A Pack Christmas

Timeline: December 2007

Lyla had gotten up early and finished wrapping presents she’d gotten for the entire, extended “family”, put them in a box and then roused the sleeping and still injured Ramiel. He was looking decidedly better this morning than he did last night, she was pleased to see.

Once everyone was up and moving, they had quite a crowd ready to take advantage of John’s very thoughtfully organized horse-drawn sleigh. In fact, there might be a few too many, but most had no issue with perhaps shifting to wolf and running alongside on foot (at a distance so as not to spook the horse, of course). Of the pack, Niki, Grey, Lyla and Selene appeared for the Christmas activity, and of course there was also Ramiel, Michael, and John, with the expectation to meet Daniel at Rey’s cabin. Chaska said that if he could later, he’d meet them at the cabin but he wanted to be sure to heal Ironclaw as much as possible first.

John came down stairs looking a little tired but he felt, ok. “Morning Lyla, didn’t tell you last night because it was so late but I left about 140 pound of meat in the walkin labeled pack for your friends. I left a note with Chaska’s present telling him about it but I don’t know if he told anyone else. Speaking of Presents how did you like yours?”

“Oh! Well, actually I hadn’t opened it yet. I thought we’d all do that together at Rey’s place since we didn’t make it over last night,” she said. In her arms was a large box of presents with different people’s names on it.

Rey hadn’t slept a wink all night. Not even meditating helped calm her nerves. Just sitting around, wondering what had happened to the pack, was driving her crazy, so she finally gave up on sleeping and tried to some extra baking. Instead, she ended up burning three pies.

As the sun rose, she was standing vigil at the window, looking outside for any sign of someone approaching the cabin.

Ramiel was moving slow and he winced when Rey hugged him.”Ungh. Careful little one. Lay off the steriods.” He said with a half smile. At least Rey thought it was a smile. There was no joy in his eyes as she looked at him. He managed to make it to the couch slowly and sat down. “Lyla, JD please. And happy holiday Rey.”

Lyla hugged Rey in greeting, too. Then she put her big box of gifts on the floor and dug into it, coming up with a small gift a moment later. It said, “To my Hero, and the sexiest hunk of scarred flesh in the room: Ramiel.” She impatiently waited for him him to open it. “Come on, then! I can’t give you your JD until you open it!”

At her urging he opened it to find a finally crafted stainless steel flask for just such a beverage. It had his shadow name engraved upon it, framed with attractive etchings of a humans and beasts entwined in a Celtic style.

“Thanks hot pants. You know my heart well.” he kissed her as she handed him the newly filled flask. Taking a deep drink he smiled. “Hey little one. I don’t do gifts really. So just let me know what you need sometime in the future right? Good.” Ramiel shifted lower on the coush so the bandages weren’t pinching him.

“Where were you guys last night?” Rey asked, concern at Ramiel’s condition obvious.

His eyes were empty and cold he didn’t even try to hide it like he normally would.”Taking care of something. No worries Doc patched me up.”

Lyla touched her arm. “Hey, Rey? Can we talk in private a moment?”

“Sure.” Rey cast another worried glance at Ramiel before leading Lyla to the privacy of her work room.

There, Lyla got Rey seated on her stool and cornered so that if Rey was going to have an outburst, Lyla would be right there to give her a hug or possibly a grapple if Rey flew into a rage. She was used to dealing with female Uratha. Then Lyla gave Rey the complete run-down of what she knew happened and why.

“So,” she said in conclusion, “none of us knew what was going on until Ironclaw called the pack and ordered us to make ready for an attack. We didn’t know where we were going until we figured out what trail Ironclaw was tracking and then we were in the fight. Everyone was ready for something, of course. Ready for anything. I guess that was his plan. Anyway. People got killed last night, but luckily the pack is fine. The two hunters that James had used are dead, killed in the fighting, and so was the Pure Alpha. I kinda freaked when James went down. James was stabbed in the back twice with a silver dagger when he was fighting the Pure pack Alpha, you see, so when he went down I was sure he was dead. I ran the bastard down and ripped out his throat. The rest of the Pure was beaten down hard, so I don’t think they’ll be back. Ever. Oh, and we recovered the kids they’d kidnapped. Their with their father, who is a wolfblood and seems to know what’s up. He was related to one or more of the Pure we defeated, so we’re watching him and his kids. They’ll go through the First Change soon.

