Sabretooth: Redemption – Chapter 5 – Sins of the Fathers

But tell me can you heal what father’s done?
Or fix this hole in a mother’s son?
Can you heal the broken worlds within?
Can you strip away so we may start again?
Tell me, can you heal what father’s done?
Or cut this rope and let us run?
Just when all seems fine and I’m pain free
You jab another pin
Jab another pin in me

Mirror, mirror upon thy wall
Break the spell or become the doll
See you sharpening the pins
So the holes will remind us
We’re just the toys in the hands of another
And in time the needles turn from shine to rust

~ Fixxxer (Metallica)

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The cloth that patted her forehead and cheek was damp and cool. The kindness of it was confusing, however, even painful when she realized that she couldn’t remember anyone doing something like that for her before. Not a teammate, or a lover – and certainly never a parent.

Water dripped, and the cloth attempted to smooth the worry lines furrowing her brow. Tabitha tried to breathe deeply, evenly, grateful that the cloth stayed away from her mouth.

Her lips were swollen and painful, her throat on fire. As much as she tried to forget how they got that way, the images and the horror were bent on sticking around.

Who is here? It has to be Brys, she thought. Sabretooth wouldn’t give a damn about soothing me and that bastard Perrin might be in training to be just as sadistic as his boss. Where am I? On a bed – please, God, don’t let it be Creed’s.

She was about to risk opening her eyes, when the sound of Sabretooth’s voice made her change her mind. He sounded irritated, but didn’t appear to be speaking to her or to Brys. After a beat or two, it dawned on her that he was talking on a phone. The distance was hard to gauge; she couldn’t tell if he was inside the same room or not. Aching to peek, she kept her eyes shut and listened.

“No, Berlin’s up t’ bat next after New Orleans. First thing, though, I gotta run over t’ Nepal. It ain’t on tha books, it’s personal. A delivery. Get hold o’ Ellison an’ have ‘im call me ‘bout it – if he can meet me there, all tha better, I want this handled right without any fuck-ups.” Sabretooth growled, but it was unclear if he was angry with the caller or something the person had said. “I don’t give a fuck if ‘is schedule’s full. Ask ‘im if he wants me t’ come out there an’ clear it fer ‘im, an’ see how quick he’s got tha bloody time fer me. Just fix it, Obinata.”

“Problems, sir?” Brys asked over her head, the cloth pausing.

“Not after he passes on that message. Oh, he’ll butter it all up – he ain’t a crass backwoods jackass like me. Ain’t that right, frail?”

Having remembered that feigning sleep was pointless, Tabitha opened her eyes. Brys was sitting on the bed beside her, a bowl of water on the nightstand, and the bedroom wasn’t Creed’s. The brute was standing in the open doorway, actually dressed in one of his designer suits instead of just in shabby jeans. She didn’t pay attention to the dark gray couture, however – her gaze fell on the small rectangle of technology in one of his huge paws and got stuck there.

Creed snorted. “What’s tha matter, did tha cat get yer tongue?”

“Ah, I doubt if she’s able to speak yet –”

“I was talkin’ t’ tha one with tits, I think.”

Flinching, Tabitha nodded to answer them both. Even drawing breath hurt.

A grin spreading to show all of his teeth, Creed walked into the room and tossed the Nokia onto the covers over her stomach. The keypad was still extended. It was a Nokia 7650, just like hers, only black instead of gray.

“Wanna borrow that? Go ahead – call Cueball an’ tell ‘im yer in dire need o’ rescuin’.” When she made no move to touch it, staring up at him in fear, he reached down and picked it up again. He sneered at her as he snapped the keypad in and tucked it into a pocket on the inside of the double-breasted jacket. “Not in tha mood t’ chat with old friends an’ masters, huh?”

As he moved to the doorway again, leaning his back against it, he returned to watching her.

Brys tried again. “Will you be here for supper, sir?”

“Maybe. Probly. Hell, I’ll see how it goes. She gonna live?”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine after a good amount of rest.”

“She don’t look too sure.” With a grunt, he added, “If I can speed things up, I might be back in a few hours. Try not t’ miss me, Tabitha.” He turned and walked off, the sound of heavy footsteps on the floor heading down the hall.

“He’ll be gone for a while,” Brys assured her, his tone almost paternal. It made her shudder. He plunked the cloth into the bowl and stood. “Get some more sleep if you can. There’s a glass and pitcher of water here, and I’ll bring you some hot lemon tea with honey.” Picking up the bowl, he carried it out with him.

Tabitha thought about touching her mouth to feel how bad it might be, but she didn’t have the guts. Letting her eyes close, she slipped mercifully back into oblivion for a little while longer.

At one point she woke and struggled up to drink the cooling tea that had appeared on the nightstand. It had a slightly bitter taste in spite of the honey, but if the cook had put some sort of drug in it, she couldn’t care.

I hope it’s something that’ll either kill me quick or stop me from feeling my face, or my throat. Creed’s taunt about calling Xavier haunted her. I don’t need a phone to call him, do I? Strongest damn telepath in the world, I ought to be able to scream his name until he hears me… So why don’t I try? Tears rose in her eyes, but she wiped them away angrily. What if I did and he … didn’t answer?

Whatever the tea had been spiked with began to drag her down. She gulped more of it painfully. Barely getting the mug safely back on the nightstand, she lay flat, ready to allow the witch’s brew to do its work.

~ ~ ~

Time blurred. She had no idea what day it was and didn’t try to find out. She slept, got up and stumbled to the bathroom when she had to, and drank the bitter honey tea whenever it appeared. Now and then, Brys would be sitting in the wingchair across the room. If she was hungry, he brought her soup. Slowly, her throat healed and her lips weren’t so frightening in the mirror anymore.

Waking to find Brys in the chair watching over her again, she sipped some of the water he’d brought and spoke for the first time since the dungeon.

“Where is he?” Tabitha winced at the croak of her rusty voice. “How long have I…?”

“Mr. Creed is currently in his study, working. You’ve been recuperating for three days; amazingly, he’s allowed me to care for you without bothering you himself in that time.”

“Thank you, Brys.”

Pleased, he smiled at her. “It’s no trouble; I only wish you’d listened to our advice about him.”

“Lecture not necessary; I plan to listen from now on.” She sat up gingerly. “Is it day or night?”

“It’s night, a couple of hours after supper. Would you like some real food?”

“Sure, thanks – but I’d rather have a shower first.”

“Of course.” He stood and went to the door. “I made a stew, with the elk, but otherwise a regular vegetables affair.”

“Sounds good. I’ll be as quick as I can, okay?”

“No need, take your time. I’ll start putting a tray together for you.”

“Wait… What is he working on?”

“I don’t know. He’s been on the computer for hours.” When she didn’t reply to that, he slipped out and shut the door softly behind him.

Tabitha didn’t take long in the shower. It was irrational to think that being clothed was any protection around Sabretooth, but being naked for long seemed insane. As she stepped out of the tub and wrapped a towel around her, she heard someone in the room outside.

Forcing herself to move, she muttered, “If it was him, you wouldn’t be hearing anything.”

Grateful that she’d brought a pile of folded clothes in with her, she dressed quickly. A few brisk tousles of the towel in her hair and it was dry enough. She hung the towel on the rack and wiped the fogged mirror over the sink with her palm.

Her lips looked almost normal again and her throat felt like she’d recently gotten over a cough.

“Stupid, fucking bitch,” she whispered to her refection. “So worried he’ll kill you… Did you forget how bad he might mess you up and then leave you alive to enjoy his handiwork?”

Once, Storm had tried to speak to her about her clandestine visits with Sabretooth in the Danger Room. She had been far more understanding than the others, but still not interested in why, only that she stop. Frowning at that, she tried to push the annoyance away and remember the woman’s words. She’d said something about Sabretooth, something she’d learned from talking to Wolverine years before.

She said that he … loves pain, as much as he loves killing. I saw enough evidence of that. What was it? Pain … without the kill, makes it more … enjoyable, because once you kill someone it’s over – they’re safe from you. That was it. Wolverine told her that there are lots of different kinds of pain, too. That’s why Sabretooth always goes for killing people an enemy cares about. Or almost killing them… Tabitha’s fingers rose to cover her mouth. He wasn’t trying to kill Psylocke. If he meant to kill her, she’d have been dead. What he did … the result … barely alive, but not dead – not dead! That’s what he was aiming for. Why? One hand left her mouth to reach up and touch her cheek. Staring at herself, she gasped. He isn’t planning to kill me and God help me, that might be a bad thing.

Her thoughts flashed on the rows of knives in the kitchen; tears rose as she realized how easy it might be…

No, damn it, no. When I knew Dad would never stop, I ran away. Vancouver. Just hang on and get there, Tab, and for fuck’s sake, stop trying to seduce the beast or offer him anything. He wants to take it – giving it to him just pisses him off. Thinking of all the things Professor Xavier had told her after their stupid intervention, she tried to piece it all together with things she’d learned since. Something makes monsters – it’s pretty rare for one to be born that way. What does it take to make a creature like Sabretooth? What did he say before, about his father teaching him… The words, spoken in that rasping slaughterhouse voice, floated back into her mind. ‘Know what my pa taught me? If ya gotta chew yer own hand off t’ get loose from a trap … it’ll grow tha fuck back.’

Closing her eyes, she let the tears slip down her cheeks. The horror couched in that statement, as she realized he meant it, that it was something that had happened, tightened her chest. Insanely, in spite of everything he’d done, everything he’d done to her – she knew he really was just like her, as he’d once taunted her. They were both the end result of choices their fathers had made.

