Sabretooth: Cutting Edge – Chapter 6 – Steam King

I’ll tell you something
I am a wolf but
I like to wear sheep’s clothing
I am a bonfire
I am a vampire
I’m waiting for my moment

You come on like a drug
I just can’t get enough
I’m like an addict coming at you for a little more
And there’s so much at stake
I can’t afford to waste
I never needed anybody like this before

I’ll tell you something
I am a demon
Some say my biggest weakness
I have my reasons
Call it my defense
Be careful what you’re wishing

You come on like a drug
I just can’t get enough
I’m like an addict coming at you for a little more
And there’s so much at stake
I can’t afford to waste
I never needed anybody like this before

You are a secret
A new possession
I like to keep you guessing

When I’m not sure what I’m living for
(When I’m not sure who I am)
When I’m not sure what I’m looking for
(When I’m not sure who I am)

When I’m not sure what I’m living for
When I’m not sure what I’m looking for
When I’m not sure what I’m living for.

~ Temptation Waits (Garbage)

*****************************************************************

Tony knew why he had hesitated and held back before, unable to believe that Victor was serious about wanting it so rough. For a moment, he worried about the fact that his bedmate seemed to have difficulty getting off if he wasn’t being hurt, but then he frowned and got to it – this was going to be a proper thank you.

Grateful for daily strength training with Happy, he brought it all into play, aware that the intensity of it wouldn’t allow him to sustain it for long. Before his mind could leap down the black hole of how to fix that problem, he pulled back and shoved in, letting the mutant’s groan slap a mischievous smirk of satisfaction on his face.

The claws were tearing at the mattress through rents in the covers. The powerful body, and having it under his control, was growing dangerously close to a new addiction.

“Oh … oh fuck…” he muttered and gritted his teeth as he came hard enough to end up dizzy for a few seconds. Under him, the muscles of the broad furry back rippled again, the low growl vibrating in that bull neck.

Tony pulled free before the insidious muscle tried to throttle him. Gasping, he managed to fall into the armchair behind him.

Victor stirred, began to move, lost his usual grace and slid into a heap on his ass on the floor, still tangled in jeans and boots. The black pupils were blown into round glassy circles as he glanced up at him. His knees were bent and raised, as the heavy and hard cock hung between the legs and dripped clear pre-cum.

“That looks like fun.”

Sitting up and leaning forward, Tony caught and lifted it with finger and thumb making a collar around the base of the head over the retracted foreskin. Bringing his other hand under it, his fingers rubbed up and down the underside of the shaft as it twitched in his hold. The large frame shuddered, the stare never wavering.

“You strike me as a fan of immediate gratification in general, except in bed like this – or on floor, rather. How did you learn to control it, to hold it off? I’m useless for that – Old Faithful just pops when the time comes.”

“That rhetorical?” Victor whispered.

“No, it wasn’t.”

The strange amber eyes closed with a low moan as the stroking continued. “Had a few lovers who liked t’ play kink games – they taught me how. Wanted t’ please ‘em, so I … learned…”

“Do you want to please me, Victor?”

“Fuck yeah…”

Tony released him. “Take the rest of that off and lie on your back on the bed.”

When he did it and was lying there watching him, Tony unzipped the arctic jacket and started to strip. He smiled to notice those abdominal muscles twitch a few times, as the slick line of pre-cum connected the cockhead to them.

Leaving his clothes and protective gear in the chair, he joined the mutant on the bed, slapping one thigh sharply to make him move it and spread for him. Tony settled on his knees and reclaimed the other man’s cock, pulling it up to his lips as Victor stared at him.

“Claws go in the mattress only, not in you, and definitely not in me.”

Slipping his tongue out, he licked some of the pre-cum straight out of that winking slit and then grinned as he watched the powerful arms go up over Victor’s head to spear the edge of the mattress.

“Good boy. Let’s test your training – don’t come. If you try to knock my teeth into my stomach, it’s game over, got it?”

“Yes, Tony…”

“Excellent.”

Watching the mutant writhe and claw the bed, listening to the hissing growls, Tony knew he was right – this little game was going to be the perfect thing to let him get ready again.

He put his mouth down over the head and lapped up the slick as he played. Aware he hadn’t done this in a while, he didn’t try to take it into his throat, but used his hands to grip the thick shaft in counterpoint to the rhythm of his mouth suckling on and toying with the head. Capable of some decent suction right over the slit, he was rewarded with a serious snarl and enjoyed watching the man arch his long back and stretch his throat out, the lethal jaw dropping until it almost rested against his collarbones.

Just to be that little extra bit of obliging mean, he held a pair of fingers nice and stiff and stuffed them inside that tight muscle, forcing it to give way. Crooking them to toy with the prostate and then thrusting them in and out, he did everything he could to make the man come. Impressed that he hadn’t yet, his other hand squeezed up the shaft as his mouth got back to sucking.

Victor had bent and raised his knees around Tony’s body, the equally lethal claws in the toes digging into the mattress behind him.

Tony pulled his fingers free and used that hand to grip the furry golden ballsack. Shifting his knees closer, he gave the cockhead one last rough suck and then let it fall to slap onto the heaving abdominals.

“Shift your hips up,” was all the warning he gave, and when Victor did it, Tony stabbed his cock back inside. The slick from before made it easier since he hadn’t bothered to ask for lube, and the strangling tight fit made him gasp as he shoved deep.

Loving the grunt and growl, Tony changed the angle of the grip he had on Victor’s balls and squeezed them experimentally.

“I keep neglecting to ask for your safeword.”

“Entrails,” Victor muttered, his breath huffing fast as Tony’s thrusts sped up and grew rough again.

“Of course it is.” Squeezing harder, he added, “Say when…”

Victor never did say when, and in the end Tony was the one who couldn’t take it further. Easing his grip, he kept a steady pressure.

“Stroke yourself for me,” Tony told him.

A note of near-panic ghosted into the voice as the mutant protested, “Gonna blow…”

“Stroke it anyway – because I want you to.”

Growling, Victor took his leaking cock in one hand. “Can I just –”

“No,” Tony interrupted, without a clue what he meant to say. The startle was worth it. “You can come – after I do.”

It was glorious watching Victor jack himself with a trapped sort of worried eagerness on his face. Tony alternated between playing with his nuts and squeezing them hard enough to make any other man cry out.

Thin clear strands of saliva, similar to what a mastiff would produce, dripped from both lower fangs onto the mutant’s furry chest. The fangs were too large to fit inside his mouth, so maybe it wasn’t all that surprising.

That isn’t something I’m used to dealing with, even in bed with debutantes who have memorized my net worth, but … for the most part, he doesn’t seem to fuss about it. So I won’t either.

Tony had planned to try and last as long as he could manage, but then he ended up staring at the shorter of the two heavy lower fangs in the dropped jaw. The disturbing memory of how it got that way was wrapped up in the reasons for this romp – saying thank you for his life. He could almost feel the muzzle of the AK-15 moving over his hair as the gory monster crouched silently behind his enemy, preparing to spring.

