Disclaimer: I do not own anything or anyone from the Marvel Universe or the X-Men movieverse. This is a Victor/Logan fic based on the intro of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie. If you don't like it, then refrain from going further.


The Nature of Brotherhood

The darkness had always terrified him, even when he had been tucked into his warm bed and the embers in the fireplace still glowed red in the gloom. His fevers and constant ill health had made him acutely aware of the pull the darkness had over him. He feared it not because it cultivated dread in him, but because he knew there had to be a reason it seemed to call for him, even in his waking hours. The darkness was around him now, but he wasn't alone.

James ran through the woods, his fingers twisted into the sleeve of Victor's jacket as they ran together, away from everything they had known and from the horror that their existences had been introduced to. He knew Victor wasn't afraid of the darkness for the same reasons he was. Victor had learned from his fears, had faced them every night at his father's furious hand…their father…Victor had risen up from it. And now Victor was all he had…and he was grateful.

Tripping, Jimmy staggered and almost pulled Victor down with him, but he stood firm and pulled Jimmy back up and kept running into the cold darkness.

"Stay with me, Jimmy" Victor's clawed hand gripped Jimmy's wrist and squeezed reassuringly. "We have to make it as far as possible before dawn."

James didn't answer, but forced his fatigued body to push onward and stay in pace with his brother.

Victor sniffed the air as they ran down a steep rocky slope and veered off to the right, pulling Jimmy along with him.

His heart was pounding against his ribcage, his mind still reeling from the cruel joke their lives had been up until Jimmy had slain his…their father. Victor knew he was supposed to feel something other than elation, but he couldn't deny how free he was now that their father finally got what he deserved. He had always thought he'd be the one to rise up and tear his father down for the misery, the chains, and the brutal beatings. Jimmy doing so had only solidified the truth for him. They were brothers, not just by blood, but by nature.

Because of that, Victor felt responsible for Jimmy. Not because he was the eldest and knew the cruelties of the world, but because Jimmy had freed him. If it took him the rest of his life, Victor would protect his brother and care for him just to pay him back for changing his fate.

The first way he did so was by finding them shelter in a cave away from the chill of the night. James trembled, hugging himself and trying to fight the pain that was welling in his chest.

"Jimmy" Victor murmured, clasping his hand on his brother's shoulder and sitting next to him in the darkness. "I know you're afraid" he paused when Jimmy looked up into his eyes, the pale star-light poor illumination but the only keeper against the gloom. "I promise…I promise I won't let anything hurt you. No one will hurt us anymore. Not unless we let them, and I'm damn well prepared to not let anyone hurt us again. Are you?" Victor's emphatic murmur forced James to really look at him. Since Victor had stopped him from running blind into the darkness, James now saw him as his one true friend and brother, even after the horror he'd witnessed James perpetrate that had driven them away from home.

"I don't want to be afraid anymore…" James finally spoke in a tight whisper. Victor smiled softly, pulling James against his side and wrapping his arms around him. "I won't let anyone hurt you either, Victor. I promise."

Victor nodded, his cheek brushing the top of Jimmy's head as he hugged him tightly to ward the cold away from them.

Their brotherhood grew from that pact, supporting them out of their old lives and into the new dawn.

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

They had used the hunting trails going south into mountainous terrain, Victor taking advantage of the little game he could catch while Jimmy scavenged what he could so they could survive. At the last village they had been skirting, Victor headed into the square at noon commerce to steal some provisions for them while James huddled under a shelter they'd built out of fallen branches and brush. He brought back some blankets, stale bread and apples, as well as a tattered bundle of clothes and muddy boots.

"Here. Put those on and bury what you're wearing" Victor had instructed as he tossed the bundle at James before he set up a fire to roast the hare he caught earlier in the day.

Undoing the bundle, James sniffed the dusty coat and wrinkled his nose at his brother. "Wear did you get this?" he said as he started to undress regardless.

"Why does it matter?" was the terse response he received since Victor was too busy starting the fire and hoping Jimmy wouldn't notice the few droplets of blood on the coat's cuff.

"Victor, is this blood?" was the next inquiry, and Victor rolled his eyes as he turned to regard his fussy brother.

"Yes, and before you ask, be sure you want to know the answer" Victor scowled at Jimmy's wide eyed expression. Sighing, he grabbed some more twigs and snapped them as Jimmy's gaze grew worried. "No, I didn't kill anyone, stupid. I beat a kid up and stripped his clothes" was his surly response as he turned back to what he was doing.

Exhaling the breath he'd been absently holding, James continued stripping out of his pajamas and slippers before putting on his new clothes and boots.

As Victor began skinning his kill, James asked, "How was the village?"

"Crowded" was the monosyllabic response he received, so James dropped the subject and went about burying his old clothes.

As he dug a hole with his bare hands, James pondered over Victor's gruff mood of late. He knew Victor didn't like going to the village, but he didn't think it was because of the stealing he had to do to fend for both of them. James often worried Victor resented having to take care of them both, especially when they were around people. He wondered if Victor ever considered leaving him behind.

"Doesn't take this long to dig a hole, Jimmy" startled, he turned to face his brother who only smirked at his jumpiness. "What? I told you already I didn't really hurt the kid" Victor grumbled as he leant down in front of James, a frown tugging on his young features.

"It isn't that…" James murmured and looked down at his dirty hands.

"So what is?" Victor shifted to plop down next to Jimmy.

Lifting his eyes briefly, he exhaled sadly. "I know I'm a pain, Victor. We promised to help each other, but all I do is hold you back, and get you in trouble…"

Victor shook his head. "That isn't true Jimmy. I'm the oldest, so I'm shouldering a bit more of the burden, that's all. You're still learning. Once I teach you a bit more about tracking and hunting, things will even up, don't worry" Victor clamped his arm around the younger boy and squeezed him to his side. "Now hurry up so you can help me put the hare on a spit" he smiled and walked back towards the fire and shelter.

Nodding and returning the smile, James turned back to the hole he'd dug. He grabbed his clothes and tossed them in, regarding them for brief seconds before shoving dirt over them, and burying the last material attachments of his old life.

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

Over what was left of the year, the brothers had trekked along the Canadian border and into American territory, managing to go relatively unnoticed by other travelers along the main roots and taking shelter in the wilderness whenever they were in a real pinch. Whenever they ran out of supplies, they both traveled into town together and worked together at swiping what they would need.

Victor had escalated into a pickpocket, scrounging up whatever money he could to pay for things he and Jimmy couldn't steal. When they journeyed into more metropolitan areas, they took shelter in abandoned houses or with other runaways, the latter of which often ended with the boys having to disappear quickly before authorities got involved. Both brothers preferred to live outside of society, taking their chances with the elements and the threat of predators than running the chance of getting caught and separated. For this last reason, Victor was emphatic that they never stay in one place too long. James knew Victor was right and that staying on the outskirts of society was best for the both of them, but a small part of him still yearned to fit in. He often got angry over the woes they faced and felt sorry for himself, but then berated himself for wanting something he couldn't have.

A rustle of leaves to his far right sent his senses into sharp focus. He glanced across the brush and trees at Victor, who gestured with his gaze towards the deer they'd been tracking drinking from the shallow brook ten yards away. Nodding, he watched as Victor stalked stealthily without making a sound towards the creature, while James hung back and round the bend of trees and fallen trunks to box the animal in.

He treaded cautiously, but when he snapped a branch underfoot, the scene shifted into overdrive and instinct kicked in. Victor moved like lightning, launching at the deer and catching its hind quarters under his claws and bringing it down as James emerged just as quick, leaping over a log and sinking his bone claws in the animal's chest and throat. The deer thrashed against them wildly, until Victor slashed its stomach open and gutted it while it was still alive.

James flinched at the sight, but stood his ground and let his claws retract back into his knuckles. They were covered in blood and dirt, their bare chests glistening with sweat and their trousers dingy from the months of travel.

Victor wiped his forehead with the back of his forearm, unintentionally smearing blood against his skin before he gave Jimmy a wide smile. "You did good Jimmy."

James smiled weakly at the praise, averting his eyes from the animal's dead black gaze to look up at Victor. He snickered, "You look like a hooligan with blood smeared on your forehead."

"Hooligan? You mean expert hunter, runt" he sardonically remarked before standing and grabbing the deer's back legs. "Grab your half and let's head to the river. I want to get this thing skinned and over a fire before sunset" he stated, watching Jimmy with a crinkle around his eyes as Jimmy did as he was told.

Once they were sitting by the riverbank, Victor noticed how quiet Jimmy was as he stared off over the water's surface. He'd seen how Jimmy hesitated during the kill, and figured he was just brooding over looking lax in front of him.

"I'm not much of a hunter, am I?"

Submerging a smirk, Victor finished laying out the venison meat over the rack him and Jimmy had fashioned out of tree limbs to dry their kills in the sun and walked over to sit next to his younger brother. "Practice makes perfect. Once you let instinct kick in, you might be as good of a hunter as me" Victor said as he hung his forearms over his knees, staring down at his hands and long claws before turning them palm up. "Shit. Don't you love it?" he murmured before looking over at Jimmy.

"Love what?" Jimmy said and looked away from the water to Victor.

"The smell" he said as he brought his still dirty hands up to his nose and inhaled through his nose. "The metallic scent of blood" he paused and looked at Jimmy. "Whenever I get a whiff of it, it feels like it heats my own blood. I feel all warm and alive whenever I smell it" he explained, nostrils flaring as he leaned close to James. "It makes everything smell incredible."

