"
Sam's shrug seemed almost perfectly timed with Tobius' smothered snort of laughter.
"I just figure you love your baths so much these days..."
Dean turned a scowl on the bath toy. It was basically a small, colourful plastic guy bent double, in order to blow soap bubbles out his ass. In fact, now that he thought about it, it could be kinda fun. A small grin began to emerge.
But when he opened the gift from his Sire, suspicion began to form.
He held up the Arse-Face white and brown soap bar, with matching towel.
"You guys sayin' I'm just all about the ass?"
Grandson and Grandfather shared a look.
"I mean," Dean spluttered. "There was that cute waitress a while back... but that was her fantasy, not mine... I was just performing a public service..."
Sam covered his ears in horror. "Dude! TMI!"
Tobius cleared his throat. "It was a reference, in fact, to your rather astounding ability to... well..." he sighed and just came right out with it. "You're a bit of a fartpants, aren't you?"
Dean blinked. "Fartpants? This coming from the guy who ate one of those..." he waved his hands around vaguely, until he could remember the name of it "vondaluu curries? Then spent the entire evening in the bathroom, rendering it unsafe for any human that walked in? Dude!"
Tobius laughed. "It was better than letting one go in the restaurant, and it's vindaloo." He pointed accusingly at his son. "And it was your idea. You know I don't like spicy food all that much."
Tobius loved his gift. It was the entire collection of Terry Pratchett's disc world in hard back.
He raised his eyes in astonishment. "How did you know?"
The boys' sniggered.
"With your sense of humour?" Dean replied, still laughing. "Had your name all over it."
"That," Sam added. "And I've seen you reading those when you think we're tucked up in bed." He lifted a shoulder in a half-shrug. "You know me and insomnia. We're best of buddies."
Sam was astounded when he opened his gift.
A spanking brand new laptop gleamed up at him.
Sparkling eyes, seemingly just a little moist, gazed at his family.
"You guys..." he breathed, and ran a hand down the casing.
And that was all that Dean and Tobius needed to see. Their youngest, after possibly the most difficult year of his life so far, was safe and happy. But it was made particularly special, when Sam launched himself onto them both, hugged them tight, and held on for dear life.
Dean frowned at the rest of the gifts under the tree.
"I don't recognised any of these," he shot a suspicious look at his Sire. "They can't be ours, right?"
Tobius just smiled, mysteriously. "Of course, they are. They wouldn't be there otherwise." He leaned forward, eyes twinkling kindly. "Saint Nicholas can sense when good children are in residence in the hotel."
Sam chuckled. "Uh... look, You can stop that, ok?"
"Sammy!" Dean frowned at Sam. "Just let it go, ok? He likes this kinda stuff."
Sam winced, immediately feeling ungrateful. The concept of grandfather was still a little new to him, but he honestly hadn't meant to be a killjoy.
The boys were delighted, regardless of who had left these gifts, as it turned out. Chocolate selection boxes, all the way from England, gummy worms, sugar mice, jelly babies, and candy canes, all were in over-abundance.
The boys ate until they were nearly sick. And had never seemed so content.
The oldest werewolf recognised a job well done.
Tobius lit his cigar by the open window this time, so he could stay with the boys and take in the scent of the night.
He couldn't help smiling.
They'd survived yet another catastrophe, and still came out of it laughing.
That's the way of it with these two lively lads.
And that's just fine with me.
A faint tinkling of bells was heard from the skies above and a jovial voice called out Yo Ho HO!
Tobius' smile widened. Christmas Eve had been long gone by the time they'd arrived at the hotel, emotionally and physically exhausted.
But old favours can be called in at any time of the year.
I knew you wouldn't let me down old friend.
Special note to readers of Hunter of the Shadows.
A Winchester Werewolf Christmas story for you all, just to reassure that I'm still passionately working on book 2 of 'Hunter of the Shadows.'
You're in for one hell of ride...
Here's for a very happy Christmas to you all, and a wonderful new year.