He gripped the thick legs around the bent knees and spread his wider between them so he could change his angle and increase the force of his thrusts.

“Tony,” the mutant whispered, the tone almost pleading. “Need t’, please, I can’t…”

It was moments away and building fast. “Do it – let it rip.”

“But ya said –”

Tony reached out with one hand and covered Victor’s as it gripped his cock. He squeezed the deadly clawed fingers harder just to hear the hiss that would bring him to the edge.

“Come on … do it. I’m…”

Before he could finish, it had him. Victor’s orgasm erupted over their hands, but Tony didn’t care. He was staring at the short fang that was still regrowing to match the other. His thrusts wrung his cock ragged inside that tight warm grip, with the sounds of the writhing lion groaning through his growls to inspire him as they both slowly started to calm and fall silent.

Before he withdrew, knowing Victor was still in the zone, he used his messy hand to get most of the mess off of the huge hand and then offered it – dripping over the barrel chest – to the creature that was lifting his head eagerly to lick it clean.

Tony studied the mouth full of knives, the long barbed tongue as it lapped and licked his fingers, hand, and wrist – and the alien eyes that watched him intently. Taking his hand back to find a missed bit on the thumb, he stuck it in his mouth. Tasting the slight salt and pronounced sweet of it, he winked at the blonde when the purr began.

It was strange when he wasn’t hauled in for a feral possessive cuddle after he flopped down at Victor’s side to catch his breath. The mutant didn’t immediately start licking his throat, nuzzling his hair, or sniffing him, but remained on his back – silent and abruptly moody.

“Are you actually not going to cuddle me like a teddy bear?”

“Ain’t really got tha right.” Victor’s arm lifted and he wiped the saliva away from his face with the fur on his forearm.

“That never stopped you before.”

Since Victor didn’t move, Tony did. He sat up and put a hand on the furry chest, smiling when he felt the heart pounding deep within under a sternum covered with Adamantium. His hand moved in a smooth exploring stroke.

Abrupt perverse curiosity led him to touch exactly where and how the monster Catalyst had. Victor sucked in a breath and his belly, and as the fur shifted, Tony saw something. There were marks, strange little ridges like semi-circles, here and there on either side of his abdomen – mostly obscured by the fur around them, but not over them.

“What is…? How could that happen – why didn’t it heal?”

Ignoring the low warning growl, Tony spread some of the blonde fur out of the way to stare at a patch of the ridged scars that marred the skin over the taut abdomen.

“Please tell me how?”

Victor closed his eyes. “Healin’ factor was maxed out, on tha fritz from overuse with no protein t’ replenish it. Tha damage kept goin’ on while it tried t’ heal it an’ it started t’ fail. After a while, it … got confused, with tha molecular level attack, an’ it … began t’ heal over as scars, incorporatin’ tha corruption as how tha skin should be. Even if I cut it off down t’ tha muscle, when it heals, it makes … that.”

“That doesn’t seem possible… It should know, in the DNA, what to fix and how.”

“Ya can break that daisy chain, even in a critter like me – just takes a bit o’ elbow grease, hellish patience, an’ ‘nuff hate t’ make it stick.”

Tony stared back as the eyes opened to meet his. “You’ve done it?”

Victor winced. “I know I have, just don’t remember. One o’ tha nightmares that plagues my brain when I ain’t got yer Lite-Brite t’ curl up ‘round: I did it – t’ somebody like me.”

He didn’t want to say it, but the answer was obvious. “You mean … Wolverine, the X-Man?”

“Not a chance – tha runt don’t stay still long ‘nuff fer that kinda concentrated effort. Got no clue who it was. Tha hands in tha dream look like mine, but too small, coulda been when I was young…” He shook his head and growled again. “Yer goin’ anyhow – maybe next time that particular horrorshow traipses through my head, I’ll try t’ pay more attention fer ya.”

“That’s okay, feel free to skip it. This sounds like some of that memory block and implant mess, the Weapon X Program?”

“Maybe. Probly.” Victor sighed. “Dunno. Don’t wanna know.”

“I have to go,” Tony whispered.

“‘Course ya do.”

Trying to hide a shiver, Tony hoped he might think it was due to the cold in the simple sleeping cabin. The words were the same – it was one of the things the mutant hunter had said on the phone in Chicago.

I still have no idea how he did it, or where he was during those calls… Frowning, he forced that right back down. Apparently, I need another session of getting back on the horse. He removed his hand from Victor’s skin. “I’m exhausted, though. I can sleep on the jet, but… How about a possessive feral cuddle for the road? You can even nap with your paw on the reactor.”

“Yer tha boss.”

“Don’t start,” he replied, just a touch too sharply.

It was Tony’s turn to sigh as he moved to lie down again and turned his back to the man, scooting in close. After a beat, Victor pulled him in and palmed the reactor.

“That’s more like it. You could hang meat in here – and, if you have, don’t tell me. Since we’re on the topic of things we don’t want to know.”

He could feel the toothy smile breathe over his shoulder. “There goes yer babble mode again. Ya need sleep.”

“I need a drink or seven. Didn’t you have to leave too, or was that a lie to get rid of me? Aren’t you glad it didn’t work?”

*****************************************************************

Victor finally leaned in to nuzzle and sniff at his hair. “We got all tha time in tha world, as tha great Satchmo sang it.”

“Did you see him live back in the day, too?”

“Yup, once – Cotton Club again. Loved that joint. Used t’ sit in tha dark at tha back, but they never worried ‘bout me none there. Hell, probly saw ‘im as a kid haulin’ coal int’ Storyville in New Orleans, but woulda never realized it – too busy poppin’ in an’ outta ‘em brothels day an’ night. I burned through my first Blue Book in a week.”

“Blue Book? I assume this isn’t about cars…”

“Li’l pamphlet book ya could buy fer 25 cents – listed all tha hookers an’ where they lived. In those days, ya could step int’ a mansion on Basin Street an’ get any quality woman in tha place fer $10.”

“That sounds so … romantic. Which days were these?”

“Late 1890s, early 1900s – when I landed in that town, I barely got out again. They were called tha Order o’ tha Garter. Motto on tha Blue Book was Honi Soit –”

“Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense,” Tony interrupted him, smiling. “‘Shame be to him who thinks evil of it’. Cool.”

Victor went still. “Ya speak French? Ya understand Old French?”

“Yes, but more the modern variety. International company, so … I pick up the ones I might need the most. It never takes long. I also have at least a passing interest in anything to do with debauchery. Call it a hobby. That motto is an Anglo-Norman French maxim and shows up in several odd places in English history, too. Sorry to ruin your image of me of being ‘just a science geek’, but hey, I didn’t know what a Blue Book was in that context – learn something new every day. INTERPOL says you speak quite a few languages yourself. We should compare notes sometime over drinks, when you tell me all about more of the crazy things you saw and did way back when.”

Curling up closer and remembering to breathe, Victor closed his eyes. The old words of the beautiful French phrase rolling off of Tony’s tongue had nearly ripped his heart out and stuffed it back in upside down.

