He woke up with his Christophe in his arms. The young man slept quietly, his face peaceful. Lykos traced a finger along the collar. It was a fairly spartan thing. He should put a rune on it, make it clear Christophe was his and… He frowned. And there were few left who could even read such things. Still, he would put the mark on anyway. His Christophe had earned it. He leaned over and kissed the young man’s shoulder.
Christophe stirred, blinking up at him. “It’s morning?”
“Yes.” Lykos sat up. “I will make your chain longer before I go. You can sleep more, if want.”
“I can make you breakfast.” Christophe sat up, blinking bleary eyes. He glanced at the cave entrance. “It isn’t light out yet.”
Lykos caught Christophe’s chin and gently kissed his lips. “Go back to sleep, my Christophe. I will see you well into the night.” He pushed Christophe back onto the bed, and the young man resisted only a moment before laying back down. Then he put the cover over him before fixing the chain. Christophe was asleep again before he’d finished. Lykos smiled, and left the cave.
Halfway through the next day, he’d explored every inch of the cave within range of the leash. It was just long enough for him to get outside and sit in the sun, if he made sure it was not tangled on anything. Christophe had tried halfheartedly to pick the lock a few times. He sat in the sun, letting it warm him.
After making his bargain, he’d expected Lykos to… Christophe shook his head. The man had beaten him for disobeying, and he knew full well the man would willingly do so again. He’d made Christophe kneel and… But in terms of the advantage he could have taken, he’d been surprisingly mild. He exhaled, then set about trying to pick the lock again. Unfortunately, he didn’t have anything even resembling the right tools for the job.
He rose, and then went looking to see if he could find where Lykos had stashed all the weapons he’d taken. All he found were the shuriken, which Lykos had apparently used to hold up lanterns.
It was dark when he heard a scraping sound at the front of the cave. Reflexively he picked up a knife before going to investigate. There was enough smell of human and fire that animals should stay away.
Christophe lowered the knife and found himself smiling as he recognized Lykos. “You’re back…” He frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“I…” Lykos set the bags he’d brought with him down, then held out a folded newspaper. “I am very sorry, Christophe.”
Lykos sat next to his Christophe as the young man stared at the newspaper. Christophe’s hands shook a little as he read the article again. “They are all dead.”
“Article says —”
“Escaped convict.” Christophe set the paper aside and took a few deep breaths. “It wasn’t you. They were all alive when we left.” He swallowed. “And you never…” His shoulders began to shake as he choked on the words. “Fired a shot.”
Gently, he wrapped his arms around the young man as Christophe began weeping. Lykos stroked his hair as he held his Christophe close. Christophe made a soft, sorrowful sound, then put his arms around Lykos before burying his face in Lykos’s shoulder. Lykos felt rage beginning to rise in him. The captain had betrayed his Christophe. Betrayed the brave and strong thing his Christophe had done. “I am sorry, my Christophe.”
“Why did…” Christophe choked a little. “What did my father want with you?”
He rubbed Christophe’s back. “To learn what I am. What makes me be me. To learn how to give humans some of what I can do. Make better soldiers, stronger.” Lykos frowned. “World needs fewer soldiers. More doctors.”
“He called you a monster.” Christophe sat back a little, looking at Lykos.
“Am monster.” Lykos shrugged. “If need. Prefer left alone.” He cupped the back of Christophe’s neck. “My Christophe, sons are not their fathers.”
Christophe laughed bitterly. “How do you know?”
“My grandfather was a dragon.” Lykos smiled at him. “You see wings?”
“You don’t have to make jokes to make me feel better, but thank you.” Christophe wiped at his eyes. “I’ll be okay.” He made a sniffling sound. “Maybe.”
“Was not joke. Grandfather really was a dragon.” Lykos nodded. “But you speak truth. You will be okay. Are strong. Knew you were better than your father even before you proved how strong.” He stood, and went to the bags.
“Lykos…” He turned to see Christophe looking up at him, eyes huge and sad.
“You still do not want me to kill your father.” Lykos slowly nodded.
“Yes. Master. Please.” Christophe wiped at his eyes again.
“I will not hunt your father. I will not bait him. He leaves us alone, I return favor.” He’d already taken what the captain valued most in the world, taken it and reforged it. Christophe was his now. “But if he comes here, I cannot make that promise, my Christophe. I am sorry.”
“That…” Christophe nodded. “Thank you, master.”
“I…” Lykos held up the item he’d taken from the bag. “Before saw paper, I bought you game boy. Only five games. Hope you like.” He held up the other item. “Also cards.”
“I appreciate it.” Christophe wiped his eyes again. “Is it alright if I…” He swallowed.
“Sleep, my Christophe.” Lykos set the items down, then gently guided Christophe to the cot and made him lay down. Then he tucked him in before kissing his cheek. “Morning is new day, always.”
Christophe woke feeling surprisingly safe and warm. It took him a moment to realize he was laying in Lykos’s arms. At some point during the night, he’d curled into a ball to weep again. Lykos was now curled around him protectively, his hand on Christophe’s shoulder. He smiled when he saw Christophe looking at him. “Afternoon.”
“Don’t you…” He raised his head to look out at the mouth of the cave. It was bright outside. Rather than sit up, he lay back down, resting his head on Lykos’s arm. He stared at the ceiling of the cave. “The whole time I was on the cross, I told myself those men were alive. That if I stayed, I’d be able to save other lives. That it was worth it, that…”
“Good heart is strong heart.” Lykos squeezed his shoulder gently. “Come. Get up. We go for walk.”