It also means he’s got enough vicious brutality packed in to let me live – but what state I’m in might not be recognizable to anyone. How the hell can I get away in one piece?

The door handle moved, slow and deliberate. Tabitha held her breath and stared at the long brass handle. It was locked, but she knew that didn’t matter one bit. It stopped a second later and she watched it move back up.

Limbs trembling, she covered her mouth again and froze. Unaware of how long she’d stood there, barely breathing through her fingers, she jumped and cried out when a soft knock sounded on the wood.

“Tabitha?” Brys called. “It’s only me. The tray is on the table.”

“Is he out there?”

“No, he’s still in the study.”

“He was here; he grabbed the door handle…”

His voice lowering, softening, he told her, “I … don’t know, I was down in the kitchen. At the moment, he’s in the study – I didn’t think he’d moved at all. Are you … all right?”

With shaking fingers, she unlocked the door and opened it. “He’s not here…”

“No. You’re trembling. Come on out and try to eat? It might settle you some. I brought some wine, if you’d like a glass.”

“I might like the whole bottle.”

“I’ll leave it, then.”

~ ~ ~

She had a self-defense buzz going when Brys appeared to take the tray. Tabitha let him in. She’d given up on the glass and had a white-knuckle grip on the neck of the bottle.

“This is probably the last thing you want to hear, but he’s asking for you. I’m supposed to tell you to go to the study.”

“Well, that’s better than leading me upstairs into Hell without a peep of warning like your boyfriend did.”

“It won’t matter, I suppose, but I’m sorry about that. Perrin is … influenced by Mr. Creed’s peculiar brand of ‘freedom’. The only explanation I could offer is that he didn’t have a very cheerful upbringing.”

“Lot of that going around here,” she answered. Not bothering to lace up her boots, she brought the bottle with her and went out.

The doors to the study off of the hall were open and the fire was crackling merrily inside the long room. Creed sat at a desk that could have doubled as decking for a cruise ship. His face was lit by the computer screen before him, a sleek Apple Titanium PowerBook G4 laptop that had made her drool – until it had burned her the moment she reached out to touch it.

A low growl sounded from the desk, but just as she assumed it was Creed, she realized it came from under him.

“Goshana’s still holding that hook kick against me, huh?”

He didn’t look away from the screen. “Yeah, use that name like it ain’t gonna piss me off.”

Tabitha didn’t bother to hide her fear of the man, since all the advice said that was a bad idea. She knew he could smell it on her, anyway. Yet if she intended to function around him, irreverent bravado seemed like the only option.

“So what do you call her? Hello Kitty?”

“Don’t gotta call ‘er nothin’; she don’t come when called, she goes in an’ out as she damn well pleases.”

“I do come when called and you called me. What do you want?”

Creed finally deigned to look up at her, a predictable smirk stretching his cruel lips. “‘Sides tha pleasure o’ yer sauced comp’ny? Time fer ya t’ earn yer keep a bit, that’s what I want.”

“Funny, I thought I was.”

“Funny?” He rose and stalked to the edge of the desk, leaning his hip on it. “Ain’t nothin’ funny ‘bout it, frail. Ya wanna listen up, or would ya rather keep baitin’ me?”

He was back in jeans and a thin t-shirt, this time a faded concert image of someone named Joe Cocker. His bare feet and thick fingers were devoid of claws at the moment, as they had rarely been in the Danger Room. For the first time, she realized that the tips of his fingers and toes looked almost normal, beyond being oversized and missing a human nail plate or nail bed. The skin there was smooth.

They must cut their way out like Wolverine’s. “Um, I’m listening.”

“Sit, before ya fall down – on tha couch. Ya drunk, or just in tha mood t’ party?”

As he rose and advanced, she nearly fell into the couch. He took the wine bottle from her and set it next to an empty whiskey bottle on the coffee table.

Looking up at him, she tried not to let her voice tremble. “Your stunt with my bathroom door handle left me feeling thirsty.”

“Yeah, well, I was gonna ask if ya needed help scrubbin’ yer back.”

“I didn’t and I’m buzzed, not drunk. What’s going on? What … do I need … to do…?”

Her words trailed off when he sank down to a crouch in front of her. One hand moved the coffee table out of his way, almost toppling the bottles. He went down on one knee and reached for her boots. To her shock, he started doing up the laces, his loose long curling hair covering his face when he bent his head to tie them.

“Yer former client’s tryin’ again. Got ten men on tha scanners, two with fuckin’ flamethrowers. I’m not in tha mood t’ grow ‘nother new face, so we’re gonna go out an’ take care o’ ‘em – t’gether.”

“I won’t kill –”

“Didn’t ask ya, did I? Said ya were gonna listen, didn’t ya?”

“Y-yes.”

“Ya can prove how precise those bullet bombs o’ yers are. Blow up tha tanks on their backs; it won’t kill ‘em if ya do it right – might singe ‘em, but that’s all. I’ll take care o’ tha rest.”

“Won’t your Bond villain crap take them out? I got hit with a laser.” She swallowed when he knotted the second boot and stared back at her, far too close for comfort. His silence unnerving her, she asked, “It stopped after one, though. Did you turn it off?”

“Nope. Snagged a sound bite o’ yer voice from a news clip an’ fed it int’ tha system. It’s voice activated, girl. Ya musta said somethin’ out loud fer it t’ stop.”

“Must have? You know I did – you were already waiting to ambush me, weren’t you?”

“Yup. Had ya tracked tha first time ya took a squat in tha snow.” He moved over her, but then sat on the couch beside her, still far too close. “We gotta go out there cuz I turned off half o’ tha lethal shit so it wouldn’t end up hurtin’ my guest. Motion sensors – that’s tha lasers – are on, they ain’t gonna bother an animal, but these boys are either too stupid or too greedy t’ let a few zaps stop ‘em.”

“Oh. Are they… Where are they?”

“Come look.”

He got up and went back to the desk. Moving beyond it, he opened a sliding wooden panel door that she had assumed was just a section of wall. The snow leopard darted through it into what had to be his bedroom. He closed it behind her.

“Master suite’s closed up, safest place in tha house. Don’t want tha prize outside fightin’ with us – never know when one o’ those bastards’ll get lucky.” Crooking a finger at her, he motioned for her to join him.

When she reluctantly obeyed, his fingers wrapped around the back of her neck. He drew her over, and then the fingers moved to her shoulder to push her down into his heavy wooden chair.

The screen was split into four squares, each one showing a few men in black riot gear creeping through the snow in the dim moonlight.

“Mouse can show ya tha other views,” he said at her ear, the warm breath on her neck making her shudder.

“It’ll shock me.”

“Got tha field off, stupid.”

She reached out and gripped the large wireless mouse. A wireless keyboard with bigger keys was laying directly over the laptop’s keys. Gulping, she found the image on the screen that would change the views and clicked it.

“How did some of them get inside the fence already?”

His mouth almost touched the outer curve of her ear, his broad chin moving her curls. “Jackass musta hired a better class o’ hitmen since he greased yer palm.”

“Are you going to let me help, or are you determined to scare the hell out of me until I can’t function?”

“Aw, Tabitha … ya say tha sweetest things.” He straightened and surprised her by pulling off his t-shirt. He tossed it on the couch and headed for the door.

“So is this ‘Slaughter by Abercrombie and Fitch’?”

“What ya yappin’ ‘bout now?”

“You seem to prefer to kill people while half-dressed like a male fashion model – when you aren’t doing it in Armani, that is.”

“I like that shirt – don’t wanna get their fuckin’ blood on it – or yers. Comin’?”

Tabitha stood and followed, shaking her head. “Rolling Stones and Joe Cocker? I’d have pegged you as a Heavy Metal fan. Who the hell is Joe Cocker, anyway?”

Sabretooth grinned. “Metal’s just dandy, but there’s nothin’ like tha classics. Cocker was at Woodstock, frail – that’s tha byword fer cool.”

“I suppose you were there.”

“Yup. Talk ‘bout a wild party. Escaped tha CIA’s leash, figured I’d earned tha R an’ R.”

Tabitha’s eyebrows rose in disbelief. “Wasn’t it a bit too ‘peace, love’ for a guy like you?”

“Music was hot, senses were through tha roof; almost as good as Carnival in Rio fer gettin’ a taste o’ what bein’ drunk might feel like. Plus, I could pick off a hippie here an’ there in tha crowd without any o’ those gyratin’ flower child motherfuckers any tha wiser.”

“Ugh. Did you braid your hair?”

“Natch, even had a couple o’ daisies stuck in it, courtesy o’ my first meal there. Good fuckin’ times.”

“I’ll stick with Pop and Hip Hop, and not murdering people, thanks.”

“Yer just jealous. No help fer it, though. Ya were nothin’ but a candy bar in yer daddy’s back pocket in tha Summer o’ Love!” Pausing down the hall, he glanced back at her. “Or maybe ya weren’t – how old are ya, anyhow?”

“Twenty-three.”

“Aw, scratch that, yer too young by far. Ya know, here an’ there, time does a weird fuckin’ compression thing on my brain; I blame tha runt.”

“So you’re what – older than dirt?”

“Me? I’m a spry fella just under a hundred an’ fifty, frail, an’ goin’ strong.”

“Yeah, like Hell’s Energizer Bunny.”

His laughter rang back up to her as she followed him down the stairs. Creed was six foot six, rumored to be around 380 pounds with the adamantium bones. Compared to her five foot five and 120 pounds, she was off her rocker to be baiting the man or poking fun at him, even without the claws and fangs. Yet just when she worried that she’d put her foot in it good, he would decide what she’d said or done was hilarious.