After his companion’s babbling chatter habit was overtaken by his exhaustion, the near-quiet crept in around them. With his palm pressed to the arc reactor, Victor let the soft endless sound of it and Tony’s calming breathing lull him into sleep.

~ ~ ~

He woke reluctantly, needing more sleep – but the reason it had been a peaceful rest had wormed out of his embrace and sat up on the edge of the bed. The lamps were still on, but the blue light of the arc reactor was brighter. Victor watched how it illuminated the cabin, trying to memorize it. The words to ask him to stay clotted in his throat.

“Wow, needed that,” Tony muttered, and stretched through a yawn.

Victor reached up to lay his hand flat on the man’s warm smooth back, but then he stood and moved out of reach to fetch his clothes.

Silent and at a loss, Victor watched him dress. When he was bundled up again, complete with the silly hat, he turned to face the bed. The smile was a little cooler, and the arc reactor was hidden.

“Places to go, people to stop worrying.”

“One call solves that,” Victor whispered.

“You’re letting me leave without opting to kill me, right, stalker-boy?”

“Not gonna hurt ya, Tony. Wouldn’t – not even if I was paid t’.”

“We’ll see, I guess. I can be super annoying – I bet someone, somewhere has thought about it.”

Victor didn’t reply to that. Rubbing his face with one hand, he struggled to sit up. “I can show ya out.”

“Stay in bed. I’m sober enough to find my jet, and unless I do it solo, it won’t be a proper walk of shame.”

“Suit yerself.”

He watched Tony head for the door. It hadn’t been locked, but not one of his employees would have dared interrupt him while he had company.

With a jaunty and badly executed salute, Tony smiled at him. “Be good, Mufasa. Call me for stolen Hydra toy delivery – or regular whistleblowing.”

Victor nodded. When the man left and shut the door behind him, he fell back onto the bed with a grunt. For maybe a solid hour, he just lay there, staring at the ceiling of the cabin long after the sounds of Tony’s boots, and then his jet taking off, had faded.

He growled when the soft knock he knew would come rapped on the door.

“What, Zane?”

The pilot spoke through the door. “That window of opportunity you wanted to aim at started fifteen minutes ago. Are we keeping to the original itinerary?”

“Why not. Ya need me fer jack?”

“No, if you want to just relax.”

“Stayin’ put, then.”

“You got it, Boss.”

Victor rolled to his stomach and crushed a pillow in his arms to bury his face in it. He could still feel Tony’s touch, feel him deep inside his body. The pillow where the man’s head had lain still held his scent. He closed his eyes, but sleep eluded him.

~ ~ ~

Parking the Ugly Pumpkin in its usual spot, he unhooked the sled himself and hauled it off to the side as Perrin watched him with the wendigo pelt coat folded over his arm. Staring down at the crate lashed onto the sled, Victor reached out to touch it.

“When was she here last?”

“Two weeks.”

Victor sighed. “In tha study, an’ I wanna be alone, ‘cept fer ‘im.”

~ ~ ~

Knowing he was still nervous about picking the baby up from the cradle, Perrin brought his son to him, wrapped in a warm white blanket.

His study in the Yukon safe house was quiet with the others downstairs, and the infant was fed, clean, and sleepy. As always, he smelled like Tabitha as much as he did any of his other caretakers. The girl had taken ‘visit anytime’ literally. The house held her scent too, but at least they never let her into the master suite.

“Silas…” he whispered.

The child stared up at him as he woke, and those eyes were still blue. When he purred at the boy, he got a smile. Settling on the couch, he began to talk softly about anything and nothing: forests he’d hunted, the sound of gulls flying inland as a storm engulfed the sea, or how a desert looked at midnight when the stars were so bright that he could see for miles. Most of the tales had blood in them somewhere, his or others’, but he skipped all of that.

“Good thing ya got tha rest o’ ‘em t’ learn from though, huh? Don’t wanna end up talkin’ like yer pa – folks are always lookin’ at me funny fer how I talk … an’ look. Most stuff ya probly wanna do diff’rent from me, an’ if ya gotta be a mutant, take after yer ma. But if ya get stuck bein’ like me, I’m gonna be here t’ help ya through it, help ya understand what’s happenin’ t’ ya.”

He couldn’t repress a shudder as brutal memories rose in his thoughts, but there was no one to see it, and the impossibly small baby didn’t judge.

“Not a soul is gonna hurt ya an’ whatever it does t’ ya, yer gonna be free t’ be what ya are. My pa wasn’t like that, but ya don’t gotta worry – I’m gonna be a better man. Still learnin’ how t’ be one, but if ya don’t grow too fast, maybe I can figure it out by then. Deal?”

His son blinked at him and yawned, and then those eyes, as beautiful blue as Tabitha’s, closed.

~ ~ ~

“Can you stay another week?” Brys asked from the foot of the stairs. “Tabitha is coming out again, and I know she would love to see you.”

Victor paused on the stairs. “Did ya tell ‘er I’m here?”

“No, you didn’t want me to. She doesn’t try to ‘catch you’, but she … misses you. She told me that herself on the phone this morning.”

“Gotta get ready fer tha busy season – seems most folks wanna whack somebody durin’ tha holiday months. What’s up with that?”

Brys sighed below him as he continued up to the master suite. “They probably hope it might give them a more peaceful Thanksgiving – if they’re paying you to kill relatives.”

Victor chuckled. “Maybe so. Gonna do somethin’ fun fer Halloween fer once, though. Mix a li’l biz with a li’l pleasure.”

“Perrin gave you that flyer with the usual job report, I suppose?”

“‘Course he did – part o’ ‘is job, ain’t it?”

“So you’re going out to California – to see him? Perhaps you could save Tabitha the trip and visit her there in Malibu, while you’re out there.”

“Tabs visits here t’ see Silas, not me. She coulda had me, remember? Coulda had tha whole fuckin’ kingdom. Drop it, Brys.”

In the master suite, he passed the fireplace without looking at the mantel. He was getting better at that. The job report was still spread over the table. Perrin had marked two sections in yellow highlighter. Glancing at the colorful flyer beside the papers again, he read the top line: West Hollywood welcomes Tony Stark this Halloween – as the King of the Carnaval!

Odds are, Girl Friday Potts made ‘im say yes t’ that. Going to the nightstand by the bed, he fetched his phone. Time t’ see if he wants ‘is Hydra toy yet – long as I’m headin’ that way.

He sat on the bed, leaning against the thick pillows piled at the headboard. A tendril of nervous doubt curled in his stomach as he hit the speed dial for the inventor and set the phone to his ear. It was joined by a craving to hear that bright voice as the phone rang.

Should I mention tha trip or just ask if he wants tha device?

The phone continued to ring.

*****************************************************************

The workshop was never entirely quiet, and often had rock and roll or metal blaring. Today, the air was filled with old jazz music; it was probably a good thing that the robots couldn’t be confused over the change. JARVIS had declined to comment on it as they worked on the latest project.

“I put it on the desk, hang on.”

