Sabretooth: Redemption – Chapter 13 – Blood and Fire

No more nights
of blood and fire

I always thought we’d be together
And that our love could not be better
Well with no warning you were gone
I still don’t know what went wrong
You don’t know what I’ve been through
Just want to put my love in you

No more nights
of blood and fire

All those special memories
Now I bleed for you – burn for me
Perhaps I was just dreaming
When I think these things had real meaning
You don’t know what I’ve been through
Just want to put my love in you

Love eternal
Lust infernal
Bleeding, burning
Needing, yearning

I see your face in every flame
With no answers I have only myself to blame
Of all the women that I have known – they’re not you
I’d rather be alone

No more nights
of blood and fire

~ Blood and Fire (Type O Negative)

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Author’s Note: I will be breaking up the steady ‘first Tabitha and then Victor’ chapter structure in this chapter, having more than one section for each of them, to get the story told right. This chapter begins in the middle of the last scene to show Tabitha’s POV of what happened, and the other sections may overlap as well to show the POV of both of them. – AnonGrimm, @MET_Fic

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Tabitha jumped at the hissing whisper behind her, “Fee fi fo fum…”

She nearly threw a bomb at him but managed to recover at the last second. “Don’t do that,” she scolded, and then embraced him.

It had been creepy moving around the dark building alone and her bombs didn’t light the place much at such distances from each other. At one point, she had left the building just to stare up at the havoc Victor was wreaking in the distance. The noise and tremors along the ground had been frightening. When the temptation to find him got stronger, she went back inside.

Tabitha wanted to be held by those strong arms for hours, but Victor was predictably keyed up and wasted no time. He broke her hold and reached to open her belts and clothes. The memory of being bent over a fallen tree had her wet in anticipation with embarrassing speed as her heart hammered in her chest.

The gun on her hip clunked when he picked her up and laid her on her back on a dusty work table. She lifted a boot so he could unlace it and then gasped when he pulled it up higher and gashed open the crotch of her pants with a claw.

“Hey, don’t – damn it!”

He ignored her protest as he tore his pants open. Her legs were gripped behind the knees and pulled. The moment her ass nearly came off the table, he pushed his thick and leaking cock inside her. The groan he gave her made her shiver as his thrusts made everything else fade away.

His weight pushing forward and back made her body rock on the table. She grabbed at the sleeves of his coat, wishing she could hold him. He let her legs go, slamming his hands down beside her body and she took that chance to at least wrap her legs around his hips.

The urgent and wordless way he was fucking her was intense to say the least. Older memories when he’d been cruel rose up to spark fear, but she swallowed it down as best she could. To let him know she was okay, she told him, “It sounds like World War Three out there.” She had to pant for breath around the words. The sirens of firetrucks and police cruisers had crept closer again.

“Helluva aphrodisiac, ain’t it?”

“Won’t they come check on this place?” A strange voice answered her – a human calling out for help. The man was in the building, less than forty yards away. “Someone’s in here? What the hell?” She started to get up, but he held her down and growled at her. Clinging to the belief that he would, she ordered, “Victor, stop.”

“Gotta be tha fools that ran from me in tha offices, no fuckin’ clue why they’re here; I can chase ‘em out before ya blow tha place.”

Tabitha started to tell him to stop again, but he stretched out and kissed her just to prevent it. She began to struggle under him as old fears reared their ugly heads. His cock thrust relentlessly deep inside and she was shocked when she began to come. It felt as mind-manglingly good as it always had and her body went limp in the wake of it.

Between one stroke and the next, he pushed deep enough to hurt her. With her body lax in the throes of orgasm, she hadn’t been ready for it and she had nothing to push against to shove herself back to make it tolerable. Fear crept insidiously into her veins as he grew rougher. She cried out the moment he released her mouth, but he didn’t stop, didn’t ease up, or even pause.

“Need it,” he muttered against her neck. “Don’t tell me no…”

Guilt filled her mind. She’d told him no in their warm bed when he’d done nothing wrong and it had nearly torn them apart. He’d been so angry and he’d left her… Another rough thrust hit and the pain started. “Victor, wait–”

He wasn’t even listening. She winced when he reared his body up and shoved in violently when he started to come. He snarled savagely as he filled her. Bile rose in her throat, the pain making her dizzy. Hurt and afraid, she looked up at his fierce bestial expression. She couldn’t even be sure he was aware of her. Remembering how it used to be between them, her fear ignited into anger.

“Stop, let me up,” she demanded, packing as much pissed-off into her voice as she could.

He hissed at her when he backed up, eyes down to watch himself slip free, like he used to when he considered her his property. He didn’t lean down to ask if he’d hurt her, didn’t apologize – but he had to know.

She couldn’t speak as she watched him shove himself back into his pants and fasten them. Had the mess on it been tinged pink with her blood? Her pelvis ached as she struggled to sit up.

“Hit tha fence an’ wait fer me,” he ordered. She tried to cuss him out, but froze when he leaned down and licked the flat of his tongue up the side of her face. It was one of those possessive things he would do… Whispering at her ear, he added, “Don’t forget yer surprise, but maybe we can have us a merry chase through tha woods first. Ya can tell me later if it feels like freedom.”

Chase through the woods … like prey, like meat… No! He’s just keyed up from all of this… Tabitha tried to speak, but his mouth covered hers, kissing her deeply before he stepped away.

His sharp Cheshire grin flashed as he began to sink into the darkness. The glowing amber eyes were fixed on her. “Ya love me, babe?”

“Y-yes…” she whispered, her eyes wide.

“Meet ya at tha fence in a tick.” Stepping backward, he simply disappeared. Moments later, his bestial roar rang out. Nearly beneath him, she heard terrified people cry out and begin to beg.

“Victor!” She fumbled to get her pants and belts secured so they wouldn’t trip her. She jumped down onto her boots and swayed, grabbing at the table so she wouldn’t fall.

Tabitha twitched and drew her pistol when a loud crack echoed in the vast concrete building. She didn’t hear it ricochet. Did one of the men have a gun? Had they shot Victor?

A small muted explosion sounded and she heard Victor roar again, the horrifying cry of a wounded beast. Something large crashed into the metal supports of the heavy furnace. Steel groaned and snapped.

What the hell? Is he throwing those people? “Victor!” she screamed.

Closer to her, where she’d first heard the other voice, metal began to scrape on metal – claws scratching a path as Victor approached. She still heard that sound in her nightmares, when he’d scratched his way down the stone stairs to terrify her. His hiss came after it and her blood turned to water.

Her hands on the HK P9 began to shake as her thoughts whirled. He couldn’t … he wouldn’t… We were real, it was real, it has to be, oh, God…

The scratching and hissing stopped – and then the screaming and ripping began. In seconds, even she could smell the rusty tang of blood and urine in the air as she began to rush in through the dark.

Desperate, she cried out to him again, her voice shrill with terror, “Don’t, Victor, stop it! Please stop! Oh my God, this can’t be happening… Please…!”

She stumbled over something and fell. Clutching her weapon in one hand, her other hand and one knee hit hard and slid in a slick and stinking liquid. One handed, she fired the pistol, knowing it wouldn’t hurt him too badly, no matter what she hit. The shot rang in her ears, but she’d missed – she heard it ricochet in the distance.

Tabitha froze when she saw the tall dark shape move in the blackness right in front of her. The other men had fallen silent and she knew they were all dead – torn to pieces. A scent memory of roadkill squashed and scrambled on the road back home in Virginia rose in her mind and made her retch. The distant light of a floating bomb showed her the metal hooked claws gleaming as they were raised against her.

The strike was almost slow, as if he wanted her to really feel it. Adamantium needle points punctured her forearm, tore the flesh deep, and the pistol fell faster than she did. She cried out in pain, feeling blood cover her nerveless hand. She struck the wet concrete floor on her side. Sobbing, she forced herself to roll, to try to regain her feet. The claws slashed again, with only a fraction of the power she knew he had, but they tore into her pants leg and flesh of her thigh all the same.

“How could you?” she screamed up at him. “You fucking bastard, how could you!” All at once, as if they were streaking to her defense on pure rage alone, her bombs flew. She fought to stand, unable to find the pistol.

Metal objects in the dark flared and exploded. She was too erratic and he would dodge them. Sooner or later, fighting a monster like him, her power would be depleted – probably long before she could get away.

The furnace toppled in the distance, after a bomb she’d forgotten to throw exploded with the others. Frantic, she called the last two back to her and quickly reabsorbed them into her good hand.

You have to use the little bullet bombs, aim and make them count, just like he taught you. The thought of those lessons twisted in her chest. Victor … why…? Turning away, she limped as fast as she could to the door she’d used to get outside. He didn’t even try to hurt me as bad as he could have. She tried to stop sobbing and focus on the cold business of survival. Why didn’t he? When she hit the door, she burst through it and limped for the fence. He wants me to be able to run, that’s why. The Hummer – I can hotwire it. I just have to get there first…

White light plasma bullets severed a line in the fence and she struggled not to scream as she forced her way through it. The door crashed open behind her, but she refused to look.