Worry about him later, Tab. Right now you have to figure out how to take out two guys without killing them. How is he so sure they’re Rothenberg’s men, anyway? There’s bound to be a line for all the people who’d like to kill the bastard. If I live through this, I’ll ask Wolverine where I sign up.

Brys and Perrin were standing in the entrance hall. Creed gave them instructions fast as he passed them, mostly all about staying inside where they’d be safe. Tabitha sighed and followed him to the front doors.

“Stick close ‘til we get out there,” he told her.

“Are they that dangerous?”

“Right now, tha house might kill ya faster, frail.” He shocked her by throwing his forearm around her shoulders and yanking her against his side.

As they went under the ugly metal art over the doors, she noticed it was humming, as if someone had struck the weird cables that wove through its face. Abruptly, she saw red lights on it that hadn’t been there before.

“That’s one of your devices, isn’t it?”

“Dr. No’d be proud.”

He punched a code into something she’d thought was just a small mirror on the wall. With a click, the doors began to open. Creed slipped her out with him, only removing his arm from her shoulders when they were through.

“Pay attention, now. Tha pressurizer tank’s filled with a non-flammable gas; if ya rupture that, tha operator’ll just get knocked on ‘is face. It’s no worse than puncturin’ an aerosol can. Not just any hit can explode tha fuel containers; a bullet in a metal can full o’ diesel or napalm is just gonna make tha shit leak out. That’s why it takes magnesium filled igniters t’ fire those things. Now an incendiary round might could ignite tha fuel mixture, so if yer serious ‘bout no kills, be careful where ya put tha plasma bullets. I’d aim fer tha pressurizer tank; damn thing can’t spit fire without that t’ push it out. Yer two are in tha fenceline, that way, along with three more. I’m goin’ out fer tha stragglers.”

The doors closed and the mechanical noise they made told her they had locked automatically.

“What if these guys –”

She turned her head, but Sabretooth was gone. There was a light wind blowing the snow around her boots and she couldn’t even see tracks that might prove that he’d been standing at her side.

“Great. Couldn’t have lent me your coat, huh?” Two sweaters were not going to cut it. “Okay, fine, blowing up pressurizer tanks, no problem. Maybe I can ignite a fuel container and warm up by the fire after I torch these idiots.”

Heading off to her right in the direction Sabretooth had indicated, Tabitha hoped she could spot the men before one of them shot or torched her.

Using trees as cover, she ran from one to the next and listened for any noises. Soon enough, she heard one – the sound of a man screaming, probably right before his throat was torn out. As luck would have it, it gave her the location of the others when their voices cried out in shock.

Moving forward again, she peered out from behind another tree. Through the snow that had likely begun to fall as soon as the sun had set, she picked out the dark shapes. Three were in a huddle, with two ranging out, one on each side. Their bulky shapes were strange, and once she saw the odd branch-like protrusions, she realized the outer pair were the ones with flamethrowers.

Bending down, she picked up a frosted pinecone and made three tiny bombs to tuck inside the stiff seeds. Tossing it out into the snow, she ducked back when all five figures turned to look. One of them broke away from the pack and walked carefully forward to investigate.

One, two … three!

The bombs popped, the bright flares blowing the pinecone to bits and temporarily blinding the man who’d grabbed it.

She was answered by a loud hissing noise and a bright stream of fire blowing out near her tree.

Okay, that might not have been the stealthiest thing I’ve ever done. Now they know I’m here and if Rothenberg told them anything, they know what I can do. I need them to face away from me, damn it!

Another horrid scream split the night and most of the men turned to stare in that direction. Risking a peek, she saw a large pack filled with a trio of cylinders mounted to one man’s back.

Bet Creed’s doing that on purpose.

Glaring, she lifted her hands and shot off a stream of plasma bursts in the form of long bullets. Most of them struck the obvious places where a harness would be, cutting the pack right off of the man’s back. In the instant the pack full of cylinders hit the snow, she fired again, grinning at the sight of the others running madly to get away from the blast. With a concussive explosion, the cylinders were gone.

Tabitha darted back behind her tree to dodge sharp bits of shrapnel. Well, that worked. Take that, ‘Tooth. Pete already taught me about flamethrowers. She drew in long, deep breaths to calm her pounding heart. Center pressurizer holds the gas, outer cylinders have the flammable oil-based liquid fuel. It needs an ignition source to burn and I have that in spades. Plus, it makes a bigger boom than just taking out the pressurizer tank, and bigger booms demoralize the enemy faster.

She was about to take another look, when a dark figure swung around at her from the other side of her tree. Before she could yelp, the cold mouth of a very large pistol pressed into her forehead.

“Don’t move, bitch. Where’s Creed?”

“Out killing your friends.” On cue, a third scream arched out of the dark beyond the trees. “If you have any sense, you’ll run.”

“Might kill you first. You’ve got five seconds to tell me where he’s keeping Goshana.”

“Yeah, about that – that name just makes him mad. Did you know she’s a snow leopard? It was news to me. She’s in the house. By the way, I just put a bomb down your pants.”

He dropped his head to look and she batted the gun away from her face. Popping the bomb up out of his waistband between them, she let it blow him backward on his ass. The pistol went flying and she surged forward to grab it. Using it to knock his head into the snow, she checked it, put the safety on, and stuffed it down the back of her jeans, under the sweaters.

“Okay, where was I? Oh, yeah – bad guys. Or … badder guys. Not-so-bad guys? Screw it.”

Tabitha ran out between the trees, trying to spot the other backpack. At that moment, two more men came running at her from the forest. When she saw the black shape jump behind them, her eyes widened and she almost screamed.

Sabretooth fell on them, tumbling them into the snow. She watched in terror as his mouth opened, the jaw dropping strangely low, the fangs sinking into the upper thigh of one of the men. The mouth began to close, the jaw levering back up and what must have been a horrific pressure started to cut cloth and flesh, and then crack bone. Pushing backward, he tore his closed teeth out of the leg, taking most of the top of it with them.

She fell to her knees and tried not to retch but it was like watching a train wreck; she couldn’t look away. He rose up as the second man managed to stand and grabbed that man’s throat, the fingers crushing moments before the claws ripped it out.

When a jet of fire erupted over his head, his roar was deafening. Tabitha turned, twisting her body to face the other flamethrower operator.

He’ll kill them, he’ll kill them all – but if I don’t blow that thing up, he’ll kill me for letting them –

Tabitha saw the man lower the nozzle, obviously intending to hit his fellows as well as Sabretooth. From the angle presented to her, she couldn’t hit the straps as easily. Holding her breath, she fired a sliver of incendiary plasma at the pressurizer tank, hoping Creed was right, Hollywood was wrong, and it wouldn’t kill the man.

The force of the high pressure gas blowing the tank open pitched him on his face. He struggled to release the harness himself, and the moment he staggered away from it, Tabitha blew the rest and watched the cylinders explode. The fireball shot straight up and toppled the operator into the snow. The man rolled and went for his gun, wisely swinging it to point at the monster bearing down on him.

Do I give a shit if they shoot ‘Tooth? Nope, not a bit.

More gunfire opened up, all of it pointing at Sabretooth. Diving for another tree, Tabitha put her back to it. After a few ragged breaths, worried about missing how many targets there were, she turned and pressed her chest into the tree, keeping her fingers behind it and taking quick glimpses at the scene of carnage.

Two of the men had assault rifles and Creed went for them first, ignoring the pistols fired by the pair of flamethrower operators. She lost count of how many rounds struck his torso, arms, and legs, but Tabitha never once entertained the thought that they could put down Victor Creed.

If Wolverine couldn’t do it… Why don’t they run? Just give up and run!

She watched in terror as he waded into them, shattering one man’s skull with the weapon he’d yanked from his hands. He turned it, set the stock against his bloody shoulder and fired at the other man holding the same type of weapon. Swinging it like a club again, he cracked it into another man’s face and then dropped it to leap on the remaining two invaders. When the claws flashed in his upraised hands, Tabitha whipped around and set her back to the tree.

“Just run,” she whispered. As the sounds of them dying erupted behind her, she sank to her knees again and bent over, with her palms smashed against her ears, until her curls brushed the snow.

In moments, silence settled around them all and the snow continued to fall. She screamed and almost struck him with a bomb when Victor came up and nudged her thigh with a toe. The claw poked through her jeans … and it was bloody.

Sucking the plasma back into her hand fast, she finally took the other hand off of her ear.

“I’m gonna assume ya thought I was one o’ ‘em, right?”

“Yeah … of course. Sorry.”

He was covered with wounds in various stages of healing. Several had already become lumps of flesh over a bullet. His jeans, hair, and skin were soaked and smeared with blood, his and theirs.

“Ya can uncurl, frail, it’s over – an’ lookie what ya managed all by yer lonesome!” He stepped behind her and stopped, grinning down at a dark shadow in the snow. “Thought I sliced ‘em all, but lost count; now we got us a prisoner. Good work, partner.”

Tabitha lifted her head, a groan on her frozen lips. The man she’d knocked out with his own pistol was lying unconscious at Creed’s feet.

~ ~ ~

She was freezing, huddled in one of Brys’s heavy winter coats. The upstairs chamber where she’d been shackled to the table was dimly lit only by three of the torches. Standing right next to the open exit at the top of the stairs, Tabitha leaned against the wall and stomped her boots to warm her feet.

The Frenchmen were out collecting weapons, gear, and corpses on the boss’s orders. All things considered, she would have preferred to help them. Instead, she’d been told to follow as Sabretooth hoisted the last man breathing up onto one shoulder and carried him to her second least favorite room in the house.

With his prisoner locked into the table’s shackles, Sabretooth chuckled when the man moaned and began to come around.