“Ramiel was there, too. I guess he was in on most of the plan from the beginning. Maybe not the fine details, but he knew enough that James thought he needed to be included. He never said anything to me, either — Ramiel’s really good at keeping secrets.

“Anyway the rest of the pack is with Ironclaw. Selene was nearly killed, too, so Chaska and Grey both spent everything they had and then some to try to get them back on their feet, but it was just impossible. They can only heal so much. So, they are resting in a safe house in Shadow while Chaska regains power. Grey should be, too, but he didn’t want to skip out on you today, too. I’m in charge of the pack until James is back on his feet, so I gave him permission to take two hours off. After that, I’ve got to have him back at work getting our Ulfric back on his feet again.”

“So, I’m not good enough, not enough of a member of the pack not to be warned?” Rey asked between gritted teeth, shaking with anger. “I was up all night, worried that the all kinds of horrible things had happened. Not even worth a simple we can’t make it tonight?” She knew she was being unreasonable, that Ironclaw’s plan hadn’t allowed for it, but she couldn’t help it. The very thought of the possibility that the rest of the pack could have been wiped out and she’d have been alone again, never have known what happened, tore open that pit of rage she worked so hard to keep buried.

Lyla tried to soothe Rey. She stroked the angry young women with a gentle touch from shoulder to elbow. “Hey, hey Rey I’m totally with you on this. He should have trusted you. When he’s back, you can get those answers from him, ‘kay?”

Rey jerked away from Lyla’s touch, jumping off the stool and sending it clattering to the floor. “Don’t fucking touch me,” she snarled, backing further into the corner.

Ramiel heard the raised voice of his little witch in the next room. With a sigh he hefted himself off the couch and took another swig od JD. He stood in the door and listened to them for a little bit. “It’s not that you couldn’t handle it peaches. He didn’t want blood on your hands.”

Rey could practically feel the cold that filled his eyes, and seemingly crept into his heart. “I could say I am sorry we didn’t let you know we were not going to make it. But then we would have had to deal with everyone else. You know better on this Rey, you are aware of the reasons. We did what was needed to to keep the blood off your hands and everyone elses. Certain things need to be left to those who will do it.”

Rey let out a shriek of rage and tried to launch herself past Lyla to vent her frustrations on Ramiel.
Lyla dodged.

Ramiel watched Rey hurtling toward him. Better not tear these stitches. John will take my nuts for sure. Rey thought she saw him saying something to her as she rushed him. He stood there and welcomed her attack.

She lashed out with a fist at his chest, deflected by an unseen barrier.

“Let it out, Rey,” Ramiel said.

The failure to connect, combined with his words, only made Rey angrier and she struck at him again. This time she found some weakness and hit him square in the chest.

“Is it blood you want?” Ramiel’s voice was cold.

“Don’t you kill her, Ramiel!” Lyla’s voice came from behind her, serious and concerned.

Rey launched herself in a final assualt on Ramiel, aiming a knee for his groin, but she missed and collapsed against him, sobbing. Ramiel grabbed her arm, spun her around and held her from behind, and Rey just sobbed harder.

He drew a blade, put it in her hand, and wrapped his hand around hers. Silently, he put the blade against his arm and drew is slowly across, causing a trail of blood to flow over her hand.

“This is what we are trying to protect you from,” Ramiel said. “Is this what you want?”

Rey just hung there, limp in his grasp, her entire body shaking with the force of her crying.

Ramiel let the blade drop to the floor. “Just let us protect you Rey. Be happy you were not there and don’t hold it against us. Don’t hate us for loving you.”

