Sturdy, rough cardboard weighed heavily in Sam’s arms as he walked carefully down the Bunker’s main staircase, towards the ancient map table in the incident room. The cavernous space was lit only by the table and the hour was late. Or early—depending on your point of view, or if you were Dean.
Sweat coated Sam’s back, he needed to get showered and changed or he would catch a post-run chill. But first he needed to get his small package down to his room and settled. Holding the box as close to his chest as he could, Sam reached the bottom of the stairs and stalked across the incident room, only to startle when Dean flipped on a light and wandered in with a fresh mug of coffee.
“Mor… ning,” Dean yawned and sat down at the table. His brother looked about ready for the day.
“Yeah, morning,” Sam replied more clearly, hoping that he could get past Dean. Box impossibly close to his chest, Sam tried to walk through the incident room as nonchalantly as possible. He knew that its contents would rub Dean the wrong way should he take a peek under its flaps.
Sam could practically feel Dean’s eyes try to burn into him when he reached the doorway to the kitchen. Just as Sam thought he might get through without incident, Dean asked, “What's in the box?!”
Almost like Sam’s small companion wanted nothing more than to betray him, there was an audible thump from inside the box and Sam tried to steady it in his arms. Tensing, Sam turned around to face Dean, schooling his face to be as neutral as possible.
“Nothing,” Sam replied.
“Right… If it’s nothing, why don’t you lemme have a peek?” Dean got up from his seat and padded over to Sam.
Pressing the box closer, Sam shook his head, hair flapping about his face. “It’s nothing. I’m gonna hit the shower.”
“You got Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in there?” Dean stepped closer.
“It’s nothing, Dean.” Sam backed off.
“Oh, c’mon Sam. What, you decided to get your own stash of vintage porn? Or maybe it’s some toys? Always knew you were a kinky—”
Sam’s face turned bright red and his jaw dropped open. “No, it is not porn or sex toys!” he snapped. “Christ, Dean.” He shook his head again and turned to leave.
“Oh, c’mon Sammy. Your secret’s safe with me,” Dean called.
A small, friendly bark sounded from the box in Sam’s arms. The jig was up. There was no way Dean misheard that and so Sam sped up, walking as fast as he could without actually running.
“SAM!” Dean yelled after him.
Booted feet pounded after Sam and all too soon he was being pushed up against a wall, the box removed from his arms. The box’s occupant gave another, traitorous happy bark and Sam watched Dean’s jaw clench tightly.
“Sam,” Dean started, eyes flipping between Sam and the box. “This better not be what I think it is.”
Glowering petulantly at Dean, Sam shrugged. “So what if it is? I found her on the side of the road, Dean. She’s got no one.” Sam couldn’t help the wetness that came to his eyes as he spoke. “She was left there to die, Dean… and… and… that’s just wrong!”
Dean frowned and opened the loose flaps on the top of the coffee coloured cardboard box. A dark chocolate nose poked out and snuffled the air, followed by a small fuzzy brown head with curious eyes and animated ears. The labrador puppy leaned towards Dean’s hand, sniffed it and then licked it. She wasn’t much bigger than one of Sam’s hands.
It was impossible to read the expression on Dean’s face as he stared down at the squirming ball of life. Sam wanted to take the pup from him, he understood that his brother loathed dogs: but Sam wanted this puppy—it wasn’t a hellhound or a terrier. He hadn’t gone out of his way to find it, the poor thing had been there on the side of the road, yelping and scared.
“Please,” Sam begged. The puppy licked Dean’s hand again and Sam watched his brother closely.
“All alone on the side of the road, huh?” Dean reiterated.
“Yes,” said Sam, voice trembling just a little.
“What is she?”
“You would know that, wouldn’t you,” Dean said more to himself than to Sam. The puppy licked his hand again, tiny pink tongue dragging along his palm.
“Can we keep her?” Sam whispered.
Dean flicked his gaze between the puppy and Sam. “If she wrecks the leather in my Baby, there will be hell to pay… But fine, you can keep her. She got a name?”
It took Sam a moment to process what Dean had said and understand that he was allowed to keep the puppy. He hadn’t even dared to hope enough that he could keep her, so he hadn’t thought of a name.
“We’ll call her... “ Sam thought hard, he didn’t want it to be a name that had too much history. There were so many names that had too much history for them. “How about… Toffee?”
The puppy’s floppy ears rose minutely in interest at that and she turned to Sam, tail wagging behind her. Sam stepped in beside the box and said, “Toffee.” The puppy gave a tiny happy bark at Sam.
“We should probably get Toffee checked out,” Dean suggested, proffering the box towards Sam. Reaching into the box, Sam lifted the puppy out and cradled her against his chest. Toffee snuffled at him and Dean gave Sam a small grin.
“Here, Toffee!” Sam called to the six month old puppy. The chocolate coloured labrador wasn’t fully grown and wouldn’t be for some time, but when she bowled into Sam’s legs she still made him have to hold his arms out to keep his balance.
The two of them had been scoping out a park in Appleton, Wisconsin for signs of changeling activity. A few deaths in the area had caught Dean’s attention, not exactly difficult after what had happened with Lisa and Ben. So Dean had sent Sam and Toffee out to see if the park looked like it was auditioning for Children of the Corn, because the two of them looked like they belonged there while they played catch.
