Richard carefully clambers back inside, ducking low to avoid hitting either his or his prize's head. Then he eagerly glides down the hallway towards room 417. His scent is practically humming with pleasure at his catch and the hand holding her pinches her thigh.
"Nearly there," he rumbles, already digging in his pocket for the keys.
Snag yourself the coding here.
"So CAL makes a copy of your data every time you return to the Library, and if something happens, she can restore you from that, correct?"
The question’s a bit out of the blue and Ryan looks up startled from the sword he’s pounding on. What?
You and River. What made you so serious? I mean, more serious.
Ryan goes back to pounding since you can’t just stop this sort of work whenever you feel like it. He frowns at the metal as he works it into shape. River wants to be like me.
Grumpy? Sorry! Dam grins at Ryan's look even as he pins his ears back.
She wants me to bite her. Ryan barely catches a whiff of Damocles’ puzzlement over the ash.
Because that could turn her into a werewolf, too.
You can do that?
Yes, Damocles. I used to be human, you know. Ryan takes the sword back to the coals.
No, I didn’t. The dog falls silent for a bit. So why does that make you so serious? Isn’t her being like you a good thing?
It’s Ryan’s turn to be silent. I’d like to think so, but humans…don’t usually see things that way. Most like being human very much. They don’t like having to hunt for their food.
But…but hunting is AWESOME.
Ryan can’t help but smile a bit at that. A lot of humans find it violent and unsettling. I did, once.
I can’t imagine that at all.
Well, I’ve changed. River thinks she’d like it, though. I just want her to be sure. It’s not the sort of thing one does lightly.
Because she might not like it.
But she thinks she would? And you think she would?
She does. And I hope so.
So what’s the problem?
If I turn her and she doesn’t like it, what then? He pulls the sword back out of the coals.
Dam doesn't have a fast answer to that one. Perhaps she’ll learn to like it?
Perhaps, Ryan agrees, frowning as he starts shaping the metal again. Perhaps I shouldn’t turn her at all.
But if you both want to try…you’re always telling me ‘live and learn’. Isn’t this a living thing? Like the time I ate a grasshopper?
It’s a bit more complicated than that. The dog does have a point, though.
Okay. You’ll do what’s best. You’re alpha.
I appreciate the vote of confidence.
“What’s so interesting about that plant?”
It’s the last night of the full moon. The right edge has begun to wane ever so slightly, barely noticeable, but its light is still bright over the hills and valleys of Milliways' Scottish simulation. The light is less illuminating under the trees, but still enough to pick out a path without too great a difficulty, provided there’s a path to follow.
What if she asks him? What if he says yes?
What if she doesn’t like it?
What if it disgusts her? What if she hates it? What if she grows to hate him because of it?
He’s tried to explain all the aspects to her, purposefully bringing up the parts that should make her change her mind about it. He’s tried to make her see the predator side of it, the instincts, the blood.
He doesn’t know what to tell her.
What else can he tell her, besides flat out no?
He doesn’t think he’ll be able to forgive himself if she hates it.
She says she’s done the research. Hell, he knows she’s done the research, he’s seen bits of it for himself. There’s just…he can’t believe observation and books can adequately prepare someone for what a werewolf is.
What he is.
What she’s considering becoming.
He wants to be able to say yes. He really would. Because if she likes it- If she likes it, that would be-
He doesn’t let his mind down that path. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up.
What if she hates it?
He reads through it again, skipping over the report and focusing just on her handwriting.
If you're reading this, I have a favour to ask.
If I ask you to do this, I need you to not question me.
I need you to understand that I've done the research. I've given it a significant amount of thought.
When I ask you, I need you to breathe in my scent, so that you know. I love you, more than mere words can express, and I need you to trust me in this.
When the day comes that I come to you and I ask you to do this, I need you to set aside your own fears for me and trust that I understand exactly what it is I am asking of you.
If you're still reading this, I know you are flush with indignation, your instinct to protect me assaulting your rationality. I understand that, believe me I do. And if you find you can't, please tell me now, that I may spare us both the humiliation of me asking and you having to refuse.
If you feel that you can do this for me, then there is no need to say anything. When the time comes, all I ask is that you do this for me, without questioning. And I promise you, I will not ask this of you unless I am sure that it is what I want. With all my heart and mind.
Know that you're in my heart and in my thoughts, always. I love you, Richard. I have no idea how or why it happened so swiftly and so completely, I only know that it has. And I'm not inclined to question it. It would feel like questioning the inevitability of daybreak. It just is. And I am more than content to let it be.
