His captive hadn’t spoken during the last couple miles, but he was starting to flag again. Despite Lykos intending to continue their trek overland, it was clear Christophe was unable to handle such a journey. At least, not without assistance and better gear. Lykos glanced over his shoulder, and Christophe visibly flinched when Lykos’s eyes landed on him. He lost his footing and fell, grunting in pain when he landed. Lykos sighed, then walked back toward him.
“Get up.” He gave a tug of the leash.
Christophe was panting. He tried to get up again, then winced and cried out. Lykos sniffed. He could scent blood. With another tired sigh, he reached down and grabbed the young man by the front of the shirt and hauled him over to a rock. He tossed more than set Christophe onto it, then crouched to look at the damage. The young man’s pants were torn near his left knee, and blood was starting to show through the cloth. “I can’t keep going.” Christophe’s voice bordered on a whimper.
He rolled his eyes, then tore the pant leg further to examine the wound. A jagged shard of rock was still embedded in it. Christophe yelped as Lykos yanked it out. He turned the rock over in his hand, then shrugged and tossed it over his shoulder. The wound was bleeding freely now. “Leg is not broken.” Lykos shook his head. “Get up.”
“It hurts.” Christophe shook his head. “I’m losing blood.”
“Soft.” Lykos shook his head, then looked at the wound again. It was deep, and it was possible Christophe could lose enough blood to damage him if it wasn’t treated soon. And perhaps more importantly, the wound may fester or scar. Neither suited him. He pulled the knife out.
“What are you doing?” Christophe cringed away. When Lykos brought the knife toward him, Christophe started frantically shaking his head. “Don’t. Please. I can walk. I just need a banda—”
Lykos sliced the meat of his own palm, near the thumb. He let the blood well up, then reached over to put his bloody hand over Christophe’s wound. Christophe tried to pull away, and Lykos used his other hand to yank the chain, pulling Christophe back into position. “No move.”
“What…” Christophe’s face was pale.
“Shut up.” Lykos gave an irritated grunt. He focused, feeling the wound as the blood worked. Then he took his hand away, and held it up for Christophe to see. The wound on his palm was gone. “See…” Lykos gestured at the blood-covered but healed skin of Christophe’s leg, then stood. He patted Christophe’s cheek with the formerly wounded hand. “I am kind to you.”
The sun was setting when they stopped again. He could see headlights through the trees and down a hill. Still some distance away, but there. If his captor dropped his guard, he might be able to run for it.
That hope was dashed a moment later when the chain around his neck was affixed to a nearby tree. Christophe sighed. “Get comfortable.” Lykos pointed at an area near the tree. “Stay quiet. You shout, I punish.” He narrowed his eyes. “Don’t go anywhere. You run, I punish. I will be back soon.” He turned, and vanished into the growing shadows.
Christophe put his back against the tree, then sank down to sit. With his hands still secured behind his back, options for getting himself loose were extremely limited. He took a deep breath, and started trying to get his cuffed wrists over his feet and ankles to bring them in front of him. He winced and cursed several times. Movies made it look easy. He took half the skin off his wrists and some off his feet before he managed it. “Augh.” He exhaled, then listened. He didn’t hear Lykos.
Carefully, he stood and went to where the chain was secured. Fortunately, Lykos had locked it around a branch instead of around the trunk. He started sliding it, only to come up against another branch too thick for him to break off with his bare hands. “Shit.” He started looking around. He’d fallen on a sharp rock, maybe he’d get lucky and… A smile came to his face as he picked up a rock with an edge.
He used his sleeve to protect his hand as he started trying to saw through the branch. Lykos wasn’t human. He couldn’t assign human motivations to him. Earlier, he’d feared the creature killing him. More and more, he was starting to fear the reasons the creature had to keep him alive.
Little progress had been made when he heard Lykos’s voice behind him. “Saw would be faster.”
