Sabretooth: Over the Edge – Chapter 4 – Long Dark Teatime of the Soul

Oh life, it’s bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I’ve said too much – I set it up

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I’m choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt, lost and blinded fool, fool
Oh no, I’ve said too much – I set it up

Consider this
Consider this, the hint of the century
Consider this, the slip
That brought me to my knees, failed
What if all these fantasies come
Flailing around
Now I’ve said too much
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try
That was just a dream
Just a dream
Just a dream, dream

~ Losing My Religion (R.E.M.)

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

Victor hissed with heat when Tony’s hand slid inside his pants and squeezed.

“Your turn.” Tony untangled himself from his grasp and stood. As he moved to his other side and stripped off the lounge pants, he settled onto his back and spread his legs with one foot on the coffee table. “Tell me you were opportunistic enough to bring the lube in here from the bedroom.”

“I stuffed it under yer couch cushion.”

The sigh of relief the man let out made Victor hard in one ragged indrawn breath. “Oh, good. I need to be worshipped a little, stalker-boy.”

Ditching his pants on the floor over Tony’s, he fished out the Sylk bottle as his other hand spread flat over the man’s pretty abs. The warm brown eyes watched him as he drank in the sight of that body, his to sink into, to taste, and to make him writhe.

Victor looked up away from him to gather his patience and saw the fireplace. There was no fire lit, but the wide hearthbench was made of large stones and bordered by natural boulders. Before it, a huge blonde cowskin was spread like a rug.

“If you want a fire, JARVIS can light one. The d’Aquataine is a fun thing to play on. I like the feel of fur on bare skin – obviously.”

“Yeah… Light it.”

“And off with the TV, huh?” Tony asked, and Victor realized his tone changed when speaking to the house.

The silence was welcome. As the fire was automatically lit, the air conditioning kicked in and lowered the temperature as the windows darkened until it looked like night out there – it must have been preset that way. Even the glass front doors across the vast round room and the skylight window had turned black.

Tony moved and Victor watched him stand in front of the fireplace. He went down to his knees on the skin, one hand running up his torso to touch the edge of the bright reactor. As the lighting dimmed more overhead, the blue glow blended with the red and yellow firelight.

Memories refracted his vision until the high-tech room was overlaid by rough-hewn log cabin walls. A man was there, sitting on the hearthbench – a shadow far larger than the pale sylph kneeling on the skin. The French words, firm but kind, called him to come. He could still feel the nervous eager heat in trembling young limbs – the want in his body, the fear that haunted his mind. The shadow spoke again: ‘I won’t hurt you…’

The sylph raised his hand to him and the voice of Tony spoke softly in English, “I won’t hurt you.”

Victor flinched and the spell was broken. He approached slowly, touching fingertips to that soft and smooth pale hand.

Tony laced their fingers and drew him in. Victor sank down to kneel with him and then the man released his hand and lay back on the skin. One knee raised, the legs open to invite him.

“Tell me you want me, Victor.”

Swallowing hard, he could only whisper. “Tried t’ stop … when ya left me in New York. In Helsinki, I realized I didn’t want t’ stop. Time won’t wait fer me t’ grasp … any o’ this. I want ya … before it takes ya away from me.”

The warm dark eyes, so like the other one, almost closed as he began to slow his breathing. “Make me forget about time – make me forget … everything…”

Touching him, opening him with pleasure to help him give pleasure, it was like worship. Religion was a thing he’d only given lip-service to as a child, until now. When a cold memory of the root cellar tried to intrude – forced to kneel and say words that meant nothing, to a god that had never helped him when he had tried to believe … the baleful amber stare of the hated man glaring down – he shuddered and pushed it away.

Tony’s touch was like a brand from the fire on his flushed skin. “Come on, I need to feel you…”

The plastic bottle rolled away as he put a hand under the lower back to lift his hips up. Sliding inside stole his breath as his ears were filled with the sound of his lover’s gasp. He had opened him well enough to make it smooth, easy – divine.

Pinning the pretty cock to the abdomen with his other hand, he leaned in to tickle and tease the head of it with the tip of his tongue. The back arched up under him and he moved his arms one after the other to prop him up against the forearms. Pressing their bodies close as he thrust, he let the patterns of fur and muscle rub and taunt the cock trapped between them.

Tony’s head lolled back, leaning on the edge of the hearthbench. His smooth throat stretched out, bare and vulnerable. The arms had hung down limply before they moved and the hands groped to touch Victor’s thighs and stroke them. The strong legs gripped his hips.

“Tell me,” the man whispered again.

“Tony … Anthony … I –”

“Victor, say it – tell me you want me.”