James brought his own hands up and scented the blood of the kill all over them, closing his eyes to relish the smell before smiling and nodding to Victor. "I like the way it smells, but I don't like seeing it" he offered quietly before standing up and working out of his boots and trousers. "Let's go for a swim before supper?" he asked as he pulled his trousers off his ankles and headed for the bank of the river.

"Fine, but we're not going to mess around for too long" Victor smirked as he worked his own trousers off and kicked his boots off. He knew Jimmy. Going for a swim meant he wanted to wash off the dirt, the sweat, and the blood. When he'd first taken him tracking, and showed Jimmy how to skin his first kill, he'd seen how he hesitated. It wasn't out of some fussy sense of cleanliness left over from his privileged life, but more like he didn't know if he should want and like living his true nature.

He kept telling Jimmy he needed to let nature call the shots, not his old sensibilities about morality and society. Those rules no longer applied to them. They had only shackled Victor like a domesticated animal, and he didn't intend to let society's rules govern him ever again.

The brothers frolicked in the water, splashing and washing off the day's hunt. The rest of the time, they spent it laying on the bank and drying out under the sun, talking and laughing. Soon hunger urged them into an early supper where they devoured most of the venison meat they roasted over a small fire. Once twilight came around, they cuddled against each other to ward off the cold. James turned to cuddle into Victor's side while Victor smiled and stared up at the stars.

For all his faults, he was proud of his little brother. He couldn't imagine not having him by his side, and when his mind lingered over the possibility, he grew unreasonably angry. The anger usually subsided when he recalled the pact they made to each other little over a year ago. He knew that of the two of them, Jimmy had potential to do big things. Victor was sure that if Jimmy wasn't his brother, then he probably would be another member of society that'd look down on him with fear and scorn. Everything he knew told him that he and Jimmy were two sides of one coin. One brother's innocence was another brother's deviance on the flip side of things. Because of that, he knew that the further away he and Jimmy grew from society the stronger their brotherhood would be.

Victor believed in their brotherhood, and intended to protect it, just as he'd promised to protect Jimmy so many starlit nights ago when their old lives ended. Concentrating on his brother's breathing, he knew he loved Jimmy. He'd validated Victor's existence and had given him the courage to run free from the bonds society had tried to imprison him by.

Pressing close to Jimmy, not just for warmth, Victor closed his eyes, falling asleep with the love of his brother as his most cherished possession.

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

James woke up from a nightmare, lunging upwards into the darkness under the night sky to find he was alone in their shelter. Startled, he shifted his gaze anxiously out towards the gloom of the forest before the scent he was looking for snapped his attention into the right direction.

He sat up from their makeshift bed of blankets under the wood shelter they had chopped the wood to fashion against the rock lip of the hill and followed his brother's scent. His hair fluttered in the breeze that blew through the tree line from the cliff side that overlooked the sleepy valley below. Victor's scent was coming from that direction.

Cautiously, James wandered over and peeked behind a tree to see where his brother was under the moonlight. Victor's silhouette stood out, but he could barely make out what he was doing. His hypersensitive hearing picked up Victor's breath coming and going quickly past his parted lips, a noise escaping his older brother's lips as he arched against the big rock he was leaning against.

His scent was different now, heavy and heady in a way that reminded James of the scent of blood. Unlike that scent though, Victor's was pungent like the smell of soil and sweat. Coming out from behind the tree, Jimmy walked closer but remained quiet, trying to see what Victor was doing.

Victor knew he was there, but didn't stop stroking himself, even when Jimmy moved out of the shadows and into the moonlight.

"Victor?" the timber of his voice was curious and deepened from the hours of disuse.

Opening his eyes to half lids, Victor glanced over at him. "Yeah Jimmy?" he replied in a distant purr, his voice husky with arousal.

James opened his mouth to ask another question, but couldn't really voice it. He just kept watching Victor touch himself. Sitting against the rock, Victor stroked his hard penis, his shirt hanging open and his trousers down to his thighs as his hand kept pumping up and down. His ferocious claws were retracted, glinting from the moon's rays, the trail of dark hair that coursed from his navel down to his apex and the short hairs of his chest making him look rugged and mature in the moonlight.

"If you keep staring like that, I'm liable to start blushing" Victor chuckled at Jimmy, his body stiffening when he tried to bite back his groan of pleasure as he began to climax.

James stood rooted in his spot as he watched Victor cum over his hand and stomach. Another sound of contentment came out a purr as Victor closed his eyes and rode the sensations, sighing and smiling when he opened his eyes and Jimmy was still watching him.

Standing slowly, Victor pulled his pants up and lazily fastened them closed, not minding the mess over his stomach as he rubbed his hand over his abdomen and exhaled through his nose.

"It's ok Jimmy. I'm not shy, so don't look so flustered" he stated in his more mature baritone as he walked over to his brother.

"What were you..?" James murmured as he looked at the slick mess Victor was idly drawing lazy circles all over his stomach and back up into his crystalline blue eyes.

Snickering softly, Victor walked by Jimmy and popped one of his semen-coated fingers into his mouth thoughtfully. "Oh, I was just getting some pent up tension out. Been masturbating for a while now when you're asleep" he gave as a blasé response.

"Is that like…sex?" Jimmy asked, feeling his cheeks heat up from how naïve he sounded.

Laughing, Victor turned and ran his clean hand through his eye-length mop of hair. "Yes, sex with myself" he said and shook his head with amusement. "C'mon, let's go back to bed. I'll explain more" he stated and waved Jimmy along to follow his lead.

James stared at his brother's broad shoulders and huffed. Ever since Victor turned into a teenager he'd been a little different. Sometimes he'd act as if he knew something funny that he didn't, and that always drove James crazy. The years they'd been traveling together had led them to mature around each other slowly and virtually unnoticed to each other, until times like these. He remembered his older brother from a year ago and when he looked at him now he couldn't believe how quick Victor had matured. Even when he looked at his own reflection now, James scowled at the hard jaw shaded with darkening peach fuzz and the expressive eyebrows that knitted over his brown eyes. He had become broad-shouldered like Victor, but his brother was beginning to tower over him.

Victor was also changing in temperament, which had been so gradual that James wondered if Victor saw changes in him too. He knew he did, because Victor was observant and sharp, pin pointing things out that he would've needed a second look to notice. His temper had grown in leaps and bounds over the years, leaving him at a loss every time because of how abrupt the shifts would be. For all his changes though, James still saw Victor as his protective older brother, who risked his own skin to fend for them both. It seemed like Victor risking his own skin was also becoming a more prominent impulse for his brother, but that was another issue in itself.

As they made it into their wooden abode for the time being, James watched as Victor sat with his back against the rock side, one leg bent up while the other stretched out. He dropped down next to him and rested his hands at his sides as he tried to make out Victor's features in the dim starlight.

"I know you're curious, so just ask" Victor rumbled softly down at James as he closed his eyes and exhaled a huff through his nose.

"How often do you do it?" Jimmy blurted, his tone submerging his curiosity but not the desire to ask more.

A smile tugged Victor's boyish lips as he answered, "Enough to chafe" then snickered when Jimmy's eyes widened, "I masturbate a lot, Jimmy. It's nothing out of the ordinary. I'm surprised you haven't started."

Sneering at the teasing tone, James elbowed his side. "When was the first time?"

"When I woke up from a really sexual dream I had and my cock was hard" Victor stated simply, wiping the drying semen off his hand on the blanket under them.

Jimmy's nostrils flared at the new scent he'd been trying to ignore. It was strong and musky, but carried some underlying appeal over his senses. "Have you…had sex with anyone already?" the question slipped off his tongue.

Victor's brows arched. "Now when the hell would I have managed that?! I've never slept away from you, runt" he stated in a harsh berate. "Fuck Jimmy, like I'd have bedded a woman and you wouldn't know about it" he huffed and shoved his younger brother mockingly.

"Christ Victor I was only asking!" James snarled and shoved him back.

Laughing, Victor grabbed Jimmy's fist when it tried to connect with his chest. "Tell you what. Next time we go into town, I'll find a girl and fuck her, and you can watch" he propositioned with an impish grin on his face.

Pulling away from Victor, James huffed and flopped down to his side. "Shut up, I'm not a pervert!"

Snickering, Victor stretched out beside him and nudged Jimmy's back. "You can't be a pervert if you've never jerked off, Jimmy. You're so naïve" he taunted and rubbed his hand over his stomach, scratching at the dried semen streaked over his skin.

"Well you can't waltz up to a girl and fuck her when you've never even kissed one!" he countered back as he turned to glower at him. Snorting, Victor flashed him a wide grin, one that shone even in the dimness. He got a good look at Victor's fangs, and looked away as he dropped his head onto his arm. "Besides, I thought we were moving out of this land tomorrow…"

Victor's mirth quickly sobered at the change of topic, his jaw setting tightly as he rolled over and gave his wide back to Jimmy.

He instantly regretted what he said. Berating himself in his head, James scooted closer to Victor's back and sighed. It had been a long time since they'd lingered in one place, and up until earlier that day they hadn't planned on wandering off.

When he was finally thinking he and Victor could get some stability and stay somewhere indefinitely, reality came down on both of them with cruel clarity.

They had tried a new approach this time and went into town looking for work. It had taken several heated arguments between them for James to convince his older and more mistrusting brother to try getting a job at the local lumber mill. Victor was sixteen and he was fourteen, and the town's age restriction on child labor was very lax. James had implored Victor to try applying for work, since they were actively hiring in the saloon and he'd overheard they would take anyone, even men without verification of residency.