“Fancy meetin’ ya here, Vaughn. Oh, where’re my manners? This here’s Tabitha Smith – tha last bright idea yer boss had t’ send up t’ irritate me. Tell ya tha truth, she’s been doin’ a bang up job.”

“Herr Rothenberg will only send more, Creed. Want your peace back? Let me have the animal and I’ll return her – no more problem.”

“Nice, ‘cept ya reek o’ terror – ‘bout t’ soil yer shorts, I’m guessin’. ‘Herr’ Rothenberg is it? Gimme a break, asswipe; that man was born in Tulsa, an’ he’s ‘bout as German as tha frail over there.” Leaning over him, Sabretooth grinned. “As fer tha ‘animal’, I’ll return ‘er myself, thanks – t’ Nepal where she belongs. Ya don’t need t’ concern yerself ‘bout that, though.”

Tabitha dropped her gaze to her boots when the claw was lifted over the man’s face. “I was the only one who got the ‘Goshana is a person’ lie, huh?”

“I’m thinkin’ ya were tha only one dumb ‘nuff  t’ fall fer it.”

She winced when the prisoner screamed. The sound of the claw cutting through clothing and flesh might never leave her nightmares.

“Yer boots hold tha secrets o’ tha universe? Didn’t haul yer cookies up here t’ ignore my handiwork. Look: I drew ya a smiley face!”

Tabitha glanced up reluctantly. He had bared Vaughn’s torso, the claw slicing through Kevlar plates in the gear as easily as the cloth and skin beneath it. Opening the clothes like he had her sweater and shirt, the beast had scratched a red circle into the stomach with dots for eyes and a dripping curve of a smile.

“Why am I here?” she asked, her throat tight.

“Thought ya might have a question or two t’ ask ‘im – after all, ya caught ‘im.” Meeting her horrified stare, he grinned. “Aw, I can’t bullshit ya – I just wanna watch ya squirm. ‘Sides, ya didn’t get t’ see tha real trick this contraption can do.”

Moving to the left side of it, he touched something under the tabletop. The slab lifted about a foot higher and then, with a loud series of cracks, it tilted up and shunted, fast, up the wall.

“I forgot tha bucket, but ya can dip it forward, too.” When he pressed or flicked something else in the same area, the slab holding the writhing man inclined toward her at a sharp angle. All of the other claws popped out on the hand and he clucked his tongue at her as he held them poised over the bloody smiley face. “Whattaya say, frail? Fast or slow?”

The claws began to drop over the screaming man’s shuddering skin, but Tabitha had had enough. She cried out and fled down the stairs, nearly falling down them in a heap. Fleeing out of the dressing room, she got as far as his bathroom and flung herself down in front of the toilet to throw up.

She heard him coming only because he was running his claws down the rock wall of the stairwell. The claws on his feet made a clicking sound on the wooden floor of the hall, and then the hand was on the marble wall: another noise of scraping stone blasting fear up her spine.

When it stopped, she knew he would touch her – knew there was nothing she could do about it.

The fingers and palm settled on the curve of her backside, the claw tip of the thumb snagging on and scratching the metal of the pistol tucked into her waistband.

“Lucky yer souvenir didn’t blow ya a new asshole dashin’ down those stairs.”

Wiping her lips with her hand, she turned her head to see him bent almost double, his other hand resting on the ragged holes in his jeans – over where bullets were probably lodged under the skin of his thigh.

“I only kept it so he wouldn’t wake up and shoot me –”

“Safety on?”

“Yes…”

“No prob, then.” The fingers moved, toyed with the curls at the nape of her neck. “Gotta couple options fer ya, frail. Either ya can help me mess up Vaughn, or ya can help Brys get tha fuckin’ lead outta me.”

“You didn’t … gut him already?”

“Naw, barely a scratch. I might doodle a tad longer; it’s almost as fun as Lite-Brite. Wanted t’ try somethin’ I saw in that movie Tha Cell, too. That D’Onofrio guy snipped tha Fed’s stomach with scissors an’ fished outta loop o’ small intestine. He cut an end in it, an’ pulled it out t’ wrap it ‘round a hooked rod device with a handle. Each turn o’ tha crank twined a bit more up an’ ‘round –”

“I’ll help Brys doctor you.”

“Thought ya might.”

“Now?”

“Gimme an hour t’ make Vaughn feel at home. ‘Sides, shouldn’t leave ‘im vertical like that fer long – shackles’re a tad sharp. It ain’t no fun if their hands an’ feet are severed – before I want ‘em t’ be, anyhow. Get up.”

He stepped back to allow it and then turned her to face him. Tabitha reached behind her to hand him the gun, but his arching eyebrow stopped her.

“I wasn’t going to… I thought you’d want it.”

“Do ya really think yer havin’ a piece is gonna worry me, with all tha slugs I got smashed against my bones right now? Give it t’ Perrin when ya get downstairs. Fer tha rest, do what Brys tells ya. Off ya go, like a good girl.”

She got to the end of the hall on trembling legs when he called out to her again. Pausing, she didn’t turn her body, but looked over her shoulder at him.

“Bit o’ advice fer yer uncertain future – ya oughta avoid gettin’ drunk again on my time. Hell, after we’re done playin’ doctor, ya might wanna skip breakfast. Me, I plan t’ work up an appetite, one way or ‘nother.” Winking at her, he waved a hand to dismiss her.

His dark chuckle receded as she left the master suite. She struggled with her instinct to run, unable to get the thought out of her head that it might make him give chase.

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

The scents in the bathroom were a heady mix of fear, lust, and bile coating the throats of two of the four people present.

Perrin was sitting on the dais steps, leaning his head against the tub. The expression on the boy’s face and the way he watched the proceedings was making his lover nervous. Technically, it was Perrin’s fault Brys had needed to find an excuse to drape a towel over his patient’s hips. The more the boy’s arousal dumped pheromones into the air, the more distracted Victor got.

Brys sat on a wooden footstool beside the long divan, a surgical scalpel and forceps in his hands. He’d already pulled the crushed bullets out of Victor’s back and now the tools were buried in the meat of his thigh.

Beside him, holding a metal basin full of the bloody mangled slugs was the skirt – looking progressively greener. She had kept her eyes locked on his feet for three hours straight unless Brys asked her to hand him something.

Lying still for all of this was harder sometimes than at others, and this wasn’t turning out to be one of the easy times. Doing his back first had been planned – get some of the worst over early on.

He closed his eyes briefly, but after a jumbled flood of nightmare images invading his thoughts threatened to crack his self-control, he opened them and fell to studying the people around him again.

“Some of those bullets are big,” the skirt said. “Why not just grab a pair of pliers and really go to town?”

Snarling at her, Victor retracted his claws reflexively.

“What did I do?” she asked, wide-eyed as she met his glare.

Brys huffed out a breath. “It’s best not to mention that word; we don’t keep those in this house.”

“Who is this Vaughn, Mr. Creed?” Perrin asked, just in time to pull his thoughts off of rending the stupid girl into strips.

“Knew ‘im in Vancouver, before he was workin’ fer Rothenberg. He’d just started out doin’ contracts, but never hit ‘is stride; then he ended up bein’ that useless prick’s lap dog.”

“So, is this personal somehow, with him?” the skirt asked.

“Naw, I just enjoy rewardin’ extreme stupidity with excessive violence. Anybody dumb ‘nuff  t’ get taken in by that fake asshole’s evil overlord act needs t’ be removed from tha gene pool. Call it a public service.”

Silence tried to sweep the room, but their heartbeats were too loud. The metallic tink and crunch of slugs falling into the bowl jangled on his taught nerves, along with the smooth punching noise of the scalpel breaking his skin over and over. The forceps, cool at first, had been warmed in the heat of his sliced flesh.

Without tha adamantium, I woulda broken bones this round. Never a scratch on tha metal, though. Too bad Pa never met tha man ‘is li’l boy grew up t’ be. It was a few moments before he noticed that he was growling low under his breath.

As Brys moved to his forearm, Victor’s body abruptly began to tremble. When he realized it, it made him angrier, deepening the growl. Brys handed the forceps to the skirt, advising her to be fast in giving the instrument back to him. Waiting for her nod, he gently grasped Victor’s thick wrist.

“It’s only one, sir, likely lodged between the bones. I’ll be quick,” he murmured, his eyes asking for permission to continue.

“See that ya are,” he responded through clenched teeth.

Such a small blade, yet it was nearly as sharp as the runt’s claws and he hissed as it bit into his arm above the wrist. Snarling, his lips lifted away from the fangs, his jaw dropping slightly.

Sharp as claws, claws like blades, sharp as an axe blade…

The sound that tore from his throat when the bullet was snatched and yanked loose was not something any human could make.

A moment later, it was answered from the dim hall beyond. His stomach twisting, he forced himself to breathe deeply when Brys released him. Belatedly answering the snow leopard, he growled and chuffed at her, trying to reassure her.

“Should I shut the door?” the boy asked.

“No. She has t’ see me takin’ it, see that I’m allowin’ it. She’s got int’ tha habit o’ chewin’ on folks that make me mad – rather she didn’t start chewin’ on any o’ ya. Gotta curb tha people-eatin’ habit anyway, before I cut ‘er loose.”

Keeping up with his original orders, Brys moved on without a pause to Victor’s stomach, dropping three more hunks of metal into the skirt’s bowl in rapid succession. A few more had ended up inside healed vital organs, and as he directed Brys to them, the pain was enough to make him want to shred the divan. He didn’t – afraid he’d end up in flesh, not just upholstery.

Pheromones surged, still a welcome distraction. “Can I do … anything … for you, to make it easier?” the boy asked.