He swallowed, the purr morphing into a low growl as confusion filled his mind, chased by nameless fears. It wasn’t what he had wanted to say but it was bluntly, viciously true. “I want ya … more’n anythin’…”

Victor scented that it was about to happen, bowed his back, and dropped down the sweating body. His lips kissed the head of the cock, accepted its urgent thrust inside his mouth and caught and swallowed the sharp bursts of delicious seed.

Pleasure that needed no pain to spark it coiled in his gut. His cock continued to thrust inside the hot and tight clench of the body as it filled his mouth and throat. He lost all sense of anything but the flesh, the seed, the essence – everything around him became the man who had turned him inside out and nothing else could touch him or make him afraid. Ghosts shattered and fled as pure pleasure erupted to fill that heat.

Licking and swallowing to drain the cock in his mouth, he didn’t make a sound. This was not a mating to induce roars of triumph and this man was not something to conquer. Victor felt small, able to be hurt, yet protected and safe in the cloud of his lover’s lax contented heat.

Caught in his hold, Tony had gone limp. A surging urge to protect rose inside him and Victor slipped a palm under his head to shield him from the stone. Releasing the cock, he gently backed his out of the body with his other hand at the middle of the back. Guiding him down, he laid him on the cowskin and then curled up around him to keep him warm.

~ ~ ~

Victor woke when Tony stirred and spoke to the house.

“Open up, JARVIS – what time is it?”

Narrowing his eyes just in case, Victor was surprised when the windows all around them turned clear to reveal the last gasp of sunset.

“It is 5:45 in the evening, sir.”

Curling in closer, Victor started nuzzling Tony’s neck and ear.

“Time to eat something before I drop.”

“Again?”

“All of this exertion needs fuel. Hop up.” Tony rose when he was released and retrieved his lounge pants. After pulling them up, he tossed the other pair for Victor to catch. “I’m thinking Italian – or Cantonese. Votes?”

“We goin’ out?”

“Catering – the billionaire has remembered he can do that.”

Victor grunted as he dragged on the clothing. Tony was in full retreat mode again. He tried to shake off the intensity of what they had shared and play along. For a moment, he shivered at the memory of what he had almost confessed to.

Gotta be some kinda fucked up karma kickin’ my ass – tha one runnin’ from bein’ cornered int’ somethin’ deeper’s usually me. He got as far as sitting on the hearthbench. “Don’t gotta druther as long as they can toss meat int’ a bag.”

“My other new word: ‘druther’. Does it have to be raw meat?”

“Nope.”

“Cantonese it is. I want steamed oysters with ginger garlic and Char siu – that’s marinated barbequed pork. I like it with plum sauce and honey.”

“Knock yerself out.”

“JARVIS, put that in, for two, and we’ll have Huangjiu with it – the Shaoxing wine. Tell them to ring the bell, I’ll get it at the door – they don’t need to set it up.”

“So tha house is gonna call in dinner?”

Tony smiled at him as he picked up the bottle of lube and pocketed it. “Think of the AI as a computer in the house – connected to the internet. Kitchen time.”

Victor got up and followed him, growling briefly at the scent of an older female that had been in the room hours before.

Never heard or scented nothin’ an’ nobody in tha house from tha basement level – fuckin’ disturbin’. Bloody seal on tha workshop door has t’ be a bitch – more’n I realized.

“See? A spotless kitchen, all the dishes done and put away – it’s like magic.”

Victor snorted. People were clueless. Hope tha damn house has defenses if’n someone decides t’ hit it. He found a counter to lean on and opened up all of his senses just to ease the sporadic growls.

“So I thought we could take in a drive-in movie experience after dinner – not involving going out.”

Startin’ t’ feel like a dirty secret. Do I give a shit? Probly not ‘nuff o’ one. Victor arched an eyebrow at him. “Must be a neat trick.”

“It is.”

“I’m game.”

“What is your favorite movie?”

“That’s a long list.”

“Which one haven’t you seen in a while?”

Casablanca … or Ocean’s Eleven.”

“I have the latter. It’s a date.” He winked at Victor.

“Got tha real one? 1960 with Sinatra?”

“Is there any other choice?”

“Some idiots seem t’ think so.”

Chuckling, Tony got into the cabinets and started pulling out fancy dishes. “Main objection to the remake?”

“Brad Pitt. That guy bugs me. Clooney, I like, but Sinatra’s Danny Ocean.”

“I think you identify with the ‘well-mannered shark’ description.”

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

Tony asked Victor to stay in the kitchen when he went to get the delivered meal. The place was his first pick for Cantonese because the food was delicious and the people who brought it didn’t turn into fanboys with questionable motives. He tipped based on speed and this one had earned a good tip.

His guest had turned laconic as they set everything out and began to eat. With Hank’s comment about having difficulty getting the feral to talk at all echoing in his head, he sipped the rice wine and hunted for a topic. To his surprise, Victor beat him to it.