Snorting in annoyance at the Halloween Carnaval packet Pepper had left for him, he reached for the electric drill. Spotting something he’d put next to a pile of fan mail when he came home, he paused and picked it up instead.

“Sir, you asked me to keep distractions to a minimum – the new suit has to be ready for the event.”

“Yeah, be right there…”

He sank into his chair and turned the curved object over in his fingers. One end, the root of the tooth, was mostly smooth and blunt. It was a darker ivory color. At the line where it changed to white, it was short, jagged, and dangerously sharp. The hole that had been bored into the ivory side, a good half-inch below the line, was clean and perfect – as if punched out with a diamond-tipped drill bit.

Tony glanced up at the work table where weirdly archaic-looking brand new pieces of armor needed the electric drill.

I’m damn lucky to be here – again. This time … it’s because of Victor.

Memories of insane pleasure spiced by fear and danger in a tent on a frozen ocean clouded his thoughts. The last time, in the small sleeping cabin of a huge cargo plane, he had tamed his demon – but had been left with a craving he couldn’t seem to drink away.

He’d kept to himself since, but a Halloween street party could be a good way to break that streak. Pepper had even tried to lure him with the carnal possibilities, without exactly saying so – a new record in dancing around a subject.

Funny though: if that is the goal, why am I making a new suit for a costume? Easier to slip in and out of a tuxedo, isn’t it?

Closing his eyes, he only had to think about how it had felt to feel it again – the utter madness of allowing those teeth anywhere near his body, and the heart-hammering thrill of being taken into that heat and sucked until he couldn’t think, couldn’t even breathe.

His body responded, but he ignored it. The good memories were tainted by some of the things the mutant had done, and there was fear there, too – in Chicago. It wouldn’t stay buried for long. The prick of the knife point that had been a claw, the moment when his urgent need for pleasure had been twisted into terror – violated by a stranger with a weapon, both monster and man.

Insomnia and nightmares had set in again, here and there. Sometimes he stumbled through a rambling urban jungle strune with corpses, only to allow the killer to go to his knees and pleasure him. At times, the mouth full of sharp teeth would open to accept him, but they were covered with dripping blood.

Wow. Okay. He shook his head. Too many King and Craven films for background noise when you work past midnight. Victor was more than that, and you know it. He was … confusing, but he could also be … kind. Gruff, blunt, and backward, but … funny, and fun. My God, what a gifted freak of nature in bed. Picturing the claws, he sighed. And as Pepper likes to remind you – a killer, a rapist… A sharp pain stung the pad of his index finger. “Ow!”

One of the jagged broken points of the tooth had cut him. He stared at the blood welling up for a moment before sticking the finger in his mouth until it stopped bleeding.

When the phone rang, he looked up at it and then twitched at the sight of the contact photo.

The face from the nightmare was there, the tent they’d been in blurry around the frown. Amber cat eyes with black pupils that had turned to slits against the blue reactor light glared at him from the screen. The blue light gleamed up the curved thick shaft of a lethal serrated fang. The point of it, needle thin but strong as an iron bar, rose up beside the man’s nose.

Bits of data flew through his mind as if scattered by a frozen wind. Internationally wanted killer, terrorist, wet works spy, feral animal, one of the deadliest mutants alive. Alpha predator. Necrophiliac. Cannibal.

Tony reached up with his other hand and touched the bite wounds that were healing into scars.

“I can’t afford to forget that…” he whispered.

Dropping the tooth onto the desk, he rose from the chair, staring at the ringing phone. A flood of memories and sensations went through him, leaving him bewildered.

“I can’t … I need time. I can’t.”

He picked up the drill like a weapon and backed away from that amber glare on the ringing phone.

Why he was going to the street party in armor wasn’t such a mystery after all. It was a public event, and he was the guest of honor – without a doubt, his stalker would be there.

“JARVIS, put on some metal for me. Start with Megadeth: Peace Sells. Loud.”

Long before the noise levels in the workshop drowned it out, the phone had stopped ringing.

*****************************************************************

LAX, the fancy West Hollywood hotel, and the insane crowds on Santa Monica Boulevard were all a blur. Eagerness, worry, and a brooding frustration drove him through it all in a rush to get to the moment when he could scent Stark again.

Yet once he was swallowed up by the human sea, he began to slow down and pay attention. He’d never given this event a chance before and perhaps he’d have to start when he was in a better mood – the crowd was rumored to be well over 400,000 and the vibe was enough like Rio’s Carnival to be worth it. Also, there was his quarry to watch out for – undetected thus far, but he couldn’t afford to miss his chance.

As the sun had set, every sort of human and many mutants had moved around him, most of them dressed in Halloween costumes. Several that passed were elaborate enough to catch his notice and some of them had smiled and complimented his costume, too.

Victor snorted. They probably thought he was wearing contacts, latex ears, and plastic fangs.

At his back was a long black cloak with a deep hood, the front panel pinned back at the shoulder. He’d left the thick braid beneath it, with more loose and braided or beaded locks down around his face, even though they were annoying him.

Black leather pants and his heavy boots and belt turned it into a BDSM Village People vibe, so he’d gone with it and didn’t bother to grab a shirt. One nipple was now pierced – pure impulse because the piercer had looked downright toothsome. She had hung a real razor blade on the ring. When the masses pushed close, it would move and turn, sometimes cutting his flesh – a delicious way to maintain an edge.

What appeared to be a black scarf circling his throat would soon be hiding the fangs. Far more dramatic than his usual working clothes and bordering on fetish levels of silly, it was none-the-less amusing and would be lethally effective.

The parade was nothing like the massive event in Rio, they didn’t have that kind of room here, but it didn’t suck to stand off to the side with his purloined bottle of Johnny Walker and watch the crazy outfits go by. Enough of the participants were barely dressed to keep it interesting, and the near-assault on his heightened senses was a welcome distraction.

Slowly but surely, he made his way to the main stage where they were supposed to crown their king. He kept to the shadows at the side to avoid being spotted by a casual scan.

Hafta be quick – tha bastard’s fast. No idea what kinda tech he’s gonna bring, neither. Victor growled low in impatience. Where tha fuck are ya, ya arrogant ass?

The crowd noise and the hosts had been loud for a bit, but then it became a din as the King of the Carnaval was announced – and he had actually showed, on time.

“Will wonders never cease,” Victor muttered. He couldn’t see the man yet, but he could smell him – encased in metal. “Fuck, he’s in a bloody suit.”

Bringing the hood up, he let it hang just above his eyes to cut the subtle glow. Unpinning the front of the cloak and pulling the scarf mask up left him perfectly concealed.

Can’t be helped but might not be so bad – that’s a shit-ton o’ funky folded steel, could slow ‘im down some.

Almost half a million people screaming pinned his ears back under the hood, but he couldn’t help looking up with them at the raised stage when Tony Stark appeared. The sight of him took his breath away – standing there in the most insane steampunk battle armor anyone had ever seen.