Run … just run…

She got into the trees and cursed when she realized she was taking his advice of following the fenceline at a short distance. Gritting her teeth, she kept on that path; it wouldn’t do any good to run deeper into trees and end up lost. The vehicle was parked on the other side of that fence, and it hadn’t taken them long to walk this far.

Something struck the fence she had pushed through. He’s hunting me now…

Tears streamed down her face. She couldn’t run, managing only a stumbling and limping trot at best. Every jarring step wrung pain from her pelvis, her leg, and the arm she was trying to cradle close to her vest. She couldn’t feel it, and the numb sensation was terrifying as visions of it hanging by a shred of flesh plagued her.

Shut up! It’s just shock setting in. Survive, you stupid bitch! Heavy footsteps sounded behind her. Don’t look, it’ll slow you down. Reaching back with her good hand, she shot a spray of light across her path. The footsteps veered. Oh shit, he’ll cut me off, jump out at me… Where?

Eyes darting to the black fence, she panted for breath. Time had seemed to stretch. Her whole life was one endless insane flight, stumbling through the dark woods in terror as her lover hunted her down like an injured deer.

In a flash, she saw the dark blocky shape of the Hummer through the fence as she nearly stumbled past it. Bouncing to an agonizing stop, she turned and blew the fence apart with her power. Limping through it, she lifted a finger to aim a plasma bolt into the lock on the driver’s door.

She screamed and fell as something hit her. Landing on her back, she threw her arms up to protect her face as claws ripped at the armored vest and coat she wore. One of the strikes aimed for her arm and the claws snagged in her chest, scoring deep bloody cuts.

Tabitha groped for one of the extra clips full of bullets on her belt and threw it at the dark shape bent over her. One plasma burst exploded the whole clip and tossed him back to the ground.

Rolling, her injured arm pressed to the vest, she screamed again as the claws hooked on the top of the vest, their tips puncturing the back of her neck.

“Victor, don’t! Please! Oh, God, please… I love you, don’t do this!” She tossed another clip behind her and blew it up. Everything blurred around her as she heard him roar. She began to crawl toward the vehicle, sobbing and shaking. “Please … leave me alone…”

Another fire of plasma broke the lock on the door, singeing the paint. A ragged scream was torn from her as pain descended. She hadn’t even registered that she’d been trying to crawl up to open the door. It opened wide and she shoved her body up with the heavy treads on her boots.

Her injured leg gave out but she grabbed at the seat with her forearms and one hand. Staring forward, she watched the injured arm where her hand was drooping to the seat. In the mess of red revealed by the dome light, she saw the white gleam of bone.

“Tabitha!” Victor’s voice screamed.

Something impossibly heavy hit the roof of the Hummer. The metal squealed and crunched under it. Gripping the seat with what little strength she had left, she screamed at him, “Go away!”

Her vision blurred as she stared at the white bone of her arm. She heard him snarl and roar. Blood was dripping and running from her wounds. Slowly, she realized that it wasn’t blood that was running down her inner thighs.

The thing on the roof jumped down, rocking the whole vehicle. It dislodged her hold and she fell to the concrete, striking her head.

He’ll kill me… “Victor,” she whispered, “please…”

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The tubes and needles of the tank pierced his body. Viscous fluid trapped him and filled his mouth – only the tube surgically lodged into his throat was allowing him to breathe. He couldn’t see, couldn’t move, and his body was so full of pain that everything just felt numb. Soon the fire would come, the liquid silver fire. It would run through the tubes and needles and erupt him back into a pain that had burned his damaged mind past the bounds of madness.

He tried to open his eyes, but couldn’t. Did they stab needles into his eyes? Voices, talking … why could he hear voices?

‘It isn’t working, Doctor Windsor.’

‘It will.’

‘Look at his vitals, damn it – he won’t survive it.’

‘It worked before, it will work now. Patience, Director. Victor Creed is a very singular subject.’

Victor tried to growl but the things pinning his throat open, and the other things moving inside, wouldn’t allow it. The tank had morphed into the table, and his body began to shake.

‘Wide awake, Victor? Are you curious? You provide me with such a fascinating physiological study that I am tempted to keep you here indefinitely. These,’ a surgical tool tapped things inside his throat, ‘are quite remarkable. They simply should not exist at once. Nature tends to pick one or the other, you see.’

The cold eyes of Dr. Robert Windsor swept down his body, smiling at the array of tools forcing the flesh to remain open for him.

‘I will find a way to block your healing, Victor. Would you like that? Perhaps then you might have some anesthetic. For now, it is sufficient that I’ve found a way to stop the bothersome screaming. Pay attention now, and learn something – there is no greater gift a creature can receive than knowledge about what makes it tick.’

The dripping scalpel glittered in the bloody gloved hand. On an instruments table nearby,  the flat, serrated, and shining menace of a bonesaw waited.

‘Oh, that,’ Dr. Windsor spoke again. His face slowly turned a ghostly white, the eyes beginning to glow as red as the diamond mark on his forehead. Sinister smiled down at him. ‘As I haven’t yet found the root of the healing factor in your body, I shall have to search inside that empty skull of yours.’

Hate fired his blood. His muscles clenched, felt the metal securing him down, and shoved. The metal screamed and squealed, finally gave way, and crashed down beside him. Lurching up, he sat in a pooling smear of his own blood and began frantically pulling large pieces of torn metal out of his body. A growl stuttered out in pain before it began. The throat and chest were damaged.

Scenting the air around him, he smelled nothing living close by, but he could hear humans moving at a great distance, through a barrier. He tried to calm his breathing, shaking his head to throw off the nightmares. The movement bloomed into mute agony.

His hands lifted to his face. He retracted his claws and tried to feel and remove shrapnel from his eyes. Slowly, he slumped, knowing the debris was too small and too many. He took a deep breath and tried not to think about Sinister doing the same thing just to study them. Nausea hit him and was sluggishly abated by a depleted healing factor as he let the claws on his index fingers grow out just enough. Waiting until his hands stopped trembling, he pierced the claws through the lids and cut the eyes out of their sockets.

Shaking and desperate, he had to tip his palm and let them fall. They were too fouled by sharp metal splinters to do him any good as fuel.

With huffing breaths, he pulled himself over onto hands and knees and instantly fell forward. One arm was useless and had to be dragged. The hole that the projectile had blown in his chest and shoulder had nearly severed it – only the bare shining bones and a few tendons and torn muscle tissue was left. He fought to crawl over the wreckage that had pinned and stabbed him. Not too far away, he could smell meat. It wasn’t his kill. The way it had been mangled had rendered it little better than fouled carrion.

Doesn’t matter, the thinking mind told the animal mind deep within. It’s meat. Need it…

His stomach flipped and twisted again when he reached it, sliding in the evacuated mess to get there. He had to keep it from getting in the wounds, so it wouldn’t make them fester before they healed. Lifting his good hand out of the bloody muck, he wiped it as clean as he could on his ragged coat before leaning down to the meat.

Groping blindly, going by smell, he cut away what he could find that hadn’t touched the floor or been tainted by the pierced bowels, and stuffed the strips and gobbets into his mouth. The faint scent of adamantium on the corpses confused him, and the scent of a long-dead animal, a predator, only made it worse. He bent lower over it and ate quickly so he could heal and get away from it. Every swallow flared in pain. He gleaned as much as he could, even crushing some of the bones for the rich marrow and cutting into the skulls to eat the brains. Faces and eyes were plucked, stripped, and eaten. In the end, all that remained were flat sacks of skin, pieces of bone, and the torn and tainted parts he didn’t dare consume.

He didn’t know how long he slumped there on his knees against a low metal box. Time meant nothing and his thoughts were empty as his body finally began to sting and buzz with healing.

Outside, still at a distance, the humans were closer. He shifted and felt something hard under his knee. It had many scents on it, and one of them was his. Without thinking, he picked it up and shoved it into a pocket of his tattered and fouled coat.

When he could rise to his feet at last, he stumbled forward. His fingers had touched long scratched lines in the metal box as he rose, but they made no more sense than the rest of it.

Cool fresh air was ahead of him. Until he was standing outside the wide open door and scented the burned metal of the fence, and the blood trail on the concrete, he hadn’t remembered a thing.

He knew parts of his body were burned. The blackened flesh had a taint to it – plasma fire burn. “T-t-ta-tab-ith-a,” he stammered as his throat finally closed. Another scent covered hers, and that one made a newborn growl thrum in his slowly knitting chest. Ellison. He’s huntin’ ‘er…

Claws rended the fence out of his way as he stumbled through it into the woods. He was blind, but he didn’t need eyes to track them. His body wasn’t healed yet, but he didn’t care. When he could, he hit all-fours and began to race along the trail, ignoring the injuries that tried to heal even while he tore them anew as he pushed himself to reach her.

In the distance, her voice screamed out, “Victor, don’t! Please! Oh, God, please… I love you, don’t do this!” Something metal exploded, bullets, a clip – she was still fighting. To let her attacker know he was coming, he let out a roar.

