Sabretooth: Over the Edge – Chapter 5 – A Sea for me to Swim

Took the breath from my open mouth
Never known how it broke me down
I went in circles somewhere else
Shook the best when your love was home
Storing up on your summer glow
You went in search of someone else

And I hear the ship is comin’ in
Your tears a sea for me to swim
And I hear a storm is comin’ in
My dear is it all we’ve ever been?

Caught the air in your woven mouth
Leave it all I’ll be hearing how you went
In search of someone else

Taught the hand that taught the bride
Both our eyes lock to the tide
We went in circles somewhere else

And I hear the ship is comin’ in
Your tears a sea for me to swim
And I hear a storm is comin’ in
My dear is it all we’ve ever been?

Anchor up to me, love
Anchor up to me, love
Anchor up to me, love
Oh, anchor up to me, my love

~ Anchor (Novo Amor)

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

Victor went still as Tony appeared over the rise and walked down the sidewalk to join him at the table. He seemed no worse for wear, tired but smiling, and simply beautiful in the glow of the California sun. His sunglasses were expensive but understated and the red lenses made Victor smirk. He pulled out a chair and sat down, drank half of the coffee mug’s contents he’d brought with him, and relaxed into a slouch.

“See? Before lunch. You even survived Pepper coming back early.”

Pepper reappeared with food, effectively curtailing any response Victor was inclined to make.

The two of them fell into a comfortable rhythm of discussing the mission as Victor watched, vaguely feeling out of place. He got the distinct impression that if they’d been having lunch at one of his houses, with Lenusya or Claudette, Tony would be perfectly at home and at ease. Victor couldn’t quite manage that and ended up eating to have something to do and listening to them talk as he watched Tony.

“Well,” Pepper announced as she rose from her chair, “I have some work to do, so I’ll leave you both to it.”

“We’ll be in the workshop,” Tony responded with a chipper smile to her concerned expression. “Although, we should run that errand out to LAX and get the pulse device off of your jet.”

Victor watched Pepper walk off until he heard the door close out of sight. “Don’t gotta go so far fer that.” He turned to Tony. “It’s in the back o’ my Hummer – has been.”

“Of course it is.” Snagging the last gooey cube of pineapple from Victor’s plate with his fingers, Tony ate it and winked at him behind those rose-colored glasses. “Was there a purpose in telling me it was on your jet?”

“Never did say that. Ya just assumed. Offloaded it when I landed, been drivin’ ‘round with tha thing t’ bring it here. It has been a pain in tha fuel supply, though, before that.”

“Huh. Damn. You’re right. Nice subterfuge skills. Why didn’t you just drive up and say so?”

“Not in tha habit o’ draggin’ my ride in before I know I’m welcome. ‘Sides, figured if I did that, ya’d say thanks an’ shoo me off.”

“I’m not shooing you until late Monday morning – tomorrow, time flies – chiefly because I’ll have a ton of press, meetings, and more work to do by then. And I just now got out of the suit, naturally … not wild about getting back in it.” He sighed, looking a bit beyond just tired.

“Why would ya need t’?”

“Getting the device into the workshop without it should be fun.”

“Only if’n ya want me t’ pretend I can’t lug it in there.”

“Good point. Bonus. Which reminds me, Happy will be back tomorrow – strength training, boxing, and self-defense sessions once a day.”

“I could help with that, if ya wanted – so’s ya ain’t skippin’ ‘nother day.”

Tony’s eyebrows went up and he chuckled. “I’d rather spar with him and get to the meetings in one piece.”

Victor slumped in the chair with a growl, looking away and out at the Pacific.

“What?” Tony leaned in and covered his fist with a hand. “Tell me.”

“Wouldn’t hurt ya. How many times I gotta say that, t’ how many o’ yer minions? How often I gotta say it t’ ya?”

The inventor huffed out a breath and leaned back again as he emptied his coffee mug. He set it down with a click on the glass table. “Okay. Later on, we can hit the gym for a spell – but just weights. You can spot me, since you reminded me that you can bench the weight of your utility truck.”

Tony was smiling at him with amusement when Victor turned back to watch him again.

I’m still a novelty toy t’ ‘im – probly nothin’ gonna change that. At least, he might could be a li’l nicer on tha phone next time I find ‘is wayward tech in tha wrong hands … maybe. Bet he won’t wanna go fer ‘date three’. I ain’t no leggy brainy redhead with sweet perky tits.

Tony studied him as his stubby fingernails tap-tapped on the mug in front of him. “I would give a lot to know what is going on in that head of yours.”

With a short growl of annoyance, Victor rose and headed up the walkway to the circular drive as Tony belatedly followed him.

“Ain’t worth all that much, flyboy.”

~ ~ ~

Lugging in the crate as promised, Victor only shrugged when the inventor asked him to take the device out of it. Popping a claw, he slashed the steel nails that sealed the lid down and got to it, leaving the rest of the random goodies inside. Some of them were still smeared with dried blood, the papers in the satchel stuck together with it here and there, but the chunky odd device was relatively clean.

He set the heavy thing down nearby on the rubber-topped metal work table that Tony indicated, via a wordless stunned point.

Recovering his tongue, Tony asked, “Are you sure you don’t mind me acquiring this as a cover?” He held up the large wad of black material that sported a massive scarlet Hydra logo.

“Nope. With my rep, some idiot would get tha wrong idea. ‘Sides, I prefer more personal souvenirs.”

Tony draped the device with the cloth, not commenting when Victor set the lid back down crookedly over the crate.

“That reminds me – why no human bones and teeth choker these days?”

“It’s in tha truck. Figured ya probly wouldn’t miss it.”

“Well … if you don’t tell me how to dress, I won’t curtail your fashion sense, in human remains or clothes.”

“I’m mostly gonna tell ya not t’ wear any.”

“Now on that, we are in agreement – even though we both appear to be in them.”

“That’s an easy fix.”

Victor hooked fingertips under the hem of Tony’s t-shirt and playfully tugged at it. When the man took a step back out of reach, Victor frowned.

“Since you distracted me yesterday, I need to get some more work done, first. Then we can play – and lift more heavy stuff.”

Shrugging, Victor leaned a hip against the table. “Yer call – ain’t promisin’ not t’ distract ya, though.”

“Why so quiet at lunch? Did Pepper freak you out? Was it the third degree? A redhead tribunal of one?”

“Naw, I’ve had worse. She’s just tryin’ t’ watch yer back, same as me.”

“Huh. What do you think of her?”

“Seriously?” He folded his arms over his chest and stared at the man.

“Yes.”

Tony took off the sunglasses and set them beside the device. He stuffed his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans and held his gaze as if daring him to answer.

Victor sighed. “Smart, fierce … not afraid t’ speak ‘er mind, even with me glarin’ across too small a space at ‘er. That’s a feat, ya know.”

