Sabretooth: Redemption – Chapter 8 – Gift of Madness

Drowning deep in my sea of loathing
Broken, your servant I kneel
will you give in to me?
It seems what’s left of my human side
is slowly changing … in me
Will you give in to me?

Looking at my own reflection,
When suddenly it changes,
Violently it changes
There is no turning back now
you’ve woken up the demon … in me

Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Open up your hate, and let it flow into me
Get up, come on get down with the sickness
Madness is the gift that has been given to me

I can see inside you, the sickness is rising
don’t try to deny what you feel
Will you give in to me?
It seems that all that was good has died
and is decaying in me
Will you give in to me?

It seems you’re having some trouble
In dealing with these changes!
Living with all these changes!
Now the world is a scary place
Now that you’ve woken up the demon … in me

~ Down With The Sickness (Disturbed)

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The crystal box was bigger than her hand, but it would probably fit perfectly on Victor Creed’s palm. Inside, the thick cut lock of honey blonde hair curled on a bed of black velvet. The box had a sliding lid, too. She had stared at it most of the night under the beam of the flashlight Brys had given her before she had noticed the thin line and realized that it wasn’t a flaw in the crystal.

At one of the narrow ends, there was a tiny curved hole and deep inside that was a button release. Puzzling over how it could be opened didn’t take long – one of Creed’s claws could do it in seconds.

Tabitha stood at the mantel in front of the mysterious box and sipped the last of her coffee. Sick of bathrobes, she had dressed herself in one of Creed’s t-shirts. Trying to wear his jeans was silly, but then she’d found the soft gray cotton lounge pants with the drawstring and that had worked just fine after she rolled the legs up a bit.

Brys had chuckled when he brought the breakfast tray, teasing her about being too young to be a fan of The Who. He’d eaten with her, and then left the coffee pot for her when he took the tray, presumably going back to whatever he did all day while his boss was gone.

“I wonder when he’ll get back. He kept saying ‘probably’, so it might not be today at all.” Frowning at the box, she whispered, “Why would you open it?” She nearly smacked her forehead a moment later, but didn’t want to spill the coffee. “He opens it to smell it – why else? He always smells everything…” Thinking about it, she bit her lower lip. “He kept it to preserve her scent. Who the hell was this chick?”

Passing the long row of masks, she left the mystery behind and returned to the study. Some of the desk drawers she’d dared to open before Brys arrived were still pulled out. On top of the desk, the closed laptop sat, secure and untampered with; she hadn’t been tempted to find out if it was still booby-trapped.

The most surprising thing about the desk was how neat it was – especially after Brys told her that they never touched it.

“Creed’s tidy – not what I’d have expected from a man who used to leave gnawed bones strewn around the Danger Room floor. Sure, he leaves clothes everywhere – he’s got the French Foreign Legion to clean up after him – but anything to do with business is another story. Still, there isn’t a lot here. I bet he keeps anything worth snooping over my head somewhere, past that ugly metal thing in the hall.”

Plopping down into the massive chair, she slumped and sighed, turning it back and forth with one toe on the floor. She set the coffee cup down on a sandstone coaster near the laptop and clacked her fingernails on it.

“What about a wall safe?” Tabitha glanced up at the few paintings in the room, in between the many bookshelves.

She’d found the TV last night, after digging the small remote out of the couch cushions. Figuring out how to make the oldest painting scroll away to reveal the screen, she hadn’t bothered to watch it, but kept it on for background noise. It had been on CNN and she’d left it there, just in case some tidbit of news had involved mutants or the X-Men, which none of it had.

Getting up, Tabitha carefully lifted the other paintings one by one to peek at the walls behind them. Finding nothing, she started methodically tugging on each book in the shelves that sat at a convenient height for Creed.

Long after her lower back began protesting all of the reaching and stretching, she gave up on his library.

“I guess the old, ‘pull on a book and the secret passage opens’ trick is too mundane for the likes of Sabretooth.” Eyeing the shelves once more, she huffed out a breath. “Bet there’s a safe behind one of them, though. He could move the whole damn bookshelf without having to empty it first.”

For a moment, she was tempted to stack the books on the floor and try to shift the furniture to take a peek, but the idea went as quickly as it came.

“That would count as ‘messing stuff up’; better not push it, Tab. You have no idea when he’s going to show up.”

Taking another sweeping glance at the books, she shook her head at the odd eclectic nature of his library. Most of it was heavy hard covers, part modern novels and part classics, and a lot of text books from colleges around the world on every subject imaginable.

One section was all medical, running high to anatomy texts. That had given her a shudder. Why would an assassin have them, unless it was to learn how to be a more efficient killer? The books on forensics and police procedures dealing with crime scenes and homicide were in the same boat.