“I went t’ that tech exhibit yer pa had back in tha day – ‘is flyin’ car didn’t fly fer long.”

Tony was stumped. Never before had Victor even hinted that he was the least bit interested in Howard Stark. Then a weird thought made him feel uncomfortable and the question was out of his mouth before he could catch it.

“Did you have a thing for him? Is that why you started stalking me?”

“Nope.”

“Feel free to elaborate…?”

Victor sucked an oyster off the shell and swallowed it. “Figured it was a yes or no an’ it’s a no.”

“You said it was because I create things – how did that end up a sexual attraction?”

“Ya look sexy when ya do it?”

“Until today, you’ve technically never seen me making things. How did it start?”

“Told ya – I watched ya with that bendy skirt from an adjacent roof – liked what I saw.”

“Why were you there?”

“Tha pay was good ‘nuff an’ tha guy’s check cleared.”

“So you were paid to kill me and you didn’t because you decided I was sexy. It wasn’t the only time, was it?”

Victor smirked. “Naw, I think yer sexy lotsa times.”

“Not the only hit on me you took money for?” When he didn’t seem to be getting an answer, he leaned back on his stool with arms crossed over his chest and arched an eyebrow at the blond. “Use your words. Communicate. It’s how we separate the men from the jellyfish.”

The mutant watched him in silence as he drank the rice wine. The crystal glass thunked on the table as claws emerged again – just long enough to tap lightly on the glass.

“That was tha first time I actually took money t’ kill ya. Others have tried t’ put killin’ ya on my schedule, but it always falls through.”

“Why?”

“Cuz I find a way t’ kill tha person who asks instead. Gettin’ creative with it these days.”

Tony sighed and snagged a piece of pork in his chopsticks, chewing thoughtfully as he watched the feral use fingers and claws to eat. “Okay. Dead-end topic, I concede.”

“Gift horse an’ mouth, as yer fond o’ sayin’ – just ‘preciate tha fact an’ don’t fuss ‘bout it.”

“Good point.”

~ ~ ~

Sort of paying attention to the drive-in sized hologram screen displayed in front of his roadster in the workshop, Tony kept glancing up at the mutant who had pulled him against him. Victor had not ignored the broken stub of his fang that was once again hanging from the corner of the windshield, but Tony hadn’t said anything when he tapped it with a fingertip.

“Oh – I have your blunderbuss, if you want it back,” he blurted out as Victor met his gaze and began to purr.

“Sounds good.” Leaning down for a kiss, he began to grope him as Tony tilted his face up for it.

The wandering hands pinched bare nipples and started to stroke lower, but Tony grabbed and held them. “Watch your movie.” Letting his hands go, he shifted and moved to sit on the feral’s fresh erection where it was trapped in the soft loose pants. Leaning forward chest to chest, he kissed the side of Victor’s neck and whispered in his ear, “Open me up again.”

He smiled against his skin as the breathing shortened fast. Yet the large hands that grasped his waistband pulled the pants away from his bare ass with an agonizing slowness that made him gasp as his dick escaped and went hard against Victor’s abs. The thick fingers stroked his asscheeks, teasing him.

“Gonna lemme use my tongue?” Victor whispered.

“No.” Tony fumbled for the lube bottle in his pocket. “Just fingers. You’re going to make me come while fucking me with them. After that, you can slip in and have your own fun – but you don’t come until I do a second time.” He pulled the bottle free and put it in Victor’s hand. “Slick up, honey.”

Tony let the mind-numbing pleasure blot out the workshop and everything else. The arc reactor was rubbing a red mark on Victor’s chest that disappeared and reappeared at every pass. Even though the skin wouldn’t bruise and Tony couldn’t seem to break it with his teeth, he kept his mouth latched onto the feral’s throat because it made him purr, growl, and writhe – the latter movement feeling amazing as the long thick fingers fucked his ass.

He bit harder right over the Adam’s apple when he came, and then the slick was rubbed between their bodies as Victor continued to finger him. Tony started using his knees to lift and lower his hips, to fuck himself deeper on the fingers.

“Come on, I want your cock…” When Victor spread his thighs under him, Tony reached between their legs and hauled what he needed out of the mutant’s pants a bit roughly. “Sorry … unless that felt good.”

“Yeah, did. It likes it.”

“Push it in hard.”

“Ya sure?”

“Yes. Make me keep still for it. Don’t let me know when. I’m open enough, but I want to feel that.”

Victor went quiet and still, and then gripped Tony’s hips and held him up over the lance of his cock. It put their mouths in line and the kiss was intense. Anticipation turned into something close to anxiety as the kissing went on. The moment he relaxed into that mouth, Victor broke the kiss and dropped his body down onto the hard cock while thrusting it up deep inside of him with a frightening force.