After a while Victor relented and agreed, warning Jimmy it would only blow up in their faces but if he wanted to get burned than fine. So far there trips into town had been low key and uneventful. They even bought their food and ate at the saloon a few times. Victor had his intense scowl the whole time, but James had been a bit more sociable, even talking to some of the locals to get information about work. Then today when they reported for what was going to be their first shift at the mill, everything fell apart.

Victor had been walking ahead of Jimmy while he talked to the foreman, his shoulders squared and his gaze raking over everyone that looked his way. The foreman had been reluctant to give them a shift, but once Victor had vouched that they weren't lightweights and showed he could carry more than his share of planks, the man nodded and gave in.

One minute Jimmy had been left to take down a pile of planks and pass them onto Victor who would carry over fifty effortlessly to the dock for transportation, and the next Victor was gone and all hell broke loose.

He still didn't know what started the commotion, but felt his brother might've done more than his share of instigating. Victor had snapped, and before James could hold him back there were three men lying slashed and wounded. The look in Victor's eyes was wild and rabid as he snarled and bared his teeth at the crowd of men who surrounded them. He'd yelled and forced Victor to run, having to shove and tug him in their escape up the hill dozens of times before he calmed and shoved him away to stalk back to their hideout on his own.

That night they had eaten in silence from their canned preserves, and fallen asleep next to each other without more than a brush of their shoulders.

His nightmare flashed behind his closed eyes. James opened them and stared at Victor's back, recalling the scenes in his nightmare. So much blood, and his hands were soaked in it. Victor had been wild and mindless, slashing through a man who had tried grabbing Jimmy and taking him away for shoplifting, and then Victor's swollen and bloodied face, as he watched him take a rock and slam it against his own mouth several times before he screamed.

James shuddered, clenching his eyes shut and trying to erase the memory-dream from his mind.

"What is it?" the baritone startled him. James opened his eyes to see Victor had turned to look at him. His defined brows were wrinkled with concern. "Jimmy, what is it?"

"I had a nightmare before. It was coming back to me" he answered, dragging his gaze away from Victor's.

Victor watched him, his expression smooth as he reached his arm around his younger brother and pulled him against his chest. "I'm sorry, brother."

James wrapped his arm around Victor and returned his embrace. "What happened today, Victor."

A long silence greeted him, briefly. "They provoked me…I was baited by those assholes and I lost control" he stated as he brought his hand to rest on the nape of Jimmy's neck. "They made some wisecrack about my hands, and—they asked me if you were up for more than hauling wood" he growled in restrained anger. "When I confronted the guy who said it, he pushed me…then I was lunging at all of them. If you hadn't stopped me I'd have torn them limb from limb—!"

"And now we're on the run again" James cut in listlessly.

"Yes" Victor hissed, lightly clawing his nails down Jimmy's spine. The act made his brother shiver.

"We're lucky they didn't follow us…try to track us" James offered and shifted to look up into Victor's cooling blue eyes. "What if something like what happened in Duluth happens again…"

"I told you that was an accident, Jimmy" Victor ground out between his teeth. "I killed that guy to protect you—to protect us!"

"I know! But Victor, I don't want it to happen again" James stated emphatically, rising to look down at his older brother. "What if you kill someone else?? They'll start looking for us everywhere we go! I don't want to run like a coward—!"

"Then we won't. We'll stay and fight. I'm sick of running too, Jimmy. I'm sick of going from place to place and having to deal with those bastards and cowards in each town we go to. They don't understand us and to them we're fucking freaks. Let them try to separate us again" Victor mused ruthlessly as he sat up and glared at his younger brother. "I'm sick of it all" he hissed and pulled his knees up so he could fume against them.

"…when did things get so dire" James muttered, lying back on the blanket and looking across to Victor. "I don't want to lose you Victor."

Looking over his arms at him, Victor genuinely frowned. "I'm not going anywhere. No one's taking me away from you Jimmy. I promised. You promised too, so don't forget that the next time you question me" he remarked gruffly, and went to rest on his side, facing James.

He sighed with a wounded look. "I meant… I don't want to lose you to the darkness…"

Scowling slightly, Victor muttered, "Sometimes you have to live in darkness before the light comes, brother. You'll understand once you go through the change."

The silence hung over them like a veil once Victor's words fell. All James knew was change, and now he would have to go through another? He remembered Victor's bloodied mouth and his cries of pain, saw how his brother had writhed until he spit out his normal canines only to be replaced by the vicious fangs he'd flashed moments before. The change had almost killed Victor, and now he had to cope with the understanding that it would come over him too…soon.

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

They'd been moving southeast for the last week, only stopping to hunt, eat, and sleep. Avoiding the major routes had been necessary until they got over the state line, and now Victor and James trekked along the beaten highway on foot, their few provisions bundled and flung over their shoulders. As they approached a town, the foot traffic increased, and so did the looks they received. It was likely, since they weren't locals and still looked young to be traveling by themselves, but then James noticed how a couple of girls coming in a wagon seemed to stare at them and giggle to each other. Glancing at Victor, James saw how his older brother pursed his lips at him and gave him a knowing look.

Blushing at the memory of Victor's proposal, James stared straight ahead and ignored the young girls when their wagon passed them. The girls giggled louder when Victor flashed them a smile and a wink, leading them to be scolded by their mother who sat at the seat of the wagon with their father. James elbowed his brother in the side and blushed harder.

"Oh c'mon they're virgins, Jimmy. One for you and one for me" he remarked to the unspoken whine James was directing at him with a glare. When Jimmy only pouted and glanced haughtily away, he added, "Unless you'd like me to get a working girl?"

"Shut up Victor!" he whirled and punched him in the arm. "Stop being such a jerk!"

"Wanting to take care of my brother's needs makes me a jerk? Where's your curiosity Jimmy?!" he snickered as he flung his arm around his brother's shoulders and smirked. "I know you're curious to find out more…to see a woman naked, feel her from the inside out and outside in" he gave him a Cheshire grin when James looked at him with a mortified look.

"What the hell would you know, Victor!? All you do is" he halted in order to lower his voice to a whisper, "jerk off like a fiend. You're a virgin just like me so quit riding me!"

"Well difference is, I intend to rectify that matter once we get into town. We got enough money to share a room at the inn, so let's say we find a little number for your big brother" he chuckled and shoved his hands in his pockets when James pushed him off of him.

"Why don't we just lay low for once? I don't want to get run out of this town too" he complained.

"We're only staying the night. Might as well get some experience under my belt."

They continued to bicker with each other as they entered the city proper, passing several shops, vendors, and a crowd of people that was rigging a banner over the city square. The town was celebrating some festival, and the boys slipped into the crowds with little problem as they explored the city together.

When Victor laughed at something Jimmy said, he glanced off towards a town bulletin post and froze. Stalking towards the post, he stood in front of a wanted poster. "Shit!"

"What is it Victor?" James ran up to his side and then saw the answer.

The poster wasn't large enough to garner much attention among the other announcements cluttered onto the post, but it only proved how fast word could travel. Their likenesses were impeccable, and the reward of two thousand dollars was a sizeable bounty for their lives.

Looking in both directions before slashing the poster in one clean swoop, Victor grabbed Jimmy's shirt sleeve and led him back into the crowds. "We need to keep moving" he told him in a hard tone. "Who the hell knows how many posters are up around these parts" he gritted and swore under his breath.

"Calm down, Victor. We'll just cut through here and no one will even notice" James reasoned and fell into step with his brother.

"There's a cemetery over there. We could go through there and hike out of the valley. We'll have to stick to the trails for longer than I expected" Victor looked at Jimmy and tightened his jaw. "I don't want you to hesitate if anything like before happens again, ok?"

"Yes" James spoke and followed Victor into the cemetery. The smell of stale earth and rotting flesh almost made him green. Victor's nose crinkled, but otherwise he didn't show much distaste.

Once they were further from the bustling crowds and festivities, they found a rusted out section of the cemetery's fence and easily kicked it out before slipping through the gouge they made.

They hiked away from the town and up a few inclines before heading down into another valley. The terrain began to level out as the day wore on over their heads. Soon they found another trail and Victor sniffed the smell of fresh water nearby. As they neared a small lake, James stopped Victor and scented the air.

Turning to sniff for himself, Victor grabbed Jimmy and led him into a crouch before continuing towards some brush to take cover. The scent was still warm, mingled with the hint of pine and water from the lake. Giving Jimmy a silent command to follow him, they made their way down an outcropping of rocks and past some trees before they could see the gleaming water through the bushes and thick pines. Once they were as close as they could get without leaving the cover of the trees, they gazed out to see someone skinny dipping in the water close to the shore. Jimmy elbowed Victor and pointed to a pair of under garments and a woman's dress that were lain out over the trunk of a fallen tree that was hanging over the lakeshore to the right.

Splashing caught their attention just as a young woman was emerging from the lake, her straw colored hair falling around her shoulders and hanging over her sandy breasts as she shuffled out of the water and towards her clothes. She was the first truly naked woman either of them had seen.

"We should go" James whispered to Victor, but Victor was fixated on the woman, ignoring the tugging on his arm and the imploring look in his brother's eyes.

"I want to watch" Victor husked and shrugged Jimmy's hands off his arm.

James fumbled and brushed a branch before he could stop himself. The tranquility was gone and the woman looked up, sensing she wasn't alone. "Is someone there?" her voice was mature but soft with weary anxiety.

Glowering at Jimmy, Victor shoved him hard and sneered.

"I know you're there. Just come out from where you are hiding" the woman ordered, her voice carrying over to them with firm expectation.

Staring at the woman and back at Jimmy, Victor suddenly took his bundle and tossed it down to Jimmy before he climbed over a log and headed towards the clearing by the water.