Perrin was on whiskey and coffee detail, occasionally bringing more towels. Most of the time, he had little to do while Brys dug out bullets, so he tended to end up doing what he was surprisingly good at: drinking in the sight of his boss.

“We outta Glenfiddich yet?” Victor watched the boy shift uncomfortably on the marble steps and smirked.

“Not by a long shot. I think Brys bought every bottle in the country.”

That boy’s pole’s gonna be ready t’ swing on before long. Shit, so’s mine – if I don’t end up skippin’ down memory lane ‘til my ears bleed. Bet I know an even better distraction, though. Turning his head, he stared down the length of his nude and blood-smeared body at the skirt and the cook-turned-surgeon. Catching Brys slumping a little as he started in on his ribcage, Victor let a smile stretch his lips. “Yer gonna fall int’ one o’ those holes, Brys. Teach tha frail how t’ do it an’ take a breather.”

“I can’t,” she whispered, horrified.

“Sure ya can, it’s fer a good cause – first aid, not butchery. Come on, Ms. Nightingale, yer up at bat.”

“Why not Perrin –”

“He’s gotta go bring me ‘nother bottle. ‘Sides, if he got over here an’ stuck ‘round fer long, we’d end up educatin’ ya both. Then I’d get my priorities mixed up an’ before ya know it, I’d be tryin’ t’ sleep full o’ lead. Go on,” he told Perrin, “an’ keep some distance ‘round our guest; she’s still feelin’ as hissy as me.”

The boy’s answering smirk made his blood burn and he followed the slender form out with hungry eyes – eyes that caught the curled lip on the skirt’s face.

“Don’t tell me ya disapprove,” he told her, sniffing again as her fear stink doubled. “Ain’t tha X-crowd all ‘bout acceptin’ folks fer their diff’rences? Wouldn’t have guessed ya were homophobic, Tabitha.”

“You’re bullshitting me,” she muttered. “You know I don’t care about that.”

Victor hissed again as the scalpel bit in under his ribs in a new place, but then chuckled at her. “Fine, call my bluff an’ wreck my fun. Truth is, willin’ can be a major turn-on … when it ain’t yer brand o’ willin’.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Lyin’ still an’ holdin’ yer breath, wracked with terror, ain’t quite tha Webster’s definition o’ willin’, girl – not that it don’t pique my interest just tha same.”

“They said – you said – not to try to be … nice … to you. It just made you angry!”

“‘Nice’? Let’s pretend we’re all fuckin’ adults here. Ain’t much ya could do t’ change how I’ll do ya, though, so never mind. Fact is, tha more I’m stuffin’ ‘im, tha less I’m stuffin’ ya, so I woulda figured ya’d be a fan o’ ‘im gettin’ me goin’. What’s with tha sneer?”

“He just bugs the crap out of me, that’s all. Watching you get stabbed gets him off? I find myself wondering if you give out merit badges for sadistic cruelty around here. Sorry, Brys.”

“Leave me out of it, please, I’m a little busy.”

Victor snagged the metal bowl out of the skirt’s hands, rattling its contents. “Now she’s gonna be busy fer a while. Hand ‘er tha tools, show ‘er how.” Smug when she realized it wasn’t a request, he told her, “Tha boy’s turned on by power, frail. Endurin’ this is just ‘nother form o’ it, far as he’s concerned.”

“I hear he had an upbringing like ours,” she retorted, huffing out a breath as she reached for the tools Brys was holding out to her.

“We ain’t gonna talk ‘bout that shit right now.”

“Um, don’t I need … latex gloves? Like on the forensics shows?”

Brys smiled slightly. “His healing factor negates that necessity.”

“Yeah, frail, nothin’ nasty can live in my blood – also means ya can’t gimme any unsavory diseases after ya been rollin’ ‘round in tha weeds with scrawny blonde X-trash – or ‘is best friend.”

“Great line to take after telling me to cut into your chest.”

“Bring it, girl; we’ll see who ends up cuttin’ who in tha most interestin’ places.”

Brys cleared his throat to interrupt any retort she planned to make. “It’s usually easier soon after the injury to see where the bullets are; otherwise, Mr. Creed can tell you where if you’ve missed one. After enough time has passed, they can work deeper in as he moves; that makes it harder to see the lump of a bullet under the skin, as well as harder to extract it.”

“Harder on him? I don’t really have a problem with that.”

“You might,” Brys answered, before Victor could get his two cents in. “Part of this involves Mr. Creed being conscious and willing during the procedure. The more traumatic the extraction, the more the risk.”

“Risk to him.”

“No, Tabitha – to you – and to us.”

“What he’s tryin’ t’ sugarcoat fer ya is that I gotta habit o’ comin’ up offa this chair an’ bitin’ tha hand that doctors me if I lose it from tha pain. Fer me, it means I gotta dig ‘em out myself, but fer tha doc, it’s a bit more tricky.”

“Didn’t we establish that pain is your BFF? It’s your longest running successful relationship, right? Your towel’s been proof enough since we started.”

Victor glared at her, a frown threatening to become a snarl. “I can’t speak fer ‘im,” he gestured at his crotch, “he gets inspired however he’s gonna. Got ‘nuff  bad shit in my head, though, t’ make me cranky regardless o’ what he’s up t’ or up fer. Heightened senses are dandy, frail, but sometimes they’re a bitch – an’ some pain triggers tha kind o’ shit that’ll get me on a rampage before I know I’ve slaughtered tha whole fuckin’ room.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, oh. By tha by, anymore cracks ‘bout relationships an’ upbringin’ while yer diggin’ ‘round in me ain’t a good idea. Got it?”

“I’ve got it.”

“Any fuckin’ time yer ready, frail.”

Brys talked her through the typical V cut he’d used for years and the finer points of how to grasp the smashed slugs with the forceps.

As Victor had suspected, her distaste, terror and general medical horror while going bullet hunting in his chest was sufficiently entertaining to keep his darker demons at bay.

By the time Perrin handed him a fresh bottle of whiskey and passed another cup of coffee to Brys, their patient was able to relax and allow his towel to get ever more obscene.

~ ~ ~

The bed was warm, more due to the curl of the snow leopard against his back than the fire in the hearth. With every indrawn breath, he scented her clean wild aroma and the lingering perfume of the boy’s release mixed with his own.

To put the cat at ease, he’d sent the boy downstairs to sort out the weapons haul and given instructions that the skirt should help them. When it was all carted to the armory, they were free to nap themselves, if they wanted to.

Across the room on the table, the devastated breakfast tray still sat. Brys wouldn’t come to collect it while he was sleeping.

Why tha bloody hell ain’t I sleepin’? Taking another sniff and peering over at the slant of the sun coming in through the open window, he registered that he’d been out cold most of the day already. “Huh. Well, shit…” Giving in to a vague restlessness, he sat up, one hand stroking the growl out of the cat in apology. “Sorry, darlin’ – a man can only lie horizontal so long.”

Moving over to the table and sitting down, he finished off the wine bottle on the tray and stretched into a slump in the chair. Claws retracting, he scratched at his whiskered cheeks thoughtfully. The doors to his suite were open – probably for the cat to come and go as she pleased, though he didn’t remember making that decision. Waking hadn’t cleared much of the fog in his brain, either.

Somewhere between spearing the boy after breakfast and the first round of healing-induced sleep, he’d been tormented by all of the old nightmares. It was a strange thing to consider a pleasant change, except that for the last month all he’d dreamed of was a cataclysmic plague that had been thwarted by one simple twist of his big hands.

What if those zombie whitecoats were lyin’ all along, an’ she wasn’t gonna get sick? Tha whole story o’ mistakenly infectin’ ‘er in tha lab coulda been a ruse…

Growling, he stood and gripped the bottle in a white-knuckled fist. Walking over to the long and low fireplace, he stood still for a few breaths. When he moved, he barely knew beforehand what he intended to do; in the next second, the bottle was thrown against the back stone wall of the fireplace.

Victor watched the fire plume up, watched it settle again. The glass, like his soul, lay shattered and glistening, licked by flames.

“Victor?”

Disbelief pierced his pain. He wanted to be angry that the girl had dared to come, but he was too exhausted to care.

“This ain’t a good time t’ be here, Tabitha.”

“I heard the glass break; I wanted to see that you were … that you … were … okay…” As he turned to face her, her words trailed away, her face paling.

“After last night, ya think a li’l smashed glass means I’m gonna be in mortal peril? Figured, if I was, ya’d have yer pom poms out instead.”

It took a lot of guts to form words through the fear that was closing her throat. He … admired it.

“Maybe, but I can’t shake the idea that there could be … some good in you.”

“Yer kiddin’, right?”

“You know, buried deep – really, really, deep. Haven’t you ever ended up doing the proverbial right thing? Or some sort of ‘save the world’ thing, even by accident?”

Victor winced at the memory of a crack – the sound of a neck snapped in his hands. “Matter o’ fact, I gotta few o’ those shameful secrets t’ hide – ain’t gonna share ‘em with ya, though.”

He turned his head at a soft noise of movement behind him in time to see his guest jumping up to slip out of the open window.

“Want me to take the tray down to the kitchen?”

“No – ya chose t’ open a can o’ worms, so let’s go fishin’. After all tha shit ya seen here, why ya still think ya can turn me int’ a caped fuckin’ crusader?”

“It’s got nothing to do with capes or torture tables. You had the same kind of childhood I did. I changed – so can you.”

“Same kind o’… Frail, ya got no idea what hell I come up from. Daddy got drunk an’ beat ya? Yeah, I’ll give ya that, so did mine. Did yers ever take a whip t’ yer back before ya were seven, fer stealin’ food?”