Rey turned in his grasp and buried her face against his shoulder and sobbed uncontrollably. Ramiel gently stroked her hair as Lyla looked at the new cut on his arm and muttered incoherently and derisively at his rash actions.
The sound of a closing door caught their attention. “Merry Christmas.” Said the unmistakable voice of Grey from the next room.
Rey pulled out of Ramiel’s arms, raced to Grey and flung herself at him.
“Hey what is going on? Is that blood? Hey why are you….huh?” Grey was caught of guard.

Ramiel stood and went into the kitchen sheathing his knife again in his boot as he did. Once there he ran cold water across the new cut and then wrapped it with a towel. “She needed to vent. So I let her.”

Grey looked at him with cold eyes. “What did you do to her?” He asked firmly. “Did you cut her?” He tried to look for cuts but Rey was still clinging to him.

“It’s my blood Grey. She was upset about last night. So I let her see what it was like to have blood on her hands. Since beating on me wasn’t enough to break through the rage. What can I say, she’s stubborn.” Ramiel tied off the towel.

Grey’s eyes softened. In a bizarre way he knew what Ramiel had done. “Don’t you think that was a bit much?” He returned his attention to Rey.

“It’s alright Rey. Everything is fine.” He spoke gently to her, in a low soothing voice.
“He forced me to cut him,” Rey said through the sobs, though they were starting to ease. “Put the knife in my hand and made me hurt him. I’d stopped fighting, but he still… Oh god, my hands were covered with his blood once, and I swore never again….”
The look Grey gave Ramiel was not entirely friendly. But there was concern
in his eyes too. Enough to make Ramiel sqiurm a little. He opened his
mouth to say something but was cut off by Grey. “Not a word.” There was a
ferral roll behind his words.

He took Rey into the bathroom and washed the blood from her hands. “It’s alright. Calm down. ” Grey dried her hands off and held her. “You are upset because you were left out aren’t you?”

Rey made an unintelligible noise into his chest.

“Would it help if I said I am glad you were not there? I need you here. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I saw you become like Ramiel. He was trying to make you see what he did. Because of what happened last night. Ramiel… well he is a little less human now Rey. I don’t want to see that darkness in you, and niether does Ramiel. I think that is why he took such a demented action. To shock you. That and he isn’t going to see those lines so clearly now. You know the ones you are not suppost to cross.” He held her close to him squeezing gently.” Don’t be angry with us, we all value youso greatly. We needed one of our pack to be here when we came back.”

“Someone still could have told me you were going on a hunt. Warned me so I could have been prepared in case…” Rey sniffled a little. “I wouldn’t have asked to go, and I’m so glad everyone came back. That you’re okay.” She put her hand on his chest, and breathed in the scent of him.

He tilted her chin upward so he could look into her eyes. “In case what? What is really on your mind. You can tell me anything.”

“What if most or all of you had fallen? How would I have known where to go to find you? What to do to show final respects?” Rey’s voice dropped to a whisper and she tried not to start crying again. “What to do if I was the last one left.”

“You move on.” His voice was soft. “You keep living when others fall Rey. Besides you will never be alone. You have a human family too. I am surprised you don’t see that. As far as paying respects, you remember us. So long as you remember us we will never be gone. We came back this time, so let’s just not worry about the could haves. If we had told you then you would have had to live with what we were about to do. We didn’t want that to be weighing on your soul.” Grey cradled her in his arms.

“I know.” Rey shook her head. “It’s just that the last time we confronted the Dark Man, we got separated. Lyla and Ramiel disappeared without a trace, I didn’t know if they were alive or dead. It nearly destroyed me. I don’t know if I can live through that happening again.”

Grey inhaled and let it out slowly. ” I know you are scared. The unknown is almost impossible to handle. It was difficult on all of you to be separated.” He stroked her hair. “Do you know how relieved Ramiel was to see you again? I can tell you it wasn’t easy for them either. We have become good friends over the last few months. He speaks so fondly of you. So does Lyla. The others care for you, too. I can see that.”