He leans heavily against her desk, completely at a loss for words.
He presents the necklace to her with a small smile and a modest, "Just thought you'd like something to hang my tag from." He slips the chain over her head, then pulls his own tags out from under his shirt, one of gold, one of steel, to show her. She digs his liberated tag out of her pocket and quickly fastens its little chain around the larger one. He grins at the equal but opposite nature of their dog tags and helps her slip hers under her shirt. She lets out a squeak as the cold metal touches her skin.
And then she kisses him to make him stop laughing.
Ryan frowns and pulls the blankets around him before he crawls towards the opening. Why aren’t yo- Ryan stares.
Morning, sir, Damocles says with a tired smile.
Dam, why are you guarding that pile of rabbits? There’s enough there to feed him tonight.
Cos you told me to, sir, Damocles answers, well used to jogging Ryan's memory of full moon nights.
I did? Ryan asks, bewildered, racking his brains to remember.
Yes, sir. You said they were for River.
…oh. Enough meat to feed him tonight. Or enough meat to feed another wolf. His first thought is that was nice of him. Then he shakes his head. River already said she wasn’t particularly interested in eating anything he killed out here. He won’t give them to her.
Since you’re awake, can I go to sleep now?
Ryan winces. Yes, Dam. The werewolf extracts himself from the blankets and rearranges them for the dog. Damocles jumps up into the shelter, turns around only twice, and collapses into the blankets with a sigh.
Ryan pulls on his clothes for warmth’s sake and laces up his boots while staring at the stack of red, black, and plaid fur. He doesn’t fancy eating all that petrol-flavoured meat, but he doesn’t want to just leave it to waste either. What’s he going to do with all of them?
Dam wakes up to smell meat practically in front of his nose. There’s at least two rabbits there, skinned and ready to eat. They even still have their livers. He can seehear Captain outside skinning another rabbit and Dam takes that to mean he can eat these. He’s crunching on the bones when Captain comes back over with it, telling him to budge over.
Remind me to eat the rest of those tonight, he tells the pup. And when I tell you I’m saving them for River, remind me that she doesn’t want rabbit. Understood?
Good pup. Ryan digs the liver out of his rabbit and eats half before tossing the rest to him.
Ryan rolls over, exposing his back to cold air. He grumbles to himself as he realizes Damocles is outside again. He wraps a blanket around himself and heads for the entrance. He squints against the light as he leans against one side, peering out.
…Dam, is that a deer?
As if Ryan's thrilled when Dam gets muddy.
He opens the bathroom door to let the steam clear out into the main room, prowling to the dresser to get fresh clothes.
Richard wasn't too certain himself.
He hasn't seen her since after breakfast, since he took care of his morning exercises. It'd been nice to do something mindless that would wear him out in a completely different way and just run for a couple of hours.
But laying in bed waiting for sleep, there's nothing to distract his brain. He misses River terribly. Lovesick, sneers his mind. He agrees without contention. That much is pointless to fight.
What will you do when she leaves?
If she leaves.
They always leave.
He has no answer to that.
So when she follows through?
I'll deal with it then. Live and learn. The end of my lovelife is hardly the end of the world.
It'll feel that way.
I've dealt with worse.
It's not like I have a lot of choice in the matter.
You could end it now.
He gives the ceiling a look that implies it's a great moron.
No. No, I don't suppose you could.
Where does that leave us?
With a girlfriend, apparently.
Feels like more.
Could be worse.
Very much so.
Last night was fun.
Go to sleep, Richard.
He shoves the piece back into the coals and turns to Rachel.
"What do you need?" He's curious and a shade wary. Rachel has been a benefactor to him, in more ways than one, but she's still immensely powerful. He flexes his hands, easing some of the tightness out of them.
She smiles at him, red-hair flickering with fire more than he's ever seen. The fire behind him flares a little more in response and he eases away from it for comfort's sake. The shadows grow a little sharper even as some areas become more visible. "I want you to make something for me," she says, one hand trailing just above the shelves' contents.
Ryan fidgets a bit, watching her never quite touch them. "Suzi's a better craftsman than I," he tells her a bit cautiously.
Rachel pulls her hand away from the materials to look at him. "It takes more than one person's input for this task. I need you, Ryan."
She needs him? Ryan turns back to the bit in the coals, pulling it out with a set of tongs and bringing it back to the anvil. "Fair enough," he answers before he brings the hammer down again. Rachel waits while he works, glancing over the wall of weapons but spending most of her time peering at the labels on the other wall. The hammer's clanging breaks off and she looks up to see him thrust the metal back into the flames. "What did you want me to make?"