Tony made a sound over Victor’s shoulder that was close to a strangled scream. Instinctually trying to rise to escape it, he was held down by one big hand pressing into the healing punctures over the scars at his shoulder.

“Oh, shit…” A low growl of lust answered him. “That’s exactly what I want. Hold me still for it and fuck me rough – just fuck it to get yourself off.”

The feral ducked his head to scrape a fang edge up Tony’s neck when he turned his face to press it into that huge heavy shoulder.

“After ya paste my stomach a second time.”

“Yes… God, yes,” Tony muttered against his skin, his arms thrown around the bull neck. “It hurts – and it feels so damn good.”

Victor’s soft whisper in his ear made him shiver. “Tell me yer safeword, Tony – an’ use it if ya need t’, don’t lemme hurt ya fer real.”

The appeal stunned him. “I… Ah, I don’t … have one…”

He expected to be lectured or maybe the mutant would stop the game cold. Instead, the rich low chuckle sparked a muffled laugh into the shoulder.

“Drunken sex boy, ya hit tha jackpot with me, ya know. Gonna need t’ pick one, later. Say ‘red’ then – yeah?”

“Yeah… I will. If I need to.” He shifted his knees on the leather seat to make his body move on that glorious cock. “Fuck me, Victor – rough.”

The pressure over his healing shoulder twinged pain but it was the cock that made him gasp. The hips snapped, driving it in and back. As it opened him more, his body sank lower, shoving the long shaft deeper and deeper inside. It hit something and he felt a brief dull pain – and then it all burst into a pleasure he could barely endure. His second orgasm was a shock, enhanced by that low growling purr.

Tony couldn’t move, couldn’t escape, but he didn’t want to. Victor shifted to press down on his other shoulder, and then the soft lips kissed the punctures.

“Bite…”

He was shocked that he was unable to feel the tips of the fangs pierce his skin until they went deeper. The sucking of the blood was so erotic he began to feel drunk. The harsh thrusts were growing almost painful but he didn’t want any of it to stop.

Victor pulled his fangs free and closed the lips over the holes to stop the bleeding. He allowed Tony to lift himself and the hands moved back to his hips to pull him up more, to stop the cock from pushing too far. His speed increased and when Tony impulsively bit the mutant’s shoulder, he felt him begin to come almost instantly.

He was pulled up by the hips and the moment the cock left his body, Victor set him down to sit across his spread thighs. Tony collapsed with his forehead against the feral’s chest, staring down at the bright blue light that illuminated the mess of cum on their bodies.

“I’m thinkin’,” Victor whispered in his ear, “ya shoulda said yer new temporary safeword.”

“I don’t really like them,” Tony muttered.

“Turn me fair inside out, ya know that?”

Tony smiled but didn’t answer. The movie they had forgotten about slowly filtered into his ringing ears as the thieves plotted to stash their money in the coffin of their fallen friend.

He accepted Victor’s help to get his pants pulled up and then settled against the seat back again as that cock was put away beside him. The mutant pulled him in close and Tony rested, panting and boneless, as they finished the movie. Once the credits rolled, Victor kissed his hair on top of his head.

“I call bed fer a rest.”

“Seconded – a rest before I get to have you under me again.”

“Gonna get no complaint outta me.”

~ ~ ~

Tony was exhausted when he finally started to drop off to sleep on top of Victor, still lying between his raised knees.

I may have to give up on ‘skivvies’ models – every one of them would have told me no by now. Victor doesn’t get tired and he’s clearly fine with letting me have it as often as I can get it up to take it.

He fell asleep, waking once at the feeling of Victor’s tongue licking him clean inside and out. He moaned when the mouth claimed his cock and sucked him off back into sleep.

~ ~ ~

Waking slowly, tired but sated, he watched Victor sleep as dawn crept in through the windows. He was just about to mentally flip a coin over whether or not to try climbing up his broad back again, when JARVIS started speaking softly – saying exactly what he didn’t want to hear.

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

The sound of the house talking woke Victor but when it stopped, he opened his eyes to see Tony sitting up and smiling down at him.

“Bad news, honey – I have to go run a mission.”

He sat up, the tips of his ears starting to pin. “Lemme help.”

“Let’s … discuss the elephant in the room.”

Victor sighed, but his fingertips still reached out to touch the man’s knees where he sat with those pretty legs folded and crossed. Tony tugged at the fingers to settle Victor’s palms over the knees and then covered them with his hands.

“We both know we can’t be seen together, for slightly different but important reasons. I’m playing the hero game – as pretentious as that may be, it isn’t very convincing if I’m teaming up with the poster boy for, well, posters … the sort that say ‘most wanted’ on them. For you, your clients and fellow villains, again, pretension aside, wouldn’t trust you much if they saw you helping me fight criminals.”

“Look, flyboy – just tell me who yer goin’ after; not one soul will see me at it, not even tha ones I kill – not even ya.”