James called out his name between clenched teeth, his eyes wide and sweat breaking out on his temples. He could only helplessly watch as his brother made it out into the woman's line of sight.

"Ma'am…" he heard him offer in a firm voice, his hands dug into his pocket to conceal his vicious nails.

The woman looked a bit surprised to see him, but she didn't modestly go to cover her nudity nor start screaming at him like James thought she would.

"Such a young man peeping on a lady? Didn't your mother teach you better?" she remarked in faux snippiness.

"My mother died before she could teach me anything" he heard Victor offer coolly as he walked further down to the shore. "I don't make it a habit of peeping, unless the opportunity lands in my lap, ma'am."

The woman balked at his audaciousness before concealing a smirk with the back of her hand. "So confident," she offered as she looked him up and down with an appreciative hazel stare. "You must not be from around here. Hope you're not some sort of bandit" she flirted back, as if she wasn't totally exposed to his ravenous gaze.

Victor strolled closer, a smirk pulling at his boyish lips as he replied, "Not a bandit, per say…but I can play one if you'd like."

James couldn't believe how raunchy Victor was being, and how the woman seemed to like it. He covered his mouth so he wouldn't laugh out loud at the utter silliness of it all, but was soon left watching as his brother closed in on the woman and saw him start touching her while she let him.

Suddenly, Victor grabbed her and carried her over to a soft spot of grass just behind the fallen trunk where her clothes were. James could make out his brother's back as he went to work at partially undressing. He watched Victor pick the woman up so he could crush his mouth over hers in a hungry kiss. The rest was obscured from his view, and James was too nervous to move in for a closer look.

He could smell and hear them, especially how the woman cried out over and over against Victor's grunts and groans before he roared in a hollow tone as he climaxed. The woman laughed, echoing across the expanse before a slap rang and she yelped in pain.

"Laugh again and I'll slit you open" Victor growled with suppressed rage as he grabbed the woman and yanked her up to her feet. "When you go back to town, tell everyone just what you did to look like a dirty whore" he seethed and shoved her into the water. The woman was whimpering and her cheek was bruised and swelling quickly. He saw Victor walk over to her clothes and start shredding them apart, leaving the woman with no recourse but to hobble into a sprint down the shore before she ran out of James' sight.

Once everything was quiet again, Victor called, "You can come out now, unless you're finishing off or something."

He took his time dressing and tucking himself back into his trousers while James fumed towards him. "Why did you do that?!" his younger brother growled.

Turning to look at him over his shoulder, the anger cooled from Victor's expression as he responded, "The tramp laughed at me...because I came before she did."

"You didn't have to hit her for that!" Jimmy hollered, looking disappointed with him.

"Don't tell me my business, Jimmy" he warned in his own growl as he turned to face him.

"I wouldn't if you'd quit acting this way! That lady will probably tell them about us—!"

"So let her! I told you, I'm sick of cowering! If they want to end up mince meat why do you fucking care" he sneered at Jimmy, adding, "I love you Jimmy, but you need to grow the hell up or shit is going to get a lot tougher."

The anger in Jimmy's eyes flinted away as he turned and stalked back to get their bundles left behind the pines. Victor huffed, tension pulling around his eyes as he followed him and caught up to him as he struggled to carry both their bundles.

"Relax…we'll go. Just know that I didn't mean for it to happen, it just did" he spoke as he took his bundle from James, who simply nodded curtly and hiked in the direction they'd originally been heading.

James' resentment burned away quickly, unable to stay mad at Victor, even when deep down he was worried about him. He slowed in his march, and Victor fell into step with him immediately.

"You scratched her."

Looking at Jimmy, he lowered his gaze and shrugged. "Not on purpose. She made this noise and I just…it made me really hot and the next thing I know I came" he paused before quickly adding, "but with more sex I'll get better. It felt really good, Jimmy."

He grunted, his mind distracted by his own brooding worries that Victor really was becoming someone else. They walked in silence for miles, deciding to make the trek all night to avoid any trouble. Ironically, they both knew trouble was always close on their heels, and that it was only a matter of time before they've have to take a stand.

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

The pain had been worse than when the bowie knife was shoved into his belly and twisted for good measure. He'd grabbed his stomach and howled, falling to his knees when he shoved the guy away as his head swam and his gaze blurred from the pain. He'd seen and heard Victor; his feral roar had been followed by screams and shouts of pain as he attacked the posse of thugs in the saloon.

Trying to stand, James felt the blood gush past his fingers, but he still gasped for Victor to stop. He stumbled over a barstool and held onto a table for support as men went flying through the parlor window and another screamed as Victor slashed his throat out with his extended claws. Blood shot against Victor's face and chest, but he continued to tear the man apart before he fell dead to the ground. James dully realized it was the bastard who had stabbed him that was now a pile of bloodied remains on the floor.

"Jimmy!" the shout held so much emotion that James was actually startled it was coming from Victor.

Rushing to him, he grabbed Jimmy and rushed him out after he threw his arm over his own shoulders and hoisted him up. The rest had been a blur, but all James knew was that they were back in the cave they were hiding out in, and Victor was even more wounded than him. The fever was back, and James felt like he was dying. The fire in his belly paled in comparison to the excruciating churning and twisting under his skin, leaving him bed-ridden and ashen in complexion as he shivered under the blankets.

When he'd been stabbed, Victor had gotten them out of town and back to their hide out in the mountains. He'd bandaged Jimmy up and had felt like his fury would shatter him. His brother looked broken…he wasn't healing. They'd suffered many injuries, some worse than others, and he'd watched as Jimmy's body would patch itself up as if the injury had been a mirage all along. He healed too, but nothing like Jimmy. What would take Victor a day or two to recover only took his brother moments. Now, he would dress his wound and it was still there, and Jimmy had quickly descended back into poor health like when he was younger.

It had been a bitch to go back into the town for medical provisions. He knew he had a bull's eye on his back after the last incident, but he genuinely meant to go in, get what he needed, and leave. The idea of Jimmy being alone in his condition for too long made a knot form in is gut, and with the likelihood that the lawmen would be out looking for him and Jimmy, he knew he had to be quick. He had stalked straight over to the town's emporium and had kept his eyes focused on his surroundings. Some of the people that saw him stopped and watched as he walked, others ran to get out of his path. He could smell their fear, and instead of being scared himself he felt an onerous impulse to smile and do something to make more fear pump into their stupid brains.

The emporium was empty save for the clerk behind the counter, who was just as startled to see him as everyone else on the street. Victor had dropped the money he'd dug out of his pocket on the counter and made his demand for supplies. To his credit, the clerk was efficient enough to quickly gather the things up regardless of how scared he was of Victor. He smiled condescendingly at the man as he grabbed the things he'd bought, his nails gouging the countertop as he did so.

Walking back out to the street, Victor scented the air and could smell hints of gun oil. He turned to glare down the street, and saw several men on horseback armed with shotguns who idly watched him.

"Where's that brother of yours, boy" one man groused as he spat a wad of tobacco to the ground and wiped his mouth with the back of his gloved hand.

"Dead, now if you'll excuse me" Victor ground out and turned to walk away when a shot tore into the back of his shoulder. He shouted at the pain but was soon overtaken by a roar of anger as he jerked himself up and started running away. The men gave chase, but even with the wound to his shoulder Victor out ran them, managing not to drop even one provision. The hike up the mountain had been a bit more grueling, since he'd sensed he lost a lot of blood and his first gun wound would put him out of commission for a while.

He'd staggered into the cave, panting from the pain searing into the back of his shoulder. Jimmy had been so out of it from the fever that he didn't even notice the smell of blood. Victor had gone about starting a fire and heating some soup out of a can for Jimmy while he took his bloody vest and shirt off. His shoulder ached, but for the most part the searing pain of the wound itself was the worst. He couldn't even dig the fucking bullet out because it was directly behind his shoulder, only millimeters from his left shoulder blade.

After forcing Jimmy to eat, Victor had redressed his wound and was dismayed to find it still wasn't showing any signs of healing. He submerged his fear when the possibility of Jimmy not making it hit him like a ton of bricks. It was maddening how helpless he felt, watching his brother lay there sicker than when he'd been that scared kid bundled up in a bed all the time.

"Victor…it hurts" James suddenly hissed and twisted from a sudden jolt of pain. Holding him down so he wouldn't tear his wound even more open, Victor shushed for James to calm down and told him to bear down on the pain until it passed. When he did, his face relaxed and his feverish eyes stared at him. "It feels like I've been injected with liquid fire…what's happening to me?" his voice rasped harshly.

"I don't know" he responded, his expression tense and his mouth etched with worry. "I brought some medicine. It's supposed to help lower your fever. I gotta refill the canteen so you can take it" he stated and stood from his crouch, wincing from the pain that shot through him from the action.

Before he grabbed the canteen, James rasped, "Victor? Why is there blood running down your back?"

"That's nothing, runt. Just stay still and conserve your energy while I get back" he responded reticently as he grabbed the canteen and made his way to the stream.

While he filled the canteen, Victor stared at his distorted reflection in the water's surface. He hadn't protected Jimmy. Because of him, those assholes had circled around Jimmy and tried strong arming him out of the saloon. When Jimmy resisted, the bastard trying to collect his bounty had shoved a knife into his brother's stomach. Victor had meant to toy with the men. He was going to let them take them out of the saloon and once they were out of town he was going to kill them. It had been months since they saw the first wanted poster, and now this had been the first time anyone had been fucking lucky to stumble upon them in a public place. The last bounty hunters earned themselves a shallow grave at the bottom of a mountain in Minnesota, so he figured he'd let them lead him and Jimmy out of the city limits before killing them and moving on. He never thought they were out to kill them and collect the bounty. It was his ignorance that got Jimmy hurt, and in a flash his rage had thrashed to the surface and laid waste to the posse and anyone else in his way to get to Jimmy.

