Only the Wild

Movieverse. Victor/Logan. NC-17. ~4000 words. Underage.
They are different, he and James. They’re more.

The baying hounds drive them deep into the woods. Victor tastes the river on the wind and angles for it, runs faster than he ever has before. Branches whip at his face, open stinging cuts that taint the cold night air with the smell of his own blood. He lifts an arm to protect his eyes and keeps his grip tight on James’s wrist. James’s pulse flutters like a trapped bird in his palm.

“Keep running,” Victor hisses, dragging James back to his feet as he stumbles.

James nods, eyes glazed. His torn clothes are soaked with sweat.

“We need to reach the river.” The distant water’s gurgle spurs Victor on. “We’ll be all right if we reach the river, Jimmy, you’ll see.”

James’s rasping breaths are shallow, too quick. Victor tightens his hold, barely slows when James loses his feet. He drags his brother through the dirt, urging him to get up, get up; he won’t stop but he won’t leave James behind.

The river looms close, the hounds closer. Even the water won’t save them if the dogs are near enough to track by sound. Victor scrambles over the rocks and shoulders James’s dead weight. His nose twitches at the stench of bloody mud caked to James’s feet.

The slam of glacial water brings Victor to his knees. James rouses with a whimper, clinging to his back. He’s shaking so hard Victor can hear his teeth clack, rattle like a throw of dice, and right now, Victor thinks, everything’s a gamble.

With a grunt he can’t suppress, Victor heaves himself to his feet. Water rushes around his thighs; his shoes slip on the riverbed, almost send him crashing back down. He stops long enough to wrench them off, the current sweeping him deeper into the water until he can’t reach the ground. His claws rip through James’s nightclothes again and again until they’re little more than rags twisted round his fist, but he can’t let go, can’t risk a looser grip.

The river’s sharp bend brings him close enough to the bank to make a grab for trailing branches. His arm cracks against a boulder, blinding snap of bone spearing through his flesh, but he holds on, holds James close and drags them both out of the water. Not dead, not yet, he’s still breathing and so is James, lying wet and shivering in an awkward tangle of limbs.

Victor crawls over the ground, arm cradled to his chest. The pain flares, brings thick bile up to sear the back of his throat. Long moments later it dulls and he flexes his fingers, spits to clear the acid from his mouth.

When he wraps an arm around James to set off again, careful and quiet with his nose to the wind, James buries his face in his shoulder. Victor pushes the hair out of James’s face and uses softer words to push him on, ears straining for the faintest echoes of the dogs’ bloodcurdling howls.

Near dawn, Victor tumbles into a hollow beneath a tree. He pushes James in tight against the twisted roots and covers his bother’s small body with his own. James is barely conscious, grasping weakly at Victor’s clothes, trying to burrow closer as jumbled apologies rasp over his cracked, bleeding lips.

“You did right,” Victor tells him. “Don’t ever think differently. He would’ve killed me one day, and you did right, James. It’s all right.” The same words over and over until his voice is raw. When James finally quiets, he lets the sucking blackness drag him down.

At nightfall, James’s fever breaks.

*
On the second morning of their flight, James finds a ragged patch of berry bushes filled with shrivelled fruit. Before he shoves a greedy handful in his mouth, Victor knocks him away. His chest gives a sick lurch at James’s barefaced shock.Victor picks the spilled berries out of the dirt, spearing several with the tips of his claws. They’re yellow and waxy, lumpy like cloudberries. He can’t be certain. James’s mother always chased him out of the kitchen and his father’s pantry only held hard tack and cured meats. No women shared their preserves with the Logan men.

The juice explodes tartly on his tongue. He forces himself to chew slowly and to hold James’s cross stare while he does it. They taste like the berries he’s stolen from the checkpoint’s stores. He’s heard tales of poison bringing men to their knees in only seconds but aside from the hungry clench of his gut, he feels fine. Still, he waits a moment more.