"What are you working on?"
Ryan glances at the metal behind him. "A shield," he decides. "There's still a lot to be done on it."
Rachel looks thoughtful and nods. "I'd like a shield." Ryan arches a questioning brow at her. "Something to protect the weakest points of the people. A shield is perfect," she laughs lightly.
Ryan's eyes widen as he realizes what she's referring to. He blinks, wondering if he heard her right. "And you think I'm the best craftsmen for this?"
"You have all the materials," she answers, gesturing to his wall of shelves.
Ryan steps around the anvil to stand next to her and look at his shelves himself. He tilts his head, considering. "And I've already beaten the impurities out of the iron," he muses aloud.
"You'll make it, then?"
Ryan's silent a long moment. These are his materials. It's one thing to say you've put yourself into your work. It's quite another to actually do it. He turns to face her, raising his chin ever so slightly. "For you, I will."
He trusts her.
"It will take some time," he warns.
Rachel nods. "We'll have it, here."
Ryan nods and gets to work. The first thing is to check on the iron and be sure it hasn't ruined in the time he was making up his mind. Whether it's Rachel's presence or simply that he doesn't want this to go wrong, he couldn't have asked for better metal to work with. Satisfied that the iron is fine, he begins to add to it: copper, nickel, chromium, niobium, tantalum, osmium, iridium, platinum, a gram or two of aluminium, and all the tungsten he has.
fidelity service focus commitment loyalty honour determination courage pride wisdom
He works the metals together, shaping, heating, conditioning, and strengthening them into one solid sheet. He's silent while he works, focused on the metal's composition. He can scent when he's got what he wants and he plunges the metal into a barrel of water to cool it, filling the room with steam for a moment. He lets it sit while he gathers wire spools, the newer ones to his collection: zinc, tin, and titanium. After a moment's consideration, he takes a thinner coil of gold as well and returns to his workstation.
regeneration improved senses strength self-sacrifice
"I think you should add one more," Rachel says before he can start twisting the wire into rope.
Ryan arches an eyebrow at her. "Oh?" Rachel nods and points to the silver and Ryan frowns. Silver is hard for him to work with and he has even less of it than he had of the tungsten. What he does have, though, is pure and unalloyed, flickering the firelight back at them. "I don't think that suits a shield," he says, brows furrowed at her.
"You should make shields more often, then," Rachel smiles, insistent.
Ryan looks doubtful, but shrugs. "It's your shield," he says with a hint of warning, picking up the coil of metal. It's the thinnest wire of the four by far, but it has to be if he's to thread it all the way through. He works carefully, twisting the four strands together into a thin cord without snapping any of them. The silver, so thin, is nearly lost among the other three, but it glints through in places and shines just as bright.
When he has enough, he binds the ends of the cord and seals them with heat before running the entire length of the metal through the flames to ensure they anneal together and don't come loose. Then he sets the cord aside to return to the shield. It needs to be polished and the edges smoothed before he can put the two together. He grinds the roughness down first, then buffs out the last of it leaving a smooth surface behind. The shield is a dark grey and while it reflects the firelight flickering in the room, it in no way has a brilliant shine to it.
Finally, he can add the cord. It's a fine light thing and he solders it onto the borders of the shield with a zinc alloy. It's delicate work, the sort of thing Suzi's taught him, but he's had precious little else to do for two years. Where the ends of the cord come together at the top of the shield, he covers with a small emblem securely fastened. It's Suzi's emblem for him. He rather likes it.
He lets the metal cool while he puts the wire back on their shelves and the tools in their proper place. He stretches a bit while Rachel steps forward to look at his work, still not touching. Ryan lets her study it while he washes some of the grime off himself in the water barrel. "I didn't think the silver would fit, but," Ryan sniffs, "it smells right."
"It's beautiful," Rachel answers.
Ryan shakes his head. "Happenstance. It's made to protect." He picks up the shield to give it to her, but hesitates. Rachel waits, patient, flame licking up around her. "It'll be in good hands," he finally assures himself, extending the shield to her.
Rachel nods. "Yes. Thank you, Ryan." She finally touches the metal and Ryan shivers despite the heat of the room.
"You've done a great deal more for me and mine," Ryan replies, waving it off. "It's the least I could do." He falls silent, hesitating. "I won't see you again, will I." It's not really a question.