“I don’t…” He tossed the rock down at his feet. “Have a saw.” He turned to see Lykos had a deer slung over one shoulder. How the hell had he managed that? Christophe hadn’t heard a gunshot. The man tossed the deer to the ground, and Christophe noted the thing’s throat had been slit. He shifted his weight from foot to foot nervously, wondering just how much trouble he was in.
“You dress game?” Lykos raised an eyebrow.
“I…” Christophe blinked. “What?”
Lykos rolled his eyes, then started toward him. Christophe took a step back, but Lykos caught his arm. To his surprise, Lykos unfastened one of the cuffs, then shoved the knife into his hand. “Dress deer. I’ll get wood.”
There was a knife in his hand. He couldn’t help but stare at his now freed wrists before looking at where Lykos had disappeared into the woods again. Then he turned and began frantically sawing at the branch where he’d already made a deep gouge.
It took Christophe a few minutes longer than he’d expected to cut all the way through the branch. It was clear though, that it hadn’t been for a lack of effort on the young man’s part. The wood must have been hard. As soon as the branch fell away, Christophe grabbed the chain and started to flee. Smart. He didn’t leave the chain dragging behind him. Lykos set the wood down by the deer before starting after his captive.
Christophe headed straight for where the headlights had been visible earlier. An entirely too obvious choice, but then again, the young man didn’t have night vision, and wasn’t exactly equipped or trained to lose someone in the woods. Lykos quickly got ahead of him and waited.
“Fuck.” Christophe staggered to a halt when he saw Lykos standing there. He held up the knife. “Don’t make me kill you.” Lykos laughed. Christophe gave a small shake of his head. “You could at least pretend to take the threat seriously.”
“To issue threat…” Lykos shrugged. “One must be threatening. Give me the knife.” He held out his hand.
“I…” Christophe took a deep breath. “Fuck.” He came at Lykos with a decent swipe. When it missed, Christophe took a swing with his chain wrapped fist.
Lykos shifted to dodge, then caught Christophe’s wrist. He spun the young man, then twisted his arm behind him and forced him down to his knees. “Not bad.” He smiled. “Give me the knife.”
There were two attempts to pull free before Christophe swore again and handed the knife back. “I’ll cut your throat while you sleep.” Christophe’s voice was hot, but he wasn’t quite able to entirely prevent it from shaking.
“Told you to dress deer.” Lykos released his arm and grabbed the chain. “Deer is not dressed.” He yanked the chain, dragging Christophe back to the camp.
The bastard actually handed him back the knife after securing him to another tree branch. Lykos even made sure to point out dressing the deer would have been easier before he’d dulled the knife cutting through the branch. The fact that the man stood over him with a switch made the unpleasant task even worse. His back was bruised from Lykos striking him whenever he failed to follow directions well enough.
Lykos kept the fire low, cooking strips of venison on sharpened sticks. The man had brought water back, having refilled the empty water bottles. He’d let Christophe use it to clean most of the blood off his hands, though the lack of soap or anything to scrub with had left the actual hygiene somewhat lacking. It was better than nothing though. He’d been given a fresh water bottle to actually drink.
That Lykos didn’t appear upset about the escape attempt concerned him. After some consideration, he’d concluded the man had let him escape just to see what he would do. Now the question was whether he’d passed or failed the little test. He wasn’t sure which one would actually be worse for him.
He was handed a stick of venison, and told to eat. Christophe considered refusing for less than a heartbeat. He was starving. Lykos appeared to be cooking almost all the meat. That concerned him. If they stayed in the woods, his chances of being found were low. He finished most of the meat he’d been given, then set it aside and finished off his water.
“Done?” Lykos’s voice made him jump.
“Yes.” Christophe nodded. He hesitated a moment. “It was good. Thank you.”
“Manners now.” Lykos chuckled. Then the humor vanished from his face. “You disobeyed me.”
“I dressed the deer.” Christophe fought the urge to cower a little.
“Told you stay. You ran.” Lykos rose. He picked up one of the sticks he’d cut earlier, and gave it an experimental swing before shrugging.
“No.” He scrambled to his feet as Lykos started toward him. “Don’t.”