Tony smiled. “Yes, I know. What else?”

“Are ya fishin’ fer me t’ say she’s fuckable?”

“Ah…”

“Wouldn’t kick ‘er outta bed. Still ain’t gonna lay a paw nor claw on that. Ya happy?”

“I … just wanted your opinion. I realize it could take a while, to find some sort of common ground, but when the people I like to hang out with hate each other, it makes life needlessly stressful.”

“We already found an’ discussed our common ground.”

“Oh. Care to share?”

“Worryin’ ‘bout ya, wantin’ t’ make sure yer safe. Don’t mind tha mini-interrogation too bad, on retrospect. I understand it an’ I’m aware I ain’t what most folks consider ‘safe’.”

“So then why were you so quiet at lunch?”

“I ain’t a chatterbox.”

“You talk to me just fine – when it’s just me. Usually.”

“She don’t like me, hero. Tha two o’ ya got that ‘finishin’ each other’s thoughts’ shit goin’ on, in synch crap. Got no reason t’ butt int’ that.”

“Well … okay.”

Victor moved behind him and ghosted his lips across the back of his neck, smiling when he shivered.

“If’n ya want me t’ play nice with ‘er, I will, but…” Brushing the shell of his ear, he whispered, “Ain’t here t’ be with ‘er.” His hands came up and the fingers drummed down Tony’s biceps before gripping them lightly.

“I know, but thanks … for the offer to play nice.”

“With Pepper, mind – yer house is a dick.”

Tony chuckled. “I like JARVIS to give me a hard time. Maybe that’s why I like you.”

“I come with perks it ain’t got.” Victor smirked as Tony turned to face him. Those gifted hands settled on his hips, the thumbs stroking his skin under the shirt hem. “Since we established yer against sexbots…”

“Yes, but you’re likely too busy to just hang around as my boy toy all the time.”

Victor stared down at him as the purr threatened to break loose. Those warm brown eyes met his and made his heartbeat thump faster. “That is a damn shame.”

Tony smiled. “Uh-huh.”

“Gonna fuck me now?”

“Let’s … start off by letting me get that project pushed along closer to its deadline, and then head to the gym. We’ll need to hit the showers after that, so we may as well get dirty first.”

Victor huffed out a breath as the man turned away, but didn’t argue. While Tony got back to work, Victor wandered over to look at the displayed armor suits.

Always been tough t’ think o’ Tony an’ Iron Man as tha same person. Usually try t’ separate ‘em in my head. Each of the hunks of metal and tech were silent and still in their separate alcoves. Bloody things’re like nightmarish reliquaries o’ dead gods.

He knew they were operational – his nose could tell the difference. Supressing a shiver, he moved away and ended up by the weird robot thing. Its base was big, looked heavy, and the rest of it appeared to just be a big crane arm with grabbers for a hand. The other one that Tony had called U was a bit bigger, but not that different – except for the video camera mount.

“Does it talk?” he called behind him.

Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Tony had left the desk chair and moved into the middle of the hard light holograms in front of the desk.

“What? Oh – no, it doesn’t. Dum-E can understand you, sort of. I’m not sure how your accent will register. Stick with simple commands for the best results. Tell it to sweep or something, if you want.”

Victor faced it. “Bet ya don’t wanna sweep shit.” Looking around, he spotted a wrench in a toolbox. Setting it on the floor, he kicked it a few feet with a bare foot. “Fetch.”

Tony’s amused voice floated over to him, distracted. “It’s not a dog. Tell it what you want done.”

“Pick up tha wrench. Hand it t’ me.”

Moving on unseen wheels, it went to the wrench. Victor watched, fascinated, as the arm worked. The mechanism was quite a trick. It dropped the tool once, tried again, and then turned and held it out to him in the pinchers. Taking it, he stared at the thing. A pair of rivets near the pincer fingers almost looked like eyes.

“Why’d ya put a face on it?” Victor popped a claw and tapped on the metal of the arm.

“Just a random design thing, not a plan. No claws, huh?”

Victor frowned at it, but he liked it better than the armor or the house computer.

Pulled back to Tony like a moth to a flame, he set the tool down, left the robot, and watched the man move and gesture at his holograms.

He tried to smell the bright blue drawings and diagrams that hung in the air, but they barely had a scent at all. He was reminded of dust motes moving through a warm beam of light. That thought dragged up a strange array of fragmented memories, both soothing and fearsome. Between one breath and the next, he could smell hay, mud, and the sharp tang of blood. Confused, he shook his head to clear it and the ghosts faded away.

Lifting fingers and retracting the claw, he poised them near one of the drawings.

“Don’t … touch that, please.”

“What is it?”

“A design for a rather revolutionary electrosurgical generator.”

“An’ that?”

“Plenum vaporizer.”

“Huh?” he asked, but Tony didn’t reply.Victor frowned a little, bewildered by the answers, but at least Tony was talking to him again. Shouldn’t be here, though … just gonna end up stuck on ‘im deeper, an’ it won’t change nothin’.

Watching the lines of his body and his profile, scenting him, Victor caught no hint of a mating urge in the man. He was lost in his work.

Kinda turns int’ somethin’ else when he goes int’ that – can’t tell if it’s more’n human or just less o’ one. He … becomes what he’s doin’. Seen that before – Michel used t’ do it, but I never felt left behind ‘round ‘im. Don’t matter none – bein’ closer t’ Tony makes it easier t’ push tha bad memories away.

Yet it was different than being around his mate so long ago on a level that he felt instinctively. Michel had always known he was there and would often talk or hum as he carved – to comfort him.

Loneliness threatened, even while standing a mere two feet away from the man who had turned his world upside down by letting him in … and allowing him to touch him.

Ashamed by the need he felt and angry at himself for feeling either need or shame, he looked around for a distraction. The workshop around him, so much like a cavern, was far from relaxing and the feeling of being trapped slowly crept back in. He froze when the echo of a flashback struck him, turning the room into a stone laboratory covered by snow. He blinked fast and it shrank down into the cramped trap of the root cellar – quiet and smeared with blood.

He turned his head to see the broken fang hanging on a windshield – its yanked out root exposed. Even as he stared at it, he heard the sound of them hitting between his knees and skating away when kicked by a huge dirty leather boot.

Raising fingers to his lips and fangs, he felt no blood, no gaping holes. There was no smell of stored roots or dried mud on worn wooden steps. Afraid, and abruptly angry again because he knew it was irrational, he drew in a breath and quickly buried the fear and the anger, too.

Fuckin’ shut it. Don’t show ‘im that. Control it.

He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, Tony was farther away and Victor was surrounded by floating things he didn’t understand. Shutting his eyes again, he saw another quietly absorbed figure – tall and deathly pale.