James struggles to stand. The fever had weakened him and ruined his appetite for days. He’s pale and wan and if he doesn’t eat soon it won’t matter if the fruit pollutes his blood.

“Here,” Victor says, turning over the few berries he’s wiped clean. “Cloudberries. You like those, don’t you?”

“You struck me,” James says. Anger bleeds swiftly from his voice to leave it wary, a little afraid. Learning to fear men is smart, it will help Victor keep him safe, but not if the man he fears is his brother. “He- he struck my mother, and-”

Panic tightens Victor’s throat. He seizes James’s shoulders. “Hush, James. I know. You have to be careful, do you hear me? Be safe and mind me.”

“They’re only berries.”

Victor gives him a quick, gentle shake. “You’re always sick, you’ve barely been outside your home. It’s dangerous here. I’ll keep you safe but you must promise you’ll mind me.”

Confusion still dark as storm clouds on his face, James nods.

A harder, rougher shake then. James has to understand or it’ll be the death of him. “Say it.”

“I promise, Victor,” James says, shivering, hesitantly touching Victor’s arm. “I promise.”

*
The gash from James’s fall against the stone’s jagged edge is high on the inside of his thigh. The smell of his blood saturates the air, stirring a longing Victor can feel deep in the marrow of his bones. Tears James refuses to shed glisten in his eyes.Victor tries in vain to shove the yearning aside. “You’ll heal,” he says, thinking of cleaning it in the river, wrapping it with the strip he’s already torn from his undershirt. It’s what he’s been taught to do.

But James has already begun to change. His scent, even his blood smells cleaner, no trace of sickness left in him. The raw wounds his claws had gouged between his fingers are gone.

Gooseflesh prickles all along James’s skin. He grunts in pain when Victor grasps his leg, holds it still. Victor puts his other hand to James’s chest to push his back flat to the ground.

“What’re you doing? Victor?”

“We’re not like them,” Victor says, voice thick in his ears. Tightening his grip makes the wound gape, brings forth a fresh rush of red and James’s quiet whimper. “Little brother, you promised me.”

Closing his eyes, Victor breathes in deep. His claws prick through James’s shirt and James jerks, startled, but not struggling to get away. “That’s it,” Victor tells him, stroking his fingers beneath torn cloth, pitching his voice low, soothing his brother the same as he’s soothed skittish colts. The sharp, iron tang grows stronger as he leans closer and under it, thick enough he can almost taste it, the sweet smell of his brother.

The first taste of James’s blood is like the sizzle of Chinese firecrackers in his mouth. His mouth opens in a ragged moan over the wound, echoing the softer, hurt noise James makes. His brother is trembling in his hold, skin fever-hot against his lips. His tongue traces the wound’s edge and this time it’s James who moans.

The moment the gash closes, the heat surrounding it lessens. Victor licks away the last of the blood, heady with a fierce sort of pride. They are different, he and James. They’re more.

Victor rubs his saliva into James’s flesh, marking him. Their blood and sweat and more. From here on, they’ll always be together. “I said I would take care of you.”

*
The hare’s summer coat has already begun to whiten enough to make it visible in the early evening light. James crouches silently by his side behind the cover of snarled brambles. His robe is gone, lost to the river, his nightclothes filthy and torn. He smells faintly of sunlight.Mindful of his nails, Victor combs a burr from the wild tangle of James’s hair. James barely seems to notice except for the way his head tilts into the push of fingers through his hair.

James’s mother had done the same for him once, when he’d brought her fresh grouse to dress. There were times that the fancy struck her and she taught him things, his letters, simple sums.

“We’ve no snare,” James says. “How will we catch it?”

“Its form is just there.” Victor points to a shallow dip in the ground filled with flattened grasses. “It will sleep during the day. We’ll catch it then.”

Swallowing a shallow breath, James nods.

Victor stroked his arm. He will teach James what he needs to know now, and not out of pity.

