“I punched the harbinger of the apocalypse in the face.” Christophe sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall.
“Ragnarok.” Lykos shrugged.
“I punched the harbinger of the Ragnarok in the face.” Christophe kept staring at the wall.
“Not the Ragnarok. Just Ragnarok.”
“I punched Jörmungandr in the face.”
“Was good punch too.” Lykos grinned at him.
“I punched a dragon, in the face.”
“You know, if was going to punch a dragon, he was right choice.” Lykos patted his shoulder. When Christophe slowly turned to look at him, Lykos shrugged. “He think it funny, respect your guts. Other dragons? They just set you on fire. Or bit off head.”
“Your grandfather is the World Serpent.” He exhaled.
Lykos shifted to sit next to him, and put an arm around his shoulder before pulling Christophe in. “You should sleep. Was big day. Nearly got brain fried, nearly nuked, punched dragon, rode off on back of dragon…”
“He flew from Colorado to Holland in less than six minutes. I can’t even…” Christophe shook his head. “We should not have been able to survive the G-forces involved with going that fast.”
“You ride dragon, and you worry about g-strings?” Lykos tilted his head.
“G—” He turned to stare at Lykos. “There you go. Thinking you’re funny.” He smiled a little.
“I…” Lykos put a hand on his chest. “Am hilarious.”
“Yeah…” Christophe shook his head. “Like the plague.”
“Bah.” Lykos lay back on the bed, pulling Christophe down with him. Christophe shifted so he was laying in Lykos’s arms, his head resting on Lykos’s chest. Lykos stroked his hair gently. “Are you okay, my Christophe?”
“Yeah.” Christophe nodded. “Strange as…” He swallowed. “I am.”
“Thank you.” Christophe watched the man walking through the room stop and turn toward him. Jormun raised an eyebrow, and Christophe shrugged. “I talked to my mom. You uh…” He took a deep breath. “You didn’t kill my dad. Thank you.”
“Captain Guerin is disgraced, and will shortly be less than honorably discharged from the military.” Jormun straightened a stack of papers by tapping it against the desk before setting the papers aside. “He may even spend some time in jail, or perhaps a mental ward.” He rolled his eyes. “Man claims he saw a dragon.”
“But he’s alive.” Christophe swallowed. “Where there is life, there is hope.”
Jormun smiled. “Yes.”
“Are you one of the good guys, Jormun?” He raised an eyebrow.
“That…” Jormun stood, and gestured for Christophe to come all the way into the room. “Depends entirely upon who you ask.”
“I’m asking you.” He walked over, standing beside the man. No. Not a man. A dragon. He stood next to a dragon and looked out over the city of Amsterdam.
“Once, a very long time ago…” Jormun folded his arms. “I had the dwarves make an addition to a craft project. As a result of this action, the Roman Empire fell. And the dwarves were hunted to near extinction. Lykos is the last, surviving only because he also has the blood of a dragon in his veins. I did what I believed to be necessary, and in spite of knowing…” Jormun exhaled. “If I had it to do over again, Christophe, I would have done it much sooner. The greatest flaw of my kind.” He turned to look at Christophe. “We act too late.”
“You recruited Lykos…” He took a deep breath. “Because he can disarm nuclear weapons.”
“That is one reason.” Jormun went back to looking out the window. “Ryuu started you on the path to the stars, and you used it to build weapons. It is too late to undo the harm, and so we must work to mitigate it. I thought once that…” He sighed. “What do you know of Ragnarok, Christophe?”
“It’s an apocalypse.” He gave Jormun a nervous look. “The end of all things.”
“No. Or at least, not the way you think.” Jormun put a hand on his shoulder. “Think of it as…” Jormun shrugged. “A forest fire to clear out the underbrush so something new can grow.”
“That’s sounds great.” Christophe glared at him. “Unless you’re part of the underbrush.” He shrugged Jormun’s hand of his shoulder. “Who are you to decide what —”
“What makes you think I’m the one deciding, Christophe?” Jormun smiled. “Or have you forgotten Lykos was not the only person I just recruited?”
“The world will end. All things do. But where there is life, Christophe, there is hope. There are men who refuse to pick up weapons, and charge fearlessly onto the battlefield anyway to save what lives they can. There are those who rise up against tyrants, who stand against hatred, who put themselves between innocents and harm’s way and…” He laughed softly. “Are even willing to punch dragons, when said dragon is acting like an asshole.”
“I, uh…” Christophe started shifting.
“Oh, don’t apologize.” Jormun chuckled. “I had that coming.” He took a deep breath. “I am not an apocalypse, Christophe. I am a reckoning. Consider me…” He shrugged. “A bit of karma. And that is where you come in.” He turned to face Christophe again.
“Where I —”
“I have known Lykos for a few thousand years now. He needs someone like you to keep him…” Jormun shrugged. “Soft.” He patted Christophe’s shoulder. “Believe me…” He turned and started walking away. “I do not envy you that task.”
“What about you?” Christophe frowned. “What keeps you soft?”
“The elves up in the north pole.”
“The…” He turned just in time to see the door close behind Jormun. “Huh.”
He was far pickier about the materials this time. It took him the better part of two hours to find the right ones. Then he headed back to the hotel room. A smile came to his face. Christophe was in the hot tub, his form looking utterly relaxed. Lykos stripped off his own clothing as he walked into the room, then leaped into the tub. Water spilled out onto the floor, and Christophe made a couple small sounds of protest before laughing as Lykos pulled him in close. “Housekeeping is going to be pissed.”
“They can bill Jormun.” He nuzzled Christophe’s neck, then found himself feeling strangely hesitant. “My Christophe?”
“Yes?” Christophe snuggled into his lap.
“I…” He brushed Christophe’s hair back over his ear. “I made you a new collar.”
“You…” Christophe sat up. “A collar?” His hand touched his throat.
“Is…” Lykos leaned over to grab it, then held it out for Christophe to see.
Christophe took it from him, turning it over and over. The metal gleamed, with the gleam shifting just a little where he had inlaid silver and gold both into the steel. The pattern was subtle, and most of those who could read the runes were centuries dead. Christophe traced a finger over the inside. “There is no lock.” He looked up, meeting Lykos’s eyes. “You’ll seal it shut, like the last one? So, it can’t be removed without…”
“Yes.” Lykos nodded.
For a moment, Christophe was silent. Then he handed the collar back to Lykos. Lykos took it, and went still. Then Christophe shifted to straddle his lap before lifting his chin to bare his neck. “What are you waiting for?”
“Oh…” Lykos laughed softly as he pulled Christophe closer. “My Christophe.”