Cold fingers moved over objects on a table. It looked like a carcass that was being hollowed out, but none of the organs were cut – just moved aside. They were only organs, but the sight chilled him and fear slithered back in. To escape it, he stared beyond and saw his own feet: pale, still … and restrained. The claws were out, but some of them were worn blunt, stained dark with earth and blood. The table was made of stone and had a channel cut in it down one side for the blood to run. It was collected – he wasted nothing.

Swallowing a gasp, his eyes flew open and he turned his head to find Tony. He was touching the floating things as he stood there, quiet and absorbed.

Go away… he said to the spectre around the inventor.

He shook his head again and fought to see only Tony – the slightly messy hair that looked darker here but was lighter in the sun. A blue light glowed under his t-shirt and it made a sound, a soft endless spinning – the sound that let him sleep without nightmares.

Pull back from tha edge – not one bit o’ that shit is real an’ ya know it. Not now, not here – this is Tony’s house. He designed an’ built it. Tony… He needed to hear his voice. Forcing his fingers to stop trembling, he pointed to one of the holograms, hoping he would sound normal. He couldn’t think of anything else to say. “What’s this one?”

“Positive pressure atmospheric indicator and control – for the plenum vaporizer.”

That voice – it sank into his head and soothed him, even though he didn’t understand most of what he had said. He didn’t need to. Grasping at it, he clung to the distracted words of the inventor like a man drowning on dry land.

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

“What’s that thing?” the feral asked again, like an immense curious toddler.

Tony stifled a sigh. “It’s another ‘don’t touch it’ thing.”

“Ain’t it just a hologram?”

“Tech – nically…”

“If ya want me t’ bail, I can.”

“No, I don’t want you to go anywhere – at least, not out of the workshop. I have to get this design completed today but when I’m done, I want you un-bailed.”

“So that’s when I get t’ stop hearin’ ‘don’t touch it’?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

“I need to concentrate, but I’m closer to done.” The mutant wandered off, looking slightly crestfallen for some reason. When he headed back toward Dum-E, a nagging worry for the robot made him call out, “You’re bored, aren’t you?”

Victor paused. “Sorta…”

“It’s okay, I can be seriously tedious when working – most of these projects aren’t as thrills-a-minute as the armor. Here, come back over – I’ll show you what I’m working on.”

“Don’t gotta do that. I should just let ya work.”

“I’m betting there are things you could be doing besides hanging around bored for hours waiting on when I can be actual company. Since I want you to stay, it’s up to me to make it worth your while.”

“Pepper –”

“It’s her job to worry about stuff like that, right? You know, and I know, that you aren’t here to steal secrets – wrecking my productivity this weekend is as much my fault as yours. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to slow down and smell the roses, so … this has been good for me. Besides, I’d really like your opinion on this one. I know you have your healing factor, so not much experience with surgery, but you must have seen some stuff that I haven’t, and – well, input appreciated.”

Victor looked at him dubiously. “Ain’t gonna be able t’ help ya with yer genius buildin’.”

Tony smiled and beckoned him over. “I promise I won’t ask you to do calculus or anything. It’s your battlefield strategy and logistics experience that I want to pick.”

When Victor stood beside him, Tony began to point at the holograms in the air around them.

“The endgame here is to have a high-tech mobile surgical unit for field doctors that can be kept in reserve and then moved where it’s needed. Basically, a state-of-the-art operating room the troops can be patched up in without having to die waiting for an evac. You said you generally liked the soldiers you’ve served with. Now is this something you’d call worthwhile?”

He watched the mutant as he slowly began to really take in the plans and images around them. Tony suspected that Victor was far more intelligent than anyone thought, and his unique viewpoint of having seen action in so many wars was a resource Tony was itching to benefit from – now that he had remembered to ask.

“How’s it gonna move ‘round?”

“The brass wants me to make it fit on a truck. I argued for tank treads and superior armor. This blueprint,” he moved forward and pointed to a few key sections of the holographic drawing, “is for the system I’m putting in that allows the transport to offload the medical unit and pick up another one, to go back out.”

“While it’s bein’ used?”

“Yes. The big ones like this can handle three patients being operated on. Once it hits capacity, it can be brought to a safer location. The system is similar to how ambulance gurneys work. This way, the evac is the surgical team, and soldiers who would normally die before getting to where the help is – well, their chances go up, hopefully by a lot. For wounded that can wait until they reach regular medical help, they can load up, too – at least ten of them.”

“Def worthwhile. Whattaya need me fer?”

“These things can’t have weapons, they’re hospitals. Some people don’t mind shooting hospitals. I’m debating between more armor and more speed.”

“If’n ‘nuff o’ ‘em are out on tha field, speed ain’t as big a worry. Don’t wait fer one at capacity t’ come in before sendin’ a fresh one out. Put most o’ yer armor on tha bottom – mines an’ other bombs are a bigger prob than bullets. Nowadays, all that Geneva Conventions an’ medical neutrality hoopla, fewer assholes are gonna aim bigger weapons at an über ambulance. Also, it looks top-heavy as all hell – a regular MASH unit on a unicycle. More belly armor’ll keep it upright in all sorts o’ terrain.”

Tony grinned at the holograms. “Excellent, I agree, and points for flair.” He winked at Victor. “Hoopla?”

“It’s fine, I guess – but coulda used ‘em rules before 1949.”

“They had some. The first three treaties were 1864, 1906, and 1929 – only one of which predates you – barely.”

“Nazis didn’t follow ‘em too good, trust me, an’ they weren’t tha only ones.”

Tony felt there was a lot of ugly personal history tucked behind that statement. He almost began to ask about it, but then stopped.

When Victor met his stare, the expression was full of regret and discomfort. “Bet yer homework told ya which side I was on fer that.”

“INTERPOL didn’t have much before your CIA days. SHIELD only had a couple of scraps of paper that old where your name or description showed up – but none of it said why.”

“Had t’, that’s all tha why ya need.”

“I wouldn’t mind more – just a smidge?”

Victor’s eyes narrowed. “Tha few mutants found then were bein’ shipped off t’ tha camps. I spent ‘nuff time as a test subject in Auschwitz t’ fig out I’d do anythin’ t’ get tha hell outta there. No treaty was gonna do me any good.”

“Yikes. SHIELD didn’t have a record of that.”

“What a shock. Those bastards scrambled t’ destroy records once they copped a snap that they were losin’. Nobody talks much ‘bout all tha mutants they killed, neither.”

Tony watched him, studying his reactions. He could empathize with what he was saying – it was horrid – but those scraps of history he had dug out of SHIELD’s files included eyewitness accounts. More than one victim described Victor Creed and mentioned him by name. Their words had painted a gruesome image on the sepia tones of cracked and ragged reports that had been assembled to make a case against him at the Nuremberg trials. Yet the brutal torturer and corpse removal expert, one of the killers at the Babi Yar massacre, had never been found.