She was sobbing, he could smell her blood. Other scents, concrete, metal: the fence, dumpsters, the vehicle.

“Please … leave me alone…” she begged, crying.

Victor heard and smelled it when she burned out the door lock. She must be tryin’ t’ climb int’ tha seat. She … thinks I hurt ‘er, hunted ‘er… The other scent turned him. Ellison…

He jumped and his claws bit deep across the back. The man stumbled, remained on his feet, and began to run. Victor crouched to jump again, but froze at the sound of Tabitha’s ragged scream of pain.

What is threatenin’ ‘er? “Tabitha!” Victor screamed.

He snarled when the air moved and something heavy landed in a predatory crouch on the roof of the vehicle. The metal squealed and crunched under it.

Tabitha screamed at it, “Go away!”

Victor advanced and crouched. Whatever it was, it had his scent but the wind had turned against him. He snarled and then roared out a challenge. My mate, my cub… Kill ya, kill…

The rival jumped down from the roof, rocking the vehicle and dislodging Tabitha. He heard her hit hard. Her weak voice whispered, “Victor, please…”

Unable to hear her anymore, barely able to hear her fading breathing, he growled, baring all of his teeth and claws. His mind groped for her name to call out to her again, but he knew the red rage was taking him down.

When his healing body began to restore his sight, all he could make out was a dark shape, crouched as he was, between him and his mate. As the wind turned again, the rival’s scent hit him and hate blinded him at the same moment that his eyes showed him a clenched hairy fist, with shining adamantium blades erupting from it with a ~snikt~. Victor hissed.

“I heard tha lady say ‘Go away’, Vic – didn’t ya?”

With a roar, he jumped and they struck each other mid-air. His claws bit deep and pulled to slash as a trio of blades sank into his gut. They fell in a tangle of tearing and stabbing claws and snapping teeth.

Victor used his greater weight to roll and pin the runt, but then the blades stabbed through his thigh and the leg gave. Logan struck his shoulder with his head and toppled him. Without hesitation, the moment he landed on his back, all six blades punched deep into his chest.

Pinned, Victor snarled, his claws tearing flesh from the arms. Logan twisted a wrist and Victor screamed, his back arching, lifting his enemy up.

“Be still, rot ya, yer in no shape t’ beat me an’ ya fuckin’ know it! What’d she do, drop an outhouse on yer head? Yer torn up bad, Vic – yer body can’t hack this.”

“Eat shit, runt…”

“I ain’t got time t’ play, asshole; yer prey is hurt an’ she happens t’ be a friend o’ mine. I’ll do what I gotta t’ put ya down an’ keep ya there long ‘nuff  t’ help ‘er, but I ain’t gonna let ‘er lie there an’ bleed while I jack with ya.”

“Tab-Tabitha…” Victor’s thoughts whirled.

“That’s tha one – ya been hopin’ t’ mess ‘er up fer a while, ain’t ya? Not gonna let ya finish tha job, bub.”

He hadn’t gotten all of the shrapnel and the concrete was tearing open the burns on his back and shoulders. Running and fighting had torn his chest open deep inside the crater of flesh left by the exploding projectile. He was ripped up, and if he continued to fight, she could die. Instinct screamed at him as he forced his body to go still under his enemy.

“Playin’ ‘possum?”

“Help ‘er…” he whispered.

“What tha fuck?”

Victor growled. “Help ‘er, ya fuckin’ useless dog cunt! Take tha fuckin’ truck…” he hissed, and then wheezed. One of the blades had knicked a lung. He could feel his body trying to heal around them. “Promise … help ‘er…”

The other wrist twisted and Victor screamed again.

“Gonna slice yer usless shriveled heart in two in a minute, just fer talkin’ t’ me with people in yer bloody fuckin’ teeth. This better not be a fuckin’ trick; if it is, tha next one’s goin’ right up int’ yer garbage brain – just fer old time’s sake.”

Glaring up at him, Victor felt his mind start to slip away. His jaw dropped and snapped up weakly, biting at air.

“Stay down, bub – if ya don’t, I’ll put ya down fer a fuckin’ year.” The fists jerked down before they yanked out, opening his body in six long bleeding rents.

Barely able to form thoughts or words, Victor forced himself to stay down. “T … ab… H-help…”

“Oughta take yer fuckin’ head off, ya stinkin’ sick bastard.”

Knowing he’d see it as an insult, a sign he was beaten, the runt turned his back on him and walked away. By the vehicle, he heard him let out a string of profanities. He listened as the back door was opened and Tabitha was picked up and placed in the backseat. The door slammed shut.

Boots returned and the furry face, twisted with hate and disgust came close as he knelt on one knee beside him. “Need t’ borrow yer keys, asshole.” Finding them in the coat pocket by scent, he palmed them. Standing to his feet, a boot came down and chrushed Victor’s trachea and hyoid bones at once. “Raped ‘er, knocked ‘er up – I’m gonna find ya later, bub – count on it.” The boot stomped down harder and twisted, and if he didn’t have adamantium on his spine, it would have broken.

Mute and bleeding, he listened to the vehicle as it started up and peeled away at high speed. His eyes had grown back and fully healed, but he couldn’t get up. He remained as still as possible and stared up at the stars and dark clouds. To his left, a faint glow still lit the night sky and sirens were everywhere.

It was hours before he could roll over and crawl. He made it to the fence and crawled through it. Under the cover of the trees, he found a thatch of underbrush and clawed his way into it. Curling into a fetal ball, one hand pressed to his bleeding chest, he scented the air once more before his eyes closed.

Victor tried to retreat deeper into the mind of the beast within, but the beast was grieving again, angry and torn over the loss of his mate and cub. As he sank underneath the pain, he tumbled right back into the nightmares.

Tabitha … wait…

It was his last sane thought for a long time.

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Everything around her smelled stale and sterile at once. She heard someone in the room and her eyes flew open, sure it was Victor and he’d be angry that she’d tried to fake still being asleep. Her nightmares had been full of him – hurting her, loving her, and then hurting her again.

A man and woman, both in the universal costume of hospital staff were smiling kindly down at her. The woman wore the white coat, though, and the man had on white scrubs.

“Good to see you awake,” the woman said. “You woke before, a few times, but you may not remember it. I’m Dr. Reneaux, this is Mike. I need to check you and make sure you’re okay, is that all right?”

Tabitha looked down and saw her bandaged arm on her stomach. “Okay…” She endured all of their doctor crap in silence unless they asked her a question, which they did a lot. When they wanted her name, she asked, “Where am I?”

“Lion’s Gate Hospital. Your name?”

“Tabitha … Smith. How did I get here?”

“A very gruff and frankly frightening man drove you into ER. He’s still here, he refused to leave. He’s down the hall and claims he’s a friend.”

“He’s here?” Tabitha recoiled.

“Is he not a friend? We can have him removed.”

“No! He’d just kill you all. I have to leave!”

“Tabitha wait,” the doctor raised her hand to entreat her, but she’d figured out what Mike was for, and settled back down. “He wouldn’t give his name, but he said to tell you he was a ‘nosy bastard who’s done telling you how to run your life’.”

“Huh?” She added in a whisper, “Is he a huge blonde guy with massive fangs coming out of the bottom half of his face?”

“Decidedly not. Is the huge blonde man the one who hurt you? You’ve been repeating a name in your sleep – Victor?”

Tabitha closed her eyes. “Yes, he hurt me.”

“Mike, would you please wait outside? Thank you.” The door closed. “Tabitha, we found injuries that are consistant with rape – and also … you are pregnant.”

Her eyes opened and she stared at the doctor. “I am? I mean, I still am?”

“Yes – you knew?”

“Yeah, I knew. I thought all the … injuries … might have changed that.” She looked away, frowning.

“No, you are still pregnant. It’s early enough for options, if you want to discuss that.” The doctor was studying her, but Tabitha didn’t look at her. “Do you want to speak to anyone? We have access to counselors, rape crisis center advocates … or is there someone you wish to call?”

“Where’s my stuff? My phone?”

“The man who brought you had your purse and phone, he finally gave them to me when I promised to give them to you. They are in the top drawer of your dresser, there, but please don’t try to get out of bed. Call a nurse if you need any help. You have a catheter in, and you need the I.V. drip.”

“I think … I need to talk to the man who drove me here.”

“Very well. Perhaps he’ll stop making my nurses crazy if he can visit and see for himself that you’re all right.”

“Am I? All right?”

“You need to heal, but yes – you will be. The nurse call button is right there, please let us know if you need anything.”

The doctor stepped out and left the door ajar. Assured it wasn’t Victor, she didn’t know what to make of the cryptic message. Could it be some biker type who liked to play laser tag and had decided to play Good Samaritan? Exhausted, she nearly drifted off to sleep again. She was eyeballing the I.V. drip suspiciously when the door opened wide.