It's not what Ryan was asking, but that's alright. He nods and gives her a small gentle shoulder bump. "Good luck, then."
Well. That did not go as well as he would have liked. Don't get him wrong, it was wonderful to see Suzi. So wonderful, in fact, it hurt.
(Did you think that your feet had been bound)
He's simply got to work on that. If it hurt that much just seeing her again, what will he do if something happens to her? The same thing as last time, he supposes: be helpless. There's too many times he hasn't been able to keep her safe, too many times she's been eaten by worms or kidnapped by angels or had government agents point guns at her.
(By what gravity brings to the ground?)
It'll break him to lose her.
(Did you feel you were tricked)
He can't break again. He's not sure he'll be able to come back. And Suzi won't be there to save him.
It's supposed to be the other way around, god dammit.
(By the future you picked?)
He has got to be more serious about this. Even if he takes it one slow step at a time, cuts their hugs a little shorter, it'll be a step in the right direction.
(Well, come on down.)
He just doesn't see another option.
(He’s a real Nowhere Man)
Today is the anniversary of his.
(Sitting in his nowhere land)
He can deal with it better. Whereas yesterday he downed half a bottle of whiskey in a very short time, today he throws himself into his training. Bad intelligence led to his men’s deaths. His own death was a fluke.
(Making all his nowhere plans for nobody)
A lucky shot by Cooper was all it took. If he hadn’t been distracted by that blasted dog, if he killed it earlier in the evening, been a little less concerned about hitting Wells-
(Doesn’t have a point of view)
Everything would be different.
(Knows not where he’s going to)
He failed, he thinks. Not his country; they had their werewolf. Not his men; there’s little he could’ve done about bad Intel (though he certainly wouldn’t mind getting his hands on Megan).
(Isn’t he a bit like you and me?)
He failed himself.
(Nowhere Man, please listen)
He’ll be damned if he lets it happen again.
(You don’t know what you’re missing)
Never mind that he’s technically dead. He can’t tell unless he’s too long from Milliways. He’s got two missions coming up. He’ll have many more before he goes…where ever he’s going. And he’s going to do them all right.
(Nowhere Man, the world is at your command)
So he throws himself into his training, running, sparring, shooting, burning old muscle and building new. He works with Damocles, more for his own benefit than the dog’s. The next time a dog attacks him it’ll be dead that much sooner.
(He’s as blind as he can be)
But there’s one other thing he needs to change, something that’s been nagging at him since he died. He’s grown attached to people here, to the point where he thinks of them as family. It’s always made him a bit uncomfortable because he knows how much family can hurt. Is reminded every time something happens to them.
(Just sees what he wants to see)
He doesn’t want to stop caring about them completely. He doubts he can. He just wants to put a little more distance between them. It’ll be easy enough to do, he suspects. Suzi he's barely seen. Deitmar's come in maybe once in the past three months and, plainly speaking, the pup’s never been big on caring anyway.
(Nowhere Man, can you see me at all?)
He has to wonder if he’s lost them completely. Their conversations are few and far between, when they even have them, and don't consist of anything consequential. Still, it’ll be best for all of them if their ties keep loosening.
(Nowhere Man, don’t worry)
It’s what he tells himself, anyway. Whether he truly believes it or not is a moot point. They're not there to prove him wrong. Even if Deitmar and Suzi started showing up more, he knows they can take care of themselves quite well. They don’t need him. They never did.
(Take your time, don’t hurry)
It’s always been the other way around.
(Leave it all till somebody else lends you a hand)
That, more than anything, is what he wants to change. If he doesn’t have anyone to worry about, then he doesn’t have anyone to rely upon. He becomes self-sufficient again, confident in his own abilities. There’s no one to hurt him and no one to keep him from what he is.
(He’s a real Nowhere Man)
He wasn’t lying when he told Cooper he was a soldier. He is, and a damn good one at that.
(Sitting in his nowhere land)
He’s determined to keep it that way.
(Making all his nowhere plans for nobody)
Captain’s been reading to me for weeks, canine and English all at once. He says it’s so I can learn English, but it’s pretty easy to ignore his voice and just listen to the canine bits. It’s a plenty nice voice but what’s the point?
We’ve been going through the books Deitmar gave Captain for Christmas. A lot of them are all right, some are boring, but we finally got to a scary one this week. Captain saved it for last cos he knows zombies scare me. Really scare me. The beginning of the book wasn’t too bad, all what ifs and science stuff.
But now we’ve reached the stories.