Adults and kids came and went. No one seemed out of place, no matter how closely Sam studied them. He even had Toffee purposefully run in among them a few times to see if she picked up anything, but nothing sent her doggy senses off. Before they'd reached this part of Wisconsin, Mary had suggested it was probably changelings when she’d been asked if she wanted in on this particular hunt. She’d declined, but asked the boys to bring Toffee by Jody’s soon. Apparently their mom was owed a play date with the pup.
It was getting dark when Sam decided that there were no changelings there. Still, the three deaths they’d heard about—recently divorced fathers; bodies found in varying states of dismemberment; looking like they had met their ends in horrible freak accidents—all sounded like changeling activity.
But the park said otherwise. Sam checked his cell as he finished clipping a leash back onto Toffee. There was a text from Dean:
DEAN: Homes are fine. Schools are fine. No weird absences. Think it’s a bust. Motel?
Sam was about to text back when Toffee tensed beside him. Instinct made Sam seek out the reassuring weight of the gun at his back and the machete clipped to the inside of his jacket. Something about the way the air moved made Sam put his cell in his pocket and ready himself to grab his machete.
Out of sight of the remaining park goers, hidden under the shadow of tall pines, Sam spun on the spot, drawing his machete and putting Toffee behind him as a female vampire hissed at him. Her teeth were out, eyes feral as blond hair blew about her face. A part of Sam’s memories registered her as a hunter he’d seen a long time ago, back at the Roadhouse before all hell had broken loose. He didn’t know how she’d fallen on such hard times, but he could take a few guesses.
Sam couldn’t recall her name, but none of that mattered as she went for Sam, clearly aware that it was either him or her. Toffee snarled and the vampire’s eyes shifted from Sam to the puppy and that was all the opening Sam needed. He pulled his machete from his jacket and swung his arm in one long arc, the sharpened blade connecting perfectly with the vampire’s neck, sounding with a meaty thud.
There was no blood spray as the vampire’s head toppled from its neck and landed on the grass below. A second later the rest of the vampire’s body followed, like it had suddenly realized that its head was gone. Chest heaving, Sam looked around to check they hadn’t been spotted, but no one was near them or looking towards the trees.
Pulling his cell out, Sam dialed Dean’s number.
“What up?” Dean answered.
“Not changelings. It’s a vamp. Or was,” Sam tried to explain through breaths, heart rate still racing. “Look, got a dead vamp on the north side of the park in the trees. Could do with some help.”
“Christ, hold on, Sammy. I’ll be right there,” said Dean, and then “shit, shit, shit” breathed in the background as his brother hung up.
Sam stowed his cell and turned his attention to Toffee. He bent down beside her and started rubbing at her fuzzy head, catching her ears just how she liked it. “Who’s a good girl, huh? I think it’s you. I am definitely getting you a treat.”
Staying beside Toffee, keeping the decapitated vampire out of view of any casual onlookers, Sam waited for Dean to find him. He’d had to wait for help to deal with a bodies before, but that didn’t mean that hanging around yet another one was any less nerve wrecking. Sam was grateful that this had happened while Twilight descended into evening.
Twigs and needles crunched under booted feet—Dean was finally there. Dean stood beside Sam and looked down at the vampire’s remains.
“So our changeling’s really a vamp?” Dean asked.
Getting to his feet, Sam nodded and Toffee sat by his side. “I recognize her from the Roadhouse.”
“That was a lifetime ago.”
“Yeah, well maybe after the place went boom, some regulars fell on hard times. Too many hunts. No support. Get sloppy.”
“Geez… It’s kinda weird finding someone we hardly knew in a position like this.” Dean shifted on his feet.
“Dunno why the British MoL is looking for hunters. There’s hardly any of us left. Between the Roadhouse, the apocalypse, hell, even the Leviathans—it’s not even like there’s anyone like Bobby out there anymore. Not with Garth all werewolfed-up.” Sam sighed.
It was Dean’s turn to sigh. “Don’t remind me… There’s not a scratch on you,” Dean observed, taking the conversation back to the vampire before them. The two hunters and puppy surveyed the vampire’s remains and then Toffee sniffed at Sam’s hand.
“Toffee helped,” Sam explained.
“Think you can get the car close enough so we can find somewhere to burn the body?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, the trees aren’t too thick on the other side.” Dean knelt down beside Toffee. “Thanks for keeping an eye on him, champ.” Without further comment, Dean patted the puppy’s head and headed for the Impala.
“See, I told you he liked you,” Sam whispered to Toffee. The puppy wagged her tail in reply.
Soon enough they’d found an old lot outside of Appleton to burn the vampire and had checked out of their motel. They were heading to their next case—Dean had heard something about a haunting in Chicago, so the three of them struck out on the I-94 W and headed for the Windy City. Dean was driving, but Sam was in the middle of the bench seat, Dean's arm around his shoulders, while Toffee was beside Sam, sat on an old blanket.
Just “this once”, Dean had allowed Toffee to have a chew sweet while sat with them in the car. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River” album played on the stereo and Sam stroked Toffee’s head while she chewed on her treat.