*
Victor wakes with James’s warmth curled close. He lays still, watching James’s smaller hand rise and fall on his chest with each breath. There’s a ruddy smear on the backs of his brother’s knuckles where bone had pierced flesh.Victor’s memory is momentarily blurred by James’s sharp hiss and the warm spill of their father’s blood over his fingers.

Before sleep had claimed them, they had both stared at the fresh blood, both remembering, Victor’s heart kicking at his ribs, James’s breathing shallow in his ear. Without thought he’d pulled James to him, tried to soothe the sudden ache in his groin with his brother’s slender weight. James hissed his name and he shuddered, stilled, bit his tongue bloody to keep from simply taking.

The need is always there now, plucking at his insides with cruel fingers. He blames the forest, his father, even James, but never himself. James will come to understand; it’s simply the way they are.

Gently, Victor nudges James aside. He moves carefully through the underbrush, picking his way downwind of the hare’s form.

*
Victor refuses to light a fire, claiming wariness of the smoke somehow giving them away but in truth, he has no matches and no flint. In turn, James refuses to touch the dead hare.”You’ll never grow stronger if you don’t eat,” Victor snaps.

James stares at the bloody carcass hanging from Victor’s grip, too much white showing in his eyes. He shakes his foolishly stubborn head.

Adrenaline and anger squeeze Victor’s lungs. James should be grateful to him, as proud as he is for catching it without help. He’d done James the kindness of skinning it, claws tearing through its wet flesh so James wouldn’t have to see. And he’s sick of always being hungry, scrounging for berries, berries and more berries.

James’s softness will be suicide.

Furious, terrified, Victor hunkers down and rips a chunk of flesh from the hare’s skinny body. James gags, turns away, but doesn’t run.

*
Sometime before the next dawn breaks, Victor wakes to find James crouched beside him studying the hare’s blood still caked beneath his claws. Air catches in his lungs as James leans close, tentatively sniffs his hand.James wrinkles his nose. He moves to take his place by Victor’s side, then hesitates, tests the air again. Once again after that, a long, slow breath that fills his chest.

“Victor?” James whispers.

Stomach churning, Victor remains quiet. His skin prickles at the sound of James shifting nearer still, heats as a hand settles on his chest. Certain James can feel his thundering heartbeat, he waits, strangles the noise building thick in his throat as James’s hair tickles his cheek.

It slips free regardless as James scents the hollow of his throat.

James freezes just as the hare had before it bolted. Frightened his brother will do the same, Victor grabs onto the soft mess of his hair, startling a quiet sound out of him.

“It’s all right,” Victor whispers. “I don’t mind.”

James’s throat clicks on a hard swallow. He buries his face against Victor, drinks down Victor’s scent like Victor’s wanted to do of his for so very long, the desire stronger now that the sickness is gone from his body.

Victor rolls to his knees, fists his hands in the tattered remains of James’s shirt. It feels like his skin will split if he doesn’t do something, anything. He shoves his face into the crook of James’s neck, desperate for the warm scent of flesh and blood beneath the dusty layer of dirt. James’s pulse quivers against his mouth, catapults him back to the night they ran, dizzy and sick and jubilant with the smell of his father’s life smeared all over James’s hands.

James’s body jerks beneath the press of his teeth. His skin is unbroken but James makes a noise like it isn’t, a sound of fear and hope that crawls into Victor’s head and nests there.

“Don’t make me stop this time,” Victor pleads, forcing a hand under James to hold him close, barely noticing the harsh scrape of old gnarled roots against his arm. “Tell me you won’t.”

James twists beneath him, feet kicking at the dirt until they find purchase and he ruts up, grinds mindlessly against Victor’s hip. His fingers claw at the ground searching for something to hold onto and coming up empty. He’s finished before he’s even begun, warmth spreading between their bodies as he shudders, falls lax in Victor’s arms.