Unclenching his jaw, Tony spoke as calmly as he could. “So you joined the Gestapo…”

Victor visibly flinched. “Was put there.”

“This is probably one of those topics you don’t want to discuss.”

“Got it in one.” Victor lifted his chin. “I’m a law o’ tha jungle type o’ fella. Got no prob with hurtin’ some fucker ‘til he talks, if’n ‘is talkin’ is gonna fix somethin’ that needs t’ be fixed. When he talks, tha pain ends – one way or tha other. There’s been worse ghouls throughout history – like the ones that don’t care what ya know or say an’ tha hurt don’t never stop.”

Tony sucked in a breath, his lips setting into a hard line. “I was tortured into making a Jericho missile for a terrorist. I made the Mark I instead.”

“Always preferred t’ play thumbscrews with somebody that earned it – ya never earned that – but I’d rather kill. Don’t like bein’ a two-bit thug. Most often, tha guy givin’ tha orders deserves what he’s dishin’ out more’n tha poor slobs that get it.”

“Your SHIELD file doesn’t have any ‘he only hurts people who deserve it’ notes in the margin.”

“Maybe not. They dunno me, though, an’ ya know what? They ain’t never bothered t’ ask me.”

“I’m asking. What about the women whose only crime was being with Wolverine?”

He expected the mutant to growl and get angry, but Victor was weirdly calm with only the slightest edge to his tone. Tony couldn’t be calm.

“How ‘bout tha women an’ kids yer government ordered me t’ kill, just cuz they lived with a target? Wet works black ops o’ all stripes: CIA, Weapon X Program, Hound Program – most o’ that with complimentary brainwashin’. All but tha last one on that list, tha runt was on tha same team, but ‘im an’ yer holier-than-thou Fury are ol’ pals, ain’t they? War buddies. How ‘bout that?”

“You eat and rape people. You tortured people for fascists who committed genocide, and you maimed innocent victims for them, to force their families to do hideous things. I’m asking, Victor.”

“Yer askin’? Bit late in tha game fer that. I had t’ do what that bastard said.” The large hands curled into fists as the chin lowered. The effect was frightening … predatory. “Drop it now, cuz I ain’t in a fit state t’ talk ‘bout that shit. If’n ya think ya earned it – not even close.” Victor growled. “Ya knew all o’ that before ya ever lemme touch ya.”

The angry yet cold words held a surprising note of fear in them. They were like icy water dumped over him. Tony folded his arms over his chest and sighed as he stared down at the arc reactor glowing through his Iron Maiden t-shirt. He was screwing up.

“I know, and yes, I knew it all before we – met. Sometimes, I just don’t know what to think. There are things…” Tony winced. Don’t screw this up, come on! “Do you mind – if we skip the gym?”

“Yer call.”

The feral’s body seemed to relax, an illusion of tension rolling from shoulders to feet as the fists opened, but Tony could feel it was a facade. Victor’s mask was back – the chilled poker face that Tony thought he had wormed behind. What was keeping him from walking out was a mystery.

“I – don’t handle casual talk about being pro-torture very well, but your situation was clearly different.”

“Told ya I prefer assassin work – I accept or reject tha contracts, it’s my decision, an’ most are assholes who earn what’s comin. Don’t change tha fact that if I gotta hurt someone t’ protect me an’ mine, they’re fucked. Ya operate tha same way – ya even kill – it just boils down t’ a matter o’ degrees.”

“It does and you’re right, I do. I’m trying to understand. I know a lot of things are instinct for you, and that your nature doesn’t experience them the same way as other people. There’s always a bigger fish, so yeah, I do believe that you’ve been used by people and made to do things.” Tony looked up and met his luminous amber stare. “We both know you do some things simply because you want to. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile those aspects of you.”

“When ya can’t sleep over it, ask yerself this – why’s tha runt called a hero like ya? Ask Fury how he sleeps at night, knowin’ what he knows ‘bout ‘is stogie an’ booze buddy. He might could give ya some advice. He’s gotta few like that, almost as much blood on their hands as me – they just ain’t lived as long yet t’ really wrack ‘em up. Saint Xavier harbors all manner o’ so-called reformed criminals an’ killers. He’d have me now if only he coulda twisted my brains hard ‘nuff t’ force me t’ obey. Ya gonna ignore that, too?”

“They said he was trying to cure your killing urges.”

“That’s cute. ‘They said’, huh? Who said – ‘is brainless loyal flyin’ monkeys? Tha ones who live in ‘is house an’ eat ‘is food? They weren’t there, an’ neither were ya. Will he try t’ cure lions next? Ya gonna let that mind-witch shackle ya t’ a chair an’ kick ‘is boots through yer head t’ cure yer killin’ urge? Maybe these ‘good men’ ain’t what ya think they are.”

“You went there to get help – with ‘violent blood rages’ that you claimed you couldn’t control on your own. Was that a lie?”

“No, that was tha truth – but Cueball didn’t help me one bit. All he wanted t’ do was own me, subjugate my head t’ use me fer ‘is militant mutant army whims. He tried t’ recruit me once, long before he snared tha runt. I told ‘im t’ go fuck ‘isself. Guess he holds a grudge. He shoulda stuck with tha old ways o’ brainwashin’ – my head’s too messed up fer ‘is methods. Ya gotta look at some ugly shit t’ do it, an’ I don’t think he had tha stomach fer it.”

“The truth is probably somewhere in the middle of both sides.”

“Yeah, sure,” Victor said with a sneer. “Ya need t’ believe that, don’t ya? Ever ask yer daddy how he slept at night after ‘is Manhattan Project work blew Hiroshima an’ Nagasaki offa tha map?”

“Hey! I –” Tony stopped, forced himself to take a deep breath and let it out slow. “I warned you I offend and piss people off. Clearly, you’re an expert at that, too. You’re right, I haven’t earned asking you this stuff – creatively acquired files and stalking aside, we barely know each other. This isn’t a discussion we need to have. Not yet or never, remains to be seen. I wanted you here, still do.”

“Still standin’ here.”

“Okay. Time to de-escalate. Ah … if you want something to do while I work on getting to my next deadline, we could … figure something out. I’m almost there.”

“What’s up with that?”

Tony looked beyond him to see what he was pointing at. Surrounded by equipment that would make any mechanic blush with lust, a black 1930 Mercedes-Benz SSK Count Trossi was crouching on the pad.

The Trossi, in fact – one of a kind. “That’s my next relaxing project – refurbishing the engine. Not a major endeavor, it’s in pretty decent shape.”

“I know my way ‘round a toolbox.”

Tony nodded once, relieved to have the sparks tamped down. “Have at it. You have to impress me, though – find out what has to be done on your own.”

“Challenge accepted.”

“Do you know what it is?”

“Yup.”

“Who was it made for?”

“Italian racer Count Carlo Felice Trossi. Maybe four or five SSK originals left, only one that looks like that.”

