“You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?” Christophe narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
“You doubt me?” Lykos gave him a wide-eyed look of shock, but the corners of his mouth twitched just a little.
“There is no such thing as a were-beagle.” Christophe folded his arms.
“Just the one.” When Christophe raised an eyebrow, Lykos shrugged. “Never gamble with pixie. Always with the thinking they are funny.” He looked around the camp. “Few days, jerky will be dry.”
“Yeah.” Christophe nodded. “Any chance we could get some pepper or —”
“We leave in five days.” Lykos turned back toward Christophe.
Christophe blinked. “What?” He stared at Lykos for a moment, then his eyes widened. “You mean…”
“Go Canada. Find little town. Cabin. Get you television.” He put a hand on Christophe’s shoulder. “Maybe violin.”
“I, uh…” He gave Lykos a hesitant smile. “I would like to learn to play again.” It took him several minutes to realize that travel would give him the opportunity for escape. He could…
“Christophe?” It took him a moment to realize Lykos was speaking to him again. “Your eyes went away.”
“I was…” Christophe exhaled, then touched the collar. “A few nights ago, you forgot to lock my chain.”
“Did not forget.” Lykos met his eyes calmly.
“You…” He stared. “You were testing me. You…” He took a deep breath, then stepped forward and shoved Lykos hard enough the man actually took a step back. “You think taunting me with freedom is fucking funny? In case you forgot, you fucking kidnapped me. You…” He felt the anger start to fade, and that pissed him off again. “Son of a bitch.”
“Hey.” Lykos poked him in the chest. “I not insult your mother.”
“You can write. Drop letter in mail on way. What you tell her is your choice.” Lykos squeezed his shoulder. “I will not read letter. If…” Lykos hesitated a moment. “If when time to go, you want to go a different way…” He met Christophe’s eyes again. “I will take off chains.”
“You…” He swallowed. “You’d let me go?”
“Yes, Christophe. If you want to go…” Lykos sighed. “I will let you go.”
“I…” It was Christophe’s turn to hesitate. “But then you’ll go after my father again. You won’t…” He looked away. “You’ll kill people.”
“Is possible. Is also possible they will leave me alone and I will not have need kill people.”
“Let me think about it.” Christophe couldn’t believe he’d just said that. Lykos was offering to… He gave a small shake of his head. “Let me think about it.”
“Take all time need.” Lykos patted his shoulder before heading into the cave.
He’d offered to let his Christophe go. Lykos felt like punching the stone wall of the cave. Losing Christophe meant… He exhaled. Christophe was a slave, soft and weak. Some fleeting entertainment to… Lykos shook his head, and his eyes went to the steel cross. Except he wasn’t. Soft, perhaps, but there was strength beneath that. Christophe was his.
Lykos turned to walk back out of the cave and saw Christophe standing there, watching him. “What?”
“My father killed those men.” Christophe’s voice was quiet.
“Yes.” Lykos nodded.
“I…” Christophe rubbed the back of his neck, making his wrist cuff clink against his collar. “Whatever happens, I can’t go back to being…” He shook his head. “To pretending I was who he wanted me to be. I can’t look him in the eye knowing he murdered innocent people.” He met Lykos’s eyes. “Do you want me to stay?”
“I…” Lykos took a deep breath. “Yes.”
“Even though I make you soft?” Christophe gave him a small smile.
“Especially…” Lykos took a step toward him. “Because you make me soft.”
Christophe reached out, and took his hand. “Then I’ll stay. We can…” He shrugged. “We’ll have to learn to speak French, if we go to Canada.”
“French easy. Eat snails, drink coffee, make outrageous claims about sexual prowess.”
“Yeah…” Christophe laughed. “I think there is a bit more to it than that.”
“Right. French Canadian.” Lykos squeezed Christophe’s hand. “Also, must apologize for everything.”
Guerin looked through the binoculars. “Anything?” He glanced at the man beside him.
“Yes.” The lieutenant looked back up at him. “We’ve got two heat signatures, one is definitely human. The other is human shaped, but the temps are wrong.” He pointed. “It matches the initial readings from the prisoner.”
He smiled. “Operation is go. Move.”
Christophe wiped sweat away from his eyes before going back to cleaning the fish. He caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and turned to look. His eyes widened when he saw the missile launcher on the shoulder of the soldier. “Lykos, look out.” He shouted the warning before he even realized it.
Lykos responded by immediately diving into cover. The projectile hit the rocky outcropping and exploded, sending chunks of rock flying. Men begin moving toward them, armed with heavy artillery. Now. They had to come now. Christophe started trying to get to the cave, only for the leash to catch him and stop him. Lykos had secured it so he could reach the camper, but that meant he couldn’t get to the safety of the cave.
Two of the soldiers began rushing toward him. He flipped the knife in his hand into a combat position before he realized what he was doing. Then he dropped it. These men weren’t here to hurt him and Lykos… He’d lost sight of the man. It took him a moment to recognize the soldier who grabbed his arm. “Sorenson.”
Sorenson smiled. “It’s alright, Private. You’re safe now, alright?” He began looking over the chain, searching for where to free Christophe while the other man took up a protective position. Somewhere, a grenade exploded. Lykos was still up and fighting then. “Got it.” Sorenson grabbed the lock and began trying to get it open.
His eyes widened when he caught sight of Lykos coming toward them, but he kept silent. Perhaps the others hadn’t seen. They knew the area well now, and he could keep up with Lykos in the woods better than he’d been the first… Oh god. The lock clicked open and Sorenson started trying to pull him away. What was he thinking? These men were here to rescue him and he was trying to figure out how to escape them and… He saw another missile launcher taking aim. “Lykos, run!” He shoved Sorenson away and started toward Lykos.