It was still red, if a darker matte blood red with no polished hot rod shine, and the usual gold looked like bronze, all of it locked down by large Victorian-style bronze rivets. Gears, pipes, and vents were dotted around it in ways that could have been decoration but were probably functional. He couldn’t have guessed what the bronze bulky mechanism at the back was, that sported more pipes. Black hoses went from that to the helmet. A lot of it was pumping out actual steam in regular jets as he moved.

The repulsors and round faceplate eye lenses were a ghastly antique and glowing seafoam green. Encased behind colored glass like some relic from the Victorian era, the arc reactor gleamed, the same shade as the eyes.

As Stark reached center stage and struck a pose, the suit made clanking and whirring sounds before blowing more steam. The crowd went mad, worshipping the man inside the beastly thing.

Regardless of what it was supposed to look like, every plate of it was folded steel, constructed eerily similar to how the oldest katanas Victor had ever seen had been made. They even had a visible O-Mokume hada – a circular grain in the metal, similar to a leopard’s spots. The suit likely weighed north of 500 pounds, with the 165 pound man inside.

Impressed in spite of himself, Victor sighed. Bet it still flies – an’ has a bitch o’ an artillery cache. Don’t matter, gotta job t’ do – get t’ it. He found a better position and pulled his weapon from the holster at the back of his pants, holding it at his hip. Gonna be ‘game on’ once that faceplate pops up. Kiss kiss bang bang, hero.

To call the weapon a gun would have been an insult – it was a wooden blunderbuss from the early 1700s with a brass barrel, decorated with brass dragons on the wood. Made for punching holes with its .69 caliber round, and currently loaded with a ping-pong size lead ball, it was going to once again earn its other nickname: dragon. Smaller than a rifle at 30.5 inches overall, the barrel 15 inches, it had been easy to conceal.

Perrin had pointed out that most modern humans would take one look at it and assume it was a toy for a costume – at least until he aimed it at their hero’s head.

Only gonna get tha chance fer one shot, an’ no time t’ reload this bitch, so better make it count.

His ears were pricked up and slightly out, sifting through the din to catch the sound he needed to hear.

As the host turned to hold the microphone up to Stark, Victor raised the blunderbuss in the same moment that the faceplate started to rise.

A few people nearby saw him and screamed, but Victor ignored them. The game was on. Seconds before he saw Stark’s face fully, he fired the lead ball right at it. In the next half-second, it hit its intended target – a metal scarab bomb. His shot struck it out of its trajectory and it hit the far edge of the stage, its steel grappling hook legs tangling in the structure like it would have done to the edges of Stark’s helmet. The blast destroyed that corner of the stage and the whole thing tilted.

To a chorus of screams and a frighteningly familiar mechanical whine, Victor jumped into the crowd as a repulsor shot blasted the street where he’d been standing. His back itched with a buzzing feral warning, but he ignored it to leap after his prey.

Swinging his arm, he managed to strike a ringing blow to the other assassin’s head with the blunderbuss. Jumping forward to lope after him, he began to holster the weapon.

A breath later, he roared in pain when he was struck by a repulsor blast. It hit his shoulder and disintegrated the flesh down to his metal bones, leaving the edges of the grevious wound ragged and burned. The gun clattered under his feet to be left behind.

Growling, he let the shredded and burning cloak and scarf float away, but by the time he moved to hit all-fours, the shoulder was already healed. Hoping he wouldn’t hear that infernal armor flying at him, he chased the scent of the person who had been paid to kill Stark. He couldn’t outrun Victor, and he could track the bastard wherever he went.

The moment he had line of sight on the prey, he began to drive the man where he wanted him to go and grinned with delight when he slid around a corner and dashed into a closed restaurant, using a smaller disc bomb to shatter the door.

Dodging with impressive agility and speed, the small figure in black desert clothing was still merely a human – no match for a feral mutant. Victor gave him nowhere else to go and a choice of being pinned to a steel door or to open it – and retreat inside the large walk-in freezer. He chose, and was soon cornered against the frozen back wall.

Advancing to crouch in the wide doorway, Victor snarled. “Hiya, Achim – long time no see.”

“Creed – why are you interfering? Stark must die!”

“Yeah, ‘bout that … I’m gonna say no.” The claws gleamed under the security lights in the industrial kitchen behind him as he lifted them to strike.

“Don’t be a fool, his death is worth millions. You should be working with me.”

Victor glared at the small man in black. He looked like he had escaped from the set of Lawrence of Arabia. Many weapons and even another scarab bomb hung from his belt, but he already knew they wouldn’t save him.

“Sharin’ a payday ain’t yer style, boy, never was – yer shit don’t stink, as I recall. Shall we put that t’ tha test? By tha by, ya really oughta stay outta Omar Sharif’s closet. I guess dressin’ like King Tut limits yer stealth, though.”

“I cannot lower myself to work with lesser men, but you are the mighty Sabretooth – we can make an alliance.”

Smirking, Victor sat back on his haunches, poised on the balls of his feet. He rested one wrist on a thigh and set the other hand on the ground between his legs. “I’m listenin’, but agreein’ is gonna depend on who’s holdin’ tha purse strings. Who ya workin’ fer, ‘Osiris’?”

“A great man – a powerful man –”

“Cut tha bullshit posturin’ an’ gimme a name. Now.”

“He is called the Fixer: Ebersol.”

“Paul Norbert Ebersol, huh? Criminal genius inventor type. Golly, I can’t even guess why he’d want Stark dead.” Victor grinned at him, showing all of the teeth.

“We can kill Stark together, and then I’ll take you to the Fixer.”

“Take me where? Where’s tha Dayton, Ohio native an’ former auto mechanic hangin’ ‘is hat these days? I gotta schedule t’ keep – can’t just go gallivantin’ all over.”

“Moscow.”

“Figures.”

“The Fixer would highly value hiring an asset like you.”

Victor dug his claw into the concrete floor of the freezer. The small Egyptian assassin was shuddering in the cold but trying to keep his game face on. Micro expressions and scent on that face and slender body told him a different story, however.

This insect is too arrogant by half t’ share ‘is glory kill, let alone ‘is payday, with any-fuckin’-body. Not that it matters – just shoppin’ fer intel. Never know what’s gonna come in handy down tha road. This fucker, though … duty calls. “Made up my mind, Achim. I figure it’s time t’ thin tha herd o’ my competition a tad.”

“Creed, wait!”

“Oh an’ here’s a freebie, just so’s ya know – Ebersol might could hope t’ hire me all he wants, but that asswipe works fer tha likes o’ Hydra.”

“Wait – he is the head of the Hydra Science Division!”

“Do tell. Had no idea he’d got up tha ladder that far.” The mere thought of it made his mouth water as saliva began to drip from his lower fangs.

“Hydra is different now, we have tendrils and power bases in places you could not imagine. Your hatred is old. Embrace the power they can offer you. A being like you – there would be no limit.”

“Ya went an’ said tha magic word, do ya know that? Ya said ‘we’.” A growl sparked.

“No, stop! I can get you in, I can help you kill Ebersol – let me work with you!”

“No dice.” With a snarl, he dropped his jaw and launched at the man.