She’d been surprised at the size of the history section; he’d lived through most of it, why did he need to read about it? Then she realized they might have been handy before he’d gotten his memories back.

Going up to those volumes, she pulled out one of the big illustrated photo books on World War II and lugged it to the couch. Retrieving her coffee cup, she sipped the last of the cold liquid as she sat and thumbed through the book, curious about Creed’s hints of what he’d been up to in the 1940s.

Deep in the Eastern Front, reading about a massacre at a place called Babi Yar, Tabitha turned a page and found an envelope, tattered and yellowed with age. Nothing was written on it and it wasn’t sealed.

“I’m not messing it up if I just look at it,” she whispered.

Leaving the book open on the coffee table beside her cup, she picked up the envelope. Staring at the two-page spread photo of a deep ravine outside of Kiev in the Ukraine, she gulped at the mass of bodies heaped inside the cut in the earth. Her mind flashed again on the number of the dead that had been stripped and shot on the edge so they would tumble in. She’d read about soldiers walking on the corpses with guns, ready to shoot again any that moved or made a sound. Then they’d been covered with other bodies and finally with earth – buried – whether they were dead yet or not.

Shaking her head, she turned her attention to the contents of the envelope, careful not to damage it as she withdrew a small black and white photo and a folded letter.

The photo was faded, capturing a moment of time in the lives of four men. Three of them, their black uniforms sporting the insignia of Nazi SS officers, stood near each other to pose in front of the ravine. Their faces were tight, as if they were overwhelmed by what had been done. The last man was standing apart, all in black and wearing a long coat. He was huge, his close-cropped light hair and smooth-shaven face half hidden by the brim of his hat. No insignia marked him and he didn’t seem to be in uniform at all, just normal clothing, maybe even a fancy suit.

Then her eyes snapped to his jaw. It was long, strange… “Holy crap!” Plain as day when she knew what to look for, the white fangs were there – interrupting the line of lips that were stretched into an obscene smirk. Dropping the photo onto the page, she stared at the folded paper in her trembling fingers. “Maybe I don’t want to know?”

Holding her breath, she opened it. There was a fancy Nazi letterhead and the letter was typed, but it was all in German. At the bottom of the page, a handwritten note had been scrawled in a messy script, but she couldn’t understand the language.

“Spared, Tab. So who signed it?” There were two signatures, but she couldn’t make out the first one. The name typed under it, Müller, wasn’t anyone she’d read about. Glancing down at the second one with the note, she sucked in her breath. “Oh, my God … that says Himmler.”

“Victor got around,” Perrin announced from the bedroom doorway.

Tabitha jumped and twisted to face him. “You asshole!”

“Sorry,” he said, smiling. “He told me that he played a game of poker with Doc Holliday once, too.”

“How do you know he wasn’t pulling your leg?”

Perrin shrugged. “If he was making it up, he’d have claimed that he won. Do you want to know what that says?”

“I’m not sure.”

“It’s a pat on the back from his boss, Heinrich Müller – the head of the Gestapo – for a job well done. A form letter, actually, but the personal note at the bottom says it all.”

“Those butchers did a real number on France – shouldn’t you be offended by this?”

“French Canadian, Tabitha, we’re not from France – and no, I’m not a fan of what they did.”

“Just a fan of his.”

“He is what he is and he’s done what he’s done; none of us can change that now, in this moment – including him. Once you grasp – and accept – that, you’ll have a lot more success surviving your time with him.”

“I can’t ‘accept’ this … this horror.” Her finger stabbed at the open book.

“I don’t either. Accepting that he is the way he is doesn’t mean you have to accept what he’s done or what he may do. Don’t be surprised and offended when a tiger won’t behave like a sheep. Also, they had all the power then and they were exterminating anything that didn’t fit a very narrow ideal. I often wonder if he learned his skewed ideas of the ‘choices’ he gives people directly from them.”

Swallowing hard over the bile rising in her throat, she whispered, “What does the note say?”

“It’s been a while since I read it,” he said, holding out his hand. She didn’t move, but offered it to him. Perrin walked up and took it from her, holding it carefully. “Der Reichsführer writes, ‘I am proud of you, Victor; you must visit and tell me everything when you return to Berlin. Do not stay too long at Syrets; the Special-Operations Units can manage without you through the winter. I have something I want you to do for me, personally. Yours, Heini Himmler.’”

“Heini?”

“It was a nickname for Himmler; something most of the SS called him behind his back, and not a compliment. It meant ‘little boy who is afraid of everything’, since he never fought beside them. Victor claimed he said it to his face and got away with it. Later on, he used it as a pet name – in private.” He gave her a wink. “The simple fact that Himmler’s using the name himself in writing would shock a lot of historians; it tells me Victor had the man’s favor in a big way.”