“Hiya darlin’…”

Tabitha flinched and then stared at her visitor with her mouth open. Short, hairy, and built like a brick tank, the Wolverine stood there in a black t-shirt, jeans, and the trademark scuffed cowboy boots, bomber jacket, and worn brown cowboy hat. His long black hair was as wild as usual, but the crystal blue eyes were darker than she remembered, as if shadowed with too much pain. She wondered if she looked the same.

“Logan…?”

“Just wanted t’ be sure ya were okay. Won’t trouble ya, if ya’d rather, but I wanna stick ‘round, if that’s awright with ya – just in case. He might come back.”

“He,” she whispered. Tears rose in her eyes.

“I can camp in tha hall outside, there’s a bench…”

Tabitha bit her lip. They both knew he’d never been her favorite person. “Would you stay in here? There’s a couch…”

He met her gaze and nodded. “Ya got it.”

“Aren’t you going to ask me what happened?”

“Bet I can guess, but that’s up t’ ya.”

“How are you even here?”

“Didn’t originally plan t’ come t’ look fer ya, had no clue ya were here. Knew ya weren’t in Detroit…”

“I’m sorry about that. If I had a brain, I would’ve begged you to come save me then.”

“Wouldn’t hafta beg – askin’ works. Original plan was t’ come here t’ find a friend o’ mine.”

“Did you find them?”

“In a manner o’ speakin’. Don’t need t’ jaw ‘bout that now. Ya need anythin’?”

Tabitha started to cry before she even knew she was about to. “You know, don’t you?” She set her good hand on her stomach.

“Yeah, I know. Know he raped ya an’ tore ya up, too. Gonna make ‘im pay fer that, but gotta make sure yer safe – that’s more important.”

He must have planned it all, just like he told me he was. Oh, God, he fucking told me all of it… Saying he wanted me, wanted our baby, how he was … how could it all be lies? He was trying to kill me… Gulping, unable to stop the tears, she asked, “Did you stop him?”

“As much as either o’ us ever manage t’ stop each other, yeah. Put ‘im down hard ‘nuff  t’ keep ‘im there awhile, but had t’ get ya out.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s what we do fer each other, darlin’. Yer family.”

“I thought none of you cared anymore… He said you didn’t, not even Betsy, or … Sam…”

“That piece o’ filth is real good at manipulatin’. He thinks it’s fun.”

Her fingers slid up to cover the scars of Victor’s marks. “He said you’d know what these meant, his ‘marks’ … on a ‘living throat’…”

“Probly did that fer show an’ t’ make ya think we’d turn ya out fer it. Wish I coulda helped ya sooner – but I ain’t gonna blame ya fer shit, got it? I know ‘im, know how he is, what he does. If he had some game he was runnin’, turnin’ ya inside out, how’s that yer fault? Ya don’t gotta be ashamed o’ those scars.”

Tabitha crumpled and cried harder. He doesn’t know, doesn’t understand – that I was in the middle of choosing to be Victor’s mate. He’d hate me if he knew that, but I need him here – if Victor comes back… “How did you … find me there?”

“After yer distress call disguised as a homesick chat, I asked Chuck t’ look fer ya with Cerebra. He pinpointed ya in North Vancouver an’ caught a whiff o’ people who remembered seein’ Creed at a gas station, with a blonde in ‘is SUV. That pretty much made it a red alert. Stormy scrambled tha Blackbird an’ dropped me off t’ get ya outta that jam. Planned t’ come out here tha long way already, so stayin’ ain’t a prob. As long as it takes.”

“Wow…” She tried to wipe her tears, but more fell. “Logan…?”

When she opened her arm for a hug, she nearly held her breath as he hesitated, but then he walked up and embraced her gently. She ended up crying against his chest while trying not to think about when she had cried on Victor’s.

“Yer Doc says ya can’t leave yet, ‘specially since ya don’t live here an’ can’t just go home t’ finish healin’, but that mighta been cuz she didn’t wanna lemme try t’ take ya anywhere. I asked tha nurse that likes me, though, an’ she said ya could go home in a few days t’ a week. Ya done most o’ yer healin’ in yer sleep.”

Tabitha sniffed. “How … long have I been here?”

“Nearly a month, mostly cuz o’ yer arm. Ya were in a coma from excessive blood loss, an’ smashed yer head pretty hard when ya fell from the vehicle. That was probly my fault…”

“Why?”

“Had t’ come at ‘im from downwind so I could smell ‘im, but he couldn’t smell me. Saw he was fucked up an’ blind, an’ gotta bit overeager. I jumped on tha roof o’ yer escape vehicle an’ when I launched at ‘im, I knocked ya loose offa tha seat.”

“He was hurt – and blind? How…?”

“Figured that was yer handiwork; he had yer signature burns on ‘im.”

“Oh… From when I attacked him in the process plant building, I guess; it was so dark. He killed those people… It was so strange; he said they weren’t supposed to be there.”

He let her go and gave her a searching look. “He said a lot, I bet. Ya should probly get some sleep, darlin’. There were cops here – now yer awake, they’ll probly be back, just t’ ask ya questions.”

“Um… Should I talk to them?”

His black eyebrow arched just like Victor’s. “Can’t see why ya wouldn’t. Ya got away from tha bastard, tried t’ run, ended up in there fer a knock-down drag-out. He blew tha place up, he killed people. Right?”

Tabitha met his intent stare. “Right.” Giving me a cover story? Does that mean he’ll want the truth later? She looked over at the long narrow window in the large room intended for two patients and tried not to imagine Victor coming through it. “Please don’t leave me alone?”

“I won’t. Visitin’ hours can fuck off. I already established a supply line.”

“What … does that mean?”

He flashed her a smile; it didn’t reach his eyes. “That nurse that likes me is gonna bring me eats that ain’t what they’re givin’ ya. I hate hospital swill; it’s almost as bad as Army swill. If ya wanna piece o’ that action, lemme know.”

“Will she bring you a cake with a file baked into it?” She settled down and tried to relax as he crossed to the couch.

“Probly, but yer safe here, an’ best t’ let ‘em have their way fer now.”

“Okay.” His voice is going to give me nightmares, but I’m glad he’s here… She stroked down her belly once and winced when she saw he’d noticed it. Closing her eyes, she tried not to start crying again. What am I going to do, and what about you, junior? Logan can smell a lie just like Victor can; I’ll have to be very careful. Victor’s threats floated into her thoughts and she pushed them away, but she knew he meant them. The X-Men can’t ever know about that safe house, or his secrets … or mine.

~ ~ ~

She woke with a start, lifted her head and saw both Wolverine and one of the nurses in the room. He looked worried, but the nurse seemed to be reassuring him. Sunlight was shining across the floor from the window.

“Hi Tabitha,” the pretty woman greeted her. “I’m Anne. You were crying out in your sleep, but you’re doing fine. Do you need anything?”

“Can I have some more juice and maybe some food?”

“Sure.” She winked at her conspiratorially. “Don’t swap meals, now, he’s still a growing boy.”

Tabitha couldn’t help but smile. Only a woman that pretty with a rack that big could get away with a short guy joke and receive a mere tolerant grunt for it from the Wolverine. Knowing his reputation, she wondered idly if they’d already screwed. Probably not; this one’s ridiculously focused on guard duty – lucky for me. I’d bet all the money that may or may not still be in my purse that she’d let him, though. They always seem to.

“After you eat, we’ll need to change your bandages again.”

She nodded and managed to suppress a groan. She had a lot of bandages. The doctor had told her everything she could about her condition, including explaining post-traumatic amnesia, which was apparently why she couldn’t remember the events at the parkinglot when Victor had attempted his final attack. She’d asked more questions about that condition than about the coma she’d been in for a few weeks.

If I can claim I don’t remember things, maybe the truth won’t get sniffed out as fast? Except for the part where he’ll know you’re lying about not remembering…

“Ya got loud gears in yer head, darlin’.”

The nurse had brought him a Philly cheesesteak sub. It was weird to see him eat it without any trouble, and he didn’t have to turn his head around massive fangs and shear it up. She’d never noticed before, but he could hide his fangs. Unless he outright grinned, which was pretty much never, or went for a bared-teeth snarl, which was far more often, they didn’t show.

Taking a sip of juice and getting back to eating her mushy cup-o-veggies, she muttered, “Sorry…” She wanted to ask if the bread bothered him; Victor hated bread almost as much as vegetables. Speaking of, there are peppers and onions on that thing.

“So ya managed tha cops just fine.”

“Yes, but they can’t smell that I was lying through half of that. You made me nervous, watching me from the door.”

“I gave ya tha lies, no reason fer me t’ make ya nervous.” He finished the sub, wadded the paper and bag and tossed them expertly into a garbage can from across the room. “When ya wanna talk ‘bout tha truth, lemme know.”

Avoiding that, she asked, “They won’t be able to get me in trouble for that, will they? ‘Mutant girl blows up plant’ would make a juicy headline.”

“Naw, they won’t. Creed’s an internationally known assassin an’ terrorist – far juicer headline. Yer tha girl he kidnapped an’ hurt ‘til she agreed t’ help ‘im an’ then did what she could t’ escape tha monster. ‘Sides, yer prints weren’t on tha bodies, or anywhere else in that compound. Creed’s were all over tha place, not t’ mention ‘is more singular crime scene callin’ cards.”