The noise was intense in the close space, surrounded by a steel box. Claws rended and fangs bit, though he avoided the bombs on the belt. He almost felt drugged by the stench of bile and spilled guts, and the salty alluring smell of splattered blood.

When the mangled corpse was still, he gleefully cut into it, shearing through ribs to get the liver. Lifting the rich organ to his mouth, he had half of it sheered and swallowed when the sound of the door moving nearly choked him.

For a heartbeat as he whirled, he saw the still figure of Iron Man engulfed in white steam watching him with that baleful green gaze before the door slammed and a repulsor blast sealed it shut.

“Stark!” Victor called out.

Snarling, he swallowed the rest of the meat, wiping his face with his forearm. The scent of his own fear crept over him at the excruciating memory of the blast that had vaporized his shoulder. Without the Adamantium, he would have lost an arm. The hunger lashed through his body, demanding more meat to strengthen his healing ability, but he couldn’t feed it now – he had to get out.

Instinct could barely be controlled as the need to hurl himself at the door was pushed down by force.

He approached it slow, leaning against it to listen. Iron Man was still out there. Taking a deep breath, he tried to shed the killing urge that still burned in his veins as he was surrounded by the smell of his dead prey.

“Tony,” he tried again, but faltered. He saw it, can’t change that now – an’ he already knew it. Both hands lifted to touch the frost-covered door. “Ya ain’t gotta clue what’s goin’ on.”

The voice that answered was the mechanized tone of the suit. “You mean your attempt to kill me? Hunting down and killing, and … eating … some guy who just wanted to come out for a party?”

Victor growled. “Listen t’ me, ‘is name’s Achim – codename Osiris, he’s an assassin an’ he told me he works fer Hydra. He was hired t’ kill ya, not me. I got wind o’ it an’ came t’ stop ‘im but couldn’t find ‘im in tha crowd before ya showed up an’ flushed ‘im out.”

“Sounds like a great story – or a really good lie.”

“That toy that blew is a scarab bomb – probly invented by a Hydra douchebag called tha Fixer – there’s ‘nother one in here on ‘is belt. Fuckin’ things are too fast, an’ Achim too damn good at hidin’ in plain sight. I had t’ wait ‘til he made a move on ya t’ find ‘im. I was ready when he did. Tha bomb hit tha stage cuz I shot tha thing outta tha air before it could grab yer fuckin’ face an’ blow yer head off.”

“Why not just give me a head’s up that this person was coming after me?”

Victor slumped with his chest against the door, pressing his forehead into the frost. “Can’t warn ya if ya won’t answer yer phone…”

“How do I know this isn’t some set up and that guy is wearing a Halloween costume?”

“Ask yer damn robot – Osiris, scarab bomb, assassin from Egypt … look it up.”

“Maybe I should just keep you in there while I do that.”

“Yer not keepin’ me in here, Tony – a steel icebox ain’t gonna hold me.”

“Assassin or not, you can’t just … eat people. Didn’t anyone ever tell you that cannibalism is one of the biggest taboos of nearly any society?”

Victor growled, but his heart wasn’t in it. The place was getting to him. It was small, cold, hard, full of plants and roots he couldn’t eat, and locked – sealed – shut. An angry male who wanted him to not be what he was, what he couldn’t not be, waited outside to pass judgment. If he stayed much longer, he’d be a danger to Tony and himself.

Reasoning with him was useless. They only ever saw what they already believed. Anger thrummed, soon to transform into rage. The beast within felt trapped…

“I ain’t a damn flatscan, so it ain’t ‘cannibalism’ t’ me! Fuck society!”

“I’m not a … flatscan … whatever the hell that means – I’m a human, which you like to eat.”

“Yer not dinner, neither.”

A click sounded and Tony’s real voice spoke. “That’s a double negative, and actually means the opposite, you realize.”

With a grimace, the growl crept back into his throat. “Ya like t’ read ‘bout crimes I been accused o’, but did ya never read ‘bout what I am? I’m more beast than man. I hunt, I kill prey – an’ humans are below me on tha food chain, so why not eat ‘em? Been in plenty o’ tight spots where all there was t’ eat was ‘people’. Why are they sacred or diff’rent than any other prey?”

“We are not going to have a discussion where you try to justify eating people’s livers.”

Hearing that voice through a door abruptly reminded him of Chicago, though he’d been listening to Tony’s pleasure then. Afterward, he had placed his hand on the wood over where Tony had. With nothing but a door in between that almost touch, he had heard the arc reactor for the first time, threaded through that wounded heartbeat.

Shoulda left it there, maybe. Reachin’ too far, tryin’ too hard – nothin’ good ever comes o’ that. Wantin’ this man – foolishness. He’s outta my league, an’ sees nothin’ but a monster – even after all we did t’gether.

The metal door vibrated gently with a dull clang – Stark had set his palm on it. Victor’s hand slid to rest where his was, the claws shaving the frost into powder that fell on his boot.

“What can I do?” the man asked.

Victor’s heart thumped hopefully for a moment or two before a soft growl thrummed in his chest.

This is smoke, like ya always knew it was… “Nothin’ ya can do, flyboy.”

He stood straight and took a step back from the door, watching his breath fog as he spoke.

“Tell yer robot t’ look up Osiris; he’s been a hired killer fer five years now. Told me who hired ‘im, so I’m gonna turn that asswipe int’ a corpse, too. He ain’t tha first moron who’s paid somebody t’ kill ya, an’ he probly won’t be tha last. If I get wind o’ ‘em, they get dead.”

“Victor … I should – turn you over to SHIELD.”

“Ya sure ya wanna do that? They can’t hold me neither an’ they can’t kill me.”

“You won’t be killed – but this needs to stop.”

“T’ get loose o’ ‘em an’ go my way, I’d kill every damn soul ya send after me. It’s just my nature. If’n ya can’t understand that, go ahead an’ call ‘em in, but be sure – ya want that blood on yer hands?”

“Victor, please… Don’t do this.”

“I’m goin’ now – did what I came here t’ do. Keep yer head, huh? Lotsa folks seem mighty eager t’ remove it.” He turned his back to the door and looked down at the prey. “I’ll leave ya this, so ya can piece it t’gether fer yerself – if ya care. Don’t matter none t’ me.”

He stepped beside the body and slashed at the back wall. The material over the steel parted like clotted cream as the steel beneath it was cut like paper. Another strike beside it and one over both cuts, and then his boot kicked out, slamming the large section of the steel box into scrap on the ground outside.

Victor hit all-fours and reached his top speed in a few seconds. He couldn’t run faster than Iron Man could fly, but he could go places the Tin Man could not.

He had run for a while before he realized Stark wasn’t hunting him. He slowed and warily doubled back to reach his hotel. One call for a car later, he became a needle in the Los Angeles traffic haystack, invisible and as good as gone.

On his jet, he didn’t look back at the crate lashed behind the last row of seats in the cabin. He stripped off his belt and tossed it and the holster and pouches for the lost blunderbuss onto the floor.

Slumping low into his favorite seat by a window, he stared listlessly out at the nighttime world illuminated by his feral sight. There were people there, trucks, carts, a fuel truck … he saw through them all – seeing nothing.