“They killed 33,771 Jews there in the first two days – lots of others after that, and Creed was playing footsie with the monster who probably penned the order? What is Syrets?”

“A concentration camp in the area. Victor told me he’d been stationed there for a time, until Dr. Otto Rasch, the commander of Einsatzgruppe C, asked him to help them with a ‘special order’.”

“Wait – you didn’t find this like I did; he showed it to you?”

Perrin nodded. “It had been in the safe upstairs. He must have forgotten to put it back and stuck it in the book after letting me read it.”

“He was … proud of it.”

“Himmler plucked him out of Auschwitz, where they were putting the few mutants that were alive in Europe at that time. He was turned into a Gestapo agent and used to hunt enemies of the state. He said he was tapped to work in the hospital in Auschwitz and ended up helping one of the doctors with his experiments there; that’s how he got noticed by Himmler.”

“A doctor doing experiments; you mean Mengele?”

“Yes. I’m not sure if he was helping or being experimented on – he wasn’t clear on that, but I suspect it was the latter. It’s possible if Himmler removed him from that, gave him status and power, and then used him to hunt and kill others – he could easily win Victor’s loyalty.”

“You haven’t just asked him?”

“No, I haven’t. If he gets evasive after being chatty, I’ve learned to drop the subject fast. That is another excellent survival skill you may find useful.”

Tabitha’s gaze flicked from the photo of a smirking Sabretooth to the photo spread on the pages. The image of thousands and thousands of dead people blurred in her vision before nausea rose.

She almost ran Perrin down when she launched for the bathroom. It took a long time for the retching to stop; when it did, she laid her cheek on the cool porcelain rim of the bowl and tried to breathe.

“Are you okay?” Perrin asked. “Can I –”

“Leave me alone,” she muttered in misery, “please?”

He withdrew without a sound. She didn’t move until she heard the double doors close.

“You knew he was a killer, Tab. Why is it a shock that he got started early, or found some friends to share his hobby with?” She lifted her head, waiting to see if her stomach would protest before trying to rise. “‘Tiger’, my ass. He’s proud of it – he was proud of what he did to Psylocke. Hell, when he eventually whacks me … he’ll probably brag about it.”

She got up on shaky legs and started stripping off the t-shirt and pants. Leaving them in a pile on the dais steps below the bathing pool, she headed for Creed’s fancy shower. Turning on all of the jets as hot as she could stand, she shut the glass door and stood under the water, waiting for tears that wouldn’t come.

~ ~ ~

Tabitha didn’t hear a thing until the glass door opened. Her breath came faster, her heart fluttering in her throat as the door was shut, but she didn’t turn.

Large hands touched her shoulders, the claws pricking slightly as Creed leaned down to nuzzle the back of her neck. His lips kissed her there, light and casual, the hard round shafts of the fangs pressing against her wet skin.

She shivered with desire and his chuckle sounded behind her after the inevitable sniff. Bowing her head, Tabitha silently hated herself for her body’s betrayal.

Something flashed next to her cheek and she glanced over, nervous. To her surprise, his clawed fingers were moving to place a gold chain around her neck. Dangling from it, a large diamond settled above her breasts.

“What is that?”

Creed snorted. “It’s called a present. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, ain’t they? Guess I shouldn’t be shocked ya need t’ be told what it is, though – it’s not like tha cornhusker ever put one on yer finger.”

“Creed, I –”

“Victor,” he corrected. His lips were on her neck again the moment he worked the clasp. The hands moved back to her shoulders and turned her toward him.

Tabitha couldn’t look up at his face. She was either about to sob or cuss him out; taking a deep breath, she shot for a compromise. “Did you play bondage games in bed with Himmler, too?”

“Been at tha history books, huh? Didn’t know ya could read German.”

If he was smirking at her, she didn’t want to know it. The smirk in that photo was already hanging in her mind’s eye. She had tried to scrub it out all morning.

Clicking his tongue at her silence, he added, “‘Spose one o’ tha boys read it t’ ya? Nope, no bondage games; tha man was too soft an’ squeamish fer that.”

“Squeamish?”

“Yup, believe it or not; couldn’t even watch a man get shot – made ‘im sick. Ya sure as hell ain’t thinkin’ like a hero; hear ‘bout all that, an’ tha only thing’s got ya curious is if I fucked ‘im? Or if he fucked me? Answer’s yes t’ both, Tabitha – more’n a few times.”

The hands reached to cup her breasts, but she stepped back. “Don’t touch me.”

“What was that, frail? Sure I heard ya wrong.” His fingers tangled in her hair, about to yank her face up to look at him. “If ya ain’t gonna play…”

Staring at her chest, she saw the water strike the diamond pendant – saw it drip, tinted pink, down her skin. The gold setting, where it had touched someone else’s skin, had dried blood on it.

