Dean realized he was beating a nervous tattoo on the steering wheel and put his hands in his coat pockets. “Matty, are you sure about this?”
The wolf in the passenger seat flashed a shady side-eye, and once more Dean marveled at seeing one of his boyfriend’s facial expressions on an animal.
“Look, I don’t doubt that you can handle a… grever.” The monster was small. About the size of a golden retriever. “But… it’s…” Dean sighed. “It’s a sixty-pound beetle. We’re talking, armor, pincers… and it’s just you.”
Matty rammed into Dean’s should before putting a cold nose on his holster.
“It’s a handgun, against armor. Like body plates, right?”
The black mask around Matty’s golden eyes lifted, and the wolf rocked a paw in the air. The gesture tripped Dean’s weirdness sensor as seeing a human action from an animal still did.
It’s been over a year, when will all this just become normal?
Dean licked at dry lips and studied the grever once more. “So it’s not quite like insect armor.”
Matty shook his head, ears flickering in annoyance.
“I hate this. Werewolves need telepathy.”
A yip of agreement answered him.
Dean took a deep breath. He and Matty had discussed the fight before coming to this dark, garbage-filled alley. And the werewolf wouldn’t tolerate much more stalling from Dean.
Either I get out there and fight, or he does it alone.
Sighing, Dean exited the car, Matty scrambling out after him. The fur on the werewolf’s neck rose, trailing down his spine. Dean pulled his gun, suddenly unsure of the plan.
A gunshot would alert people, even in this part of town. Cops would come, eventually. They had a 15-minute window from the gunshot to kill the monster, get in the trunk of Dean’s car, and get out. Hopefully, without being seen.
I own a classic muscle car and have friends in the police. This is dumb.
“Stop.” Dean hurried back to his car, ignoring the beauty of the lines and comfort of the leather. Behind his seat was the backpack Matty carried everywhere. A laptop and change of clothes sat on top, but buried at the bottom was the hatchet, a monster hunter’s ax. Behind him, Matty’s claws clicked on the asphalt as he danced.
There had been two plans for this hunt. The second involved the gun. Matty was to take out the grever’s legs and then Dean had the ease of point-blank range shoot at the brain via the creature’s large eyes.
The first had been more… physical. Matty engaged and distracted the grever, until Dean found an opening and jammed the ax into the seam in the armor, lifted or broke the plate, giving both of them a chance at the soft inner guts.
Plan one it is. He’s going to be so smug about this later.
Dean wasn’t entirely comfortable with the weapon, but he’d had a few lessons. He strapped it on and adjusted the weapon. And then adjusted it again. Then he tugged at the belt. He drew the weapon, fumbled it, and winced at the clatter as it hit the pavement.
The grever backed out of the garbage it had been rooting. A clacking filled the alley, but it was Matty’s answering growl that raised the hair on Dean’s arm. He stood frozen, half bent over to pick up the weapon as Matty charged into the alley.
The wolf met the monster head on, bowling it over, and landing on top. Matty jumped off, backed up, and then grabbed a spindly leg and tugged.
Get up. Help him.
Dean grabbed the ax off and rushed over. Matty had talked about the seams on the creature’s back and avoiding the mandibles. But now it was on its back and helpless as Matty dragged it around.
The belly was smooth and shiny, hard looking, with no seams. Panic rose in Dean for a moment. Then the shadows sharpened and faint dark lines appeared on the belly.
Dean took the ax in both hands and jammed it into the seam. A squeak, long and high rang out, but the sharp edge of the ax won. The shock of the armor shifting jolted Dean’s arms and he stumbled. But he held on to the ax. He planted his feet and pushed in.
The plate lifted, and the grever wriggled more, frantic clacking and clicking coming from its mandibles. It nearly right itself, but Matty growled and wrestled with his leg, keeping the creature pinned if not still.
Dean yanked on the ax, then jammed it back into the seam, lifting it completely. As the grever renew its efforts to right itself, Dean looked for something heart-like, an organ that moved. The green and purple flesh in the innards seemed even more alien than he had expected, but one thing moved rhythmically. Dean slammed the ax into it.
The grever shuddered and clacked a few more times before the only sound was Dean’s heavy breathing.His legs shook and he fell back on his butt, tailbone protesting loudly at the assault.
Matty let go of his leg with a whine, leaped over the grever, and butted his head against Dean’s chest.
Dean gripped at the soft fur with shaking hands. “I’m not sure I’m cut for this life.”
The werewolf stepped away, then collapsed. Dean held in his breath and his fear as the fur on Matty’s body retracted and the skin undulated with the shifting bones and organs.
Matty sat up, a hand to his head. “You okay, man?”
Dean struggled to his feet. “Let me get you some clothes.”
As Matty dressed, Dean put the grever in the trunk. He slammed the lid down and found the werewolf behind him.
Matty slipped a hand around Dean’s waist. “You never answered me. Are you okay?”
Dean shrugged before bending to rest his head on Matty’s shoulder. “I dunno. Like I said, I don’t know if I’m cut out to be a hunter.”
“Everybody wonders that at first.”
The werewolf’s shrug didn’t cover the tightening of his shoulders. “I didn’t really have a choice.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “But you do. If you hate this why are you out here?”
Dean stood up and took a deep breath before running a thumb along Matty’s jaw. “Because you’re out here.”
A blush warmed the olive skin of Matty’s thin face before he cleared his throat and stepped away. “We should get out of here.”
Smiling to himself, Dean climbed into the car. They had a monster to bury.