He set his jaw and cursed at himself. Capping the canteen, he tentatively reached to feel the back of his shoulder, wincing. Then, he realized with astonishment that against his fingers he felt the butt of a bullet from a revolver begin to push out of the wound before he easily pulled it out with the tips of his fingers. Amazed, Victor held the bullet up between his fingers and concentrated on the feeling of the wound mending shut. He couldn't believe it…could he survive a gunshot wound to the chest? Could this mean that his healing abilities made him virtually immune?

A scream echoed from behind him, sending Victor to sprint back to the cave. Rushing towards Jimmy, he was shocked to see him curled against his side and holding himself, as if he was being torn apart with pain. When he tried to help him, Jimmy lunged at him, his bone claws extending from his knuckles and managing to nick him in the chest before he dodged the flurry as James thrashed wildly. Then, James fell to his side and convulsed before he calmed and panted raggedly.

Kneeling, Victor grabbed James and held him against him. "Jimmy?"

"…It's passed...I think I went through it" James managed to voice as his voice cracked, sounding deeper now.

Puzzled, it took Victor a few moments to realize what Jimmy was saying. "The change?"

Nodding weakly against his shoulder, James tried to sit up without Victor's help. He pulled himself slowly to his feet, and tentatively pressed his fingers over the bandaged wound before tugging the dressings off his abdomen. Victor gasped when he saw how Jimmy's wound had vanished, not even leaving so much as scar. His hand brushed over Jimmy's stomach as if to verify he was truly healed.

James flinched from the touch before looking up into Victor's blue eyes with incredulous wonder. "I feel so different" he spoke again, as if trying out his new voice and acute hearing. He inhaled, smelling everything with a renewed vigor. "Is this what it was like…?"

Clamping his hand on Jimmy's shoulder, Victor smiled genuinely at his brother. "That and so much more" he murmured before pulling James against him into a firm hug. "You scared the hell out of me, Jimmy" the gruff admittance was spoken against his temple before Victor nuzzled his hairline affectionately.

Hugging Victor back, he buried his nose against his sweaty skin before sighing. "Why were you bleeding?"

"Someone used me for target practice" he sardonically mused as he broke the hug and showed Jimmy the bullet. His brother's eyes grew wide with shock. "Seems we might be bulletproof, but I wouldn't recommend we make a habit of getting shot. It hurts like a bitch" he told Jimmy with amusement in his tone, shaking his brother playfully by the shoulder before he turned towards the mouth of the cave. "Smell that?"

Sniffing, Jimmy nodded, "A rainstorm is coming"

"We better pack up and go. I don't know how long it will take the lawmen to track us, and the rain will help wash away our trail" Victor stated as he went to get his few measly belongings together.

"Victor" he turned and looked over his shoulder at Jimmy. "I'm sorry for giving you a hard time…" he said and crouched next to his older brother. "You're my brother, and I trust you…I just want you to always know that" he murmured before hugging Victor suddenly.

Taken aback, Victor returned the hug. "I know that already, runt. No need to get all sentimental on me" he teased before shoving Jimmy away playfully, a small smile fighting to become a grin as he grabbed the back of Jimmy's head and planted a kiss on his forehead. "Now get your things and let's get moving."

Smirking, James did as he was told, and they were soon making their way down the mountain and through the woods as rain and fog made them vanish like ghosts, never to be tracked by another bounty hunter again.

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The urges had started very quickly after he'd gone through the change. He didn't know if it was because he felt freer with himself than he ever had, or because every one of his senses seemed to be attuned to the pleasures around him. The first time he'd run through the night nude, James had basked in the glow of the moon and relished in the scents and sounds of the nighttime. The only part of him that was still self-conscious was in his bashfulness around his brother.

Victor flaunted his urges, owning them with cocky pride and letting everyone around him know he wasn't chained by any sense of propriety. The older he got, the more his sensuality seemed to leak out in the swagger of his gait and in the expressions he made, unconsciously or not.

The sharp contrast between him and his brother was in part what made James resist going wild while he was around Victor. That's why he was laying in the cool grass, the mist of the night air collecting on his skin and dampening the rough dark hairs of his body, far away from where he and his brother were camped for the night. The urges had made him antsy most of the day, making it a miracle Victor hadn't noticed.

He'd snuck away after Victor had passed out by the fire, feeling like an animal in a rut for how badly he needed to go wild. So far, stroking himself into a desperate climax hadn't done much to quench the urge, so he was finding it harder and harder to sneak away and quell his desire for more than a couple of nights.

Arching against the ground, James groaned when his hand pumped him close to the edge of climax. He bit down on his lip and submerged his cry as he finally came, the tremors lulling him into sated bliss. His cum-slick fingers lazily drew circles along his abdomen as he relaxed, dimly stopping once he realized what he was doing. Gritting his jaw, he silently cursed the mess he made, annoyed that he let himself get so intoxicated by the sensations. Sitting up, he angrily wiped his stomach as clean as he could before rubbing his hands on the grass.

Once he collected his muddled thoughts, James went about dressing and heading back to camp. By the time he made it to the little clearing, Victor was sprawled on his side, his breathing soft. The fire was low, so James tossed some scraps of kindling before crawling next to his brother on the collection of blankets. Resting on his back, Jimmy sighed the breath he'd been holding and closed his eyes. Victor turned over in his sleep and exhaled slow through his nose.

"You smell like sin" Victor suddenly murmured, his voice gruff from the hours of disuse. Jimmy flinched slightly, and glanced over at him. Victor's eyes were half lidded, but the amusement was already dancing across his boyish lips.

"Victor…" he softly growled, trying not to look as embarrassed as he felt. "How long have you been awake?"

"Long enough" he offered before shuffling closer to Jimmy and propping himself up onto his elbow. "Is there some reason you need to stalk so far away from me just to get yourself off?"

"When did you—?"

"Jimmy, I can smell you a mile away. I can surely taste the urge in your scent when you're standing right next to me" he grumbled with a slight smirk. "It's about time, though" he added with a bored tone as he yawned.

"Just because I'm not as uninhibited as you doesn't mean you can tease me all the time" he scowled and turned away in a huff.

"Whatever you say, Jimmy" Victor drawled before shifting onto his back.

The crackle of the fire was the only sound between them, but James couldn't sleep. He was still riled up, and having Victor tell him what a joke he's been, running around in the woods to hide his baser urges from his brother who was nothing but encouraging of them, was winding him up. Shifting, James couldn't ignore the pulse of his cock through his trousers. He was so horny it was driving him insane. A sudden scent flared his nostrils, making his skin grow hot from the electricity in his sexually charged body.

He rolled over intending to glower at Victor, but found himself watching as his older brother rubbed himself through his trousers. The firelight was dim, but the glow illuminated them enough for James to see Victor's clawed fingers begin to work the fastening of his pants. As he reached in and pulled out his engorged erection, Victor gave James a sidelong glance and licked his lips.

"You smelling so dirty made me hot" Victor murmured in a husky tone as he began to stroke himself. His crystalline eyes connected with Jimmy's brown depths, and he could see them darken with arousal.

James dully realized one hand was fisting the blanket under him while the other had wandered to the crotch of his own trousers. Hesitating, he looked away from Victor as a blush heated his face. He tried to reason that he was hesitating because he was confused or because he didn't want things to change between him and his brother, but deep down he knew the only reason he was holding back was because of the old code. The moral code he'd learned implicitly and explicitly from the society he'd swore off of. Victor wasn't only his brother, and their lives were uniquely their own to dictate…

Pressing his lips together, James shuffled closer to Victor as he unfastened his pants and shoved his hand inside. Victor watched him, a smile showing off his wicked canines as he and his brother began bonding in the most intimate way to date. Jimmy was watching him, his gaze getting heavy with lust as he panted and stroked himself.

Soon they were both climaxing next to each other, watching each other's faces as they lit up with pleasure and smelling the change in chemistry their bodies were pumping into their scents. Humming in sated pleasure, Victor rolled closer to James before nuzzling his neck. Jimmy returned the affection by curling against him and trailing his fingers in the mess Victor had made over his stomach.

"Christ Jimmy" Victor breathed against his sweaty skin before licking just under his jaw. "I want to taste you" he murmured deeply before pulling away to watch Jimmy's expression.

A flicker of curiosity flashed in Jimmy's eyes and before Victor knew it his younger brother was pressing two of his semen coated fingers against his lips. Taken aback for a moment, Victor watched James with interest as he licked his fingers. His taste danced on his tongue, making him shiver from how heady and new it was. Despite himself, he hummed as he sucked on the fingers briefly before bringing his own clawed digits to Jimmy's mouth. Without hesitation Jimmy tasted his fingers, gingerly licking even the tips of his sharp nails before he closed his eyes and shivered.

Beyond electrified, they curled against each other and began murmuring to each other, talking in confidence about the naughtiest things their desires made them think about and lust over. The final wall was falling away between them, leaving two brothers who could share more than a brotherhood, but also indoctrinate each other through their urges.

"Shit" James swore, snapping Victor's dozing gaze back to awareness as he grunted. "I haven't even done anything…with a girl" he said as if that was a problem.

Chuckling at him, Victor mused, "Well we could fix that in the next place we pass through, if you want."

Snickering, James responded, "You won't be satisfied until I pop my cherry, huh."