Tabitha began to cry and then sob, and if Creed hadn’t held her up, his hands moving to her waist, she’d have crumpled to the tiles at his feet. “I can’t … can’t…” Her voice rose with her panic until she was shrill and shouting at him. “You’re going to kill me … just … kill me; get it over with!”

Creed shocked her by drawing her in, pressing her against his chest and holding her close. She tried to struggle, but it was pointless; after one more ragged breath, she collapsed against him and cried.

She didn’t know how long he held her, but the water had cooled around them. “Please… Victor … let me go?”

He released her carefully, making sure she could stand before he removed his hands from supporting her. Before she could speak again, he sank with smooth grace to his knees in front of her. Looking up, unblinking in the light spray of water on his face, he waited with his hands open and still on the bunched muscles of his thighs. His cock was hungry, but he just crouched there, waiting … watching her.

Slowly, with her heart in her stomach, she reached up behind her and gripped two of the metal jets. The cold water struck his chest and sluiced down his beautiful body when she shifted, but he didn’t move.

“I’m going to Hell for this,” she whispered. One foot slid, trembling, on the marble beneath it as she opened her legs for him.

When his mouth touched her, the long tongue seeking and lashing, finding and thrusting deep, she began to cry again. The low and starving groan he gave her made her skin flush, even as the cold water and her choice to succumb again made her shudder.

~ ~ ~

Tabitha woke with a start, struggling for breath as a heavy weight pressed her down. Turning her head, she saw the shower door hanging open and felt upholstery under her: the divan. The weight came down more, part of it grinding inside of her.

Long blonde hair slipped down over her face as lips pressed gently to hers, the hard and sharp teeth working at being careful as the tongue parted her lips to claim her mouth.

Slowly, nerve by nerve, feeling and sense returned. Creed’s thrusts were rhythmic and as easy as they could ever be for a man of his strength and bulk. A flush crept up her throat to her face as the pleasure in her body reconnected to her brain.

Not sure she could move, she struggled to shift and raise her legs to ease the pressure on her pelvis. His hands gripped them behind the knees and lifted them for her, allowing her to wrap them around his hips.

She swallowed his cry when he came, but the kiss went on with the thrusts until her body reached its first conscious peak. Judging by how slick they were, it wasn’t the first for either of them.

His body going still at last, one arm took his weight off of her as his free hand stroked her damp curls. She met his softly glowing gaze once, but then closed her eyes, unable to cope with that quiet, focused stare.

“How did I end up … here…?”

“Passed out on me – so I got started without ya.”

“Would you let me up?”

“Why? Gonna be sick again?”

“N-no…”

He got up with fluid grace and stood looking down at her. “Need a hand?”

Water was running somewhere, but the shower jets were off. She abruptly noticed that the air was thick with white steam. Movement over her head made her twitch. “Who is that?”

“Just Brys, runnin’ our bath.” Creed held his hand out to her, a slight smile on his lips.

She took it because she couldn’t have sat up without it. Her skin turned bright pink when she turned her head and saw Brys shutting off the water to the bathing pool.

“Gotta prob, Tabitha?” Creed asked.

“I’m … not used to an audience when I’m…”

“Heh. Sex is a spectator sport, girl, an’ ya will be graded.”

“Wh– I mean … I…”

“I’m kiddin’. Come on,” he urged, tugging at her hand.

She got to her feet, but Creed had to carry her up to the tub. As he had before, he just climbed up into it with her in his arms, sitting her on his lap when he lay back in the deliciously hot water.

Tabitha leaned against his chest because she was too weak to do anything else. His fingers, claws retracted, laced together low over her abdomen.

“Did you need anything else, sir?” Brys asked.

“Nope, got my bath toy – I’m all set.”

Nodding once, Brys left the room, closing the bathroom door behind him.

“How long was I out?”

“Two rounds worth.”

“That … doesn’t bother you?”

“Why would it?”

“I don’t know… It’s not exactly wild and crazy if I’m out cold, is it?”

“Ya like t’ eat tha same thing, day after day?”

“Huh?”

“Don’t always require a rodeo t’ get off, darlin’. ‘Sides, unconscious has its charms; pretty close t’ necrophilia if tha skirt’s really down solid.”

“You’re an old-fashioned romantic, I can tell.”

Creed chuckled. “Now an’ then, yeah.”

Tabitha started to sigh, and then stiffened. “You aren’t kidding about that, are you?”

“What, tha dead thing? Nope.”

“Plus, you eat people.” Feeling slightly sick, but knowing he wouldn’t let her leave, she asked, “Is there a taboo left that you haven’t notched on your bedpost?”

“Hmm… Ain’t gonna bother kids in general, not my thing – though I have killed ‘em often enough.”