“Your MO speaks for you, forensically.”

“Want me t’ use guns? Swords … or rocks?”

“Rocks?” Tony pulled his hands away. “Victor you aren’t listening – this is something I need to do. Me.”

He growled and slumped, withdrawing his touch. “If’n ya don’t come back in one piece, I’m gonna slaughter tha fuckin’ Pentagon.”

“You’re so cute when you give up and sulk – frightening … but cute. Ah … you are giving up, right?” Tony reached out and tucked the stubborn loose lock of hair behind his pinned ear.

“I’ll stay put. If ya take too long…”

“I should be back before lunch. These things don’t take me long at all.” Tony got up and leaned down to kiss the side of his throat.

The purr was instant, rumbling up at the touch he craved. “Ya ain’t had no breakfast, no java.”

“No shower, beyond a tongue bath. This is my sacrifice.” When black boxer briefs eclipsed his view, Victor sighed. “Take a nap, watch TV … ask JARVIS for anything you need.”

“Can Skynet make me a sandwich? Or blow me?”

Tony clicked his tongue at him. “Play nice.” He began grabbing clothes – jeans, t-shirt, socks, and tennis shoes.

“Lunch. If yer late…”

“I promise.” He sat out of reach to put on the shoes after hauling the clothes on.

“Ain’t famous fer yer punctuality, hero.”

Tony stood again and faced him, smiling. “You’re even cuter when you worry.”

Victor flipped him off but ended up purring again when Tony kissed the arch of the gleaming claw.

“Won’t be long.”

Victor flopped back onto the pillow and stared at the bedroom door Tony had closed behind him.

“Where’s he goin’, Skynet?”

“I am not authorized to give that information.”

“Gimme a country – a hemisphere?”

“I am not authorized to give that information.”

Growling, Victor glared up at the ceiling. “Suck my dick, circuit freak.”

“I am not authorized – or equipped – for that, either.”

Victor scrambled to get up and went for the pack of smokes and zippo in his duffel bag. “Are ya authorized t’ open tha balcony door? Cuz I’m gonna smoke right here if’n ya don’t.”

The thing didn’t respond, but he heard a lock and seal release on the glass door. He went out nude to lean on the railing and smoke. The ocean view, as Tabitha had assumed, was still breathtaking. The safe house was on the other side of Malibu Point from Tony’s bedroom, but she would be in the Yukon by now.

Not that she could see me wave from here.

He growled absently as his hair kept trying to tangle around his cig. The braid was fairly messy and more strands had escaped it. Tucking it behind his ears was pointless, so he just put up with it as he sucked down the cig a little faster.

The sound of the waves was soothing and he didn’t really want to go back inside the house. Its best feature, besides the wide open spaces, was Tony’s scent all over it. It was strange to be here without him – unsettling.

Victor hadn’t spotted an ashtray anywhere, so he stubbed the cig out on the back of his hand and flicked the butt of it into the breeze. He was almost surprised when the door opened and let him back inside.

He tossed the pack back into the duffel and put his jeans on before grabbing his brush. Sitting on the rumpled bed to tackle his hair, he breathed in Tony’s scent and the delicious smell of their mating that still lingered on the sheets. Growling his way through brushing and rebraiding – braiding it wet had made the curls go nuts – he tossed the brush into the duffel from the bed and got up with a huff.

In the john, he growled up at the ceiling as he took a piss. “Ya got eyes in here, too?” When the house didn’t answer, he snorted. Wonder if I can get tha java machine t’ not shoot spores at me.

After checking his phone, he tucked it into a front pocket of his jeans and left to do battle in the kitchen.

Poking and prodding the thing on the counter didn’t get him anywhere. It didn’t seem to have buttons and he hadn’t been watching when Tony had gotten the carafe to show up in the open cavity of it.

Growling, he rubbed at his already scratchy chin. “I give – how’s it work?”

He could swear the cultured British voice sounded amused. “Do you wish me to make coffee?”

Victor sighed. “Yeah. Strong.” He glared at the machine as it began to make brewing noises. “How ‘bout puttin’ CNN on, like he said? Over at tha couch.” In the distance, he heard the chatter of his favorite channel start up.

The sugar bowl was empty but he found more on the counter in a container and snagged the same large mug from a cabinet that he’d had before. When the weird noises slowed down, he watched the thing. The little doors opened on their own to reveal the full glass carafe. The rich scent of the java filled the kitchen. He had poured some into the mug and was pouring in sugar directly from the larger container when a noise made his ears twitch. A car was pulling up near the front doors. Growling, he set the mug down and went to investigate.

A gray Mercedes had parked a short distance from his Hummer and his ears pinned when he saw Pepper Pots get out of it. She was dressed more casually than the suits he’d seen her in, but still snappy in a white blouse and navy pants with navy flats.