He was contemplating his words, worried that he might anger her further. His body tensed as he thought of her being as angry at him. “You can’t live in fear Rey. If you do you will loose your life to it. Don’t fear that we might one day go out and not return. There will always be someone with you in one way or another. If not I know you are strong enough to make it on your own.”

“I know I am going to say the wrong thing here and I don’t have that long. I don’t want you to be upset when I leave. But I don’t think I am doing that great a job calming you down.”

“Does it look or feel like I’m going to throw a punch at you?” Rey asked, her eyes red and puffy but she was no longer crying. “I’ll be fine. Lyla told me you’d only be here for around two hours, and that the others need your attention. They need to be back up on their feet as quickly as possible.

“Grey, I don’t expect you to be at my side every waking moment. That’d be unconscionably selfish. You have responsibilities to the pack, and a life before I came into it.” She smiled. “And, as you get to know me better, you’ll learn that I can get rather emotional rather quickly, especially when I get angry. It also takes me a while to get it out of my system.” Rey kissed him on the cheek. “If you hadn’t arrived, I’d probably still be sobbing uncontrollably, or trying to beat up Ramiel again. You’re doing a fine job. We just need to find a way to redirect this emotion.” Her smile turned into a grin. “Let’s rejoin the others. If I’ve only got you for two hours, I want to give you your present now.”

“That’s my girl.” He smiled and led her out into the other room.

Rey looked over at Ramiel. “There’s a first aid kit on the bottle shelf of the pantry under the stairs,” she said, meeting his gaze. “I’ll take a look at it in a minute if you want. I’m not as good as John is at patching people up, but any little bit helps, right?”

Rey continued over to the mantel and took two packages down, one a drawstring bag and the other a small wooden box about the size of a deck of playing cards, but about twice as deep. The lid of the box was carved with a simple forest scene.

She handed the gifts to him with a smile. “Joyeux Noel, Grey.”

Grey hugged her. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Rey returned the hug, then stepped back and watched expectantly. “”You know, you’re supposed to open gifts when people give them to you,” she said with a grin.

Heavy footsteps were heard outside leading up to the door. A moment later, there was a knock on the door.

“Go on, open your presents,” Rey insisted with a smile as she went to see who had arrived. She opened the door and smiled. “Hi, Michael.”

“Sorry I’m late, I slept in after the long walk I took last night after I left.”

Grey laughed, “Okay, okay.” He said hello to Michael as he opened the gifts. His eyes lit up with a smile to match his lips. He hugged Rey tightly. “I love them thank you.”

Lyla had been feeling more than a little self-conscious, having been standing in the background while Grey and Rey went through their emotional episode. But now she occupied herself by handing out the presents she’d brought. Rey got a small CD-playing boom box and a couple of Christmas-themed albums. Lyla apologetically told her she’d meant to give that to her first thing last night, but of course business kept them away.

She had a fine, engraved pen for Daniel, and Michael received a pair of gold cuff links. There was a present for John, but of course he would receive the fine watch later, when she next saw him.

Then she began handing out gifts to the pack members present; their Christmas bonus. Rey received a steady pay check, but the pack only earned what dividends were made in profit from the Blood and Brew. Operating expenses and set-up costs and licenses had the Brew in the red for the first two months of operation, despite excellent business. However, the Brew was doing so well that it had excess funds for the month of December after operating costs and business loan payments. Every “unpaid” member of the pack (which included all the Uratha) were given a cut of $500 in cold cash.

Michael opened his gift from Lyla, then said, “Thank you, Lyla.”

Rey gave everyone their gifts. She’d even tried her own hand at writing a naughty limerick about Lyla and Ramiel in the book of naughty poetry and limericks she gotten them as a shared gift.

Lyla thanked Rey for the gift with a warm hug.

Rey walked over to Ramiel and looked up at him. “Would you like my help with your arm?” she asked?