“Told you.” Lykos shook his head. “You run, I punish.”
“I’m sorry.” Christophe held up his hands. “I…” He swallowed. “You knew I was going to run. You baited me into it.”
“You took bait. Like animal.” Lykos grabbed him and knocked him off balance before flinging him to the ground.
Christophe started trying to move away when the other man’s foot came down on his back. “Please.” Christophe shook his head.
“Put feet on log.”
“I…” Christophe blinked and craned his neck to look back at his captor. “What?”
“Put feet on log.” Lykos used the switch to point at Christophe’s feet, then to indicate the small log.
A chill went down Christophe’s spine. Not a switch. A cane. He was going to cane Christophe’s feet. “Please, Lykos. Don’t.” He cringed a little. “Please, master, don’t.”
A little of the weight was eased. “Say again.”
“Please.” Christophe swallowed. “Master, don’t.”
“Is good.” Lykos removed his foot from Christophe’s back. “Cuff hands behind back.” Christophe quickly obeyed. “Now, was going to give thirty. Put feet on log and count five. Because you were good.”
A small whimper escaped the man on the ground. It took a few seconds, but Christophe shifted to put his feet up on the log. He was making small pleading noises as he did. Lykos moved his feet closer together, then brought his left knee down on the back of Christophe’s legs to keep him still. “Ready?”
“Please don’t do this.” Christophe shook his head. “Please.”
“Can go more if not answer correctly.” Lykos shrugged. Christophe made another whimpering sound. “Ready?”
Christophe swallowed. “Yes.”
“Last chance. Ready?” Lykos gave Christophe a disapproving look.
“I…” Christophe squeezed his eyes closed. “Yes, master.”
“Good.” He brought the can down onto the soles of Christophe’s feet.
“Augh.” Christophe’s body jerked. For a moment, Lykos thought he was going to have to increase the number to thirty again. Then Christophe swallowed. “One.” He smiled, then repeated the blow, careful not to land in the exact same spot. “Augh. Fuck.” Christophe panted. “Two.” Another blow. “Damnit, fuckin…” Christophe grunted. “Three. I…” Christophe screamed as the cane came down again. “Motherfucker. Four.” Christophe gritted his teeth, and managed to hold back some of the yelp on the next blow. “Five.” Christophe exhaled. “Five. Fucking five.”
“Good boy.” He reached up and tousled Christophe’s hair.
He’d found sleep, though it had been fitful, and woke to find the makeshift camp had nearly vanished. Christophe had a few moments to contemplate the stupidity of trying to run when just walking was going to hurt when Lykos returned. “Get up.”
Arguing was not going to be in his best interest. He winced as he put weight on his bruised feet, but he stood. Lykos unfastened his leash from the tree, then started dragging him down toward the road. Now and then Christophe curses as something underfoot found the tender areas.
His eyes widened when he realized Lykos was leading him to a jeep. A military jeep. One of the base’s jeeps. There was blood pooled on the ground next to it. “Where are the soldiers?”
Lykos pointed, and Christophe turned to see two men hanging from one of the trees. One was dead. The other was balanced precariously on the spare tire so as not to be strangled by the noose around his neck. Christophe hesitated a moment, then turned toward Lykos. “Please don’t leave him like that.”
“You saying please?” Lykos raised an eyebrow. He shrugged, then started to draw a gun out of his pocket.
“No.” Christophe shook his head. “Just tie him up and leave him. Please.” He took a deep breath. “Please, master.”
“You ask nicely.” Lykos reached over and patted his cheek. Then he walked over and cut the rope. The soldier fell with a loud omph and the sound of a bone breaking. But he was alive.
Christophe let out the breath he’d been holding. “Thank you.”
“See…” Lykos rubbed his hair again. “You behave, I am kind to you.” He pointed. “Get in jeep.”
He glanced over his shoulder at the soldier. He didn’t know the man’s name, but he recognized him from the base. When their eyes met, the soldier nodded to him. Christophe returned the nod before obeying Lykos’s command.