As she approached the doors, she saw him through the glass and froze for a moment. He watched her as she gave a little shake of her head and walked up to the doors. They clicked just as she got there and he assumed the computer had unlocked them for her.

“Good morning, Mr. Creed. Where’s Tony?”

“Ask tha house – damn thing wouldn’t tell me.”

“Oh, he went off on a mission? JARVIS?”

“Yes, Miss Potts – Mr. Stark is currently in Syria.”

“Skynet likes ya, huh?”

“Yes. Are you … staying?”

“He said Monday mornin’. Probly thought that was when ya’d be back, too.”

“I can only stand so much relaxing at once. Is there coffee? You have to ask JARVIS to make it.”

“It did – finally.”

When she went into the kitchen, Victor took a detour to the bedroom and pulled his Rammstein t-shirt back on. Aggravation brought the claws out and they clicked on the concrete floor as he returned to the kitchen to get his mug. He ignored her, grabbed the mug, and went into the UFO living room.

Listening to the TV, he moved slowly around the huge room and finally began taking in the details. He rolled his eyes at the waterfall art thing and the odd modern art thing next to it. The open round area next to the waterfall was where the lift had been, after Tony had apparently killed his piano. The lift didn’t appear to even exist now and how the thing had worked went over his head.

The collection of odds and ends on glass shelves along one wall drew him closer as he gulped sugary java. A few chunky clear awards sat among pieces that looked like they should be in a museum.

He knew Pepper was standing at the kitchen entrance watching him, but he continued to ignore her. Going up the short steps, he read a few of the metal plaque tags on the awards. They were all from technology groups and organizations.

Behind him, Pepper moved farther into the living room, no doubt to keep him in sight.

As if tha house computer creepin’ me out an’ hackin’ me off ain’t ‘nuff.

The TV caught his attention with a breaking story about Iron Man and he went across the room to flop onto the couch and watch. A moment later, he sat forward on the edge of it and growled as someone’s camera showed Tony being shot at as he flew over a dingy city.

Pepper moved to sit on the opposite end of the long curved couch and set her mug down on the coffee table. She would glance at the TV on the window but mostly continued to watch him.

Restless from seeing Tony in danger, he thunked his mug onto the coffee table and started to pace and growl in front of the screen. When the story ended and they moved on to something else, he turned to frown at Pepper.

“Are ya afraid if ya don’t keep an eye on me, I’ll knick tha silver?”

“I was thinking you might hack the AI system and steal technology secrets, but essentially, yes – or at first, I should say. It upsets you to see him dented up and shot at on the news?”

“It don’t upset ya?”

“It does. I’d still like an answer to my question.”

“Makes me wanna jump in an’ lend a fist.”

“Why?”

Victor stared back at her, one eyebrow arched. “Wanna have ‘is back – keep ‘im safe.” She drew a breath to answer but Victor interjected, “Ain’t gotta look at me like I got two heads. Not gonna do nothin’ t’ tha man or steal jack from ‘im.”

“Why are you here, then – just because of ‘trench bonding’?”

“Here cuz he actually lemme in – brought ‘is Hydra gadget.”

“Not for any other reason?”

Victor sneered at her. “Tha sex is pretty fuckin’ worth it.”

“That doesn’t bother me, Mr. Creed. I like Tony happy. After his speech the other morning, I got the impression you can make him happy. The vampire act freaks me out and worries me… He insists you won’t hurt him – even with that. If he’s right and you won’t … then I can work on adjusting to you being around him, and being here.”

“Bet ya’d prefer t’ see tha back o’ me. That’s my truck right outside tha front door.”

“No, I wouldn’t – I don’t want him to think I chased you off. He wants you here. Please stay.”

Victor snorted. “Easy t’ see ya don’t want me ‘round.”

“I don’t know you; he feels he does.”

Sighing, Victor sat again, batted his braid behind him, and slumped low on the couch. “Fine.”

“What is bothering you, besides the news on him?”

“Don’t like this house,” he muttered. “Two hackles away from feelin’ trapped, lessen he’s here.”

“The house won’t trap you. Why is it better when he’s here – besides the obvious perks you mentioned before?”

Victor got up again and began to pace in front of the dark and cold hearth. If he were Tony and tried to get Lenusya or Perrin to stand out of his way, he’d have to convince them he wasn’t a threat. He had promised Tony he wouldn’t hurt Pepper, but being an inscrutable asshole to her wasn’t going to get him anywhere. Odds were her disapproval could sway the man to send him packing.

This is why just wantin’ t’ get yer wick wet is better. Aimin’ t’ keep ‘em gets tangled up in other shit. Hafta deal with this skirt sooner or later – doubt she’s goin’ anywhere. At least it ain’t tha fuckin’ Air Force Colonel; bet he’s a prime cockblocker.