“What did he use to blow it all up? Without needing me?”

“C-4 bricks, detonators, an’ a few cannisters o’ Chlorine Trifluoride. T’ be honest, I’m surprised he was willin’ t’ handle that shit. It ain’t on my list o’ trusty tools o’ destruction.”

“He told me he was afraid of it,” she whispered, “and if the plant had been making it already, he wouldn’t have taken the job.”

“Asshole told ya a ton o’ bullshit, too. Back home, we didn’t know ya were in trouble. Ya struck out on yer own an’ wanted it that way. I told Cable ya earned tha break, needed t’ see tha world.”

“I understand. I didn’t try to tell anyone; I was afraid he might catch me at it.”

“Did ya realize ya coulda thought it loud at Chuck?”

“He… I was told none of the telepaths cared, because I’d been a brat and an idiot, especially how I got Betsy hurt… I guess I believed it. My plan was to try to escape in Vancouver, but I didn’t get much of a chance.”

“Where’d he keep ya before Vancouver?”

Tabitha thought about lying, but then didn’t bother. “I can’t tell you that. He threatened to kill everyone I care about, everyone I know…” She pushed the tray away and struggled not to cry.

“Ya didn’t get Betsy hurt, Tabitha. If I hadn’t lobotomized tha bastard, she coulda gone int’ ‘is mind an’ made ‘im calm down an’ go back t’ ‘is cage. None o’ ‘em can control ‘is mind or even find ‘im by it anymore – that’s on me. Far as I’m concerned, anybody he’s hurt after that, from Betsy on up t’ yerself, is on my head.”

She met his gaze. “He makes his own choices. He chooses to hurt people. He chooses to lie and play games…” She gasped as she began to cry. “I’m sorry… He really … messed me up.”

“It’s what he does. I’m sorry he got tha chance t’ pull that shit on ya. Fer tha rest … I just wanna dig in an’ make ‘im suffer.”

Tabitha didn’t know what to say to that, or even what to think. Everything she had known about Victor, all that he had shared, could have been a lie.

I wish I could ask what he knows of Victor’s past, but I don’t dare. He could figure me out the more I talk, or even sort out secrets. The redneck yokel act doesn’t fool me anymore – Logan is as sharp as Victor in all senses of the word.

She settled back into the pillows to rest and when they came in to change bandages, she meekly endured it. The nurse and the doctor had stopped asking Logan to leave. No one could make him, and Tabitha didn’t want him out of the room even to step out into the hall. He often took those moments to disappear into her bathroom, while she had others with her.

Would Victor really come after me? Or … is he satisfied with the pound of flesh he got? If I keep his secrets, maybe he’d leave me be?

She answered their questions, did as they asked, and tried not to think about what she would do. Trying to not think about Victor was harder, especially after she quietly began to take the prenatal vitamins Anne had brought and offered to her.

Where is he now? Has he gone to Nepal yet? It was New Orleans, Berlin, and Cape Town after that, and then, where? Am I in danger because of this baby? He said he wanted it – but now I have no idea what he meant.

~ ~ ~

“Can I ask ya what ya mean t’ do, ‘bout yer … condition? Ya can be released as early as t’morrow.”

Tabitha was feeling restless, and if she were honest with herself, she was prepared to be bitchy. “Don’t tell me – you’re normally pro-life, except when it’s his?”

Logan watched her thoughtfully. “I don’t get mixed up in that; it’s tha woman’s body, so it’s ‘er biz. Sure, when it’s been mine, I’d rather be a dad. Can’t really speak fer ‘im on that – it wasn’t a topic we ever had occasion t’ jaw ‘bout. Just askin’ what ya wanna do. Go back t’ Westchester? Doubt ya wanna go t’ Roanoke. Ya ain’t gettin’ free o’ me ‘til yer safely outta Canada, I’ll tell ya that.”

“Would I be welcome at Xavier’s School? Even if they had to convert space into a maternity ward?”

“Told ya that yer family, so yup, that’s right.” He had been looking out the window before he’d turned to face her. The world was dark beyond the glass – but she knew it wasn’t dark to him. “Honest question, with no agenda – why do ya wanna keep it?”

Tabitha laid both hands on her stomach. One of them was still bandaged, but not as heavily. “It took me a long time to figure things out, and in the end, I really didn’t – he told me. I looked back at all the things that made no sense before, and suddenly they did. I have no idea how many times he didn’t kill me because he knew I was pregnant, but I think it was a lot. I may not know why he cared about it – but the fact is, this baby saved my life over and over, so … I’m not going to kill it. Beyond that, I … don’t know what I want to do. All I know is that I wish there was a way to just not let them know about this, any of them. Unless you already told them.”

He shook his head. “All they know is I found ya, he carved on ya, an’ I got ya away from ‘im. Beyond that, they know what tha cops know – that he kidnapped ya, messed with yer head, an’ forced ya t’ help ‘im blow that plant up.” He looked distracted, and then seemed to make a decision. “If yer not sick o’ lookin’ at my mug just yet, I may know a place I can take ya, pretty much off tha map.”

“So we can just sequester me, like some naughty Ivy League daughter from the last century?” She gave him a slight smile to take the sting out of the words.

“Wasn’t an Ivy League thing much, or as long ago, but somethin’ like that.” He moved away from the window and began to pace. “I gotta do somethin’ before I leave, though. Gotta go see my friend I came here t’ find. Not sure ya’d wanna go, but … don’t think I’d feel right ‘bout leavin’ ya somewhere, even though Anne offered t’ let ya stay with ‘er.”

“Who is your friend?”

He turned and faced her, his expression looking lost, sad, and maybe … guilty. “Fiona Cavanaugh.”

“Oh, my God…”

“Guessin’ ya heard tha name, from ‘im.”

Tabitha’s fingers rose to cover her mouth as her eyes filled with tears. “I know he killed her … I mean, he said he killed her. He brought me…” The tears spilled. She’d forgotten about the diamond necklace, but Anne had told her it was in her purse, in the top drawer. “Would you … I’m sorry, but … would you bring me my purse? Dresser, top drawer.”

He walked over and got it, setting it on the side of her bed. The weight of it told her the cash was still there.

Digging in it, trying not to think about how she’d acquired the money, the Prada bag or the jewelry, she found the chain and pulled it out. The look on his face was that of a man near the breaking point. “He brought me this, made me wear it. It was bloody on the back … when he put it on me… Logan, I’m so sorry.”

She held it out by the gold chain and he took it. “I got tha news from people I trust, had ‘em make sure. She was tryin’ t’ help me figure somethin’ out, insisted she could handle it. Only thing I dunno is, did Creed hurt ‘er cuz o’ that, cuz he was involved somehow, or did he just cross ‘er path an’ catch my scent on ‘er. Easy as that.”

Victor’s voice ghosted into her thoughts: Somebody workin’ on betrayin’ me an’ my banker. She got what was comin’ t’ ‘er fer that an’ that’s all ya need t’ know.“I found her name on a luggage tag. He brought her suitcases to me, full of her clothes. I was horrified that he might have seen a woman close to my size and killed her to get the clothes. He’d shredded … mine…”

They were both quiet as she watched him drop the necklace into an inner breast pocket of his jacket.

“People told you what…” She sniffed and tried again. “What did he do to her?”

“I don’t think … that ya should hear ‘bout that. Not now, maybe not ever.”

Staring at him through her tears, she watched as he sat on the couch and leaned his head back, not looking at her. His hands were on his thighs, and she wondered if he was even aware that they were flexing into fists and then opening again. She knew he was aching to use his claws, because she’d seen that expression on Victor’s face so often.

The memory of Victor holding her in the shower to keep her from falling slid into her thoughts like a blade. The way he sank down onto his knees, waiting for me to remember my promise to obey, and to give him my body when he wanted it. He had been … beautiful, and wild … like some dangerous beast in a fairytale. When I let him have me, the blood-stained pendant was around my neck. I want to tell myself I still hated him then, but that was when I started to change. Victor molded me to change, even while I clung to the dream of changing him. Then, not so long ago, I thought I had started to see him change. He told me he’d planned to make me care for him and then kill me after the job, told me he didn’t want to do that anymore, and that he … loved me – and then he tried to kill me after the job. How could I be so fucking stupid?

Her hands covered her face as she began to sob.

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

Tabitha … ya think I did this. When they found those corpses, attacked an’ eaten by an animal… When ya hear that, yer gonna be sure I did.

He leaned on a concrete wall that ringed the service entrance of the Lion’s Gate Hospital. He’d already scented the runt, and knew he was still with her there.

I guess ya called ‘em, an’ they sent ‘im. Imagining the safe house in the Selwyn Mountains being attacked was on a common loop in his thoughts. He had the boys on orders to call and check in regularly. Should be there, just in case. Gotta tie up some loose ends first, though. Karl Rothenberg … an’ Kenton Ellison.