"That isn't true" Victor groused playfully. "I'm content with this" he sauntered before leaning in and kissing Jimmy on the lips. He felt Jimmy stiffen before he relaxed bemusedly. Leaning back, Victor rubbed his beardless jaw before snickering, "Being your first kiss, and as your first, I gotta tell you" he drawled as he lowered his voice to a whisper, "you need a shitload of practice, runt."

A bit frazzled, James stared at his brother before he went to work fastening his trousers back up. Victor pouted, thinking James was retreating back into the bashful shell he seemed dead set to hang on to when Jimmy proved him wrong. Grabbing his brother by the dusty collar of his rumpled shirt, James kissed him with determination, even lingering in the kiss when Victor's lips parted and his tongue licked his lips. Opening his own mouth, he tentatively brushed his tongue against Victor's before they pulled away and laughed at how weird it felt.

"You're not that experienced either, bub" he mused at Victor before letting go of his collar and smirking cockily at him for successfully getting one over on him finally.

"Bub?" Victor laughed with a spirited edge as he forced his smile into a sneer. "Fine we both need practice, but you need to be more uninhibited or you'll end up drooling all over some girl's dress, runt" he gruffly ribbed before shoving Jimmy and flopping onto his side.

Grunting, James curled against Victor's back, his arms looping around him in affection, like he used to when they were much younger. Smirking despite himself, Victor squeezed his arm with his before they both settled against each other and dozed off while the fire began to die out.

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James ran through the trees, his bloodstream laced with adrenaline and a predator's instinct. His game tried desperately to evade him but he was so close that all he needed was a clearing so he could pounce and sink his bone claws into it.

He could sense Victor running parallel to him, letting Jimmy be the hunter this time so he could enjoy the chase. His opportunity occurred and instinct told him to act and launch himself at the animal before it skittered back into the trees. Before he and the beast crashed against the ground, James had sunk his claws into the elk and driven it down. He ended the animal's suffering by slashing its throat and letting it bleed out. There was no hesitation in his movements or in his expression, only concentration and satisfaction in the kill.

"Fine kill, runt" Victor congratulated ruggedly, crouching down next to Jimmy and sniffing his brother. "Don't you smell accomplished" he mused before wiping some gore from the elk off of his little brother's cheek with a curled knuckle and savoring it with his tongue.

"Easy to tease when I did all the work" James countered with his own taunt before he retracted his claws into his knuckles. "At least carry this back and we'll call it even."

Snorting, Victor hefted the elk up effortlessly and flung it over his shoulders. "S'alright with me, since you'll be the one skinning and cleaning it for supper" he said and led the way back to the abandoned cabin they had commandeered a few months back.

Life had been oddly tranquil for the feral brothers since their last run in with trouble, and both relished in the tranquility. They figured with the amount of distance they had put between them and the Pacific northwest they could afford to sigh in relief and work on a truly fresh start.

Victor worked on stoking the fire in the hearth while Jimmy worked on cleaning the elk meat outside by the lake a few yards down through the tall wheat-colored grass. Once he got it going, he stripped off his dingy and stained undershirt and got free of his boots before walking through the grass and down to the lake. He came upon the rack stacked with elk meat before he spotted Jimmy skinny dipping in the lake. Smirking, Victor began to undress by the shore, leaving his clothes in a heap as he rushed into the water.

Tossing his wet hair out of his eyes, James turned in the direction where he heard a splash. All he saw was the shoreline, but he could smell Victor's stray sent from his clothes left in the sand. Then he was suddenly tugged under the surface by his ankles.

Bursting to the surface with a laugh, Victor splashed Jimmy in the face when he came sputtering up for air. Glowering at his laughing brother, James splashed him back in the face, water going into his brother's mouth as he gagged and spat the water out.

"Very mature" he groused at Victor as he swam towards the shore.

Racing behind him, Victor pounced on top of him in the water and forced him to wrestle free. "Says the punk who left supper to bake in the sun" he said and shoved Jimmy back into the water as he walked towards the shore.

James rose from the shallow end, tossing his hair out of his face and watching his older brother emerge nude into the late afternoon sun. His dark unkempt hair was slicked back from the venture into the water, his body muscular and virile. James had seen Victor naked hundreds of times, but he still stared at his brother, absently reminded of how puberty had sculpted him from the young pale boy he once was into the tan and very rugged man he was now, staring inquisitively back at him.

He walked out of the water and sprawled out in the grass, ignoring Victor's mocking gaze as he layed out next to him. Stretching lazily, Victor scratched his stomach idly as he glanced sideways at Jimmy. "You think too much" he mused as he exhaled through his nose and stretched out to be on his side.

"As opposed to not thinking at all" he quipped back.

Grunting, Victor brushed the stray wisps of hair off his brother's forehead as he groused, "I told you I'd try my best. At least wait until I muck things up before you start sulking."

"What if the wanted poster made it out this far" James worried, his brown eyes staring off into space.

It was a valid question. Weighing the what ifs in his own mind, Victor knew there wasn't much they could do if they were wanted men. But then that was the thing, they weren't wanted men, but wanted teenagers.

"Why are you smiling like that" James wearily eyed his brother, as he sat up with a devilish glint in his eyes.

"Little brother, you're going to shave that juvenile peach fuzz off and let your big brother man you up a bit more" he answered, the 'I-know-something-you-don't' tone and expression making Victor even more cocky than usual.

"If you're going to take me to another bordello like you did in Illinois, no thanks" James sat up and frowned.

Rolling his eyes, Victor stood and loomed over his brother, the sun directly behind his head and blocking its rays as he hauled Jimmy up. "We need to alter our appearances" he explained as he headed for his clothes. "We cut our hair, maybe stop shaving and we'll look much different. No one's come looking for us in a long while, so I'm sure if the posters are still circulating no one will pay it any mind if we look different to begin with" he talked it through as he yanked his trousers back up and fastened them halfway so they could hang over his hips.

As he also got dressed, James mulled over Victor's idea and found it to make a lot of sense. "That's all and well, but what if—"

"I'll handle the 'what ifs', ok? Just bring the meat back to the cabin while I go up into the crawl space. I'm going to see if I can find what we'll need" he instructed while he walked back up through the grass.

Rolling his eyes, Jimmy did as he was told. As he cooked the meat over the hearth, he heard Victor up in the crawlspace just above the table. They'd found the cabin by sniffing out the lake first. It was an old structure, circa the first migration out west. It was sturdy enough, and kept most of the rain out, so they figured they'd squat there for a while. The house was really just a room, with a rickety table, a few chairs, and an old cot that had collapsed under Victor's weight the first time he sat on it. They made due by fashioning a makeshift bed out of their trusty blankets and whatever garments were left behind by the former inhabitants.

Climbing down from the crawlspace, Victor landed in a crouch with a few things bundled by his arms. "This stuff will make due" he said more to himself than to Jimmy as he walked over and set them down on the table. He found a basket with some needle and black thread, a streaky piece of mirror, and some very old and blunt scissors.

"Mess with that later. Food's ready" James muttered to him as he brought the elk meat from the hearth and set it down. Sitting down, James dug into the meat with his hands and teeth while Victor sat down to do quickly the same. They shared the water out of a canteen as they ate in silence.

Victor eyed Jimmy with a mouthful, his hair falling into his eyes before he could toss it back. "I think we should go really short" he said before he took another bite.

"What?" Jimmy came out of his musings and stared at Victor.

"Your hair" he said simply before taking the canteen from James. "It's got knots in it and we need to blend in if you want to pass for…normal" he remarked, biting down on the last word like it left a sour taste on his tongue.

Eyeing Victor, he nodded and added comically, "I want my hair cut, but I don't trust you to do it."

Raising a brow, Victor wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Oh I'm sorry Lord Howlett, I'll run and fetch the barber right away" he berated harsher than he'd intended as he wiped his hands on his trousers and stood to pace in front of the fireplace.

Victor's words stung him. Hearing his surname after so many years sent a pang through him that jogged dark memories to the surface of his mind. "I only meant—"

"I don't care what you meant" Victor snapped in, glowering into the fire with his back to Jimmy. "Do whatever you want, but I want you to cut mine. All of it" he grumbled tersely as he turned to glare at his brother.

Staring, James nodded stiffly as he stood and cleaned his hands on his thighs before picking up the scissors. Grabbing their hunting knife, he began sharpening the blades of the scissors while Victor grabbed a chair and dragged it out so he could drop into it, still slightly aggravated. Lately everything he said earned him a series of questions and his patience was wearing thin. He'd agreed to attempt going back into mainstream society at least peripherally, what more did Jimmy want?! No matter what there was always this thread of resistance that held Jimmy back from him, and it pissed Victor off to no end. Here he was compromising a bit of his freedom to parade around like any other bastard, just so he and his brother could settle down a bit after years of wandering. Truthfully, Victor loved wandering, loved the spontaneity and danger, the wilderness and being Jimmy's only pillar. How far backwards did he have to bend for Jimmy to be satisfied?

Stabbing the knife into the table top, James came up behind Victor and ran his fingers back through the length of his hair. "Are you sure?" he asked, gesturing by lifting a few strands between his fingers.

Victor grabbed the piece of mirror and wiped at it so he could look at Jimmy's reflection as he stood behind him. "All of it" he repeated sternly, and exhaled loudly through his nose.