Pepper lifted her mug again pointedly and sipped with the air of a woman who had all day if she needed it. Victor growled. She almost reminded him of Lenusya – her more aggravating traits.

If’n I tell a bit o’ my truth, though, tryin’ t’ convince ‘er – is she gonna believe it? He frowned. Tony’s worth puttin’ up with this, ain’t he? Just jump, asshole. “He’s pretty, he can fuck like nobody else, an’ he ain’t afraid o’ me … but it’s more’n that. He fascinates me. I like t’ watch ‘im, listen t’ ‘im talk. He’s so smart, he makes me look like a fuckin’ insect, but he don’t treat me like I’m stupid. I like that he creates stuff an’ he’s … not tryin’ t’ hurt me.”

“I would have thought nothing could hurt you, after what I saw on the bridge.”

“Surefire way t’ prove ya dunno me. Nearly every smart fucker I ever met treated me like a lab rat or a dog.”

Pepper’s eyes widened, and then she shook her head. “That is awful. So when Tony is here…?”

“I can focus on ‘im an’ not feel so boxed in. I can relax, knowin’ he won’t try t’ take me apart t’ see what makes me tick – least I ain’t seen no surgical kits ‘round, prepped fer an exploratory vivasection.”

When he settled, he sat on the smooth rounded hearthbench and dug his toes into the blonde d’Aquataine cowskin rug spread in front of it, remembering to retract claws first. He closed his eyes and for a moment, he could almost smell pine, birch, and poplar trees.

Victor’s voice turned softer as he murmured, “If he’s with me, I can sleep.” He twitched, winced, and looked up at her, startled he’d admitted that aloud.

“You have trouble sleeping?”

He frowned but nothing about her tone or body language implied an overt threat. “Nightmares … insomnia, PTSD,” he replied with reluctance.

The unwanted conversation had started to feel like an interview – or an interrogation. He was trying to be patient with her, because he understood her. She shared his need to protect Tony Stark and Victor was well aware that few people thought of him as a safe companion.

“That arc reactor – nobody else has that an’ I can sleep … touchin’ it. I know it’s ‘im cuz o’ it an’ it’s…” His frustrated growl startled her and though she had a good poker face on, he could scent the abrupt fear. Victor looked at her. “Won’t hurt ya, won’t touch ya … promised Tony I wouldn’t. Promised I’d save ya if I found ya in a jam – that’s why I jumped behind yer car on tha bridge. Can’t help some o’ tha sounds I make.”

“Okay … I believe you.”

Victor growled again, but it wasn’t directed at her. “Hate those motherfuckin’ Yanks fer callin’ ‘im away t’ risk ‘is neck doin’ their fuckin’ job.”

“Welcome to my world.” She took a breath and let it out slow. “I think I’ll order in some Chinese takeout, he likes that when he returns from these ‘missions’. Is there anything along that vein that you can eat? I understand your dietary needs are … particular.”

“Sweet an’ sour pork, with pineapple.”

“Oh, that is good.” She fished her phone out of the purse on the coffee table, and then paused and looked at him again. “Pineapples aren’t meat.”

“Got me a sweet tooth.”

“I see. I’ll tell them to deliver in an hour.”

Victor didn’t bother to mention that Tony had gotten something similar for their dinner the night before. Odds were the man wouldn’t care as long as it was quick and efficient.

“Would you like to have a second cup of coffee with me out on the veranda, Mr. Creed? No more interrogation questions, I promise, although I’d love to ask you what the last century was like.”

“Sure, if ya do me one favor.”

“What is that?”

“Call me Victor.” When Pepper smiled at him, he felt himself slowly start to relax. Fuck Skynet, if Girl Friday likes me, I’m in.

“It’s a deal, Victor.” Still smiling, she dialed and began to order lunch.

~ ~ ~

“By tha time I plucked ‘im offa tha ice, I’d already taken out two assholes that wanted t’ pay me t’ kill tha man. That ain’t a lark, neither – gotta be careful an’ avoid gettin’ a rep fer killin’ clients. Once that shit starts, ya can end up with none left willin’ t’ hire ya.”

“Thank you for … protecting him.”

Victor smirked and took another gulp of the sweet coffee. “Yer welcome.”

“He was thrilled to attack that Hydra base with you.”

“Natch – blowin’ ‘em sky high is always a damn good time.”

“I have to admit, the fact that you hate them makes me feel better.” She looked out at the perfect blue of the Pacific for a moment before turning back to him. “So when were you born?”

“All’s I know is 1868.”

“Goodness. Tony said you fought in World War I, and most other wars, apparently?”

“Yup.” Deciding to jump and ask a question of his own, he flicked a glance back at the house. “There a reason why he programmed tha house with snark an’ an irritatin’ sense o’ humor?”