After what Ellison had done, he shouldn’t be surprised that Tabitha believed it was him. With or without the evidence at the plant, he knew his reputation – and his confession to her of his original plan – would ensure that belief.

Yet he still wanted to rail against it. With all we went through, all we shared near tha end – did none o’ it matter? She didn’t understand it – or simpy didn’t value it at all. He stayed until the cigarette was burned down and then stomped on the butt. Can’t try now; tha helpful janitor says she ain’t even awake yet. She can reach me if she wants t’, or she may reach out t’ Brys. Gotta give ‘er space t’ see it. Who tha fuck knows? Maybe she will. Stranger things have fuckin’ happened. What I can do, is make sure she’s safe from threats shit-fer-brains ain’t gotta clue ‘bout.

He walked off to his Bugatti and drove away, ignoring the instinct inside that screamed at him to fight for his mate.

Even when she does wake up, she won’t listen – not with tha runt whisperin’ lies in ‘er ear. Give it time, he told the beast within. Fer now, shut tha fuck up; I got work t’ do.

~ ~ ~

Zane was quiet as he flew them back to Vancouver, sensing that Victor wasn’t feeling chatty. He left the pilot at the airport hangar under orders to be ready at any minute. Just because the car still held her scent, he drove the Bugatti to the Ryu Bank skyscraper. After speaking briefly to Obinata about the run he’d made to Seattle, Victor went to his private suite at the top of the building. It was similar to the suite in the New York location, the banker knew what he liked, but it was bigger – and therefore seemed even more empty.

He threw his duffle bag and a sachel on the couch and went to the bar to grab a bottle. He kept it with him through the shower and then dragged it to the desk. Firing up the computer and using his New York passcodes, he began the next bit of dirty business – convincing the underground grapevine that he was in Europe living it up, and not keeping a watch on Kenton Ellison’s family estate in West Vancouver.

Within a few weeks, Obinata reported that one of Ellison’s shell companies had sent his two million fee, somehow doubled to four million.

“[It is a good sign, Creed-san,]” the banker said as he watched Victor roll over onto his stomach in bed with a grunt. “[This is an attempt to make peace. If he believes that is possible, you may yet have the opportunity to trap him.]”

Victor’s head sank down onto one arm, the other dangling off of the bed. A single adamantium claw pierced the black marble floor.

“[Ellison is hopin’ tha money will end my anger,]” Victor muttered in Japanese. “[Guess he dunno me very well.]”

“[Have you thought about a replacement liaison for the Sanctuary? I assume you do not wish to stop that endeavor.]”

Victor sighed. “[I’ll think o’ somethin’.]”

“[Perhaps I should send you a girl? Or a boy? Forgive me, my friend, but you are not looking well. You haven’t left the suite … have you left the bed?]”

“[Don’t send me shit.]” Victor looked up at the man. “[She was gonna say yes…]” His head dropped down again. “[They probly already killed my cub,]” he whispered. The claw punched deeper into the stone.

“[We will make an example of him and the others will learn. Give your pain and loss back to the man who brought it to you. Yet you should not abstain for too long – to do so punishes only you.]” Obinata gave a him a bow and went to the door. Before he closed it, he said softly, “[I am truly sorry for your loss, my friend.]”

Alone again, Victor groaned and buried his face in his arms. The curtains were drawn over the floor to ceiling windows to block out the sun, but it had to be early evening by now, again. He’d lain in bed in a stupor for two days.

Need t’ get up, do … anythin’. Gotta recruit a new liaison. Feel hungry, finally. Hafta piss like mad – so that’s somethin’… He struggled to sit up and listened for the sounds of Vancouver, muted by the soundproofed suite. Hoisting himself to his feet with a grunt, he walked to open the long crimson drapes. The sunset nearly blinded him. Wonder if she’s outta tha hospital yet. Probly not. “Tabitha…” he whispered. She hadn’t called him or Brys. He fetched his phone and called hers, surprised he hadn’t tried before. It didn’t even go to voicemail. Got it turned off? Hospital rules … maybe.

Taking it with him, he headed into the large bathroom and started up the shower. Pulling the tie out of his hair, he called Brys while he took a piss.

“Sir, we are still safe, no trouble here.”

“Good. If she calls ya, I wanna know ‘bout it.”

“Of course, sir.”

“Did our luggage arrive from tha Four Seasons? I want ‘er stuff stored in ‘er room fer now.”

“Yes, sir, Zane flew it into Faro, and Perrin drove to pick it up and he has tucked it all away.”

“Put ‘im on.”

Victor smiled when the boy greeted him with luscious and provocative French. He always knew. “How’s my guest?”

“She is doing well. We haven’t had many storms, so we’ve been able to keep the window in your suite open for her most of the time.”

“Wish I was there. Obinata got tha jobs on hold, nobody’s pissed off – yet.”

“Are you all right, Victor? Brys said you were hurt.”

“Tha outside heals a lot faster, boy.”

“Maybe I could come out there, if you need me…?”

“Stay with Brys. Once I wrap things up here, I’ll head yer way. Might not let ya outta my bed fer days.”

“I won’t want to be anywhere else, mon beau chat.”

Victor frowned. “I shoulda listened t’ ya, boy. Tha furry female with spots turned out t’ be a lot less trouble, like ya said.”

“You wanted her, you wanted to try. I understand that.”

“Cuz ya got Brys, I know. I’m gonna go out, goin’ mad here. See ya soon.”

“Au revoir…”

Victor left the phone on the counter and stepped into a scalding shower. He ignored his dick. He’d had no release since the last time with Tabitha and Obinata was right – he was only punishing himself.

Don’t wanna just bend a hooker over. Got no clue what I want, if I can’t have ‘er. He did know where he wanted to go to eat – and he had an idea about his liaison problem. Two birds, one rock.

~ ~ ~

Victor stood in the foyer of the Gotham Steakhouse in a charcoal Hugo Boss and grinned down at the hostess. “Put me in whatever section Liane is workin’.”

He was given one of the booth tables in a hardwood nook on the first floor. When Liane appeared, he smiled. She had brought three porcelain bottles of fancy beer. “Hello again, Victor.”

“No hard feelin’s, darlin’?”

“No, I – was being far too forward. I apologize.”

“No harm, no foul. When’s yer shift over?”

“Not for another hour.”

“Well then, keep bringin’ me these. I’ll order when yer almost done.” She kept coming by and when she finally smiled and asked what he wanted, he told her, and then added, “Throw in whatever ya want, yer my dinner guest.”

“Oh, well … I might not be allowed to do that.”

“Cuz ya could get fired?”

“Possibly, yes. I need this job…”

“No ya don’t. I’m gonna offer ya a dream job. Curious?”

She hesitated only a moment and then smiled again. “Okay, I am. I’ll put this in and be right back.”

~ ~ ~

“Lions and tigers?” she asked, setting her fork on her plate.

“Among other things. Ya don’t gotta deal with tha cats, tha group has experts. Only predator ya’d hafta deal with is me.”

“I’ve always admired rescue groups like that, and Mya loves lions, Lion King is her favorite movie. So … I’d be like a director of some sort?”

“Yer good with people an’ yer smart – tha rest ya can learn. It’s like a financial director, ya see that they get tha funds they need, an’ then it’s workin’ with government types in other countries, helpin’ tha group arrange t’ relocate rehabilitated animals.”

“This would involve travel?”

“That’d be up t’ ya. If ya don’t wanna do that, delegate some authority an’ send one o’ yer minions.”

“Oh, no, I’d love to travel. This is insane… You could hire anyone, someone with a college degree… Why me?”

“I only deal with people I feel I can trust, people I like who ain’t afraid o’ me.” Victor leaned on his elbows, clawless fingers steepled between his fangs. “Yer not makin’ ends meet here, an’ yer wastin’ yer talents.”

“May I ask – what is the salary?”

Victor smirked. “A million a year, an’ tha job comes with a house an’ servants – tha works.”

Her hands flew up to cover her lips. “Oh my God.”

“Ready fer tha catch?”

“Does it involve sleeping with you, because that won’t be a problem.” She blushed and then grinned.

“Not a requirement. Yer a smart gal. Think o’ all ya saw an’ heard o’ me last time. Look at me. Where do ya think that money comes from?”

She leaned in closer and whispered, “Illegally. Would … would my daughter and I be in any danger?”

“No, but it’d be best if we didn’t meet in public like this much. Ya’d mostly be dealin’ with me on tha phone an’ tha financials go through my banker.”

“I’m probably dreaming, but yes – of course yes! Where do I sign?”

“Go t’ tha Ryu Bank t’morrow an’ tell ‘em yer name. Anytime after noon is fine. Yer gonna have an appointment with Mr. Ryu Obinata. He’ll explain tha rest an’ get ya started. If yer not comfortable with a finance job, he’ll hire ya an assistant, but I want ya t’ be tha liaison that deals with me.”

“All right. I am very good with financial things, though; I’ve just never had the income to show that off.”

“What ‘bout yer ex? Is he gonna be a prob in any way?”