“Which is a huge bother to them and their families, you realize.”

“Quit yer yappin’; ya asked, lemme answer. Maybe incest – I think. Not sure ‘bout Luther, though.”

“Who is Luther?”

“My older brother; tha one whose demise got me tossed in tha root cellar.”

“You aren’t sure about him, how?” She could feel the rumble of a growl in his chest, but wouldn’t retreat when he didn’t reply. “Victor?”

“Not so sure he ain’t never diddled me, that’s how. Got some foggy memories yet ‘round all that – know it wasn’t Pa, that’s fer damn sure. Hell, coulda been tha doc – maybe that’s why I tried t’ eat ‘is face; missed an’ bit ‘is throat, instead.”

“You … think you were molested?”

“Gee, Tabitha, will it absolve me o’ all my sins if I say ‘yes’?”

“I’m only asking a question after you brought it up, and then you go all sarcastic on me.”

“Ya were tha one brought it up, goin’ on ‘bout taboos.”

Tabitha was silent for a while. Shifting slightly, she settled more comfortably against him. “I’m sorry, Victor, if it’s true; you didn’t deserve any of that – not then.”

“Do me a favor, darlin’.”

“What is it?”

“Shut tha fuck up.”

In spite of the words, they held no heat and his growl had faded. Tabitha felt weirdly surreal and started to wonder if she wasn’t still out cold and dreaming the whole conversation. Just in case it was a dream, she answered in kind while she had the guts – hoping he wouldn’t tear hers out for impertinence.

“Only if you will.”

Creed chuckled again, softer this time, and to her amazement, he did fall silent. She tensed a little when he shifted beneath her and the water rose to her shoulders, but then he relaxed, laying his head on the rim of the pool.

Tabitha let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding and tried to relax. Her thoughts were whirling, her emotions keeping pace with them.

“Hush,” he admonished.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Yer heart’s goin’ like a jackrabbit, fit t’ break outta yer ribs.”

“You can hear … of course you can. It’s that … loud?”

“Darlin’, I can hear tha blood rushin’ in yer veins. If ya weren’t a damn kid, I’d worry ‘bout ya havin’ a fuckin’ stroke.”

Tabitha frowned. “I’m not a kid – or a girl, a frail, a skirt, or a doll. Darling isn’t bad. I like how you say it with that drawl.”

“I’m gonna die. Go back t’ bein’ pissed at me, would ya? It’s quieter when ya have a nervous breakdown an’ pass tha fuck out.”

She bit her lower lip a moment, and then asked, “You are going to kill me, aren’t you? Sooner or later?”

“Sooner, if ya don’t zip it. I’m tryin’ t’ relax here.”

“Now you are joking. I’m starting to hear the difference.”

“When I giggle like a bitch, I’m jokin’ – otherwise, yer takin’ yer chances.”

“That’s what I’m talking about; you sound lazy – half amused, half irked, but it’s different. When you’re serious about threatening people, you get really intense. Loud and angry, or quiet and spooky, that’s the ‘oh shit’ stuff.”

“Ain’t ya got somethin’ better t’ do than try my patience?”

“Sure – I could go back to New York, get out of your hair completely.”

“Naw, ya’d miss me.”

“I’d cope.”

She yelped when he sat up, but his hands on her arms kept her head from going under. He turned her in his lap, grunting when her knee grazed his groin.

Tabitha held her breath again under the silent scrutiny of narrowed amber eyes, but she couldn’t feel the fear as acutely as before. I guess hopeless conviction is a great sedative.

Creed leaned close, turning his head to nuzzle at her neck, scenting her skin. She could feel the grin under the mop of blonde hair. “Yer innards won’t shut up neither, but ya smell diff’rent … better.”

“I spent all morning in your shower, trying to wash you off of me.”

“Now yer tryin’ t’ tick me off, but it ain’t gonna work.”

She started to retort, but his lips began kissing her throat. His head lifted to kiss her cheek, fingers brushing her hair back gently. She turned to catch his mouth and the kiss was deep, intense … passionate.

He broke it, but didn’t pull away; pressing his forehead to hers, his alien eyes closed.

Confused, desire sparked by his mouth, her hand groped in the water for his cock. Just as she found it, soft and asleep, his fingers closed on her wrist and moved her hand to his waist.

“I thought you wanted –”

“Shh… Lemme taste ya.”

She opened her mouth to answer, but he claimed it again, his tongue moving, coaxing hers. After a few moments, he stopped and leaned back just enough to catch and hold her wide-eyed stare.

“Not gonna gut ya, Tabitha. Ya obeyed me while I was gone, recovered from a brief ‘bout o’ stark mad, an’ then held still so I could fuck my brains out on ya. Roll ‘em all together an’ ya gotta content cat, ready fer ‘is nap. Since ya won’t shut up, I’m givin’ ya somethin’ else t’ do with that mouth.”