His pilot had the good sense to avoid talking to him or asking any questions. The itinerary was already set.

When the jet finally began to take off, Victor toyed with the little metal razor blade that still dangled from the ring piercing his nipple. Holding it more firmly, he sank it into the flesh of his chest and watched the blood drip through the fur until the skin healed around the blade. Pulling it free, he pinched the ring in his fingertips and yanked it out through the nipple with a snarl. A few more drops of blood fell onto the tight black leather stretched over his thigh. For one exquisite second, the pain was good – and then that wound healed, too.

Useless. He dropped it into the holster. Claws are better, but if I start – might not stop.

Leaning his head back against the seat, he closed his eyes and tried not to think about Tony – his touch, his scent, his taste… The sound of the man’s bright laughter rang in his memory, before it faded into silence within the thrumming noise of the jet.

Gonna hear that awful mechanical whine in my nightmares. He lifted a hand to rub the shoulder Tony had destroyed. All my scars are on tha inside, like Blue Öyster Cult preached it – ‘cept fer tha ones that ain’t.

One stop had been added to the itinerary, via phone from the hotel room in West Hollywood: Moscow.

Tha Fixer – head o’ tha Hydra Science Division. Time t’ be tha monster again…

*****************************************************************

The police had the scene well in hand when Tony returned from the restaurant, and he was amazed no one had been killed when the bomb collapsed the side of the stage. Several had been injured but nothing serious.

When he inspected the damage with the authorities, he could see that the bomb had been diverted partially underneath the stage by Victor’s gunshot. The structure had not only taken the brunt of the damage, its quick collapse had shielded a lot of people. He whistled at the amount of jagged metal that was sticking in the underside of the thick rubber fixed to the top of the stage.

They had recovered the lead ball in the wreckage, but only a few witnesses had seen what he had: the tall figure wrapped in black aiming what looked like a pirate toy gun at him. The police hadn’t found the weapon.

Tony told them about the dead man in the walk-in freezer of the Pondicheri Café. JARVIS had already confirmed Victor’s claim of the man’s identity and profession – a rather obvious fact after he had spotted the second scarab bomb.

What a mess. I’m still not sure how to handle him. I guess I could try calling, but he won’t trust me after I threatened him with SHIELD.

“Sir, I have located the firearm Creed used – a young man is attempting to smuggle it out of the area.”

“Awesome, thanks,” he told the AI. Turning to one of the officers, he asked, “Are we sorted here?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Hey, look – the people who got hurt … I’m going to pick up those hospital bills. I’ll have my assistant call your chief, if you’ll pass that on.”

“I will. Thank you for your help, Mr. Stark. You nearly got that ugly freak – that mutie was fast as hell.”

Tony gritted his teeth as he nodded and smiled, relieved when he could drop the faceplate down.

“I gave Officer Stanic my statement – the shooter may be a person of interest, but the bomber was the dead guy – killed by the shooter. Since the bomb was aimed at my head, I’m inclined to cut the shooter a little slack. If any of you have further questions for me, call my assistant. Stanic has her number.”

He took off over their heads and let JARVIS show him the young man. Another display brought up stats on the weapon he carried.

Tony whistled. “And they say I have all the toys. That is a damn blunderbuss. Where did he find that, at Black Beard’s rummage sale? Proof of the effectiveness of low tech. It’s really that old, isn’t it? Not a replica?”

“It appears to be a legimate antique in very good condition, sir.”

The teen clearly had a built-in stealth mode, but he was no match for Iron Man. Landing in front of him certainly got his attention. “That’s crime scene evidence.”

Covering his shock fast, the teen took up a defiant stance. He looked like seventeen going on forty as he curled his lip in a sneer. “Finder’s keepers.”

Tony popped the faceplate up and sighed. “Okay, let’s make this an easy choice – I’ll buy it, $5,000. Or, I pick you up and turn you in for taking it from a crime scene.”

“Got yourself a sale, dude. Hey, can I take a picture with you?”

~ ~ ~

War of the Worlds soldiered on without him on the display as he sat in his ‘32 Ford Flathead Roadster in a decent recreation of a drive-in movie night. The workshop around him was quiet beyond the audio of the film.

Behind him on his desk sat Victor’s weapon. The blunderbuss was an impressive and dangerous piece of history, not unlike Victor himself.

The broken tooth wasn’t on the desk with it. He had hung it from the corner of the roadster’s windshield – still strung on the wire that had been used to yank it out.

Tony leaned his head back and sighed, staring at one of the oddest souvenirs he’d ever uncharacteristically dragged home with him.

My first mini vacation since I got home, so many projects that need to be worked on, no idea when I’ll need to suit up at any time, and what am I doing? Obsessing over the furry behemoth assassin that got away.

Pulling out his phone, he looked at the photo he had taken of the glaring mutant.

The flash popped in his face, and he didn’t know I was going to take a picture. That’s why he was glaring. Take away the barbarism and the near-disturbing size of the man, and he’s … actually handsome. He’s also a delicious creature to be in bed with, and he just killed to save my life – again.

He twitched when the phone rang in his hand, torn between wanting it to be Victor and dreading it at once.

The photo and name that popped on the screen was definitely not the blond feral mutant. It was a young and slender Brazilian beauty he’d met at a charity event in Los Angeles. Somewhere between the before dinner drinks and the after dinner cocktails, he’d given the up-and-coming model his number – since neither of them had time to hook up right then.

He let it go to voicemail just to gather his thoughts. “Pause the movie, JARVIS. Show me Cristiano Torres, modeling photos, nudes if there are any.”

Aliens and panicking people were replaced by the latest good-luck charm of sunny Brazil, in a succession of jeans with no shirt, designer underwear, and a few birthday suits. He was barely twenty-one. Dark eyes stared in a calculated way that was intended to be soulful and alluring. The eyes were also human, the smile white and even without a single sharp fang in sight.

Going by the party chatter, he’s not as smart as he is beautiful, so there’d be nothing to talk about – perfect.

Putting on a smile to match him, he opened up the phone to access the keyboard and called the pretty twink back.

“Hi. Feel like hitting the slopes?”

The model’s voice was warm and light, like dripping caramel. It was a shame he couldn’t have a video-enabled good time right now, but his was the only phone capable of that. Tony smirked at a question about where they could go. Cristiano was too new to the you-made-it game not to worry about how to afford things yet.

Ah, so young. Like ‘where’ matters. “Spin the globe and point. We can take my jet.”

When he finished with the call, he sat there in silence in the car staring up at the tanned distraction. He couldn’t muster any real care about the date he’d made. He was on autopilot and he knew it. The longer he sat there alone, the more the old uneasy feeling crept in – he wasn’t like other people. He would end up bored once the immediate physical need was sated, until an excuse to fly off and play hero or tinkering in the workshop became the only thing he cared about at all.

Victor wasn’t boring, in bed or out – not even close. “Find me photos of Victor Creed – anything from anyone that isn’t some gory crime scene thing or INTERPOL file.”

