was written for the Yuletide Treasure exchange in
A Taste for It
Victor always drew blood.
After they'd raced away from the only home
James had ever known, Victor went from the friend who
watched out for a sickly young boy to a protective older
brother, an instructor, intent on making James as tough
as he was, as tough as he needed to be. The first time
had been only a few days after they'd gone. Victor stole
food for them and brought it into the edge of the woods
where they'd slept. Before he'd let his brother eat,
Victor wanted to make something clear to him.
James coughed blood and pressed his hand
against his stomach, blood pouring between his fingers.
He tried to say Victor's name, scream it, but the pain
took all his focus. He didn't make a noise until the
agony started to fade. Only then did he manage to
Victor smiled at him, wiped the knife in the
grass, then folded it and slipped it into his pocket.
And then the pain was gone.
"It will never last, Jimmy. If anyone ever
hurts you, the pain won't last. Remembering that makes
Victor hardened him to pain, taught him to
take it and work through it even before it faded. Taught
him to fight. After a few years, Victor taught him to
fuck with the same aggressive zeal he'd taught him
By the time they took up weapons to fight for
a country they didn't belong to, Jimmy was the one
drawing blood at least half the time, striking the first
blow, gaining the advantage, pinning Victor belly-down.
He more than made up for the years before he'd reached
his full height and size, and Victor had the advantage.
Logan sniffed the air and frowned up at the
sky. The chemical stink made the muscles in his back
twitch and set his teeth on edge as if he'd been licking
Hot breath on his neck and a damp body
pressed against him wasn't completely unexpected, but it
surprised him in how comforting it was, how welcomed,
despite the crushing heat.
"Smell that, Jimmy? The sergeant still thinks
it was rain." Victor chuckled in his ear. A tongue slid
up the side of Logan's neck. "But it can't hurt us."
And that was all Victor cared about, Logan
knew. He didn't care about the people here, the culture,
his fellow soldiers. It could all go, as long as he and
Logan were all right. Hell, Victor could destroy it all
himself and whistle as he walked away. Logan didn't care
about the war, either. Like Victor, he fought because he
could. Why mattered little. But the people . . . .
He felt himself toppling, Victor's weight
insistent against his back. He pressed against it,
though half-heartedly. Last time they'd found a moment
alone, he'd been the one pressing Victor down after a
struggle. He didn't fight this now, because he needed
The pain made him hiss through his teeth,
which drew a growl from Victor. Logan pushed back just
as hard, not caring about the pain. He'd heal before
Victor was finished--he always did. He could tell by the
hand that shoved beneath him and pulled at him in a way
he'd come to appreciate, if not look forward to, that
this time was supposed to hurt. Sometimes, when Victor
went slow, and Logan caught a glimpse of a soft part of
his brother he guessed only he had ever seen, Victor
still drew blood before they were done. When Victor held
him tight afterwards, gasping for breath and shuddering,
Logan would feel claws dig into his back, dampness
spreading wherever they lay. Victor didn't mean to do
that, not at those times.
Logan couldn't be sure, but he told himself
When he'd been a boy, his father had put down
one of their dogs for killing chickens that belonged to
someone nearby. He'd said that once an animal had a
taste for blood, putting it down was the only thing you
could do. At the time, he'd thought it terribly unfair
to the dog. Now, he understood his father's reasoning,
but still believed that if they'd given the animal
another chance, it might have proven them wrong. At
least it could have, if it wanted
Victor slammed into him, Logan's forearms
sinking into the ground until he couldn't hold himself
up under the weight. A brutal, final thrust had them
both flat on the damp leaves, Victor on top, panting in
Logan's ear. When both had caught their breath, Victor
laughed again--a soft, malicious sound that Logan
thought marked him as different more
than his claws or teeth.
"What do you think they'd do if they could
smell it the way we can, and knew the exterminator had
paid a visit?" That chuckle again. "Killing its own
soldiers to try to win a war. Interesting strategy.
Bold. I like it."
"Could be a mistake," Logan said, mostly
because he wanted it to be. "You really think they know
it's likely to kill their own men?"
"Of course. So should you. I thought I'd
taught you better than that."
Logan hissed at the burn across his back as
Victor's claws tore the skin below his neck, across his
shoulder blades. He felt a hot tongue lap along the
wound, and then the wound was gone. The weight lifted
from Logan's back, and a hand grabbed his to pull him to
"Like I said, Jimmy, it won't hurt us."
"No," he said. We're the only
ones who can do that.