“Ah, no… He met someone, he’s moving to San Francisco to live with her. I haven’t even had time to explain things to Mya.”

“Yer not gonna hafta worry ‘bout a thing anymore, Liane. Technically, ya probly won’t even hafta put up with me that often, though I do gotta snow leopard I’m tryin’ t’ get relocated back t’ Nepal. Special case, couldn’t just take ‘er t’ tha Sanctuary.”

“Maybe I could help, if – well if you show me how to help.”

“Awright, then. That’s settled.”

“Yes. The Ryu Bank tomorrow.” She offered her hand over the table to shake his, but he took and held it, rubbing his thumb over her knuckles. “What are you doing tonight? Do you have to go home to your lady while you’re still a good boy?”

“We’ve had a misunderstandin’. Hopefully, she’ll come t’ ‘er senses.”

“Oh, I’m sorry…” She met his gaze and stared back without looking away. “If you need company tonight, we could go somewhere. Mya is with my parents; I’m picking her up tomorrow.”

“Ya ain’t gotta do that. This is ‘bout yer bein’ a good pick fer tha job.”

“I want to, I’ve wanted to spend time with you from the moment I saw you. I don’t care what we do.”

“Whattaya know ‘bout feral mutants?”

“Not a thing. I just know that you are the most gorgeous man I’ve ever seen, and fascinating…”

“I ain’t always a safe person t’ be ‘round. I like what I like, stubborn an’ moody, too.”

“I love a challenge. If you want, we could just…”

She trailed off as he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles between the fangs. “Take me home – t’ yer home.”

“As long as you accept that a single mother has no time to clean house when she’s working double shifts.”

Victor smiled. “Won’t bother me none.”

~ ~ ~

It was an apartment, not an expensive one, and while it was strune with toys here and there, he’d seen far worse in the dirty category. Typically, she was more embarrassed about it than she needed to be, but he admired her ability to square her shoulders and stop fussing when she saw he didn’t care.

He hadn’t been in many homes where a small child lived, and most of those times he had been sent with orders (accompanied by brainwashing or a control collar) to leave no one breathing in his wake. The place was utterly new to him in that regard, seen with the lights on and no bloodstains. On the informal five minute tour, the child’s room amused him. It was decorated wall to wall with Lion King and a general zoo theme.

“Yer kid’s gonna love tha Sanctuary. How old is she?” he asked.

With a proud smile, she replied, “Three, but she’ll be four in January. Can I get you a drink? I don’t have the pricey stuff, I’m afraid.”

“Got whiskey?”

“No … I have Smirnoff vodka?”

“That works. Neat.”

“Have a seat,” she called from the kitchen.

Victor sat on one end of the couch. Picking up a plastic toy of a lion cub before it got stepped on, he set it on the coffee table.

“Those are everywhere,” she told him as she brought in their drinks. Hers was on the rocks. “On my rare and random days off I feel like Sheena of the Jungle, until I step on one.”

Victor tossed back half of the drink in one swallow.

“I can bring out the bottle?”

“Only need one.”

She touched his arm but he didn’t look at her, staring into the glass instead.

“You love her,” she whispered. “I hope you get her back.”

“She’s pregnant, or she was…” He frowned at the alcohol. “Got no clue if she’ll keep it. We had quite a row, but … rather not talk ‘bout it.”

“I understand. Listen, I don’t … expect anything, but I want to say – whatever you need, I’d like to … be that.”

Victor finished the drink. When she wordlessly handed him her glass, he downed that, too. She set them on the coffee table and turned to face him. Before he knew he intended to, he picked her up and set her on his lap. When he kissed her, the scent of her heat thickened around him.

“Careful in there,” he whispered against her lips when she wanted to deepen the kiss. “Most o’ those are razor sharp.” He kissed her gently, using his tongue to show her how to avoid the spikes in his mouth. When he broke the kiss, he leaned his head down and rested his forehead on her shoulder. Her hands lifted to stroke his hair and memories rose like bitter ghosts.

“We’re going to wrinkle your stunning suit,” she spoke at his ear.

He breathed in deep and let her heat fire his blood as he pushed the ghosts away. “I can be rough…”

“Victor, I don’t care – whatever you need.”

As his head rose, she shifted and caught the tip of a pointed ear in her lips and suckled it. He felt her smile around it when he groaned. His arms wound around her and the claws slid out, but he kept them away from her.

“Need t’ fuck…”

“Oh my, I knew I was going to like you. You know where the bedroom is…”

Victor smirked, melting as she sucked his ear. “That tha point o’ tha penny tour?”

She moved to kiss his lips and smiled. “Like you said, I’m a smart gal. I only have one condition.”

Victor’s eyebrow arched. “I don’t wear rubbers.”

The pretty brunette giggled and kissed him again. “I’m on the pill, and I did a little homework on you – ‘healing factor’, is that what it’s called?”

“What happened t’ ‘dunno nothin’ ‘bout ferals’?”

“I didn’t get that far.”

“Profession?”

“Assassin, right? Too mysterious for the FBI’s Most Wanted list, though.”

“Never gave ya my last name.”

“Your description is pretty unique. It doesn’t matter to me, Victor. You don’t intend to harm me or my daughter – you want me to take this job.”

“Huh. What’s yer condition?”

“You have to let me get you out of that suit slow enough to appreciate everything.”

Victor grinned, showing all the teeth. “Keep yer clothes on ‘til yer ready t’ get t’ it, then – been a while fer me, an’ I might pop.”

She rose when he let her loose and he allowed her to lead him to her bed, their fingers loosely entwined. She found a hanger for his suit and hung it up properly bit by bit as she stripped him. Her scent came on richer when she saw him nude.

“I won’t need this uniform anymore…” she whispered, approaching him.

The claws gleamed in the light of one lamp on a nightstand as he swiped them down her body, slicing the shirt, belt, and pants without touching her trembling flesh. He went down to his knees before her, hooked a fang in the side of her panties and tore them away.

“Oh God … Victor, yes…” She kicked out of her shoes and let him strip off her socks.

He rose, picked her up, and set a knee on the bed. Laying her down, he used a claw to cut the bra away. Claws retracting just before, he entered her body with his fingers, one in her pussy and one in her ass.

“Gonna want both,” he told her as he worked them skillfully, watching her wince melt into pleasure.

“Yes, I want that… Victor – please…”

Shifting as her legs went around him, he stabbed his painfully hard cock deep inside her pussy. It wasn’t as tight, but he could bury it all. He set his forehead on her chest, his long back bowed over her, and pumped hard and fast until he came. He didn’t give her his tongue until he wanted to open her anally, but he was able to slow down by then and was careful to do it properly. She slicked his cock with lube from her nightstand and massaged it for a few pumps with skill. He watched avidly as she put her own fingers through the muscle he’d opened and worked lube in for him.

Sinking deep again, gasping at the tight grip of it, he held her legs up behind the knees and wallowed in pleasure. She hadn’t lied about enjoying it a bit rough, and let him do what he wanted.

Victor had intended to leave that night, but once he lay down and curled up with her in his arms, he fell asleep until the sun coming through her window woke him. Before she could finish a stretch or say a word, he slipped down to lick and suck at her pussy.

“That tongue,” she murmured.

“Need it,” he answered, his voice a rasp.

“Whatever you need,” she reminded him, and gasped when he rose up and thrust deep again. “As much as you need,” she whispered, her hands holding him tight as the fingernails bit into his flesh.

~ ~ ~

Victor woke and growled when he didn’t feel her beside him. She sat on the edge of the bed and stroked his hair. She was nude. He was hungry. He pulled her in and rolled her under him, fucking into her with last night’s cum as their lube. When he stilled, he sighed as she held his head gently.

“If I’m going to go to your bank, I should get Mya and go over there…”

“I can drive ya.”

“I bet that insane sports car of yours doesn’t have room for her carseat.” Her fingers played with his hair. “If you want to stay and sleep, you’re welcome to.”

“Can’t, gotta see Obinata myself.”

“Would you … join us there? I’d love for Mya to meet you. Plus, that bank is a huge monster, and if I’m going to be honest, I’m a little intimidated by the thought of walking in there cold and telling the owner you gave me a million dollar job.”

Victor smirked. “I’ll meet ya there, an’ I’ll give ya my number – gonna need that fer yer new gig. Gonna hafta get back t’ biz this afternoon.” Catching her biting her lower lip, he smiled at her. “What?”

“I envy your lady. I won’t pry, I promise, but … I could never let you go, if you were mine.”

Victor kissed her when she look up at him. “Yer seein’ horny an’ charmin’ – trust me, I can be an asshole, one o’ tha best.”

“I don’t doubt it, but still.”

“How big is yer shower?”

“You might fit.”

Victor smiled and licked up her throat, purring at her shiver. “Good.”

~ ~ ~

By that afternoon, in Obinata’s office, Victor ended up sitting in the banker’s big desk chair with Liane’s friendly, outgoing, and fascinated daughter perched on his lap. Mya had dubbed him Lion King and when he roared for her, she had clapped and giggled.