“Don’t have to stop,” he rasps, willingly baring his throat as Victor nudges aside his chin. His hands flit from Victor’s shoulders to his back to the curve of his spine, grow bolder at Victor’s groan, slip down to push them tighter together. “Please don’t stop.”

The pressure building inside Victor snaps. James cries out as his teeth slice into flesh, fills his mouth with blood by thrashing to get free. Victor clamps his jaws tighter on his little brother’s throat and lets the pleasure sweep him away just like the river had as James finally quiets, accepts it.

This is what Victor’s been craving.

*
The following day brings the chill of winter’s coming. Victor props his back against a broken stump and watches James stir from sleep’s warm hold. When he finds the space beside him empty, James jolts upright, choking on his own breath.”I’ll never leave you.” The words have been knocking about the inside of his head for so long they feel strange on Victor’s tongue. Afraid of the rejection he’s seen drive his pathetic sire to bottles of drink, Victor waits for James’s shaky nod. The horrible urge to vomit that’d kept him from sleep fades, replaced by foolish guilt for doubting his brother. James is far from a moment of fickle sport.

Nodding at the pile of berries collected in the early dawn, Victor says, “Eat.”

James crawls to his side, grabbing a handful of berries on the way. He burrows under Victor’s arm like he belongs there and licks the juice from his fingers.

“We’ll have to move south,” Victor says, resting his cheek against the top of his brother’s head. There’s no trace of anything but the wild in James’s scent now.

James says nothing, slipping back to sleep as he watches the thin lines Victor’s claws scratch along his arm vanish seconds after they’re made. It must hurt, even if only a little, but he lets it happen.

“We could keep going until we reach the ocean.” Victor digs a single clawtip in hard enough to draw a droplet of blood. Aside from the short hiss of his breath, James doesn’t react. A fever nothing like those that had confined him to a sickbed burrows deeper inside him. “Do you remember it?”

“No. Do you?”

“I think I do.”

“All right.” James settles in closer, juice-sticky fingers tangled in the hem of his shirt. Victor remembers climbing into bed with him when the last fever struck, holding a cool rag to his forehead, his own skin burning with the imagined taste of James’s pale flesh, his small, strawberry-pink mouth. “But do we have to stop there?”

Victor grins at the sky. “We don’t have to stop anywhere.”

*
On the third sunset after that, James creeps out from under Victor’s arms, murmuring that he just needs to go, stay, sleep. Later, long after full dark has fallen, Victor snaps awake, alone.He scrambles to his feet, calls, “Jimmy!” as loud as he can only to have it echo dully back at him. He tests the air for his brother’s scent, searches the darkness for a trail, but the tiny clearing they’ve made beneath a towering spruce is rife with their coming and going.

“Jimmy!” A black and ugly fist closes tight in Victor’s chest. He stumbles back into the tree, grabs hold of it to keep himself upright. There’s been no one but them for miles and miles, the nearest thing resembling a road a day’s walk east. He’d have known if someone found them. He’d have known if someone tried to spirit James away.

Victor takes off tearing through the trees.

*
The noon sun blazes harsh and bright. Victor claws at the rocks at his feet, snarling and spitting every curse he’d ever heard his useless father utter. The trail he’d followed here went cold hours ago, and even if it hadn’t, ahead lies nothing but a sheer drop to a valley dozens of feet below. His fingers are a shredded mess, knitting themselves back together around the dirt, and he doesn’t care.The snap of a twig jerks Victor’s head up. He whips around, blinded by the sun, but the smell of blood is sharper than the light slicing over the treetops.

“Victor,” James says.

In a daze, Victor steps off the rocky outcropping. James’s silhouette resolves slowly; his tattered shirt is gone, the hems of his pants caked with black muck. A spatter of dried blood on his bare chest tracks up over his shoulder, down to the stained spears of bone on his hand. He holds two grouse by their broken necks.

“You-”

Victor cuts him off with a snarl, closing the distance between them with steady, predatory steps. “You left.”