Tony made a grand ‘proceed sir’ gesture. “That’s a good start on impressing me.” As Victor moved away, Tony let a held breath go in a determined huff. “Victor?”

“Yeah?” He glanced back over his shoulder.

“Once I get to a stopping place over here, I’d like to work on it with you. It’d be fun, and I really do need to learn to relax more.”

“Yup, ya do,” he replied, and kept going.

“Tunes?”

“Sure.”

“The eclectic mechanic mix, JARVIS.”

“Yes, sir.”

As Van Halen’s Panama started up, Tony watched for a moment as Victor opened the butterfly hood of the priceless car with both care and respect.

Well, that nearly went south, thus proving Hank’s point that teaching Victor a thing or two may be a bigger challenge than I anticipated. He practically speaks in riddles, so there’s no telling what damage I was stomping over. I got triggered again … just at the mention of torture, blindsided – and this little side project could have blown up in my face. I think he was starting to trust me? Damn it!

He got back to work to even out and began to add more armor to the undercarriage of his mobile surgical unit transport.

I’m nowhere near having all of the information about how and why he is what he is. I refuse to fall into the trap of judging him by my own experiences. Who knows, maybe he got triggered, too; he was pretty zoned out before. I wonder which bastard he meant? Even in the Nazi crowd, it’s hard to imagine anyone could hold Victor under their thumb without the brainwashing tricks others used.

Regret and worry deviled him. He had known all of that ugly history prior to the tent out on the frozen ocean – it was a chief reason he had never even tried to be civil on the phone. Victor had proven in the Arctic Circle that there was more to him than what the files had to say. Hank McCoy had tried to explain other aspects of the Victor Creed conundrum. Yet his growing addiction to sex with the feral had been ignoring all of that, even the fact of what Victor had done to him in Chicago.

Based on Hank’s assessment, was that instinct and not malice? Probably. Although the effort to hide who he was implies he knew it was wrong on some level. Either way, the murder of the guy I went upstairs with was twisted.

They remained firmly on opposite sides of the moral fence, and his hero convictions represented a threat to Victor – a risk the feral was ignoring while blinded by his stalker crush.

What a pair we make. He did have one hell of a point about the government – mine no less – being behind some of his more heinous crimes. One thing is sure – he is living proof why I keep those bastards at arm’s length where my tech is concerned.

~ ~ ~

Tony flagged the finished design to be accessible only to himself and Pepper, and then had JARVIS ask her to come downstairs. For some reason, she was carrying a pair of laptops when she arrived, and one of them looked like it had returned from war.

Pepper glanced at Victor, who was starting to look rather fetching in engine grease. Tony followed her gaze because it was worth an extra look.

“These are my mother’s, you said you could salvage the files from the crunched one? She keeps asking. What did you need?”

“I need Rhodey – ah, not now, definitely not now. Can we find a spot early next week? The surgical pod and transport designs are done and ready for him to peruse.”

“Okay, yes. Maybe SHIELD, too?”

“If Fury is good, he can order some too, but he has to quit sneaking into my house in the middle of the night to tell me bedtime stories.”

“Right. I’ll call Agent Coulson instead.”

“Sounds like a party – count me in.”

“What about this?” She held out the laptops.

“I have to finish my notes on the transport. Leave them here and I’ll get there later.”

“If I do that, they’ll end up buried. I promised I wouldn’t let them out of my sight.”

“Hey, ask Victor – despite being the reigning King of the Jungle, he’s surprisingly tech savvy.”

Lowering her voice, she leaned in and murmured to him, “Alarmingly, you mean.”

Tony winked at her. “He could hear you from the other end of the workshop, let alone from right over there. Play nice?”

She shot him a wary look. “Don’t include me in your little social experiments – or whatever you’re doing.”

“Keep in mind? Without him deciding to do something about it, neither of us might be here.” Tony was painfully aware that he needed the reminder, too. I hope you are listening, Victor. This is me apologizing. “I would be six feet under or body-not-recovered. My suit would be in the hands of Hydra, or on the black market. Briefly, anyway.”

“Tony…” she fussed, almost turning his name into a plea. It was adorable.

“I dug out my connection kit after you asked the first time. It’s right over there on that table – perfect spot for the surgery.”

Pepper sighed. “The last time we spoke, I called him a criminal. Got any ice breaking advice for me?”

“Fortune favors the brave. He is a criminal, that shouldn’t offend him. Off you go – make a new friend.” Tony went back to sit in his desk chair but couldn’t resist glancing up to witness the exchange.

Pepper set the laptops down next to the connection kit first. She was tall, but they both looked like kids around the mutant. She turned to watch him as he stuffed an oily rag in the back pocket of his jeans and continued to tinker with the engine.

“Victor, would you mind helping me? I can’t get the hard drive out and I need to salvage what’s on it.”

He straightened and grabbed the rag again, wiping off his fingers as he studied her. “Sure. It’s scrap otherwise, right?”

“Yes.”

Victor ignored her wince as a single claw popped, cutting its way out of his fingertip. Without hesitation and knowing exactly where to start, he sliced into the damaged laptop and cut it away from the hard drive as easily as taking the crust off of bread.

Tony smiled as he watched, not at all surprised that the feral didn’t need to ask what to do or how to use the connection kit. The claw retracted and Pepper watched it, probably hiding a shudder.

Victor opened and started up the new laptop, connected the old hard drive so that it would be seen as an external drive, and a few taps later, it was good to go. “Everythin’ or just documents an’ photos? Need tha programs?”

“No, just documents and photos – and that.”

A few more taps sounded on the new machine, and then the transfer must have started because Pepper looked relieved.

Victor waited it out patiently rather than handing it off to her to finish. “What’d ya do t’ it?”

“My mother dropped it – on concrete, from the top of the grill. It’s hers. The motherboard was damaged – instant brick.”

“Bloody thorough destruction skills – SHIELD should put ‘er on tha payroll.” When it finished, he unhooked everything and stepped away. “Check it, then incinerate tha scraps.”

“Thank you,” she said, surprised.

Victor nodded once before turning back to the car. “Yer welcome.”

Tony watched Pepper carry the new laptop upstairs after dropping the carved hunks into the workshop incinerator. He hadn’t shown it to him – the feral must have known it was there by scent.

He observed Victor from across the room, knowing the man was aware of it, though he behaved as if he hadn’t noticed.

Why do I feel like I’m back at square one? I scrap with Rhodey now and then, but we give each other hell and move on, been doing it for years… Tony snorted, annoyed with himself. His people skills were remedial at best. Rhodey and I worked on it. My total time spent with the pointy furball adds up to a laughably measly fraction of that. Most of it was spent having sex, too – not talking to him. I have a million questions, Victor … and now is not the time. He rose and headed over. Fortune favors the brave. “Well, you obviously knew what it needed. Can I play?”