Her fingers rose to her lips. “N-no… Oh, God…” She gulped, but stood her ground even when his low growl sounded between them. “He really did put you in a trap of some sort, didn’t he? You had to chew off…”

Anger mixed with a sadistic glee filled him. What tha fuck? Cueball probly told ‘er all sorts o’ shit ‘bout me already after he picked it outta my brain. “That was a long time later – after a sentence o’ bein’ locked up in tha root cellar like a dog. Oh, not fer nothin’, there’d been blood on tha floor prior. Sick fuck got tha idea o’ beatin’ tha evil outta me, an’ when that didn’t work, he started bringin’ tha pliers down t’ take out my fangs an’ claws.”

“He … tried to do that with pliers?”

“Not tried, frail, did – more’n once. They weren’t tha same as tha li’l fancy tools ya got ‘round these days, neither. They had uglier ones in tha 1800s. Healin’ factor wasn’t as quick then, neither – got no protein t’ feed it anyhow. After I kept chewin’ through tha rope on my collar, Pa found an old pair o’ slave shackles an’ chains in tha ruins o’ a farm near us. Couldn’t chew those. Once he found a muzzle, couldn’t chew shit.”

“Your forearm, he did something –”

“Hacked my hands off with tha axe after he got tired o’ yankin’ tha claws out by tha root.” The infuriating girl began to cry; it made his blood boil. Memories threatened to drown him, too – the crunch of the axe, his mother’s cry, when… “Ya gonna pity me, girl? Might hafta give ya a reason not t’ do that.”

“Don’t you see? You were a kid and they did that to you, you didn’t have a choice! They should have loved you and instead they made you what you are!”

With a snarl, he crossed the room in three strides and grabbed her bandaged throat in one big hand, yanking her against his naked body and glaring down into her tearful face. Watching her eyes, his fingers began to squeeze.

Her little hands lifted to grasp his wrists, but her feet only dangled. The lack of a fight for her life made him drop her to the floor.

“Victor, please, I’m sorry…”

“What am I, frail?”

She looked up at him in confusion, her hands on her slowly bruising neck.

Shouting, he repeated, “What am I?”

“A mutant … who was a child … who shouldn’t have been treated like that.”

“Wrong. I’m a killer, a psychopath. Homicidal maniac’s ‘nother label they all like. I’m told psychiatry is still tryin’ t’ catch up just t’ figure out what tha hell t’ call what’s wrong with me. Now, what am I?”

“A man, who grew up hurt, who was a child they should have loved.”

Victor dropped to one knee and wrapped his fingers in her curls, twisting her head hard on her neck. “First man I killed was a doctor who came t’ tha house cuz I was sick all tha time, right before tha change. That kid ya think I was bit ‘is jugular! Killed three lawmen at thirteen, slaughtered twenty people before I turned sixteen! I’m gonna ask just one more time, an’ ya better get it right! What am I?”

“No, Victor, no. That’s what they made you, not what you have to be. You were their son. They should have –”

“I killed their son! My elder brother – I ripped ‘is throat out fer nothin’! After that, I wasn’t even their dog. Ma died cuz o’ me, too. She jumped in front o’ ‘is axe when he was gonna put it across my neck! After he threw me back in tha cellar in tha chains, I chewed my fuckin’ hand off an’ got outta that hellhole.”

“They were sick; they should have loved you. Your father should have loved you –”

“First thing I did was stretch that devil’s innards all over tha house an’ yard! I’m a killer, always have been, nothin’ t’ do with those … those –”

“Victor, please…”

Growling, he snatched her up off of the floor. When she saw that he was carting her to the bed, she began to kick and fight. That stopped after he threw her down and landed a punch in her stomach.

As she lay there gasping, he grabbed the little tube that was still on the nightstand and made sure she was watching, wide-eyed, as he greased his cock. A few hard pulls got it the rest of the way up.

“Think of your mother, then,” she babbled, trying foolishly to reason with him. “She tried to save you!”

“That fuckin’ bitch stood by an’ watched ‘im work all tha time, wringin’ ‘er hands an’ beggin’ ‘im t’ stop, but not doin’ shit t’ make ‘im stop. She coulda run off with me, or just stoved ‘is head in with a cast iron fryin’ pan, huh? All she had t’ do was cut me loose! Cunt didn’t fuckin’ do a thing!”

“She died for you!”

“Yeah? Guess how much good she was t’ me dead? ‘Bout as much as she was breathin’!”

He popped his claws, grabbed her by the belt Brys had given her and flipped her on her belly. She cried out when he cut the belt and began to shred her jeans. Kicking once, she made one of his claws stab into her inner thigh.

“Ya don’t hold still, I’ll just rend yer flesh – ain’t gonna slow me down, frail.”

After another shallower stab, she stopped struggling, her sobs growing loud. Breathing in the miasma of her horror, he tore out the back of her jeans in one grab. Straddling her bleeding legs, not caring about stripping her, he reached under her hips with one hand and pulled them up. Cock pressed against her thigh, he set his thumb between her ass cheeks and aimed the claw, pressing the tip of it into the tiny clenching hole.

“Gotta pref’rence, bitch? Ya can have my thumb in there, or my dick. I’ll even retract tha claw fer ya.”

She fell still and quiet and endured the invasion in a way that made him smirk. He worked it good, getting her loose, slow and sweet. It was worth it to do – worth seeing her terrified submission and smelling the flush of humiliation and shame as he probed and opened her.

“Gettin’ there nice an’ easy, girl – how ‘bout tha claw now?”

“Don’t!” she brayed, her hands trying to reach his legs, as if her little manicured nails might hurt him.

“Don’t? Fine, yer gettin’ tha other.” Grinning, he moved his hand and grasped his slippery cock, lined it up and pushed it in. The vicious pull as the tiny muscle yanked his foreskin back made him hiss.

It was only the head, but he hadn’t opened her quite enough for his girth and her scream was exquisite. Still holding her up at the hips, his other arm stretched under her, the fingers finding her breasts. The kneading grip there would bruise, the claws snagging in shirt and skin.

“Let it happen, girl. If ya relax, it might stop hurtin’ so fuckin’ bad. I can work an ass as good as a pussy – that’s why tha boy’s so loyal … so eager.”

“Please stop!”

“Shoulda thought o’ that before ya made me mad.”

Shifting his other hand to her lower back, he held her still and thrust in deeper. The smell of her blood running down her thigh made his sack twitch. A little deeper in and she might start bleeding inside, too, even with all that lube. She was tight, cherry tight, and so small and delicate, it would be hard not to break her once he really got going.

Ignoring her sobs and pleading voice, he spread his knees a little wider and pulled back some before pushing in again. The stunning grip on his shaft took his breath away, the pleasure it was already giving him starting a shudder in his gut.

“Hold up yer own carcass, I’m not gonna do all tha work. Quit tryin’ t’ scratch me an’ put yer arms down, or I’ll snap yer neck – ya wouldn’t believe how much practice I’ve had with that lately.”

Sobbing harder, she obeyed. Not having to support her now, he gripped her hips and thrust in farther again. The wounds on her hips from their first lesson were still bandaged, but they smelled like good scabs were growing in there. Just to avoid messing up Brys’s doctoring job, he decided he’d try not to reopen them this time around. Even so, he didn’t retract his claws; he rarely did and the occasional prick of them was good for keeping her on her best behavior.

Another thrust, back and in, made him groan. He didn’t try to bury himself, sure he’d get carried away and end up snapping her pelvis if he managed it at all.

“Good news, girl – this ain’t gonna take long.”

Almost on the heels of his words and one more push, the prediction came true. The ripping heat of it made him thrust up into her deeper once more and her fresh scream was a perfect counterpoint to his guttural roar.

He pulled out fast, chuckling when it made her scream again. As he thought, it came out a little bloody, but not enough to send her to the kitchen for more first aid.

Flopping onto his back, he stretched out and let the impressive aftershocks take his nerves for a ride.

The skirt tried to roll away, but his claws pricking lightly in her shoulder stopped her.

“Ain’t done with ya yet. Wail if ya want, but yer stayin’ here.”

“Please … just let me go…”

“If I get up now, I’m gonna go straight up ‘through tha lookin’ glass’, an’ turn Vaughn int’ Alice. Ya gotta chance t’ prevent that, Tabitha, so strap on yer cape an’ save a life – by fuckin’ me some more. Once I catch my breath. Damn, that’s a sweet li’l orifice ya got. ‘Spose I oughta let it heal up a bit, though. Whattaya think?”

“I think I’m bleeding…”

“Yup. It smells delicious. Might wanna pull yerself together; if I get bored, I’m gonna go kill that bastard upstairs.”

She was silent, though her tears still fell. When she spoke again, her voice was small, frightened, and rough from crying. “What you said about ‘curbing the cat’s people-eating habit’ – does that mean you’ll stop, too?”

A wide grin stretched his lips. “Naw. I’m more o’ a ‘do what I say, not what I do’ sorta guy.” Rolling to his side, he used his claws to cut the remains of her clothes off of her. She started to struggle, but one hand on her back, pressing down, stopped that shit. “Need t’ see how deep that wound is; I already know yer other holes ain’t deep ‘nuff .”

That got her crying again, but it was more background noise than annoying once he focused on the claw puncture on her inner left thigh. The right leg was barely scratched and no longer bleeding.

His other hand spread her knees, and then he leaned down over her and let his tongue slip out to lick at the wound. The moment it touched her, she froze.

Victor found it difficult to concentrate on wound care with her blood on his tongue, but it wasn’t a deep puncture and he’d missed all of the important arteries and veins.