“You’re … being weirdly … spooky nice. It’s a little freaky.”

His fingers left her curls. “Tellin’ me ya’d feel more comfortable if I smacked ya ‘round awhile instead? What tha hell’re ya afraid o’ now?”

“You.”

“Don’t fly – ya were baitin’ me somethin’ fierce a bit ago; gotta set o’ brass ones all o’ a sudden, too.”

“I don’t trust you.”

“Said before, I ain’t askin’ ya t’ trust me.”

“You said not to touch you like I’m making love; that’s exactly what you’re doing.”

“Didn’t I mention I was a ‘do what I say, not what I do’ sorta guy? ‘Sides, I ain’t makin’ love t’ ya, or fuckin’; ya had enough experience with it by now t’ know tha diff’rence, huh? When tha dick ain’t nowhere near tha pussy – I ain’t fuckin’ ya.”

“So … you want to make out like teenagers and I’m not supposed to be suspicious of ulterior motives?”

“Darlin’, yer so exhausted right now, yer startin’ t’ talk crazy. Did ya sleep a wink while I was gone, or stay up tha whole damn night tryin’ t’ hunt fer a safe? Then ya go traipsin’ down my memory lanes, get all mixed up an’ wound tight – just t’ wake up later all hot an’ horny t’ bone me. Do ya hear all that? Sound a bit odd t’ ya?”

“I don’t want to die, Victor.”

“Yeah, well, last I heard, a kiss ain’t never killed anybody. Got somethin’ else ya’d rather I worked over with my tongue?”

“All I can think about is how you hurt Psylocke, and so many others … for over a hundred years. Why am I any different? I’m not.”

His smile, slow and amused, but not mocking, confused her more. He bent to nuzzle her neck again. Beneath the water, his strong fingers found her pussy, two of them slipping inside as the pad of the thumb rubbed at the tiny nub.

She gasped; one hand against his chest, the other darted down with a splash to pull at his wrist.

“Don’t, please…”

Meeting her gaze again, he stopped. “Ya remind me o’ ‘er, a li’l. Bold as brass, not enough sense t’ be afraid o’ me.”

“You terrify me, Victor, and you can’t trick me into asking about that. You’re up to something, I know it; I won’t let you play me again. I’d rather let you kill me.”

Creed was silent for a moment as if lost in his thoughts. His chin lifted, his eyes staring off at the ceiling. “Did ya ever watch birds in tha fall, gatherin’ t’ fly south?”

“N-no. What are you –”

“They gather from all over, swarm together an’ break away, dart back an’ forth – just t’ gather up again … ‘til they break an’ start it all from scratch.”

“I don’t understand.”

He met her gaze again, his expression still distant. “That’s me, darlin’, that’s what it feels like in here.” One of his fingers tapped at his temple. “When I get tha chance t’ breathe, t’ slow down enough t’ make it stop fer a while, it’s like havin’ that mindless peace again; ‘cept that it never lasts. Sometimes I hate Chuck Xavier more than I could ever rip ‘im bad enough t’ express – fer puttin’ tha memory o’ that fuckin’ lie in my head.”

“He didn’t tamper with your memories; he was trying to cure you.”

“No head-shrinkin’ witch doctor’s gonna ever ‘cure’ me, girl. What he did – I’m afraid I’ll never be able t’ carve it outta my head an’ I can’t grab a bit o’ real peace ‘til I do. So…” He huffed out a breath, frowning down at her. “Any scrap o’ lazy quiet I can lay hands on, all needs met, is kinda important t’ me. Got it?”

“Tell me you won’t kill me, Victor. Swear it.”

“Ya wouldn’t believe me if I did, an’ I don’t recommend it anyhow. Ain’t gonna make no promises.”

“You know, if you want to reel me in and trick me, that level of honesty isn’t going to help you reach your goal.”

“Too bad fer me. Ain’t it possible I’m just plain bein’ fuckin’ honest, here?” He picked her up and set her on her feet at the bottom of the pool as he rose. The water barely covered her breasts. Ears pinning, he stared down at her. “Come on.”

“Where are we going?”

“T’ bed; I need a bloody nap an’ ya need one worse.”

“Are you angry?”

“What, can’t ya tell by how irked or lazy I fuckin’ sound?” He was sitting on the edge of the pool, about to step over it.

Tabitha moved fast enough to splash water over his thigh onto the floor. Grasping his wrist, she tugged to pull him back into the water.

One eyebrow arching, he allowed her to move him. Again, when her fingers reached up to press on his shoulders, he sank to sit on another of the underwater benches. He faced her, silent and still, as she stood with her hands on her hips.