‘Many believe that since the Africans were all chained,’
Chained? Captain’s really patient when he reads cos he knows I don’t know all the words he uses.
Tied up with metal. If someone chains you, chew through what the chain is attached to. Humans can’t do that because they don’t have the teeth for it. ‘the first infected person must have been a member of the Portuguese crew.’
What’s a porchageezcrew?
Like the one out on the lake?
Correct. ‘If this is true, the unlucky slaves-’
Some people used to believe that they could own other people like you own a bone.
But. . .that’s silly.
Of course it is. ‘slaves would have to have watched their captors-’
The captors are the people who captured the Africans and put them in chains.
Oh! That makes sense. Captors aren’t very nice, are they?
Not usually, no. ‘devour or infect one another after their slow change into the living dead-’
Zombies! I yelp and whine a bit as I curl up to Captain’s bare feet for protection.
Yes, zombies. He pauses to shift his feet and make room for me. ‘Even worse is the awful likelihood that one of these crew members attacked and infected a chained slave. This new ghoul, in turn, bit the chained, screaming person next to him.’
Is like howling, but humans usually only scream when they’re afraid.
Oh. Oh. I shiver and Captain’s feet move a little closer around me.
‘On and on down the line, until the screams were eventually quiet and the entire hold was filled with zombies.'
Wait. Doesn't hold mean they're safe?
No, this means hold of the ship. It's the space below the deck, the inside of the boat.
Oh. I whimper a bit.
'Imagining those at the end of the line, seeing their future creeping steadily closer, was enough to conjure the worst nightmares.'
I jump as Captain snaps the book shut. Captain smells just a little amused. What? That’s it? But – they all… I end with a whimper and pin my ears back.
It’s only a story. He reaches down and gives me a quick scritch before putting the book on the night stand. Nothing to be afraid of.
I watch him disappear into the bathroom and close the door. I listen to the sink go on and off and I jump up on the bed and curl up into a tight ball as I alertly watch the door for any signs of a zombie attack.
The bathroom door opens near silently and I turn my head to look at the Captain.
. . .what are you doing?
I wag my tail hopefully and splay my ears sideways.
Captain just gives me a look. Off the bed.
Please don’t make me sleep by myself, sir. I whimper and roll over to show my belly.
We're in the same room. Off the bed, Damocles. Now.
I whimper all the way to the floor, but I know better than to ignore Captain when he growls. Once I’m off the bed, Captain mutters something in English and starts dusting the bed off. I start to work my way under the desk chair.
You don’t fit under there any more. Captain’s starting to smell exasperated.
It’s the safest place after the bed. I keep trying, making the chair rock a whole lot.
Stop that. Just sleep on the rug, that’s what it’s there for. Nothing’s going to get you.
I huff and push my way back out from under the chair, knocking it over. It slams into the floor with a crash and I yelp and scramble for Captain and hide by his legs. He stumbles and almost trips over me.
Captain snarls. Go lay down.
I drop to the floor and don’t move. Captain huffs at me and rights the chair and gets into bed before turning off the light. The room plunges into darkness. Captain shifts a few times getting comfortable and then everything goes quiet except for the wind at the window, moaning. Like a zombie. I whimper.
I’m scared! I howl back. There’s enough light that I can see Captain glaring at me. I look away, still whimpering.
If you kick me even once, it's back on the floor.
Not up here, moron, down at the foot.
'kay. Thank you, sir.
You're welcome. Now be quiet and go to sleep.
Yes, sir. I snuggle against the back of his feet. Captain sighs but doesn't say anything. I think I fall asleep before he does.
I have Captain to protect me.
[Passage derived from The Zombie Survival Guide]
Then we reach a new section of the woods. He’s never brought me here before and its really deep. We see some of the rabbits jumping around and I growl and he tells me to calm down. He sits down in his den tree house thingie, legs hanging off the edge, and I jump in after him. It’s really big to fit just him. I snuffle through the blankets that are inside. Everything smells like him and a few things smell faintly like Suzi.
Suzi’s been here?
No. She just got the blankets for me.
I jump down from the den and start sniffing things in the woods. I want to be able to find my way back here when we leave. Captain starts taking off clothes, setting them carefully off to the side. He has to get out to take off his trousers.
Obediently, I stop sniffing the pile of bones and trot back over. He pats the floor of the den, and I jump up and sit, watching him eagerly.
Are we hunting now?
In a moment. He still smells amused. Do you remember what I told you?
If I think you’re going to eat me I should run for the bar I recite in almost a singsong. As if Captain would ever eat me.
