So, I've been talking to reviewers of my other stories, and it turns out that they all want werewolves. I have obliged.
Danny causes people so many headaches it'll stop being funny...maybe.
Un-beta'ed, so quibble away.
- o – o -
Bad Moon On The Rise
Chapter One: Start of Something New
Captain Thomas Neville had spent thirteen years as a member of the Monroe Militia. In his thirteen years, he'd learned a few very concrete things:
Number one: Miles Matheson was a certified jackass, and his family was just as annoying. Ben Matheson, for example, had been too…pacifistic for his own good. The Matheson boy he was currently holding hostage against Miles Matheson's eventual good will was a moron. (On the upside, it seemed to be a cover for an intelligent and slightly vicious streak. One could only hope.)
Number two: No matter what he thought privately, Bass Monroe had to be seen as the leader of the Republic. Anything else would destroy the stability that the Monroe Republic had to bring. (It was made easier by the fact that Monroe himself had ordered Neville to keep the charade in place. The consequences could have been ugly otherwise.)
Number three: While Monroe was the public leader, Neville knew that Rachel Matheson actually controlled the Monroe Republic. He wasn't too sure just how it had come to be like that, but she was all the same. The comedian sitting in the wagon was going to change that, though.
Number four, however, he had come by the hard way. Under no circumstances were you to leave a werewolf unattended during a full moon.
Captain Neville sighed, eyeing the chains he'd used to secure the Matheson boy nearly eight hours before. It'd been two days hard travel since the boy had nearly killed Richards, Templeton Jackson's best friend. From what he knew of werewolves, mostly from General Monroe, was that the transformation—the first one—was incredibly painful. And, unfortunately, werewolves got bloodthirsty and vicious before the first change.
Luckily for Richards, Danny Matheson had asthma, or Neville would be burying another one of his men.
"Find him," Neville barked, standing up. He shot a glare at Richards, who was rubbing his throat with a pained grimace. "And you. Stay with the wagons. I don't want to bury another man." Neville was quite aware of the fact that his men thought he was a crazy, psychopathic bastard, but none of them could deny the fact that he was the closest they'd ever had to a father-figure. He cared about them, and they returned his loyalty in spades.
Richards should just be grateful he was still alive after the stunts he'd been pulling, Neville thought grimly as he fingered the inhaler in his coat pocket. If the change had hit Matheson during an attack, there was no guarantee the boy would still be able to breathe when they caught up with him.
The Militia soldiers spread out, hunting for tracks. Neville wondered how long it would take for them to figure out that the dinner plate-sized paw prints in the soft earth lead directly away from where Daniel—Danny was a stupid nickname only fit for a child, Neville thought—had been sleeping.
The captain swung himself up into the saddle on his horse and began following the tracks he'd noticed. His men, wondering why their captain was following a strange trail, hurried after. Foot soldiers had, in the past fifteen years, learned to keep pace with a horse, or at least at half-pace with someone mounted and following a trail that was nearly cold.
Werewolves, Neville mused with another grimace as the tracks curved towards the river he and his men had been following for the past two days. What's next, selkies?
The tracks stopped at the water, and it looked as though the werewolf currently getting on Neville's nerves had either rolled around in the mud, or had been trying to decide whether or not swimming was a good idea. A few feet further down the bank, however, the tracks led off towards a stand of trees. The small creek running from the river to the stand of trees probably had something to do with it.
Well, that's what he would have done, anyways. If there was no nearby source of potable water, then the hiding place wasn't worth it. Neville dismounted from his horse and passed the reigns off to his second in command.
"Keep the rest of the men back, sergeant," he murmured quietly. "I don't know what state Matheson is in, and he's less likely to kill me than them."
His sergeant nodded, frowning unhappily. "Yes sir. Just…be careful, alright?"
It touched Neville to hear the concern in the younger man's voice. Loyalty spent was loyalty repaid. Positive proof, though… That was something else entirely…
- o – o -
Four years, eight weeks after the Blackout
Thomas Neville had never considered joining the Militia. It hadn't appealed to him, after all. He had a wife and a young son to look after, and he was perfectly content to look after the farm his wife had inherited from her father shortly after the blackout. And yet, here he was in Philadelphia, preparing to take the Militia's brand. What the hell had he been thinking, all those weeks ago?
Oh. Right. He'd lost the coin toss in his community. Villages were expected to send at least one conscript to join the Militia, of their own free will. It was considered a tax write-off, which was probably what made the idea that much more appealing. Neville had, for the first time in two years, been unlucky. He'd drawn the short straw, and was packed off with the recruits from the surrounding communities to Kimberton, Pennsylvania to learn the ways of the Monroe Militia.
Eight weeks later, he was standing in line to receive his first pay stub and the brand of the Monroe Militia. Despite his initial misgivings, he was actually looking forward to getting the brand. And, of course, the pay that came with it. His wife could use the money to buy herself a new dress, or shoes that fit right for their son. Or, of course, another book for the community's school.
Fifteen minutes later, Neville was holding a frozen pad of cloth to his arm and looking for the nearest bar so he could get drunk until the pain in his right arm subsided. It hurt like a bitch. He ducked into an alley and leaned against the wall, breathing through his nose while he tried to work his way through the pain logically.