She sniffed and he was intrigued by her efforts to calm down, considering the roller coaster her fear was on. Most likely, she believed the threat about Vaughn.

“You’re joking about … eating people … right?”

He licked the wound again and pressed his tongue against it until it stopped bleeding. Remembering that she’d asked a question, he replied, “Nope, not jokin’. I usually go fer tha sweetbreads; organ meat’s richer an’ feeds tha healin’ factor faster’n anythin’ else.”

“I may be sick.”

“Ya gotta dilemma, then. Ain’t lettin’ ya up outta here while yer breathin’, not ‘til I got my fill o’ ya, an’ if ya barf in my bed, yer gonna die in it next.” Grinning again, he added, “Still think I got some fuckin’ good in me?”

He heard her indrawn breath to reply, but then she expelled it. Odds were, she was too stubborn to give up that idiotic notion just yet, but at least she was getting smart enough to keep quiet about it.

Inspired by her prone position and the proximity of his tongue, he flicked it over her pussy. Her gasp made him chuckle. Repeating the motion, he settled into the task with a will and didn’t stop until she’d come for him three times.

When he rose up onto his knees to roll her over with the bat of a palm to her shoulder, she surprised him by reaching for the lube. Flushing a bright pink, she started to hand it to him.

“Huh. Havin’ a change o’ heart?”

“I… You’re … I’ve never been… You’re stunning.”

“Lie t’ me some more, girl.” He kept his palms on his hips and arched an eyebrow at her.

“I want to get out of this room alive.”

“Yeah, an’ so..?”

“So I’d like another shot at ‘willing’, if … that won’t get me killed.”

“Under duress, still, though. What tha hell, we’ll give it a shot. Do that yerself – in tha spirit o’ willin’.”

Her fingers shook when she squeezed a generous glop into her palm, tossed the tube aside as he had and reached for his cock. Judging by the wince as she shifted her weight, she was still in pain, but that just made him more ready.

Once or twice, her touch was borderline gentle, inspiring a low growl. “He likes it rough, ya know – unlike those X-babies.” The grip she took on the heels of that made him suck in his breath. “Hoo, yeah – just like that!”

“Sorry, I’m used to –”

“Infants, tha lot o’ ‘em. Unless ya ever boned tha runt?”

“Of course not!”

Victor laughed. “Aw, shucks. I was gonna ask ya t’ compare.”

“Yeah, no thanks. There’s only one answer for surviving that question.”

“Probly. Tell ya tha truth, I get real tired o’ hearin’ all that ‘best there is at what I do’ bullshit.” Huffing out a breath, he frowned. “Sure had Red stuck on ‘im, though. Bastard. Be awful sweet t’ plow that bitch – iron tits, big as melons.”

“They aren’t … like that.”

“What ain’t, ‘er tits? Didn’t smell like no silicone t’ me.”

“Ah … I meant … she loves Cyclops.”

“Uh-huh. Keep tellin’ yerself that. If she ain’t spread ‘em fer tha runt yet, she will. As fer One-Eye, she’s probly just givin’ ‘im pity access.”

She opened her mouth to retort, but he leaned in and stuck his tongue in it, pressing her down with his chest. When she began to respond to it, he allowed the kiss to deepen, trying not to chuckle and wreck it. The next things she opened were her legs, without him having to pull them apart. In spite of that, her heat still surprised him.

“Startin’ t’ smell like ya want this… Did ya know that?”

Her hands lifted, hesitated, and then touched his shoulders, the palms sliding down his arms. “I wasn’t lying before,” she whispered. “When you aren’t hurting me … you are stunning…”

“Yeah – I know.”

“Humble, too.”

His eyes narrowed, studying her slight, nervous smile and warming scent for defiance or mockery. Deciding it must be her so-called survivalist bravado, he let it slide. “Humility’s a virtue – I don’t do virtues. Patience, fer instance – got no use fer that, neither.”

Victor set himself against her the moment he moved to lie between her legs, thrusting up and most of the way in at once. Her fingers clutched at him, her face showing a twist of pain as his thrusts rocked her pelvis.

Putting his weight on one hand beside her head, he groped her breasts, flexing his fingers back to avoid slicing her flushed skin.

Catching her wincing again, he ordered, “Put yer knees up; it’ll be easier.” As she did so, it changed his angle inside, making her gasp with pleasure. “Told ya.”

“Victor,” she whispered, her eyes closing. They flew open fast when he growled in her face.

“Slip int’ that cutesy shit an’ ‘nice’ is gonna go right out tha window, frail!”

“I-I’m sorry…”

“It’s sex, fuckin’, or makin’ babies – any title ya like – but start actin’ like yer ‘makin’ love’, an’ I switch holes, got it?”

Wide-eyed, she nodded, a jolt a fear stink flooding the sweet smell of her arousal.

“‘Course, if yer still frettin’ ‘bout babies, buggerin’ ya is a better way t’ prevent ‘em. I sure as hell ain’t got no damn rubbers, wouldn’t bother if I did.” Smirking down at her, he added, “Cat got yer tongue again?”

“Anything I say makes you angry.”

“Mmm, good point. Tell ya what – it’s safe as houses t’ tell me how blow-yer-mind pretty I am.”

“There’s the vanity Brys mentioned.”

Victor laughed. “Yer right, why dwell on tha obvious. Ya can also safely tell me how I’m makin’ ya regret all those worthless boys ya used t’ screw, even if their skinny pricks fit in ya easier.”

Altering both his angle and speed at once, then more than once, his smirk widened to a Cheshire grin as she wrapped her legs around his hips and moaned, biting her lower lip. Her muscles contracted tightly, rippling along his shaft. At the same time, her eyes filled with tears.

“Fuckin’ females – comin’ an’ cryin’ at once. Got somethin’ t’ say, frail?”

“Only that you’re right…”

Her fingers slipped into his hair, then through it, ending stroking down his back as far as she could reach. Tracing the muscles there and playing with the ridge of longer fur that ran between his shoulder blades along his spine on the way back up, her hands moved to his arms again, kneading the bunched and sweat-slick biceps.

“What am I right ‘bout, Tabitha?” he whispered, amusement heavy in his voice as he shifted slightly to duck his head down, the tip of his tongue tapping at and swirling around her nipples.

She gasped, arching her back as far as she could with him pressing down over her. “You are making me regret them … all of them – God help me…”

“Surprise, surprise,” he answered, and chuckled wickedly. Capturing her mouth, he swallowed her next moan as he made her come again.

~ ~ ~

The second time he dropped onto his back beside her, he didn’t protest or stop her when she sat up.

“I’m not leaving,” she assured him.

“Nope, yer not.”

“Can I … I mean, if … you don’t mind…?” Her little hands were poised over his chest.

Grunting, Victor closed his eyes and tucked one arm under his head. “Don’t care if ya wanna pet me. Fair warnin’ though, if yer gettin’ sore – ya run tha risk o’ startin’ tha motor back up.”

She didn’t reply and the hesitant touch was far too light to get him anywhere. She explored more boldly as he remained still and didn’t watch her. Fingernails ran against the grain of the gold fur that traced his muscles, though she was sticking to the chest, stomach, and arms. She seemed fascinated by the thick patch of it at the center of his chest that radiated out, growing shorter and less dense over his pectorals. He liked it better when she petted the soft curling fur that trailed in a line from his navel to his dick.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Depends – there a cape in it?”

“No.”

“Shoot.”

“Why were your eyes blue – and normal – in the Danger Room?”

Opening one slightly glowing amber slit to study her, he frowned. “Born with baby blues, frail; tha snazzy amber’s a side effect o’ my mutant attributes. It kicked in when I hit tha century mark.”

“Was that creepy? It would freak me out.”

“Bit o’ a mixed blessin’, I guess – harder t’ pass fer human when a job called fer it, back in my CIA days. That was tha Cold War, though. In tha 1940s, lookin’ like I crawled outta a bad fairytale all blonde an’ blue-eyed, made me some interestin’ allies in high places – ‘til tha stupid fuckers lost.”

“Wolverine’s eyes haven’t changed like that. Isn’t he the same age?”

Victor grunted, feeling too lazy to growl at the name. “Nope. Far’s I know, I gotta few years on tha runt. ‘Sides, he’s always tryin’ t’ deny ‘is true nature – does weird shit t’ ya. One o’ tha reasons I beat ‘im down so often is cuz I let myself get as tough an’ feral as I’m gonna, fast as that mutant gene wants t’ change me. Runt keeps standin’ on tha brakes.”

“Oh. So when your eyes changed back…?”

“Had a few connectors in tha brain that needed a chance t’ heal up, remember? If tha healin’ factor gets overloaded, it starts t’pick an’ choose a tad.” Closing the eye, he stretched and settled. “Feel free t’ get t’ tha fun bits.”

On cue, her hand stroked his sack, the thicker blonde fur nested on and around it petted and toyed with. Being far more careful than she had to be, she slid her hand under and lifted his sack on her palm, feeling the weight of it. She released it when her attentions made his cock twitch.

“Well, you’re not a bottle blonde.”

Chuckling, he answered, “My cuffs an’ collars match. Jealous?”

“It’s all soft fur, not wiry pubic hair. Why is it thicker and longer in some places? It stands up when you’re mad or startled.”

“Those got what’s called a piloerection function – hackles, like on a Halloween cat. They do that fer lotsa reasons: mad, spooked, overexcited…”

“Wow, you do read books.”

“Like ya never tried t’ figure out why tha fuck yer body can produce plasma bombs? Ask me, that’s way weirder than bein’ furry.”

“Would you really have … um, fucked me … while you were healing from your lobotomy?”

“Yup.”

“But you seemed like a child – I felt so guilty for ‘petting’ you because of that.”