“I have some honesty for you: I hate you, but I love the way you get me off. You can beat me into paste, but I’ll never stop thinking you’re capable of changing.” She lifted a finger to his lips to stop a protest and managed to smile when he nipped at it teasingly, his scowl morphing slowly into a lop-sided smirk. “One more thing: I’m going to shock you more than you can ever surprise me. I’m going to survive this, no matter what you do.”

His smirk leveled out, stretched into a toothy grin. “Bet I can shock ya worse, darlin’.”

“Give it your best shot.”

He reached out to catch her around her ribs, his thumbs pressing into her erect and aching nipples as he pulled her to him. Pinning her between his muscled legs, he framed her face with both hands, making her stare up at him.

“Aw, no – ya ain’t gettin’ me t’ tip my hand; all in good time, Tabitha.”

He leaned in and gave her another deep and passionate kiss, melting her morals in his heat. He broke it abruptly, smiling at the little whine of displeasure she made.

“Now you want to stop?”

“Come on, darlin’ – gotta bed with yer name on it.” He picked her up and set her on the steps. “After I fuck ya blind, we’re gonna have that nap, if I hafta duct tape yer mouth t’ achieve it proper.”

Tabitha gave him a smirk of her own as she watched him get out of the pool like a prepped and ready porn star, water splashing the floor around him. “Fuck me mute, then.”

“No point – ya gotta gag reflex from hell.”

~ ~ ~

Hours later, Tabitha lay in Creed’s bed, the massive heat of him pressed to her back. She stopped her whirling and spinning thoughts by imagining that they were birds … gathering only to fly away.

In his sleep, he draped an arm over her waist and pulled her closer. Confused, empty and lost, she drifted to sleep just to escape the fear of the gamble she was taking in a mad attempt to tame the savage beast.

~ ~ ~

“Can’t hardly keep up with yer moods, doll.”

“So says the ‘King of Mean’. Who did you murder to get this stuff?”

Tabitha sat on his bed next to the pair of opened suitcases as Creed paced behind her. He had grudgingly let her dress in his shirt and lounge pants again.

“What makes ya think that?”

“Common sense; plus, my diamond was bloody.”

“Considerin’ how most o’ yer clothes got ripped t’ bits already, leavin’ ya with no choice but t’ start wearin’ mine, why don’t ya just say, ‘thanks, Vic’ an’ shut up ‘bout it?”

“Never mind that you’re the one who ripped them up.” Raising her eyebrows, she repeated, “Vic?”

“Couple o’ folks call me that. What ‘bout it?”

“So it’s a nickname … like Heini?”

“Ya know, frail, normally I’m fond o’ a good verbal sparrin’, but if ya don’t drop that shit, I’m gonna belt ya one across those pretty lips.”

Tabitha sighed and poked at the clothes. Most of it was as high end as his suits, with a pair of Prada heels sticking out near one end. She knew it would all fit her and the idea that he might have killed some poor girl just because she was her size made her want to go barf again.

“What attracted you, anyway, or did he order you into bed? I can’t imagine you obeying a scrawny nerd like that, no matter how powerful he was politically. Or was the megalomania hot?”

“Maybe it was – been there, done that … couple o’ times.”

“Who?”

Creed stalked up behind her, the heat of his body nearly an overwhelming distraction. “Why do ya care?”

“I’m curious and I haven’t got a lot left to lose.”

“Sure ‘bout that?” His claws pricked at her throat.

Tabitha went stiff and still, struggling not to swallow in fear, but she held her ground. “You’ll kill me eventually; who was it?”

One of his hands lowered, the fingers pinching her nipple cruelly through the t-shirt. She gasped in pain as he bent down, his lips at her ear. “Used t’ get int’ some wild romps with Sinister back in tha day, when I was hangin’ with tha Marauders.”

“Wow. I’d have bet that guy wasn’t into sex, period.”

“He ain’t, not really – damn near asexual – but he finds me fascinatin’ an’ he knows ya catch more cats with honey over vinegar.”

“Fond memories?”

“Nope.”

“Huh. He’s sort of a badass, though, and he was your boss then – were you the ‘nelly bottom’?”

“Best be strokin’ my cock if yer gonna gimme lip like that, girl.”

“Come on, you love to brag – were you?”

Creed grunted, his breath moving her curls. “Yup.”

“Wow, squared.”

“Didn’t think I’d admit it? Ain’t nothin’ gonna embarrass me – might piss me off, though.”

“I can hear you purring, ‘Vic’. Was he the only one?”

“My only top or my sole megalomaniac?”

“We’ve sorted out that you’ve had more than one of those.”

“No, he ain’t been tha only one; hellfire, girl, I let Perrin crawl up my back – it ain’t no big fuckin’ deal.” Hot breath tickling her ear, he added, “I’m a slut, Tabitha – ‘nother thing we got in common.”