“I think he wanted a companion, not just a servant.” Undetered, she veered back to her topic. “Do you like being a soldier?”

“Not particularly. Takin’ orders blows.”

“Then why…?”

“Bein’ a soldier means gettin’ paid t’ kill an’ nobody tries t’ lock ya up or hang ya fer it. Assassin work – tha type that can make ya rich – didn’t have a clue ‘bout that ‘til decades later, after tha Cold War. Wouldn’t trade it in fer bein’ a grunt, any road.”

“I’ll probably end up nervous that you could inspire him to take needless risks.” She sighed at his smirk. “More than he does already. You also make promises to him that involve me but neither of you see fit to tell me. This has the makings of a rather worrisome boy’s club, at the very least.”

“Well if ya like, I can make ya a promise an’ not tell ‘im. Fair’s fair?” He studied her reactions as he drank more coffee.

“Like what?”

“How ‘bout I promise not t’ tell Tony when yer havin’ impure thoughts ‘bout ‘im.”

Pepper frowned. “I don’t.”

“Uh-huh. Dunno if it helps or hinders, but in bed, he’s plenty worth tha trouble he can be.” Victor smirked again. “Or would ya rather I promised t’ watch out fer ‘im?”

“I … yes, promise me that. How can you know what I’m thinking?”

“Yer scent changes.”

“My … scent… That is … intrusive, and downright disturbing.”

“Yeah? Ya should try it from my end. Yer producin’ that shit; my senses ain’t gotta choice ‘bout pickin’ up on it. Some o’ it really plays havoc with my instincts, too – may as well be puppet strings on me.”

“So you know how I feel just by smell? How can you be sure you’re interpreting the data correctly?”

“I can also hear yer heart rate change an’ read micro expressions – it’s a real feat t’ successfully lie t’ me. Tha few that manage it either catch me too distracted t’ care or they’re so batshit crazy an’ believe tha bullshit they’re shovelin’ so much, that it seems like they ain’t lyin’.”

“Yet anger can often mask fear. If you detect anger, you might miss the underlying cause of it.”

Victor tried not to let the predatory stare take over his face. “Oh, I can scent fear.” He tilted his head slightly, breathing in the anxiety she was trying to hide. “Fear lights up tha air like napalm.”

“Do I have a reason to be afraid of you?”

He leaned back, drumming his fingers on the edge of the table. “Nope. Cuz I aim t’ keep my promise t’ Tony.”

Pepper regarded him coolly for a moment. “Why do you commit rape?”

He narrowed his eyes at her, ears twitching. “Ya ain’t earned gettin’ that sorta honesty outta me. I ain’t a threat t’ Tony – ‘im an’ ‘is are safe from me.”

“And I’m safe because you promised him.”

“That an’ tha fact that yer a part o’ tha stuff classified as bein’ ‘is.”

“How very Mesozoic of you.”

“Just call ‘em like I see ‘em. ‘Sides, ya can’t fool me – yer not worried ‘bout riskin’ yer safety cuz yer too wrapped up in worrin’ ‘bout ‘is.” Victor paused and then grudgingly admitted, “I respect that.”

“You really are taken with him, aren’t you?”

“Yup. That gonna be ‘nuff fer ya?”

“I guess we’ll see.”

Victor’s ears moved – erect and turned slightly outward. “He’s headin’ back.”

It was about ten minutes later when she heard Tony, too, though the lift couldn’t be seen from the patio. She gave him a searching look before she rose.

“Wait here, would you? I’ll tell him you’re out here and watch for our lunch to arrive.”

“No prob.” When she disappeared into the house, Victor slumped in the chair. “Fuck.”

 

 

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

Author’s Note: The Sabretooth limited series comics story Mary Shelley Overdrive established the idea that Victor doesn’t like Brad Pitt. I have no idea why, I just think it’s funny. In that story, his suite in the brothel safe house has a framed movie poster on the wall of the 1960 Ocean’s Eleven. Victor has always struck me as being a movie buff, and the same comic character who said he didn’t like Brad Pitt mentioned that he loves Monty Python. In the special Uncanny X-Men story Sabretooth: In the Red Zone, Cyclops and Iceman go to a safe house apartment of Victor’s in New York City and find it very orderly, full of books, and there’s even a little bonsai tree on the coffee table. I have always felt that these little clues were ignored by the X-Men that maybe there was more to Victor than just being a blood-soaked killer. It is fun for me to have Tony actually put the effort in to learn more about him. I’ve also edited the location of Tony’s mansion from “Point Dume” (the actual place) to Malibu Point, which is the address Tony gives for his home in Iron Man 3. Point Dume is state park protected land, so even though it’s the same location, Marvel has taken the liberty of changing it. I researched it and then forgot about the address he cites to the media to bait the Mandarin. Thanks for reading! – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)

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