“Not a child, Tabitha, a feral creature. More reasons than one fer a lack o’ speech.”

“So … why didn’t you?”

“Complainin’ now, or are ya just gettin’ too comfortable? Did ya forget how this romp started? I know that ass is still bleedin’ some.”

“Oh, I hate you, don’t worry, but I’ve … always been curious about you. I can’t seem to help it. Since I’m supposed to be company to stay alive, I may as well ask my questions.”

“Hmph. Ya didn’t signal bein’ ready t’ mate. Beast in me, he don’t always know ‘is own strength, that he don’t need t’ ask t’ get. Tha more feral he is, tha more cat-like he gets. Females, like my furry guest, are real able t’ put tha hurt on a male she don’t want. An injured cat can’t hunt, means he’s gonna die; ain’t worth pissin’ off tha ladies t’ not take no fer an answer. It’s all instinct, girl.”

“I suspect the man in you doesn’t have a single qualm about rape. Call it a hunch.” Belying the sarcastic anger in her tone, her hands were gentle on his half-asleep cock. Warm breath from her words puffed over the head, waking it up a little more.

Victor opened his eyes and watched her touch him. “So yer a comedian now. Said we share a brain – didn’t say I agree with ‘is social instincts. ‘Sides, he did try t’ convince ya – whattaya think I was rubbin’ against ya fer?” His eyes narrowed to slits, one eyebrow arching.

Apparently inspired by his words to rub the head against her soft cheek, she replied, “I don’t know … saying thanks for the milk?”

He grabbed a fistful of her curls in an instant, a vicious snarl on his lips. For a moment of near blind rage, he couldn’t speak. The skirt had yelped and then the babbled apologies and begging began in earnest. Victor’s body folded as he sat up to hiss in her ear, his teeth bared.

“Vic-Sabretooth, please – what did I do wrong?”

Drawing in a deep breath, his rasping voice moved the curls on her cheek. “Don’t ever bring up yer fuckin’ bowls o’ milk t’ me again, ya hear me?”

Releasing her, he forced himself to lie back down before he ended up pulling her spine out of her back. Her fingers had clutched his cock in her fright and with a growl, he figured that was as good a distraction as any.

“Ya gotta real short option on finishin’ what ya started, frail.”

“I don’t understand what you…”

“Best hop on that, huh? Might make me forget how bad I wanna snuff ya right now.”

“I’m sorry for what I –”

“Told ya before – shut up an’ fuck.” Trembling all over as bad as she had when they started, she began to reach for the lube next to the tilted pillow, but he set one claw tip on the back of her hand. “After that last crack, don’t think ya earned doin’ it tha easy way. Call it yer just punishment.”

“How can you punish me when I don’t know why it upset you? I didn’t mean to upset you!”

“How would ya look without a spine?”

“If I can surprise you, in a good way, could we go back to being nice?”

“This I gotta see. Better involve gettin’ me off, though.”

“I really think it will, but you have to close your eyes and promise not to kill me for it.”

“What tha hell game ya playin’, frail?”

“Hasn’t curiosity gotten the cat yet?”

“That’s ‘killed tha cat’, ya know.” Annoyed that she had gotten him curious, he closed his eyes, hyper-senses kicking into overdrive. “Ain’t promisin’ shit.”

One sniff told him she’d stuck her fingers in her pussy and he was inclined to watch that in spite of his anger, but kept his eyes closed. One tiny hand slipped around his thigh, her blunt nails scratching, and then the hand pushing. Assuming she wanted room to get at his sack again, he allowed her to shift that leg over.

When a fingertip slick with their combined juices skimmed over the soft fur between his legs and ass cheeks and then pressed up against his anus, he snarled at her, his claws poking holes in the sheets.

“If ya dunno how t’ do that properly, frail, I’m gonna mess ya up bad.” The light pressure left him and he heard her suck in her breath, her scent abruptly saturated with anxiety.

“Yes, but are you … surprised?”

“Not yet.”

Nervously taking that as permission, the finger returned. Victor shifted his hips up slightly, not sure yet why he was allowing her to do this. A growl rumbled through his chest as it pressed inside his body, but then she crooked it, found his prostate, and succeeded in surprising him quite a bit.

His back arched before he knew it, pleasure arrowing straight to his abruptly aching cock. She worked it like a well-paid hustler and by the time she withdrew, he didn’t give a damn that she was reaching for the lube.

Her body moved, her knees stretching far apart in order to straddle his hips. Gooey fingers pumped his cock, set it in place and got out of his way as he bucked up to enter her.

The little hands slapped down on his chest and she didn’t try to sit back or move with him, so much as she simply tried to stay on.

Victor fucked up into her, almost frantic and quite rough, but she just took it, biting back her cries as much as she could. Nerves inexplicably on edge, he sought to finish quickly, swallowing his own shout when he came. The skirt fell forward, propelled there by his final thrust. Instead of trying to get away, she merely lay still, panting for breath – her hands actually stroking his sweaty chest and ribs.

Sweat glistened on her skin too, filling the air around them with the scent of both desire and discomfort. For the moment, he didn’t bother to sort out which smell came from her or himself.

He pulled his claws out of the bed and folded his arms under his head. When she started to dismount, he frowned. “Uh, uh – stay right there.” As she self-consciously crossed her arms over her now bruised and scratched breasts, the frown morphed into a smirk. “Bit silly t’ be modest now, ain’t it, while yer sittin’ on my dick?”

Her thighs were trembling. She had to keep tension in the muscles, or she’d slide down onto more of him than her body could take. “I can’t sit here like this for long,” she whispered.

“I care. Where – tha hell – did ya learn how t’ do that? Ain’t no white bread goody-two-shoes trick.”

Looking down, shame flushing her cheeks and neck where arousal had pinkened her before, she muttered, “A friend … in San Francisco. I was back with Sam, but I was still a … convenience, too often. He was all about the missions and didn’t –”

Slipping one hand free, he held up a finger and twirled it in a circle. “Skip forward; I don’t give a damn ‘bout ‘As Tha X Turns’. This friend didn’t happen t’be a hustler, did he? Paid fer ‘is valuable time?”

Glaring at him, she winced as her muscles complained. “Yes. I asked him to teach me a sure-fire trick that would get Sam’s attention and keep it.”

Victor laughed. “Make my day, Tabitha: tell me ya stuck yer finger up that Bible Belt reject’s tight li’l cornhusker ass?”

“Sorry, no. My evil plan was called on account of us dying during our next mission – sort of.”

“Probly fer tha best, cuz that trick mighta killed tha boy fer real – woulda toasted ‘is bread, at tha least.”

“You didn’t seem new to it – I suppose that cherry has sailed.”

“Darlin’, there ain’t a cherry left on me; my purity test score goes deeper int’ tha negative than they got digits fer yet.”

“Your what test?” A breath later, she asked, “Did you just call me –”

Growling, Victor twisted his hips and dumped her off of him, almost pitching her out of the wrecked bed. “Don’t get all excited over a slip o’ tha forked tongue. I call a lot o’ skirts that; just ask Rogue or yer precious Psylocke – neither o’ ‘em took it as a compliment.” Moving his leg, he nudged her closer to the edge of the mattress with the ball of his foot. “Tell Brys t’ come get tha tray.”

Curling into a roll so she could sit up without leaving the bed, she whispered, “Does this mean I can go?”

“Sure – go get me a couple o’ cold beers an’ then get yer shapely li’l bludgeoned ass back in this bed – after ya deliver tha message t’ Brys.”

“I can take it myself. He’d probably like some help in the kitchen.”

“Nice try, frail – no dice. ‘Sides, yer not gonna be movin’ real steady in yer current condition an’ it ain’t no help if he’s gotta clean up yer spills all tha time.” Amused when he noticed that she still had her boots on, with the laces wrapped tight around socks he’d cut short, he chuckled. “Off ya go.”

“You shredded my clothes.”

Without missing a beat, he widened his eyes and put on his old Danger Room innocent face. “Golly, why’d I go an’ do a mean ol’ thing like that?” He laughed at her shock. “Maybe I wanted t’ reminisce ‘bout gooey shredded ninja guts.”

“You’re a sick, filthy, murderous freak, Creed.”

“Glad t’ see yer catchin’ up.”

“You love being evil, don’t you?”

“Yup, with every inch o’ me – every greased-up, prodigious, briefly satisfied inch.”

Glaring at him again, she started to scramble angrily off of the bed, but then stopped with a grimace and moved more carefully.

“Gee, Tabitha – are ya a bit sore?”

She limped slightly, trying to hide it, and went to yank his bathrobe from the back of one of the chairs at the table. “Fuck you.”

“Well, yeah – after tha beer.” Watching her limp to the open doors, he added, “Don’t get tha notion o’ not comin’ back here.”

She didn’t answer, but he couldn’t care; whether she returned or tried to evade or hide, he had ways to turn all of those options into a good time.

 

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Author’s Note:  Sabretooth is referencing a movie in this chapter titled The Cell (2000) starring Vincent D’Onofrio as a serial killer and Vince Vaughn as an FBI agent. It is one of the most creepy yet cinematically beautiful films I’ve ever seen in the horror/thriller genre. Due to its content dealing with a boy abused by his father and the boy becoming a killer, I imagine the film would both attract and repel a man like Victor Creed.

The “Golly” line is slightly altered and borrowed from Sabretooth’s canon dialogue in Uncanny X-Men # 326.

Thanks to all who are reading and reviewing! For those who are waiting for updates from me, I really appreciate your patience. I never seem to have as much writing time as I’d like to have. (@MET_Fic)  –  AnonGrimm

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