He sat up straight on the red leather seat when the photos dotted across the display, shocked to see that so many were from the tech conference in Chicago – Victor in designer suits, in the same rooms he had been in. Pushing aside the creepy stalker factor, he pointed.

“That one, in the black Versace double-breasted suit, leaning on the column – zoom in on that.”

Victor was holding a highball glass, just like the one the mystery admirer had sent to him – the expensive Glenfiddich. The photo had to be one snapped by the many media people who had been pointing cameras at them all.

He knew that had to be just before he’d gone upstairs with the twink who had ended up eviscerated and dropped onto a glass and metal awning over the hotel doors – murdered on the roof and thrown from it. His stomach twisted and lurched.

Tucker was going to post nudes of me – like that’s never happened before. Did Victor think he was saving me from him, or was it some sick territorial stalker thing? So much for the idea that his hobby is killing people who are trying to kill me. “Patio in the sun, that was breakfast. Zoom.”

The NoMI restaurant at the conference hotel, and Victor was in a Monty Python t-shirt under a massive black overcoat, talking to a waitress. The waitress was the person who had handed Pepper the gift bag from Victor, the gift: Sam Tucker’s phone.

About to move on, he got fixated on staring at the photo of Victor in the t-shirt. The barrel chest, the fangs, the way he filled a pair of jeans like no man that deadly had a right to.

Tony’s hand gripped his phone tighter as the desire to hear Victor’s low purring voice filled his head. The awful grammar and knuckle-dragger accent could even be charming when his dick was hardening. Staring at the thick neck, one hand slipped down to rest over the erection.

His throat has more muscles than other people have in their whole torso. He rubbed at his dick in the jeans once before shaking his head. “That other one, JARVIS – in the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. Damn…”

The nutty level of bling displayed in the gold and yellow diamonds of Victor’s Luxuriator sunglasses made Tony smile despite himself. The mutant was … stunning. Raw power, the feral beast barely contained by the trappings of a wealthy civilized person. This was a side of Victor he’d never seen.

“Who is that he’s arriving with? The guy who’s smoothing things over with the cops?” The photo was zoomed in and moved slightly. “Holy shit. That is … me. JARVIS, tell me that’s not me – I did not ride in a Bond car with Victor.”

“You were already traveling back home when this photo was taken, sir.”

“Then who the hell is that?”

“Unknown, sir. Do you want me to try the hotel’s security footage for that day and time?”

“Hell, yes.”

The footage came up a moment later, showing Victor at the valet parking podium before he entered the hotel lobby with … himself. They stopped at the desk and the weird imposter did all of the talking as the woman handed him a card key. When they entered the elevator, the clip ended.

“No information on the imposter’s identity is coming up, sir. I will keep looking.”

Tony’s gaze flicked back to the tooth. Before he knew he meant to do it, he grabbed the wire from the windshield and threw the thing across the room. It hit a tire and skated under the black Maserati.

Victor’s words hung in his memory: ‘Jacked it t’ tha fantasy version more’n once, so yeah – I’m fer findin’ out how reality stacks up.’

He covered his eyes with a hand and took a few deep breaths.

What the hell is going on…? I have to drop this. I need to stop thinking about him. I need … to do … something. “Get that for me, Dum-E? And don’t scratch the paint. That’s a ‘63 Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder, so we show it respect.”

As the robot rolled over there, Tony got out of the roadster and returned to his desk. Ignoring the blunderbuss, he sat in the chair and stared at the other souvenir he’d disarmed with the rest earlier. It sat there, squatting on six steel talons at the end of telescoping legs. The body was fashioned to look like a scarab beetle, the claws and legs designed to latch onto the target right before it destroyed everything within ten feet of it.

Victor said he was going to go kill the man who paid Osiris to assassinate me. Unbidden, Victor’s low voice haunted him again: ‘He ain’t tha first moron who’s paid somebody t’ kill ya, an’ he probly won’t be tha last. If I get wind o’ ‘em, they get dead.’ “The way he said that … he knew others had paid to have me killed before. Did they pay him? Is that why he was watching me from a roof through a sniper rifle scope? Why didn’t he take the shot?”

The broken tooth was abruptly tumbled onto the desk. He stared at the jagged path a bullet had made – one of the bullets that could have ended his life.

“Thanks,” Tony muttered, and gave the robot arm a vague pat. Looking back up at the huge display covered with photos of Victor Creed, he whispered, “I need answers.” Pulling out his phone again, he scrolled the screen quickly past Victor’s name in his contacts and onward to the letter O. He stopped at the name Ryu Obinata. Victor will hear about this. I don’t care; I have to know – more.

 

*****************************************************************

Author’s Note: Technically, polar night isn’t always as dark as I’ve described it in this story, but I’m betting if we were out in the middle of the frozen-over Arctic Ocean miles from any civilization, it would darker out there. Victor can use minor starlight to see by too, of course. Tony would have called for his jet to go to Alert after the sinking of the Hydra base. This is the jet from Iron Man 1 with the stewardess/strippers, which is definitely overkill for a trip like that.

We Have All the Time in the World is a James Bond theme from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, sung by Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Chicago references have to do with the events from my story Blood Song, which this is a sequel to. Storyville in New Orleans would certainly be a draw for Victor. Per my timeline, he was there just before he went to London for a while. I dug up Blue Books in my research and thought it would be just like him to decide to work his way through the listings. The nightmare Victor talks about in this chapter has to do with the siblings he doesn’t remember yet, from the Origins II comics. “Kiss kiss bang bang” is another James Bond song reference, as well as the title to a movie starring Robert Downey Jr.

There is very little to dig up on Catalyst outside of the Sabretooth and Mystique limited series comics, but in those comics, Victor thinks about the fact that he would bear the physical scars as well as mental ones from that torture, until the day he died. I’m assuming Victor would be rather keen to get revenge on the man who did that to him, even if most evidence seems to support the idea that Catalyst is dead. Victor’s habit of slaughtering Hydra people will come up again in this series. Speaking of which, the Fixer is a Marvel canon minor bad guy who really was the head of the Hydra Science Division at one point. Osiris, however, is an OC assassin I invented, named after an Egyptian god of death. Lawrence of Arabia is a classic epic movie starring Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif.

Researching the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval was not easy in the slightest, so I got fed up and invented some aspects of that event. The Pondicheri Café is a real vegan restaurant, but it’s in Houston – fiction is fun. Tony is watching the original 1953 version of War of the Worlds.

This chapter had to be split, just as chapter 3 became chapters 3 and 4 after it reached 40 pages. So that means there will be a chapter 7. In the latest last chapter, ha ha, there will be a LOT of Beast, a.k.a. Dr. Hank McCoy, trying to help Tony to understand Victor better. I hope it doesn’t end up as solid “info dump”, and I hope I can make it entertaining for y’all with a last (for now) bit of IronTooth smut thrown in. I do feel it is necessary to get Tony from “lock him up” to “give him a chance”, which is going to be explored later in the series. As always, thanks for reading and commenting and I’ll fix typos as I find them. Y’all make all the work involved in this worthwhile. –  AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)

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