While he was pulling himself through the pain, a side door in the building opened. A young man with curly blond hair slipped out of the building, clutching a blanket around his shoulders with one hand. Neville watched, curious. He hadn't thought Kimberton—well, Philadelphia, if he was going to be accurate about locations—had a whorehouse. Apparently he'd been wrong. The only question was whether this young man was one of the clients, or one of the service providers. (Not that he swung that way, but apparently Captain Jeremy Mitchell did. Doing favors for the officers was a quick way to get favors in return; it was like working as an insurance adjuster, but with a salary dependent on commissions.)
Neville couldn't stop himself from gaping in horror, though, as the young man looked at him, his blanket slipping a little. Hideous black burns covered the blonde's shoulder, dipping out of sight over his shoulder. One marred his cheek, as though he'd been gagged with a super-heated piece of steel. It was probably his imagination, but Neville could smell the scent of cooking meat.
"Is the graduation today?" the blonde rasped, leaning heavily against the wall. Neville nodded mutely. "Figures," the man murmured, eyes closing. "Not one word out of you, recruit," the blond added, opening one blue eye to stare at him.
Neville drew himself up to his full height, a sneer on his face. "And who says I have to listen to you?" Alright, so it probably wasn't the best decision, but his arm hurt like hellfire, and he was scared that he'd stumbled into something that was going to get him killed.
"Sebastian Monroe," the blonde offered, holding on the hand that had been under the blanket. Neville tried not to stare at the black burn encircling Monroe's wrist. The tattoo, though, caught his attention. "Keep quiet, and you'll have the fastest promotion in history."
"I…I'd really rather have a beer, sir," Neville said weakly. General Monroe laughed at that, a slight wince on his face.
"Keep me laughing like that, and I'll buy you the whole keg," Monroe replied.
- o – o -
It had been the start of a very odd-couple friendship, although Neville still couldn't decide which of them was Felix Unger. He'd kept his silence, and had been promoted to captain less than a week later. His recruit mates had despised him for it, and had teased him relentlessly as he'd moved into officer quarters.
That had been his first introduction to werewolf physiology. He'd been warned, before setting out on this particular jaunt to Chicago, that Ben Matheson—and likely the rest of the Matheson clan, with the exception of Rachel, who was related only through marriage—was a werewolf. Neville had prayed that none of them were, and was now being heavily disappointed.
A massive tan-colored wolf was lying on its side in the clearing next to the small creek head, panting heavily. The dust in the air around the wolf spoke volumes. Neville sighed and knelt down next to the wolf, placing his hand on its side.
"Daniel," he said, calmly as he could mange. "Come on, son, give me a sign of life." He rubbed the wolf's—Danny—shoulder in as comforting a gesture as he could manage. The wolf whined unhappily. "Come on. That's it…" The wolf gave him a slightly betrayed look—well, as good as a wolf could manage, anyways. Neville cast an eye up at the sky visible through the branches of the trees, willing the sunrise to come faster. He knew how to give a human a dose of steroids via an inhaler, but he'd never given any thought as to how he was supposed to administer them to a werewolf. Not one who was still a wolf, anyways…
The sunrise couldn't come fast enough. Danny's panting had gotten worse, and the whine was beginning to get on Neville's nerves. The first gold-red rays of sunlight streaming through the branches were entirely too welcome. The Militia captain sat back on his heels as the wolf whined in pain. Watching the transformation was never easy. Monroe's transformations had left him on the floor, panting and covered in sweat, weaker than a newborn kitten (puppy, if the wolf analogy had to be carried through).
It was no different with Danny. The teenager was left curled up on the grass, panting and coughing because he couldn't breathe. Judging by how badly he was shaking, he was facing muscle exhaustion too. The light sheen of sweat all over his body was another testament to how badly he'd taken to the shift.
Neville held the inhaler out. Danny gave him a cautious, suspicious look. The captain sighed, stuck the dispenser into the boy's slightly open mouth, and shoved the capsule down. The steroids were probably far, far past their due date, but it did the trick. Danny's breathing eased, leaving him trembling and curled into a ball on the ground. The trees gave him a little shade and created a dappled shadow over his back and thighs.
"Have fun last night?" Neville asked mildly. Danny made a weak attempt at a rude gesture. In his current state, there wasn't much he could do against any member of the militia, much less a feather.
"G…go away," Danny whispered. He looked paler than usual, and rather ill. Neville sighed and pulled the blanket he'd brought along out of his pack. The older man wrapped it around the teenager's shoulders and helped him to his feet.
"General Monroe ordered me to bring the Mathesons to him, son," Neville replied as he led Danny back to the sergeant and the waiting horses. "But good luck with your next run."
Neville steadfastly ignored the looks his sergeant was giving him as he helped the naked boy, wrapped up in a blanket, onto the waiting horse. He climbed up behind Danny, and, wrapping an arm around the exhausted teen's waist to keep him from falling off, set a quick pace back to camp.
Hopefully Miles Matheson was nowhere in the area, or he'd never survive the trip…
Back at the camp, Richards had a change of clothes waiting for Danny. They didn't fit particularly well, but they were dry and intact.
"And that, Private Richards," Neville said under his breath as Danny growled at the man, "is why you never play games with a werewolf."
- o – o -
So, what did you think? Good? Bad? Want to know more about the Matheson clan and their issues? Drop a line and let me know!
Edit 10/10/2012: Hall's name is actually Richards, as learned from reading the official recaps. Details have been changed in this chapter and future chapters accordingly.