“It’s yer sandbox.”

Tony picked up a wrench and smiled at all of the grease smears here and there on his guest.

Yeah, he can be a spooky guy, but that is sexy as all hell. Not pausing to question the morality or sense of it, he knew he had a strategy in mind for this mess. There is one proven way through the feral minefield – get him on his back or hands and knees, and turn that frown upside down.

As another song wrapped up, Victor glanced at him over the engine before looking down again. “Ya got John Fogerty’s Hot Rod Heart?”

“JARVIS, get me that – add it in.” The song began and Tony grinned. “Teach me your wisdom – or bring in your CDs and let me pillage them.”

That got him a smirk at least. Tony settled in to work on the car with him. After a while, they started talking a bit about what they were doing and Victor finally began to thaw.

“How’d ya get yer mits on this ride? That Ralph Lauren guy had it last.”

“Wheels and deals. His wife, Ricky Anne, really wanted a series of paintings I owned.”

Victor worked quietly before asking, “Ya like t’ race cars?”

“I do – I want to enter a car in the Monaco Grand Prix this spring, but Pepper is still arguing about not wanting me to drive it in the race. What’s the point of owning a Formula One car if you just sip a cocktail and watch someone else drive it?”

“She acts like a wife, not an assistant.”

“I occasionally do dumb things. She has to pick up the pieces. I’ve learned that whether or not I listen to her advice, I often regret it when I don’t take it. It’s educational.” Tony shrugged. “She’s also great at teaching me how to deal with people, how to talk to them. When I listen.”

“Yeah, I got some folks that’re good fer that.”

“Do you ever go to any of the big Grand Prix races?”

“Naw, too high profile an’ too much law crawlin’ ‘round all over. They can’t fig out how t’ cage or kill me, but lotsa ‘em like t’ try – just fer tha braggin’ rights, it seems … if’n they live t’ tell tha tale.”

“What do you like to do for fun? Besides killing, hunting, and sex – or stalking me.”

“That don’t leave much.” The mutant glanced up and winked at him, making Tony chuckle. “Drivin’ fancy cars works fer me same as ya. I like readin’, movies, an’ carpentry. I try t’ relax, usually offa tha map, sometimes in fancy digs. Once in a great while, I might could hook up with old pals, if’n tha caper they wanna pull ain’t too stupid.”

“Are we talking about the mutant political terrorists called the Brotherhood? I would have pegged you as non-political. Is … Mystique in that crowd?”

Ignoring the first question, he answered the second. “Here an’ there. Me an’ ‘er are at each other’s throats a lot.” Victor whistled appreciatively. “When we ain’t … what a ride. Ya gotta lot in common – she picks a mission over sex, too.”

“So are you currently off or on? Where did you last hook up?”

“Been a while. Madripoor, I guess. If’n ya ain’t never had a metamorph, don’t miss tha chance – nothin’ in tha world like it. She can morph a dick t’ stab ya with while yer stickin’ ‘er in tha twat.”

“I’ll, uh, keep that in mind. There’s more than one of them?”

“Dicks? Yup, anythin’ goes. She fucked me with two at once last time we painted tha town.”

“Ow. More than one metamorph.”

“Probly lotsa ‘em. Technically, gettin’ stuffed by me, ya already been stretched ‘nuff t’ handle it; yer impressively … pliant.”

Tony was grateful when Victor looked away to ply his screwdriver, maybe missing the frustration he was trying to hide behind a charming smile.

Not that he would miss the whiff of anxiety. Damn ferals. Is he lying about seeing her last not long ago in Chicago? Hank said Victor claimed to tell the truth most of the time, unless there was something he really needed to hide. Or, maybe that wasn’t Mystique at all? Anyone that good at being me, I’d like to know who they are. Tony saw Victor glance at him again and this time he looked unsettled by his silence. Drop it, before he sours again. Chicago can wait. You can’t help him learn useful things if you drive him away. Reel him back in.

The music changed to a sultry R&B tune – the immortal Patti LaBelle. Tony smiled and began to clean his fingers with a rag as Lady Marmalade geared up to make his objective easier.

Is it fate or JARVIS meddling in my favor? Gift horse and mouth. This ploy may count as cheesy, but sometimes success trumps originality and flair. Besides, the last time we fucked while he was angry… I’ve never had it so good.

He set the wrench down and moved closer around the front of the car to the right side where Victor was, under the pretense of checking one of the triple exhaust tubing connections. He had thought he was being covert, but then he heard the purr spark up.

Deciding he was grateful for that encouraging response – at least it meant he was still interested – he got started on setting the mood.

“So, since you used to crawl all over Storyville back in the day, do you know what ‘Gitchi yaya dada’ means? It sounds like nonsense to most people and it isn’t French.”

“Old slang o’ New Orleans prostitutes. Meant, ‘Get yer sex, daddy’, when they tried t’ solicit men on tha street.”

“Did they have to try very hard?”

“Not t’ get me. I’m easy.” He leaned down to tighten a bolt.

Tony came up behind Victor and whispered in his ear as Patti crooned it around them, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?”

Victor shivered and seemed to freeze and melt at once. Tony put his hands on him and knew by the way he responded that he had been waiting, nervous and wanting. The stunning body shifted and twined into the touches while barely moving at all, becoming putty in his hands so fast that Tony nearly hesitated in taking the reins.

He felt a rush of excitement skitter through him just like that first flight in the Mark II suit: climbing beyond reason, breaking forming ice with his fists, plummeting to earth only to soar again. In his hands, a lethal and powerful being was strung taut – hungering for whatever he wanted to do to him. In their heat, the brief fight was ignited and burned to cinders, yet the memory of it still colored the tension between them – intensifying that heat.

Victor seemed unable to speak but he didn’t need to. One look in those amber eyes, pupils blown wide, and Tony knew that all of that brutal force, cunning intellect, and consuming lust was his to control – to shape or use however he saw fit.

“On your back,” he urged, “be naked by the time you get there.”

Pulling off his clothes fast, he watched Victor strip. He was shocked that the feral managed it without shredding the clothes. Those eyes still watched him, the body eager and malleable, and the rush overtook him again.

This is crazy, but fucking look at him! Taking him like this, pushing him under me, pushing into him … damn! Tony slapped one of the gorgeously muscled thick thighs. “Open up, Victor.”

When he settled on his knees between the thighs, he stuffed and wormed two fingers up the vice of the mutant’s ass just to hear the grunt chased by a groan. One crook of them and a rub across where the prostate was hidden made Victor twitch and growl with lust. He had to work at it to thrust and play as anticipation shunted his brain into hyperfocus and sharpened his lust.

Tony stared at the heavy cock as the foreskin pulled back and the head started to drip clear slick on thick rolling muscles and hackled fur.