James grabbed some hair and hacked through it with the old scissors, tossing the hair unto the floor before he continued. Victor's eyes were flaring as he watched him cut his hair, the anger gone but something else reflecting itself in the light blue depths. He knew he'd trampled on Victor's patience, but he didn't know what to say or do to get him to cool again. So, he kept hacking at his hair, working to get it as short as possible. Before long, Victor's hair was strewn in dark choppy piles all around the chair he sat in. Victor ran his strong finger through his short hair, trying to get used to the feeling. He stared at his reflection and at Jimmy who was mirrored behind him. The hair was so short that it was trying to curl up off his scalp in certain places. Some wispy strands tickled past the hairline along his temples, and his neck felt drafty from not having his hair to curtain it from the elements anymore.

He looked at Jimmy in the mirror and a small smile ghosted his lips. "This'll do" he got up from the chair and absently kept running his hand through his short hair. Taking the scissors from Jimmy, he leaned in and kissed him on the mouth. "Sit. I'm going to fix this mess of yours" he made James plop down into the seat he just vacated.

James curled his fingers around the mirror and watched Victor begin to snip through the back of his hair where most of the knots were. As he did so, Victor would glance at him in the mirror. He knew Jimmy was expecting him to start hacking through it, but some selfish part of him liked Jimmy's hair to stay long, so he could run his fingers through it and fist his hand in it when he brought him in for a kiss. Because of that, he figured he would give Jimmy a much needed trim. By the time he tossed the scissors onto the table, Jimmy's hair was much more kept and manageable, surprising the younger man that he wasn't sporting a similar style like he'd given Victor. When Jimmy turned to look up at him questioningly, Victor shrugged, "It suits you best, and I don't want to look like a pair of brooding twins."

Submerging a knowing smile, James stood up and patted Victor on the shoulder as he mused, "Sure, brother."

Not prepared to let his mock slide, Victor rushed over and grabbed Jimmy by the back of the hair and pulled him against him roughly before devouring his mouth in his. James grabbed onto Victor and returned the kiss, knowing this was his brother's way of saying 'no hard feelings.' The irony was that it took them getting hard for there to be no hard feelings.

Both brothers fought to strip the other one free of what was left of their clothes, rough housing onto their bed and laughing as they did so. Soon their laughing became grunts of frustration and groans of arousal as they ground against each other, fighting for dominance. Growing impatient, Victor forced James down onto his back and tugged his pants off so he could touch him and watch how his face tensed with pleasure.

Stroking his stiffening erection, Victor ground his own crotch against Jimmy's hip as he licked along his jaw and nipped on his earlobe. His breath hitched as he thrust up into Victor's hand and gripped onto his shoulders when he grabbed the back of Jimmy's hair and kissed him hard. Their tongues even dueled for dominance as James forced Victor's pants off so they could finally grind against their bare bodies, lust clouding his dark eyes while hunger glistened in Victor's smoldering gaze.

Finally wrapping his calloused hand around Victor, they worked each other into frenzies, kissing and grabbing at each other to drive the other into stupefying climaxes. Before long, James was biting down on Victor's neck as his brother stroked him into his orgasm. Victor quickly followed after Jimmy pressed against him and pumped his cock against the friction of his hand and his own stomach.

Left panting, sweaty, and sticky, the feral brothers lounged against each other contentedly as night stretched on outside and the fireplace kept them illuminated.

"We'll have to change our names…at least our surnames" Victor broke the tranquility first, murmuring his statement against the top of Jimmy's head.

Another pang shot through him. Shifting against Victor, James gazed into his brother's eyes before nodding. It was a blow to see Jimmy look bewildered from the simple truth, but it was a matter of time before they'd get caught if they didn't change names.

"Do you have anything in mind?" James said as he dropped his head back onto Victor's shoulder.

"I was thinking of using my mother's maiden name…Creed" he replied, inhaling the scent of Jimmy's hair after grabbing one of the blankets and tossing it onto them.

James grunted before shifting away from Victor. "I need to think about mine for a while…"

Now it was Victor's turn to grunt. "I was also thinking we don't tell people we're brothers. Maybe not right away anyway. It's better to leave people to their own assumptions so we don't have to do a lot of explaining" he offered as he propped himself onto his side and leaned on his elbow.

"Sounds like I haven't been the only one worrying about this" was Jimmy's response.

Throwing his arm around Jimmy's waist and dragging the tips of his pointed claws up and down his abdomen, Victor rumbled into his ear, "The only thing I give a shit about is you, Jimmy. If you want a new life you have to cut ties with your past."

After a few moments, James turned onto his back to face his brother. "I'll come up with something" and with that he curled against his brother's warm side.

Victor absently brushed his fingers through Jimmy's hair as he felt him relax and doze off. He hadn't been completely honest. Of course he cared about Jimmy and would do anything for him, which is how they had gotten to this point to begin with. But…Victor was a selfish man who loved his brother and wanted to keep him close. Jimmy was all he had, and he would be damned if anything split them apart, so when mainstreaming came up again, he relented quicker than his brother had expected him to, not because he wanted to make the attempt, but because he knew Jimmy was still transfixed by the world beyond their brotherhood. Victor figured it was better to go along and show Jimmy what he wasn't missing so he wouldn't lose him to resentment. He wasn't sure how long this escapade into the mainstream would last, but knew as long as he stayed one step ahead of Jimmy he would be able to ensure that nothing separated them or broke their pact.

He fell asleep assured that he and Jimmy would succeed in executing a fresh start, but still plagued with the insecurities a man like him wasn't afforded. Losing his pillar and the Loneliness he was terrified by.

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The newspaper boy was shouting the news in the middle of the square all day, waving the newspaper around and caroling people over to buy the news and read for themselves.

James knew peripherally what was occurring, but he was too focused on making it in the city. He and Victor had managed to get a job at the railroad docking center, loading and unloading commercial cargo for transport all around the country. Working the long shifts together, the brothers stayed low key and mostly to themselves, only socializing with the other dockworkers during their short breaks and at the saloon a few blocks away after the workday was over. James did most of the socializing, while Victor remained reticent and intimidating.

They had settled into city life surprisingly well, thanks to their fresh start and new appearances. Victor looked years older with his short crop and his side burns cleanly kept from cheekbone to chin in the style of the time, while Jimmy's hair brushed the back of his neck collar and fell neatly whenever he combed his fingers through it. His jaw was tickled with dark hair finer than Victor's but in somewhat the same style. Their job afforded them room and board in one of the rooms on the second floor of the saloon and a few changes of clothes, with whatever remaining as an emergency fund incase they needed to disappear quickly.

Whenever Victor got his hands on his pay he'd give half to Jimmy and take the rest and Jimmy down to the more decent brothels in the city limits. That seemed to be the only time Victor unwound from his brooding sulk and was more sociable in public. Tonight was no different, as he laughed and grabbed the closest prostitute to sit her on his lap, taking a long swig of bourbon straight from the bottle while James snickered and watched him as he nursed his own glass of whiskey.

Victor loved to flirt, especially when he boxed a girl into corner with his charms. It always reminded James of a cat playing with a mouse just before it pounced and devoured. Toying with the girls and seeing how far he could push before one would slap him or drag him to the closest room was Victor's favorite sport, and he played it well. James, on the other hand, played hard to get, which always earned him a few girls who'd drape themselves next to him as if he was the sweetest piece of candy. One redhead in particular was doing most of the flirting, while Jimmy politely smiled and glanced over at Victor.

The older man was caressing the prostitute in his lap with heavy hands as he whispered something in her ear, which got the supple-skinned brunette to laugh and slap his shoulder playfully. Arching a conspiring brow at Jimmy, Victor caressed his hand down the woman's side and extended his claws slowly. His younger brother's eyes flared, but he looked around and saw he'd been the only one to notice.

"I feel like moving to a more private room, girls. All of you are invited to join us" Victor smirked as the girl in his lap giggled and brushed her rouged lips against his cheek.

"Hah, last time I went with you to any room I got scolded by the madam, so I'll pass" One of the blondes sitting close to Jimmy complained before she kissed his brother on the lips and sauntered out.

"Maybe we should call it a night, Victor" James offered before gulping the rest of his glass empty.

"You girls are no fun. Not one of you will keep me and Jimmy company?" Victor teased as he tipped the brunette's chin so he could give her a searing stare. "I promise to be gentle" he muttered provocatively as he twirled one of her thick curls around his forefinger before letting it bounce free.

James frowned, not knowing if Victor's ploy was a good idea. "I'll accompany you, Jimmy" the redhead said naively, her bright eyes sultry and her creamy skin barely concealed by her tight corset and hiked up skirt. James smiled despite himself and caressed the woman's cheek when she kissed him.

"See? You're going to leave me to be a third wheel, sweetheart?" Victor mused against the girl's lips before he kissed her. He knew he had her hooked when he pulled away and she followed his retreating lips.

"Oh, alright" she said playfully, "I can't say no to a charmer like you."

Standing up, Victor practically carried the giggling woman as he headed for the back parlor. "Coming Jimmy?" he purred over his shoulder, watching as his brother smiled reluctantly and stood, taking the redhead's hand and following his brother's lead.

The brothers rushed through the parlor and up the back steps to a vacant room, where once inside they made short work of the women's dresses and of the urges that they'd been nursing all night. Victor tossed his partner onto the brass bed while James pulled his over to the loveseat in front of the bed. Before long Victor had his girl shouting like a mad woman, while James had his little minx arching over his lap. He loved to sit back and let the girl set the motion while he kept his hands draped over the back of the couch, his grunts deep and gruff as she rose and fell on his cock.