He gives an affirmative grunt. Now stay there. This will only take a moment.
What will I want to ask but Captain groans and doubles over. Oh, he’s changing! I prick my ears forward and watch and wow it really is fast. And he’s so very big now and has proper ears and about as much fur as I do and wow.
His head turns towards me, ears pricked forward and mouth shut. I pin my ears back and roll over, head hanging off the platform a bit. Captain only has to duck a little bit to fit his head in the den and I feel his breath on my neck. I hold really, really still and a little whine escapes from me. Then his nose is in my ear, breath tickling.
Sir! I laugh, flipping over and trying to get away, but Captain still has hands and catches me easily. He licks at my head and when I try to get away again, he digs his claws in a bit. I stop struggling and drop my head to the floor with a sigh. Captain laughs a little and finally lets me up. I jump out of the den and shake myself off and Captain stands up all the way and stretches. He sniffs at the wind and I sniff too, but I don’t know what I’m looking for. Then he throws his head back and howls and its something else I’ve never done with him. I try to join in, but I’m a little warbley and Captain’s laughing again by the time we stop.
Are we hunting now?
I am. You don’t know how.
I whine in protest and Captain huffs at me. But you said I could come!
You can watch and learn, but you’re too small to help.
I whine a little anyway, but Captain’s running and I need all my breath to keep up. He stops just as suddenly, ears pricked forward, mouth closed.
What is it? I pant.
Quiet. Watch. Captain creeps forward slowly and I sniff the air. Oh, petrol, yuck. Are we really going to eat a rabbit? But I’m quiet and I watch. The rabbit doesn’t seem to know we’re here and Captain’s so silent when he moves that it just keeps browsing in what little grass there is. Then it freezes and Captain freezes and I freeze and we all just wait to see who will make the first move.
I break first, dashing forward and barking like a mad thing and the rabbit hisses and bolts and something hits me in the back of the head and sends me sprawling.
Moron. Captain’s growling. I roll on to my back as soon as I can tell which way is up.
Sorrysorrysorrysorrysorry! His teeth are vibrating at my throat, but he pulls back again with a huff.
Maybe you’re too young for this.
No! I can listen! I can be quiet! I promise! Captain looks at me and I drop my gaze and look away.
Not another sound until I say so, understood? I shake my tail yes and then we’re moving again, Captain following some scent I don’t know how to recognize. Then he stops and I stop and peer out between his legs at the deer until he crouches low. Not a sound, he warns me, showing teeth, and stay here. One hand reaches out to press me into the dirt and once he’s certain I’m not getting up, he creeps forward silently. I don’t even lift my head from the ground, but my ears are pricked forward and I’m watching with wide eyes. He’s so close now the deer has to know he’s there, how can it not?
It freezes, head still down and Captain freezes three strides away from it and my head comes up and I almost bark but don’t. The deer’s head comes up the same moment Captain leaps forward and I’m quivering to stay still as Captain catches it with one clawed hand hooked into its flank. It tries to kick at him and he jerks back his claws coming free and leaving a huge bloody hole behind. The deer takes off and Captain licks his claws clean as I stand and trot over to him.
It got away, I grumble. I’m starting to get hungry.
No, it didn’t. What do you smell?
I sniff. Blood?
Good. We’re going to follow that. Come along.
It takes a long time to catch up to the deer, but when we do, it’s too tired and lost too much blood to run anymore. It just watches Captain as he walks up to it and I watch as he kills it. It’s quick, and he’s eating in the next moment. I walk up to eat myself, but Captain growls at me to stay back. Confused, I back off but I’m too hungry to stay away for long. I pin my ears back and drop to the ground, crawling towards the hole in its flank. Captain eyes me but I’m careful not to look back and he lets me in to eat. I’m full long before he is, though, and I lay down nearby and doze while he finishes eating.
I wake up to his tongue licking me clean again. Come on, time to go home. Captain has what little’s left of the deer in one hand and is steadying his crouch with the other.
‘kay. I stretch and get to my feet, following him back to the den. I’m asleep on my paws by the time we get back. Captain drops the deer on the pile of bones and climbs into the den, curling up on the blankets. I lay down on the ground, already falling asleep.
What are you doing?
Going to sleep, sir.
He tilts his head at me and I can smell his amusement again. You can come in here.
I’m too tired to even be excited about this. I crawl in next to him and he curls up around me and we sleep. I only wake up when morning comes and he changes back around me, but Captain just wakes up enough to pull the blankets over both of us.