His free hand cupped the head roughly, squeezing more pre-cum from it. The amount of it was a surprise. Grinning fiercely, he used the natural lubricant to pump, stroke, and ready himself. Punching through that muscle as fast and hard as he wanted to, 0 to 60, wasn’t easy.

Victor liked pain, a fact that Tony tried not to analyze too deeply – but since he did like it… Before yanking his fingers free, he used them to stab the sensitive prostate and felt his blood jump through his veins at the sight of the feral arching his back off of the floor. The roar and snap of teeth was a shock – yet it only made both of them harder.

Pain and, oddly enough, French. I hope he knows the newer idioms, or ‘I’m going to send you into the air’ is going to sound like ‘launch you into space’. Here goes… “Je vais vous envoyer en l’air.”

With a broken moan that was hot as hell to hear, Victor pushed down with clawed bare feet to shove his hips up off of the floor.

Tony took the offering without hesitation and stabbed inside his body, using a fast grip on thick thighs to keep moving forward until he was buried to the root.

Victor arched higher and it was a fight to stay on. Some of the mutant’s weight was abruptly supported by his head and Tony stared, watching the tendons stretch in that glorious throat, the Adam’s apple warring with the dual hyoid bones as he swallowed and groaned.

Maybe he took the idiom literally after all. Oh, well – cloud nine awaits, Mr. Fluffy.

Tony was too late to save the concrete floor after Victor threw his arms wide and gouged it with deep claw marks. One of them snagged on the steel edge of a toolbox and cut it just as easily.

Getting a solid grip on one powerful but trembling thigh, Tony scratched the fur on the outside of it before yanking his hips back, pulling out completely. The noise the mutant made was almost a word. The growly slur of it got Tony smirking, pleased with himself, but he had no idea what he had said.

One thrust shoved deep and he reacts more passionately than Brazil did through the whole sackfest. Victor Creed – the cure for twink addiction. “You want more?”

“More…”

The rasped word was nested in growls that could be difficult to interpret. He would have to rely on body language, but there was no doubt that this was wanted.

He released him and leaned back. “Give me the flipside – down on your belly.” When he obeyed, to keep him wound up, Tony gave the back of the other thigh a sharp smack. “Move this up.”

As if he planned to cheat on push-ups with one knee on the floor, Tony moved over him. He had to grip his cock at this angle to aim it, but this time he intended to be as merciless through to the end as he could.

Victor hissed – a long and freaky noise – as he shoved back inside him. Tony found himself craving the sight of the hunched and tight shoulders and back. He had to shift to see it, but the mutant had dropped his powerful lower jaw and twin ropes of saliva dripped down to the concrete. The vicious claws were turning his floor into a scored and gravel-scattered mess.

“Holy shit, you feel so damn good… You are mine, you hear me?”

“Tony … please…”

He wasn’t tall enough to bite the back of the feral’s neck while fucking him, so he used fingers. His blunt and slightly still manicured nails dug in and turned Victor into a bull with a bucking strap. When he gouged harder, the instinctual resistance stopped.

“Mine,” he repeated, his tone low and commanding.

Victor shuddered as Tony kissed his shoulder blade. Everything felt good, enough to make his non-stop brain slow to a lust-scorched crawl.

Angling his hips on the pull back, he landed a hard smack on Victor’s ass to see if it could startle him into tightening down harder inside. It worked, and he nearly couldn’t breathe it cinched so tight.

“Keep still. Don’t come.”

“Can’t –”

His free hand stroked down the erect hackles over the spine before gripping a handful of it possessively. Whispering as he thrust, he told him, “You can, because it’s what I want. You want to please me – don’t you?”

The body under him shuddered again. “Yes…”

“Yeah. That’s right.” He wouldn’t be able to hold off for long, but every stroke was a mind-blowing power trip and he didn’t want it to end.

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

Mine … mine … mine…

Victor’s stomach swooped as his head filled with white noise. The sharp strike on his ass had startled him, Tony hadn’t done that before, but it instantly unraveled him almost as utterly as the grip on the back of his neck and the commanding possessive claim.

He couldn’t control his claws. Obeying him and struggling not to come was almost painful, but it felt so good as he endured the rough thrusts. With one knee raised higher where Tony wanted it, his hips were at an angle that gave his leaking cock plenty of room to rub across the cold concrete every time the cock inside him moved his body. The fear that he might blow before he was told – that felt good, too.

The blunt little fingernails still gripped the back of his neck. It had driven the beast within mad at first, but then Tony had spoken again, said it again.

Mine.

He had felt it break almost gently inside – that ruthless will – as it folded around the word and went limp and calm underneath it, dominated and claimed. He listened to the sounds of pleasure Tony made over him, tried to feel every nerve ending as he thrust. Pleasure coiled, threatened to make him disobey. A dimly familiar fear coiled with it, that if he disobeyed, Tony might be disappointed … and not want him anymore.

Struggling to speak, he whispered, “Need it… Please, Tony…”

The free hand stroked his hackles again, the fingers tugging the fur here and there. Pleasure skittered over his skin with every tug.

“Yes, Victor – come for me.”

He gasped as it burst and spilled. The pleasure didn’t stop as he was bred by his mate. He tried to keep still, not wanting to fight it. He wanted it more than breath.

Tony came inside him and as he continued to thrust through it, Victor’s pleasure built again … and burst again.

The snarl couldn’t be stifled before it was heard, but his mate had pulled out of him and he wasn’t ready, he wanted more.

Tony moved up his back, lying on top of him. The hand gripping his neck released. When the mouth replaced it, blunt little teeth digging in, trying to mark him, he moaned.

That voice whispered over the wet skin as the brief bruises healed, “Tu es à moi.”

Tu es à moi. The French words eclipsed time in his senses. Only the voice and the inflection had changed. Victor had changed so much between them. Tony’s first time proclaiming it echoed in his head: ‘You are mine.’

He was bitten again, harder, and a few of the teeth broke the skin. The bite healed instantly, almost before he could feel it, but in that same instant, he came again.

“Victor…” Lips kissed where the bite had been. “You are stunning.”

Groaning, his knee scraped on the concrete, the claws gouging into slices they had made before and cutting them deeper.

“Don’t collapse?” He heard the voice as if from a distance. “Here, roll this way, to your back. Rest and breathe.”

Victor rolled, guided by the hands. Once on his back, he kept his eyes closed as fear seeped in, insidious and cold.

He’ll retreat again… Emptiness opened up as if it meant to swallow him whole. He wanted to go back to those words and never leave them. He wanted them to be real.

“Are you okay? Victor?” The hands touched him, one of them stroking his chest, the other settling over his spent cock. “Um … did you come three times?” Tony settled at his side, the hand petting down his chest and over furry abs that were growing tacky with cum. “Talk to me…”

He rolled again, curling on his side with his cheek on Tony’s thigh. Careful of fangs and claws, he loosely wrapped his arms around the man’s waist and let his hair partially hide his face.