Liane smiled as she filled out paperwork and signed things. The conference table was covered with paper in front of her. Victor had pulled his favorite chair out for her and grinned at her as he took the kid, relieved the banker wasn’t handing him a pen for once.

“So this is for my new account here?”

“Yes, Miss Pelletret,” Obinata answered. “We will be transferring $3,000,000 into this account today.”

Watching her turn pale, Victor smirked. When she looked over at him, he winked at her.

“We will?” she replied to the banker.

“It was Creed-san’s wish to get you started off on the right foot.”

“Whose money is it?”

“His.”

“That’s for the Sanctuary, right? For the work and the group?”

Obinata handed her another sheaf of papers. “No, Miss, this is for the Sanctuary and the work. This account already has $2,000,000 in it, and you will be in charge of that for the group.”

“Okay… Victor?”

“Yeah, darlin’?”

“You said a million annual, which is crazy already, but what is this three million for?”

“House expenses, appearances, an’ whatever else ya want. College fund? Puttin’ up with me has t’ have perks, or who’d wanna do it?”

“Well, I’d probably do it for free, if you asked nicely enough.”

Victor stood and hoisted Mya up to sit on his forearm. “Tha countries yer gonna be rubbin’ elbows with respect money. It’s just a number, darlin’; once ya get used t’ tha job, ya won’t even bat an eye anymore.” He took Mya across the room to see the waterfall pictures up close.

She touched it and got sprayed. Her shriek of delight hurt at close quarters, but he just pinned his ears in self-defense and laughed with her. After she grew tired, she snuggled into his chest. He was a bit surprised himself as the purr rumbled and smiled at her when she stared up at him.

“That is the last one,” Obinata announced. He gathered the papers and gave her some back. “I can have someone show you the property, unless Creed-san would like that honor?”

“Is it ready yet? That’s bloody fast. I can take ya.”

“Since you called this morning, I’ve had a team getting it ready.”

“That works. Domo arigato, Obinata-san.”

“Yes, thank you, sir. I have your card. Thanks…”

Bowing to each other, Victor gave his banker a wink.

All the way out to their cars, Mya was playing with the loose lock of hair that refused to stay in his ponytail. When they got to the carseat issue, he handed her back to her mother.

“I ain’t gotta clue what t’ do with that stuff.”

“You’d make an amazing dad, you know. I hope that happens for you.”

Victor nodded, snarled at the little girl to make her giggle, and then headed to his car next to hers.

“I swear I won’t have a clue what to do with that kind of money.”

Putting on his sunglasses in the shade of the garage building won him a smile. “Fer starters, ya oughta upgrade tha 1993 Toyota Camry wagon.”

Liane shut the back door and came up to him. “We can’t all drive moon cars, Mr. Creed.”

He leaned down and kissed her. “Try t’ keep up.”

“Try to keep that thing on the ground.”

By the time they parked on the circular drive in front of her new home and she got her daughter out of the car, Liane Pelletret had tears in her eyes.

“This isn’t a house, it’s – a mansion…”

“It’s a costume fer yer new profession. Gotta look tha part.”

“Are there really servants?”

“Yup. Can’t have ya elbow-deep in chores when I’m tryin’ t’ call ya ‘bout a critter that needs rescued. Ya share a back fence with tha Sanctuary, an’ behind that is Capilano Lake.”

“What about a school? Eventually…”

“Lenusya tells me there’s one called Collin’wood, a college prep school that goes from zero t’ graduatin’, pretty close by.”

“Who is Lenusya? Is that your…?”

“Nope. Lenusya Kaminskaya is somebody yer probly gonna only talk t’ on tha phone a lot more’n anythin’ else, bit like me, fer all o’ that. I gotta lot goin’ on, an’ she keeps it all organized an’ well-oiled fer me. If ya ever need me but can’t get me, call ‘er before ya try Obinata, he’s a lot busier. I’ll give ya ‘er number.”

“Okay. Victor? Did I just join the Mob or something?”

He couldn’t help a chuckle. “Naw, yer my liaison so I can help save critters. I hafta help off tha books. Yer my on-tha-books person so that I can do this.”

“So, my whole life just became a fairytale dream because you want to help lions and tigers.”

“Pretty much.”

“Who was doing it before me?”

“Ya don’t gotta worry yer pretty head ‘bout ‘im. He never lived here anyhow. Ready t’ see it?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t stay. Go inside an’ tha housekeeper’ll introduce ‘erself an’ she can help ya with movin’ yer stuff an’ gettin’ settled. When yer ready, ya can meet tha Sanctuary folks. They can actually teach ya tha job an’ I’m gonna get ya tha contacts from yer predecessor.”

“When do I see you again?”

“I’ll deliver tha contacts personally – after that, ya might not see me much. House is yers, though, don’t gotta be a hermit. Invite yer folks t’ move in if ya want, find a new man if yer so inclined. Just don’t tell any o’ ‘em jack ‘bout me. Lenusya can help. If anybody gets nosy, give ‘em ‘er name as yer boss – she’s used t’ it. Long as tha job gets handled, tha rest is yer biz.”

“You may be a hard act to follow.”

“Nonsense. Ya can do a lot better’n me.” He leaned closer and purred at her little girl, smiling when she giggled. “Hope ya like yer new home, Mya.” She reached to grasp a fang, but he avoided her hand. “Those are sharp, now.”

She held out something to him in her tiny fist, and he took it. It was another plastic lion cub toy.

“That’s Simba,” Liane said with a smile. “You must be really cool to get him. She wants you to keep it.”

Grinning, he tucked it into his suit jacket, through the lapel buttonhole. “Thanks, kid. Gonna kiss yer mom, that okay with ya?”

“Yeah,” she said.

Liane tilted her face up with tears in her eyes. “Thank you, Victor. I won’t let you down.”

“I know ya won’t.” He bent to kiss her. “See ya in a few days.”

“The offer stands – whatever you need…”

Victor kissed her forehead before he turned away from them and walked back to the car. When he glanced in the rearview mirror, she hadn’t moved yet and she watched him drive away.

By the time he got back to the highway, he smirked when the air moved beside him. When he turned his head to look, Ryu Obinata was sitting there.

“What ya got?”

“Kenton Ellison has returned in secret to his family estate. He will be there tonight – beyond that, we can’t be sure.”

“Then t’night, I hunt. Ya comin’ along on this one?”

“I would not miss it, my friend.”

“Do me a favor first, huh, as a friend? I realize ya ain’t my errand boy…”

“Of course. It isn’t a problem.”

“I put a bag t’gether in my suite in yer buildin’, want ya t’ turn it all int’ a nice package, a Christmas gift. Then pop it t’ Lion’s Gate Hospital, t’ Tabitha Smith, an’ don’t ask me ‘bout it, got it?”

“I will do as you wish, Creed-san.”

“Don’t deliver it yerself by walkin’ in tha front doors, neither – tha bloody runt is guardin’ ‘er.” Obinata didn’t answer and Victor’s thoughts turned to the hunt. He growled low in his chest as the hunger for Ellison’s blood heated his. Ya ain’t got ‘nuff  fer me t’ take from ya in equal measure everythin’ that ya destroyed o’ mine – so I’ll just hafta take it all an’ try t’ be satisfied. If I could figure a way t’ kill ya an’ keep killin’ ya, Ellison – it still wouldn’t be ‘nuff .

 

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

Author’s Note: Lion King and Simba belong to Disney. Dr. Robert Windsor is an alias of Mr. Sinister, and the name he was using as a doctor working for the revamped Weapon X project. This story is slowly pulling Victor and Tabitha apart, but I have to say, I don’t blame Tabitha for believing it was Victor hurting her and hunting her down. “Domo arigato” is Japanese for “Thank you very much” and of course, “Au revoir” is French for “goodbye”.

I have gone on safari to hunt down and fix my semi-colons in all of my stories, and now and then, I’ve been inspired to add a line or change a phrase. The biggest changes here (which aren’t that big at all) appeared in the dinner scene when Victor is discussing business with Ellison, back in chapter seven. I also fixed Ellison’s appetizer (yes, I’m that anal about details) because while that restaurant does offer tomatoes with crumbled bleu cheese, a vegan would skip the cheese. I’m a carnivore, myself, so I missed that on the last editing run.

Victor’s ordeal escaping the plant was pretty gruesome already, and then I made it worse, so hopefully it comes across as how he will do anything to survive while he is wounded. I do have to admit that I squeed a lot while writing the brief fight scene with Logan. I love them both so much, it was a blast to make them fight. There are nearly Shakespearean levels of misunderstanding going on between Victor, Tabitha, and Logan. It will be fun to untangle all of that in the remaining chapters.

Obviously, I had to put the chapter count back to fifteen, or this one would have been 60 pages. As always, thanks to everyone for reading, please do comment, I love to hear from you. Thanks so much too, for all of the kudos and comments! My stories will all eventually be on my blog (www.mindseyetheatre.net), and I can respond to comments/reviews either here, on the blog, via email, or via @MET_Fic – AnonGrimm

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