The missile hit the cliff above Lykos, and the rocks began breaking off and falling. Stone tumbled around where Lykos had been taking cover. Christophe heard himself screaming as the rocks buried his master. “Lykos. Lykos.”
Someone grabbed his arm. He whirled and attacked, only to feel several others grabbing him, bearing him to the ground as he screamed and fought. “Lykos.”
There was a prick of pain on the back of his shoulder, and then his vision started going dark.
He stared at where his son lay unconscious on the stretcher. They’d restrained Christophe’s arms and legs, the velcro straps laying next to manacles of iron. Those were going to need to be cut off, and it was going to be tricky to do that without hurting Christophe. “…sure how they even got those on him. I’d swear it was a professional welding job, but he doesn’t have any burn marks.” The medic was shaking his head.
“Is he going to be okay?” Guerin put a hand atop Christophe’s.
“At first glance, I’d say he looks healthy.” The medic looked up at him. “We won’t know more until we have a chance to talk to him.”
“Why did he fight?” Guerin wrapped his fingers around Christophe’s wrist.
“Sir, uh…” The medic hesitated before squaring his shoulders. “Sir, that thing had him for a few months. It’s possible…”
“Stockholm syndrome.” Guerin made a growling sound. “I should have considered that.” He leaned down and kissed Christophe’s forehead. “Rest easy, son. We’ll get you the help you need.”
Guerin moved out of the way so the medics could load Christophe into the ambulance. “Sir, are you coming?” The medic raised an eyebrow at him.
“I…” Guerin exhaled, then shook his head. “Call me the moment he wakes up.”
“Yes, sir.” The medic nodded before closing the door.
Another growl escaped him as he turned to stalk toward where Darin was waiting.
He pushed against the rock, but couldn’t budge it enough for the ones holding it in place to move. Lykos took a breath of the stale air, and shifted a little to try again. The rock moved before he’d really started pushing. He started digging himself out. Just as he saw daylight, a hand grabbed hold of his wrist. Before he could react, he was unceremoniously yanked out of the rubble and tossed to the ground.
Immediately he reached for a rock to use as a weapon. Then he caught sight of the man standing above him. “You.”
Jormun stared down at him. “A full-scale military operation.” He shook his head. “Really?”
“I was living peaceful in forest.” Lykos waved a hand at the nearly buried entrance to his cave.
“After kidnapping the only son of a high ranking military officer involved in top secret research operations.” Jormun folded his arms. “And shall I mention the rather ostentatious display of more than human combat prowess you put on to accomplish said kidnapping?”
“They already knew I wasn’t human. They come hunting me.” Lykos glared. “I was minding own business.”
“Well, the good news is, they think they killed you.” Jormun looked over his shoulder. “Though they are sending in some engineers to retrieve your corpse.” He narrowed his eyes at Lykos. “I’m going to have to burn down a few dozen square miles of forest to deal with this mess.”
“Why you here?” Lykos shook his head, then made a frustrated sound when he realized the camper had already been ransacked. “And where have they taken Christophe?”
“To the hospital.” Jormun exhaled. “Come. We need to be moving.” He made a grumbling sound. “Just my luck they were the ones who guessed right on your location.” He took a few steps. “Come on.”
“If wanted to spend time with you, would have gone to Sweden.” Lykos waved his hand. “This?” He lowered his hand. “Not Sweden.” He tilted his head, then frowned. “Ryuu and Tiamat know you are in their territory?”
“I told them I am tracking a rogue element and will vacate when that is accomplished.” His eyes were starting to glow. “It’s accomplished. Time to vacate.”
“I…” Lykos stood a moment, then exhaled and let his shoulders slump. Perhaps it was for the best. “I need to know Christophe is okay, first.”
“Lykos…” Jormun started shaking his head.
“Grandfather…” Lykos turned to face him. “I need to know Christophe is okay.”
For a moment, Jormun just stared at him. Then he nodded. “Alright. I’ll check in on the boy. In the meantime…” His eyes flashed, and there was a roaring sound as the trees around them began bursting into flame. “Let’s go.”
There was a high-pitched buzzing sound. Christophe frowned a little. The sound stopped, then started up again. He felt strange, like he was floating. And something was wrong with his neck. Slowly, his eyes started fluttering open. “Shit.” Someone said. “He’s waking up.”
He tried to raise a hand to wipe at his eyes, but his hand didn’t move. He pulled it again, and something held it in place. Christophe began thrashing, trying to break free of whatever it was holding him down. “Christophe. Christophe.” That voice was familiar. “Christophe, you need…” He continued thrashing. The voice became hard. “Private Guerin, attention.”
His body jerked to a stop. He blinked a couple times before looking up. “Sir?”
“Christophe?” His father’s face appeared in his vision. “Christophe, you need to hold still. They are trying to get the rest of the cuffs off.
“The rest of the…” His neck felt strange. He couldn’t raise his hands to check, so he lowered his chin and it met only skin. The collar was gone. His collar was gone. The collar was gone and rocks had fallen and… “Lykos.”
“You don’t have to worry about him anymore, son.” His father rubbed his hair. “You’re safe now.”
“I was safe before.” He shook his head. The fuzzy feeling was growing stronger, and his eyelids were heavy. “I was safe.”
“Shhh…” His father kissed his forehead. “Just go back to sleep, Christophe. Everything will be fine when you wake up.”
“I was safe…” The world around him went dark again.