Tony fell silent, his hands hesitating before they began to caress his back and arm. They were quiet for a while, and Victor tried to haul himself back from the edge again, but this time he knew he’d gone over it. The claws retracted slowly as he stilled and worked to make his breathing even.

“Victor? I’m … a little worried about you.” Those gifted fingers reached up and brushed the hair out of his face.

Opening his eyes a little, he watched the warm brown eyes that were watching him. He coughed once and then whispered, “I’m okay.”

“It seems silly to ask if you enjoyed that, but I’m not sure you are okay. Look, it’s fine if you’re not. I want you to feel you can trust me. I don’t know what I’m doing; I’m just trying to figure out what you might like and taking a gamble that what you like to do to me fits that bill. Honestly, if something in the mix threw you, let me know so I don’t do it again? Or, if you liked it all but it still threw you … I need to know.”

“Did … ya mean it?”

“Mean what? Which part?”

Victor couldn’t stop the short low growl that escaped, but it died fast. Shifting as far as he could without piercing him with a fang, he hid his face again. “Nothin’. Don’t matter none.”

“No, tell me. Come on … try.”

The petting resumed. It felt good. Breathing deep, he smelled a fire in a stone hearth. Leaves and pine needles were dusted over the deerskins that covered the dirt floor. Show me, his mate’s voice echoed. If he couldn’t speak to say why he was upset, he had to show him. There was no pantomime for this, nowhere to point to a wound that had healed long ago. This was the wound that never healed. He’s gone, an’ Tony … doesn’t know what he’s doin’ – or sayin’.

Victor twitched when Tony picked up the carved bone beads onto his fingers, careful not to tug at the hair that was threaded and tied around them. When his fingertip stroked along the carvings of white roses and black ravens, Victor could almost feel it in his Adamantium-caged bones.

“This is about him, isn’t it.” It wasn’t a question, and Victor couldn’t answer. “I remind you of him, somehow, and that made this intense for you – a lot. I’m not sure what has upset you, but I’m sorry. I hope this is okay, but … I am happy you trust me enough for this. I’ll trade you. Sometimes … I come down here and I can’t work, I can’t think. I look at my dad’s memorabilia and then I get rot stinking drunk. Weirdest thing is, and maybe it was just the booze, but once … I could swear Dum-E was trying to comfort me. I fell on my ass, I was curled in a ball against a wall, and I felt the arm reach down. I grabbed it and held on, and cried. I didn’t have anyone else – no one I would show that to.”

Victor turned his head just enough to meet his gaze. Tony smiled softly and winked at him.

“I’ll deny it if you tell anyone.” Letting the beads roll off of his palm, his fingers stroked the sideburn. “This is safe with me. I won’t hurt you. Okay?”

Watching his eyes and seeing no lie hiding there, Victor nodded slightly. He took deeper breaths and stirred and Tony leaned back to let him up. Sitting up, he batted the braid to his back and slumped with his hands on his thighs. Looking over at the mess his claws had made, he sighed.

“Don’t worry about that. Concrete is easy to fix.” When he leaned forward to kiss him, Victor allowed it, but it was difficult to respond. “Let’s go upstairs and have a nap before dinner.”

Tony rose but didn’t dress. He grabbed his clothes and tennis shoes and wadded them up to carry them. Victor didn’t question it and did the same. If Pepper got a show, he didn’t care.

“Up we go,” Tony told him as they got through the security door. “Watch the stairs if you’re woozy, remember. I can’t catch you.”

Victor followed him up the concrete stairs as if he was being led by a string. Pepper was nowhere to be seen, but he could still scent her in the house.

“I’m not sure you understood the other idiom, but here’s another: grimper aux rideaux, French for ‘to climb the curtain’, but it can be translated as ‘hit the roof’ or ‘to blow the mind’. JARVIS, how would starched British guys say it?”

“To perform exceedingly well between the sheets – sir.”

“Exactly. Victor, even without sheets, you are probably the best time I’ve ever had – sober or drunk.” Tony seemed to accept Victor’s silence – or maybe he didn’t notice it. “I vote shower first. Among other messes, we are fetchingly smeared with engine grease. Also, I can’t go more than twenty-four hours without one, or I start to twitch.”

Victor knew he was going through the motions and Tony seemed willing to let him. He wrapped the braid into a bun and tied it up for the shower, and when Tony led him to bed, he went. Curling up when he settled for a nap, he breathed more easily when Tony cuddled into his back.

“Do you just want to sleep? If you need it –”

“No,” Victor interrupted him. Tomorrow was Monday and that was it. “A nap. Wake me if’n I don’t…?”

“I will. I want to make the most of our time.” Tony called out, “JARVIS, give us an hour and then wake me up. Gently, please.”

“Certainly, sir.”

Victor didn’t know if he could sleep. He was scenting things that weren’t there, but they were good memories and alongside them was the comforting scent and sound of his lover.

‘You are mine’, Tony had said, but he didn’t understand what it meant, what he had done. To him, it was just sex talk. Victor focused on the rich soothing scents of a log cabin surrounded by a forest in autumn. His mate was there, the heavy weight of him moving over the body of the slender feral he hadn’t been in many, many years. The teeth had bitten the back of his neck as they mated. Afterward, the voice of his mate, full of sleep, had murmured in his ear, ‘Tu es à moi.’

Feeling the warmth of the body at his back, he listened to the ghostly sound of mechanical spinning that thrummed through the cabin. He began to drift to sleep as the fire settled into embers.

 

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

Author’s Note: I love Dum-E, and after reading the Stony fic Run Program: DUM-E by Amuly (findable on AO3, bookmarked by me), I love that robot even more. Question for my fellow Tony Stark and Dum-E fans – most of us seem to think of the robot as a “him”, but does Tony ever say “him”? I haven’t found it in the movies, if he does. I figured Tony might be too practical to consider a robot to be male, so I have him say “it” when talking to Victor.

The waking nightmares in the workshop were some of Victor’s resurfacing ugly memories that Professor Xavier dredged up during Victor’s captivity. The pale tall figure is Sinister, of course. In the comics Origins II, Sinister performed exploratory surgeries on Logan while he was awake. He would have done the same when he had Victor in his clutches. More details about Victor’s trials in World War II show up way back in my Redemption fic. Most people know that the Lady Marmalade line in French, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?” means “Do you want to sleep with me tonight?” Using that probably was cheesy, but most will agree that Tony can be super cheesy at times. I think it’s adorable when he is. Tony’s French come-on, “Je vais vous envoyer en l’air” means “I am going to send you into the air”. It is an idiom meaning something like “take you to Heaven”. “Tu es à moi” as mentioned in the story, means “You’re mine”. I have no idea if this phrase would have changed between the late 1800s and present day. I hope I typed the French correctly. Thanks for reading! –  AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)

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