Ramiel ran his fingers through Rey’s hair. Gently tucking it behind one ear. “Thanks.” He said.” Though Michael is pretty good at that. You be with Grey I will get him to look at it.”

Rey watched Ramiel walk away. Hamilton, will you heal Ramiel, please? I’ll give you one of your catnip mice to play with afterwards.

Right away, miss! came the quavering, nervous reply. Actually, can you send him under your bed? There are w-w-werewolves about!

They won’t hurt you, you know that, Rey said comfortingly to her familiar. Don’t worry, I won’t force you to come down here.

Ramiel walked over to Michael. “Could you look at this?” He asked.

“I thought that the whole pack was going to be here. Where’s the rest of them?” Micheal asked.

Selene began to explain, but Lyla overrided her. “They couldn’t make it,” Lyla said.

While looking at those there, Michael noticed Ramiel’s arm wrapped in the towel. “What happened to you?”, Michael asked as he pointed at Ramiel’s arm.

“Ramiel made Rey stab him,” Lyla said with a sigh. “Merry Christmas, by the way.”

“And on another thought, what happened to you guys last night? I thought you were all going to be at Rey’s party.”

“Something came up,” Lyla said. “We wanted to be here, but we just couldn’t make it.”

Michael took Ramiel’s arm in his hands, pulling back the bloody towel. He carefully looked at the wound, slightly pulling the edges of the laceration to see how deep the wound was.

“It looks like you may need some stitches, but nothing too serious. If Rey has a first aid kit here, or a needle and thread, I can sew you up here. What did you do to get this?”

Rey walked over to Ramiel. “Ramiel, I can have Hamilton heal your arm.”

“If you want him to okay.” He said looking at Rey. Ramiel smiled back at Michael. “You know me. Accidents,” he stated as if it explained everything. Ramiel knew Michael had heard Lyla, but he wasn’t going to repeat it.

“I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t want him to heal you.” Rey smiled. “He’s hiding under the bed upstairs.” She went and retrieved a little stuffed mouse from the mantel. “Would you give this to him after he heals you?” she asked.

“Of course,” he said as he took the toy and headed up stairs.

Ramiel’s on his way upstairs,
Rey said to Hamilton. He got hurt last night, and I don’t think he can crawl under the bed to you, but if you come to the edge of the bed to heal him, you’ll get a little present.

Yes miss!
he responded with more excitement.

RAmie reached the top of the stairs with a heavy sigh. What an ass, he thought about himsef as he made his way to the bed. Taking in the view as he went he noticed everything was tidy, except the disheveled bed. There he noticed a small peice of red satin shimmering beneath the pillow. Unable to resist temptation he removed the item in question to see it was a very little nighty. A smile formed. Then he staightened the bed and tucked the nighty back into place.

Hamilton had managed to jump up onto the bed. ” Hey there Hamilton.” Ramiel sat on the edge of the bed giving his arm to the little cat. ” She is growing up isn’t she. Quite nicely too.” He stroked the cat behind the ears. “You keep an eye on her too right? Don’t worry, she’ll understand why I did this one day.”

Hamilton replied, “Mrrew?” Then he hopped up and explored Ramiel, looking for injuries, then began licking him. In no time, Ramiel felt much better.

Once healed he gave the toy to the anxious kitty. Laughed as he watched Hamilton pounce and roll in the catnip. Then returned down stairs.
Miss? Hamilton sent to his mistress, Ramiel seems to like the way you have been growing up. And the red elf negligé, too.

What? Rey suddenly blushed bright pink. Oh god, I’ll never hear the end of that now. Her eyes flew to the stairs and when she saw Ramiel, she turned redder. She looked away, trying to act casual, but all she wanted to do was go hide somewhere and hope Ramiel would forget what he saw. And that he wouldn’t tell anyone.

Ramiel went to Rey and Kissed her gently on the forehead. “Thank you. Hamilton loved the toy.” With that he went to the couch and nestled back in to the corner.