“I said I’d be back. You always, you said we had to take care of each other, and I promised!” The birds’ thin bones crack in James’s tightening grip. “I promised! And you didn’t wait!” He slams his fist flat against Victor’s chest, his claws grazing Victor’s jaw, angling dangerously close to puncturing his jugular. “You promised, too!”

Victor catches James’s wrist, holds it right where it is, lets the frantic beat of his little brother’s pulse against his fingertips quiet the screaming in his head. He tips his head down, feels James’s claws cool and smooth on his throat, the hot prick of drawn blood.

“We’re pack, Jimmy, we hunt together,” Victor says. “Look at me. Look at me!”

James drags in a slow, shuddering breath. His nose twitches at the fresher scent of blood curling between them.

Something new slinks its way into Victor’s gut. The movement slow and deliberate, he stretches his throat out in a long, clean line, watches as black swallows the colour in his little brother’s eyes.

Victor slaps James’s hand away and jerks him close, claws snagging in the snarl of his hair. “Don’t you ever walk away like that again, Jimmy. Swear and mean it this time.”

Sluggishly, as if the sickness has caught him again, James drags his hand through the blood on Victor’s neck and brings it to his face, draws the smell of it deep into his lungs. When he pulls his hand away, his mouth is smeared red.

Victor has no time to react before James surges forward, knocks him flat to the ground and all the breath out of his chest. On pure instinct he tries to buck James off, not hearing the words tumbling out of his little brother’s mouth until James’s blunt teeth pierce the flesh of his throat in a sharp snapping bite.

Like the flare of a match lights a room, the pain pushes the panicked haze to the very edges of his mind. He realises his neck is wet from the pass of James’s tongue.

James says, “Did you hear me, Victor? I said I swear, I swear I won’t,” the words slurred and muffled with his mouth pressed to the slowly healing wounds.

Victor’s throat constricts on a sweet rush when James bites him again. Tension sings through his body, stomach swooping as James rips through the remains of the shirt he’d kept in concession to the chill. James’s teeth scrape over his chest, his belly, and James pauses there, warm puffs of his panting breaths tickling Victor’s skin.

“James-”

James snarls and digs his teeth in, lets go only after he’s drawn blood to crawl back up the length of Victor’s body. He’s heavier than he used to be, stronger. He braces his hands on Victor’s shoulders and settles himself between the sprawl of Victor’s legs.

“Trying to fuck me, Jimmy?” Forcing words past the tight clench of his throat hurts but it’s nothing compared to the thrill of them on his tongue. “Have you seen your barnboy on his back in the hay, spread like a woman?”

James’s eyes snap shut, sharp hipbones bruising the insides of Victor’s thighs as he grinds down. At the touch of Victor’s claws to his sides, he gasps, “No,” and his rutting turns frantic, sloppy. “Never felt- You let me before, Victor, please.”

Victor curls his fingers over James’s sides, shifts so the heat of his brother’s small cock rubs against his own. Just like the first time, James comes in a quick rush and doesn’t fight it when Victor holds him there, uses his body to bring his own pleasure.

Exhaustion doesn’t claim James straight away this time. He gives the air a curious sniff, dips down to scent the thin sheen of sweat on Victor’s skin. His nose bumps Victor’s belly as he shuffles back, curls halfway on top of Victor’s leg with his cheek pillowed near the damp seeping through Victor’s clothes.

“You smell different,” he says. “Good.”

Still breathing heavily, Victor makes a vague noise of agreement and rests his fingers against the back of James’s neck. After a quiet moment, he says, “So do you,” but James is already giving in to sleep’s tempting call.

Victor glances at the two dead grouse slung out on the rocks. That James hunted for him is more love than his father ever showed. He spent hours dreaming of how his life would change if James were his family instead of his master’s son but it was never like this. It’s become truth now, in name, in deed, in blood. Nothing can ever change that.

Tightening his hold on James, Victor drifts to sleep in the watery sunlight wondering at the taste of his little brother’s first kill.

End

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