He'd popped his cherry a couple of months back after Victor had brought a prostitute back to their room. At first he'd been embarrassed and peeved with Victor, but when his brother had laughed and told him she was his birthday gift, he had reluctantly relented. The woman had been too pretty and young, but he'd found out how experienced she was once she was riding him expertly, while Victor sat in the corner to watching and jerking off shamelessly. The memory of Victor crawling onto bed with Jimmy after he'd paid the girl and sent her away made him hot. Victor had chuckled against his throat and they had spent the rest of the night naked together, just as they probably would once the girls were tired out and paid for their services.

James came first when his partner cried out mindlessly on top of him. He licked the valley between her breasts, tasting her before he eased her off his lap. She smiled against him after he paid her and kissed her lazily.

"If you want, we can go another round…I won't charge you for it" the girl whispered as she cuddled him.

"Get out" Victor ordered suddenly, as he flipped his partner onto her stomach. He glanced sidelong at the redhead and sneered, "He's finished with you, so get the hell out."

"Hey don't talk to her like that" the brunette argued and turned to glower at Victor.

Victor snaked his hand lightly around the brunette's throat as he gave Jimmy a musing look. "If you want to get paid I suggest you mind your business" he growled, emphasizing his point by tightening his grip slightly around her neck.

Her eyes flashed with fear, and Victor smirked depravedly. "Stop it Victor!" the warning snarl made him glare back at Jimmy. He watched his brother stand and lead his partner to the door, the frazzled young girl collecting her clothes as they went. "You were great…don't mind him" he heard Jimmy tell the woman in the hall before closing the door and turning to glare at Victor.

Grinning condescendingly, Victor turned back to his partner and he snickered loudly. "I guess I can't be gentle no matter how hard I try, huh" he patronizingly joked before grabbing the brunette and forcing her into a kiss. The woman seemed to be recoiling, but let him have his way for the sake of getting paid. James watched Victor roughly position the girl onto her hands and knees before he thrust back into her, his momentum forcing the girl onto her forearms as she bared her hips back against him. "Well don't just stand there, runt" Victor husked gruffly over at James, panting as he fucked the girl harder than before.

Victor's invite made his cock hard all over again, leaving Jimmy to watch his brother pound into the girl for short moments before crawling onto the bed and joining in. Smirking with arousal, Victor grabbed Jimmy by the back of his hair and kissed him hard as the prostitute wisely went with the flow by sucking on the younger man while the rougher man fucked her.

Their first threesome had left them sated and intrigued, while the prostitute hobbled out of the room with her money and shame. James was sprawled on the bed while Victor stretched out like a big game cat next to him. "Not bad, huh little brother" he purred as he lounged contentedly and trailed his nails up and down his abdomen.

"You didn't have to be so rough with them" Jimmy muttered stubbornly as he lulled his head to the side so he could give Victor a stern look.

"And you don't have to be so accommodating" he grumbled tersely, "They're whores, not schoolmarms for Christ sake."

"Still…you're going to get us kicked out if you keep roughing up the girls" he mumbled and rolled onto his side so he could drag his fingers through Victor's chest hair.

"Pff, if that was the case we wouldn't have been let in tonight" Victor mused, "last time I was here I left bruises on that blonde downstairs. Seems she's too delicate to get nailed against the wall" he joked and chuckled at Jimmy's haughty glare.

"Then we better get dressed and head out" was James' scoff as he sat up and crawled over Victor to get to his clothes on the floor.

Victor took his time getting up, stretching and scratching his shoulder as he walked around picking up his clothes. "How about we get a bottle of whiskey on the way back? I feel like kicking back a bit more" he offered over his shoulder as he pulled on his trousers.

James was buttoning his shirt up and shaking his head with a hint of amusement. "You mean you want to get drunk and fool around" he remarked sardonically before glancing up at Victor.

"Like I said, we could get some whiskey on the way back" was all Victor said in response as he bit back a greedy smile and worked his own shirt on.

Before long they were walking down the wet cobblestones to the saloon, a bottle of Kentucky whiskey under Victor's arm and Jimmy keeping in step with him the whole way back to the room. Once the door shut behind them, they shed out of their clothes crashed down on the large bed they slept on, swigging straight from the bottle and passing it between each other as they let the hot whiskey warm their throats.

Usually Victor would have initiated something by then, but he was content with having Jimmy warm and relaxed at his side, so he simply passed the bottle over and closed his eyes as Jimmy placed the bottle on the table next to the bed and rolled over to press against Victor.

They would never admit it out loud, but they were both waiting for the other shoe to drop. It had been so long since they had been forced to travel that they were getting antsy for it. The irony of course was that they didn't need to uproot themselves, but with the state of the union, they figured something would have them trekking through the wilderness soon enough. Regardless, they were prepared for anything, as long as they had each other.

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As troop movement began to escalate, the railway system suffered a lot of set backs, forcing massive layoffs that left many dockworkers angry and scrounging for work. A lot of resentment and anti-Lincoln sentiment was making the city a hot bed for riots, and once talk of a draft started, people went really nuts.

Victor and Jimmy had ditched their jobs just as things were getting heated, figuring they had worn out their stay and it was time to move on. Work was hard to come by now, so they ended up like thousands of other able bodied men who migrated to the East coast in search of work only to run headfirst into the Union's recruitment points.

Recruiters made grand promises, desperate to enlist anyone they could get and willing to cut corners to do so. It had taken Victor a lot of convincing to get Jimmy to consider joining the Union army. He'd stood in front of the stage to hear the recruiter talk of defending the Union and of combating tyranny, but the only thing Victor paid any mind to were the promises of a steady paycheck and food rations, not to mention the opportunity to travel the country. Of course he told Jimmy as much, but didn't mention that the idea of killing for a living held an intriguing appeal to him. He knew Jimmy was reluctant to join for a lot of reasons, one of which would be the war itself. They had experienced hardship and had fought to survive, but he didn't think getting involved in an ideological war made sense. People starved and died already without the war, so why the hell would anyone make it worse?

"This is an opportunity that I don't want to pass up, Jimmy" Victor rumbled over to Jimmy as he traced the rim of his glass with the tip of his claw. He watched as his brother's gaze focused on him again before giving him a stern expression. "If we enlist we'll get perks that we won't get once the draft is passed" he proposed, adding, "and joining up will help us create a real life on paper. Those recruiters will stamp forms with our names on them, turning us from ghosts to men with backgrounds and legitimacy. It'll make our lives a hell of a lot easier…"

James sighed. He knew Victor was right and was thinking of the best for them both, but he still had real reservations about fighting and killing others over politics. Not to mention having to assimilate into the ranks and hide their abilities from others in such close proximity. Raising his own glass to his lips, he drained its contents before leaning over towards his brother. "How are we supposed to hide in plain sight, Victor? We've done pretty well so far, but in war there's nowhere to hide" he rationalized before dropping the glass down next to Victor's. "And what if we get separated" he mused under his breath, but Victor heard him regardless.

"If we enlist voluntarily we can stipulate that we're put in the same regiment. I mean what the hell would they care? They'll get two more onto their list and we'll be by each other's side" Victor remarked and squeezed Jimmy's shoulder reassuringly. "If they won't let us, then we'll walk away. I just think this is a smart move…better than trekking into New England with the rest" he paused. "It's either this or nothing…and I'm willing to take the chance on assimilating into the army if you are" he stated, his blue eyes sharp as he and Jimmy silently regarded each other.

"Okay, Victor. If you think it's the smartest bet, we'll do it" James finally stated with confidence, his brown eyes hiding a smile as he took Victor's glass and finished it off. Victor submerged the smirk that ghosted his boyish lips before shaking Jimmy's shoulder playfully.

Before long, they were waiting in line, side by side, to talk to a recruiter and sign their aliases on the list. Victor signed first before passing the pen to Jimmy. Once their signatures were down, the recruiter smiled from ear to ear and shook their hands, pretending to not notice Victor's pointed nails, and giving them both a regal nod.

"Privates Creed and Logan, welcome aboard! You boys are doing your country a service. The Union army is proud to have you both" the recruiter stated with a twang in his tone before pointing them in the direction of the barracks and uniform station.

As they followed the other volunteers, Victor nudged Jimmy's shoulder. "Logan?"

Repressing a smirk, Jimmy nodded, "James Logan. Pretty crafty, huh."

"Whatever suits you, runt. I'm still going to call you Jimmy" he joked with a snarky look in his eyes but a smirk tugging his lips, surprised by how much pride swelled in his chest that Jimmy was using their father's name.

"Fine by me, bub" he countered and elbowed his brother as they stood in line to pick up their Union-issued uniforms.

By day's end, they were cozying up by a big fire with other new recruits, overhearing chatter about where they'd be stationed and listening in on the nightlife of the camp. Victor nudged Jimmy out of his reverie, pulling his brown eyes from the fire to instead gaze into Victor's flashing blue eyes. "Quit worrying. Most of these punks are too busy thinking of their own hide to notice you and me" he muttered against his ear, his nose brushing the hair fanning against his temple before he pulled away.

"They'll notice soon enough if you keep giving them something to take in" he grumbled back and shoved him with his shoulder.

"Aw, you're going to get shy now Jimmy?" he teased and snatched a flask from the closest recruit who was too sloshed to notice. He took a long drink before passing it to Jimmy. "I'm sure it won't last long once we bunk in the tent for the night" he countered cockily, raising a mocking brow at his brother when James huffed and shook his head.

"Keep talking, Private Creed" he teased back as he took a long swig from the flask.

They spent the rest of the night laughing and actually socializing with some of the other recruits, feeling a sense of camaraderie they'd never experienced with anyone else other than each other. High spirits permeated the air as they all shared their hopes and bravado for the battles that lay ahead of them, not able to imagine the true horrors war would show them soon enough.


THE END.

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