Rey’s face remained lobster red and she cleared her throat. “So, um, would anyone like something to eat? I’ve got all kinds of stuff made.”
Lyla blinked at Rey. “Gosh, Rey. You okay? You look like you could use some air.” Her attention immediately turned to Grey. She gave him a ‘you sly dog’ look, though he seemed to not know what was going on.

“I’m fine,” Rey replied. “Just was thinking about something, that’s all.” Her blush, which had started to subside, flared up again when she looked at Grey. Once she started blushing, it was hard to stop.

Michael noticed Rey blush, a small smile start to appear on his lips. But then said, “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m feeling a little hungry at the moment.”

“Okay. Lyla, could I get your help getting everything out?” Rey asked.

“Sure,” she said. As she passed Michael, Lyla commented with a smile, “Blushing girls always seem to whet Michael’s appetite.”

Rey started to take stuff out of a jam-packed fridge. “Lyla, while we’re getting stuff out, will you help me pack about half of it up into plastic containers?” she asked softly. “I want to send it back with Grey, so the others have a good meal. If they can’t come to the party, then I can at least send part of the party to them.”

She nodded. “And remember that Ironclaw eats only meat for food.” Lyla glanced at the others and then back at Rey. She spoke in hushed tones so that only Rey would hear what she had to say. “I’m really glad they were able to take care of Selene. Chaska just did an awesome job patching her up. She was a real mess after the battle. They used silver on her, pretty thoroughly. And that’s a big reason Ironclaw couldn’t make it; he wanted to make sure she could spend Christmas with Michael.”

Rey just shook her head, not trusting herself to say anything about that. “I’ve got a big roast to send just for him, cooked, sliced and ready to go. He can eat it as is, or reheat it.” She smiled slightly. “I cooked enough for two carnivorous armies. If need be, if you send someone by tomorrow, I can pack up another load for everyone there.”

Lyla saw all the food she had, the array was impressive. It probably had cost the girl a week’s pay. “You’ve done an amazing job, Rey.”

“Thanks.” Rey was a bit embarrassed. Throwing the party, cooking all this food, being able to give to the pack and her friends this way made her feel really good. She had vague recollections of her parents saying it was a waste and foolish thing to do, a worthless gesture, but it was those very words that spurred her to do it.

Grey was instantly in the kitchen.”Food?” He said happily. After the food was out on the counter he touched Rey on the shoulder to get her attention. “I didn’t think to get a gift for you.” He said rather soflty. “So will you accept this?” He took one of the braided leather bands form his wrist, one that Rey had never seen him without. Grey had always worn a matched set of the black braided leather. He wrapped it around her wrist and snapped it into place.

She looked down at the bracelet and her fingers ran over it, caressing it gently. “Thank you.” Her eyes met his, and smiled shyly. “I love it. But I wasn’t expecting gifts from anyone. I gave them because I could. Because I wanted to.”

Grey leaned down and whispered into her ear. “You have given me a gift that means more than you will ever realize.” He kissed her and stood back up. “So food??”

Rey chuckled. “You and your tummy. Go get the casserole from the oven. You’ll like what’s in there.”

Grey took the casserole out of the oven, grabbed a big spoon and started munching away. “Ooh taters!” he said between mouthfulls. “Hope you guys didn’t want any.” His laughter filled the cabin.

As Selene got up to get some food, Michael came up behind her, and wrapped his arms around her waist. He then leaned in and kissed her neck, and said, “I missed you last night.”

She turned in his arms and kissed the side of his neck, inhaling his scent. “I missed you too.”

Michael slid his hand down her hip, then reached into his pocket. As he brought his hand back out, he said, “I brought something that you wanted me to keep safe for you. And I thought you might want to wear it today.” Michael then brought his arm up, and dangled the necklace he gave to her a couple of weeks ago. Selene smiled. “Put it on me?”

Michael had Selene turn around as he draped the necklace around her neck, and then clasped it. Turning her around again, Michael then kissed Selene on the lips. She returned the kiss, slow and passionate.

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