“Go for…” He blinked as he obeyed. “Yeah. That would be nice.”
Lykos unfastened the chain, then shortened it with a simple touch. Seeing him do that never ceased to be amazing. He followed the man that held the other end of his leash. Lykos paused at the mouth of the cave. “Want shoes? Pants?”
“Yes. Both.” Christophe began nodding. “Please.” He dressed hurriedly, afraid Lykos would change his mind. After several days without clothes, the sweatpants and sneakers felt strange. Lykos stopped at the camper and retrieved two rifles. To Christophe’s surprise, he was handed one. He was so startled Lykos actually had to tug the leash before Christophe followed after him.
He’d seen Lykos take bullets and shrug them off, so he knew Lykos was in no real damage from the weapon. But still, Lykos had handed him a weapon. He frowned as he thought back. “Lykos?”
“You didn’t shoot the deer.” He tilted his head. “How did you hunt the deer without a gun?”
“With a knife.”
“You went deer hunting with a knife.” Christophe gave a small shake of his head. “That’s pretty impressive. I went deer hunting with a state of the art rifle and didn’t get one.”
The man holding his leash came to a stop, then turned. “You do not know how to hunt?”
“I mean, I know the theory, but uh…” Christophe shook his head. “No, not really.”
“No?” Lykos narrowed his eyes and frowned. Then he took a few steps forward and pointed. “Look.”
“What am I…” Christophe noted the slight indentation in the dirt. He looked at it for a moment, then looked up at Lykos. “Wolf?”
“Wolf bigger. Heavier. That is fox.” He took another step, then moved some leaves back and pointed. “Scat. Red fox. See.”
“It looks like little dog poop.” Christophe nodded. “Which I guess it almost sort of is.”
“Almost.” Lykos smirked. Then he led Christophe onward.
By the time they got back to the cave, his Christophe was talking animatedly, spreading his hands and grinning like a fool. “And when the one tried tackling the mother, you could just hear her rolling her eyes.” He gestured to indicate the wolf cub’s actions. It had taken Lykos the better part of an hour to locate the den, but the wolves had been out enjoying the sunshine, and they’d been downwind. Twice he’d had to grab Christophe’s arm to keep the man from getting closer and spooking them. Christophe had been utterly entranced by the antics of the cubs. Lykos had been afraid his Christophe was going to ask to have one, but he proved smarter than that.
But he was smiling, and that had been the purpose of the trek. Lykos collected the rifle from him, and put it away again. Then he paused, and pulled Christophe over to a track. “Identify that one, and I’ll let you suck my cock again.”
Christophe hesitated a moment, then tilted his head. “I was going to say deer, but the deer you showed me point in and…” He chewed his lip a moment as he crouched to take a closer look. Then he frowned before looking up at Lykos. He shifted his weight a little.
“Christophe, what is wrong?”
“I don’t want you to think I’m making a wild guess to get out of sucking your cock.” He gave an awkward shrug.
“I will not be angry if you are wrong, if you can explain your reasoning.” Lykos patted his cheek.
“Okay, then, well…” Christophe stood. “My mother took me to her grandfather’s farm a few times and uh…” He glanced down at the tracks again. “Pig hooves angle out a bit. Right?”
“Wild boar.” Lykos smiled at him proudly. “Good boy.”
“It’s really clear in the soft dirt like…” Christophe started to return the proud smile with one of his own, then trailed off and looked away.
“We have food first.” Lykos caught the end of the chain in and led Christophe into the cave once more.
“Three weeks.” Guerin shoved all the papers off his desk. “It’s been almost a month since the last sighting, and…” He made himself take a deep breath. He’d had to tell Sandra that their son was missing. She’d slapped him, then gone to stay with her parents. He looked up to see Wotan entering. “You said you have information.”
“And I do.” The man was irritatingly unflappable. “I can bring Lykos in safely, once he is found.” He frowned. “All evidence indicated he would have contacted you by now. Taunted you and attempted to lure you into a trap.”
“Yeah, well, the fucker has decided to drive me nuts by going dark instead. I don’t…” He leaned on the desk, his head bowed. He took a couple deep breaths before looking up. “I don’t even know if my son is still alive.”
“Lykos doesn’t kill unless he feels he has reason.” Wotan shook his head.
“He murdered a few dozen soldiers and —”
“All of whom were attempting to apprehend him or who had otherwise, from his perspective at least, identified themselves as hostiles.” Wotan shrugged. “I admit, I was surprised at first to learn he hadn’t killed the deputies.”
“They said…” Guerin exhaled. “They said Christophe talked him out of it.”
“Then your son is still alive, or if he is otherwise, he did not die by the hand of Lykos. If the boy had enough influence to sway him, Lykos would not have killed him even if the boy had attempted escape or even tried fighting his way free.” Wotan smiled. “Perhaps your assessment that Lykos is letting you stew is correct.”
“That isn’t helping me get my son back, you smug asshole.” Guerin glared.
“I am curious as to what a soldier with Christophe’s qualifications was even doing in that facility.” Wotan lifted an eyebrow.
“My son’s qualifications are not your fucking concern.” Guerin clenched his fists. It was only his discipline that kept him from going over his desk to punch the guy. “You are supposed to be helping me get my son back.”
“My purpose here, Captain Guerin, is to bring Lykos in alive.” Wotan met his eyes calmly. “It may be that your son is the best chance we have of accomplishing that mission.” He turned, and walked out of the office.
Guerin made a snarling sound, then flung a vase after him. It hit the wall beside the door and shattered.