She turned her head and kissed him, barely mindful of his teeth. He actually hesitated, as if she’d managed to surprise him, but then the growl erupted – one of the hungry ones.

He picked her up bodily, one hand slamming the suitcase shut before he dropped her over it. Hauling his pants down from her ass, his knees landed on the bed, his weight almost taking her off of the luggage when the mattress slanted. He hadn’t bothered to dress and she was abruptly grateful for the odd conversation making her embarrassingly wet when he stuffed her full again from behind.

Tabitha fought to breathe as she was shoved down and pressed against the hard frame of the suitcase, her fingers gripping its edge. Pleasure bloomed, intense enough to make her dizzy as he thrust, hard, fast, and shallow.

A scraping sound distracted her and she glanced down to see the large diamond moving and rolling on the face of the suitcase as her body was bucked over and over. Biting her lower lip, she swallowed hard and shut her eyes.

~ ~ ~

She stood in front of a mirror near the exercise equipment, listening as Creed moved behind her in the former double parlor, eliciting low moans out of his prisoner. The jeans and Jazz Funeral t-shirt fit her perfectly. So did the Prada boots, but Tabitha was staring at the bruises, cuts, and shallow bite punctures on her body, not the stolen clothes.

‘Tooth calls them marks and he likes seeing them on me. I’m going to carry some of them as scars – maybe for the rest of my life.

She’d been shocked at first that Vaughn was still alive. Then she’d felt guilty for having forgotten all about him. Finally, after he’d spit at her, she decided not to bother feeling for him at all. Directly after that, Creed told her over a late lunch that she was going to protect him – as part of her next round of lessons. What he meant was, if she didn’t, the man would die – right then, right in front of her.

Odds are, he figured out I lost my give-a-crap, so he’s found a way to make me care again. He’s right, too – I can’t let the man die, no matter how I feel about the battered wretch.

“Quit admirin’ yer pretty, Tab, an’ get yer shapely ass over here.”

“Sure, Vic.” With a sigh, she turned away from the girl in the mirror, a person she barely recognized anymore.

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

Her scent continued to drive him to distraction and fighting lessons weren’t likely to slow it down. She was different in a lot of ways since he’d come home, but he thought he’d figured most of it out. That didn’t explain the changes in him, though.

Ignore it; they ain’t nothin’ alike past tha bouncin’ blonde curls an’ big baby blues. Pay attention now, so ya don’t get carried away an’ snuff tha bitch – ahead o’ schedule, anyway. Got no damn business moonin’ ‘bout long term options any road; once Chuck’s had ‘is claws in ‘em, they ain’t never right in tha head again. Watching her approach, he frowned. What a fuckin’ waste.

Victor grabbed her shoulders when she reached him and pulled her back into his chest just to see if the abrupt snatch would spark her fear. To his surprise, she leaned against him, even pressing her smooth and firm ass against his cock, nudging it awake. The touch played at being accidental, casual – but he didn’t believe that for a second.

“Yer a head-shrink’s wet dream, darlin’, ya know that?”

“Another thing we have in common?” she asked, her teasing tone devoid of the old nervous flutter.

She was settling into sassing him and she kept getting away with it as long as her body kept luring his, alchemizing anger into lust over and over again. Part of the time, she seemed unaware of what she was doing … but only part of it.

“Listen now, rub me off later,” he admonished. “Keep forgettin’ who’s tha fuckin’ boss, here, don’t ya?”

She didn’t move. “Why haven’t you ever wanted to be the boss, instead of working for others? It’s a bit odd how often you’ve let someone else call the shots.”

“Bein’ a freelance assassin offers a man real freedom – most bigwigs I’ve known ain’t happy folks.”

“You’re a happy person? You don’t head any lists of well-adjusted people that I’ve ever seen.”

“Ain’t hardly ‘adjusted’ at all – but I’m one free an’ happy motherfucker just tha same.” Victor shoved her forward away from him, but without the gusto he might have used before. “Here’s yer hapless charge.” He smirked as the damaged Vaughn tried to shift away from the shallow dig of adamantium claws on one bare foot. To Rothenberg’s former soldier, he added, “Mind yer Ps an’ Qs, asshole; yer gonna play damsel in distress fer tha lady, but if ya get any ideas ‘bout jackin’ with ‘er, yer gonna be in distress fer real.”

“So, how are we going to do this?”

“I’m gonna try t’ kill ‘im – yer gonna try t’ stop me.”

The skirt laughed outright, prickling his anger. “Say goodbye, dude,” she advised Vaughn. “We’re both about to be toast.”

“Thought ya were ballsy, girl. Am I gonna hafta start callin’ ya ‘Boom Boom’ in tha field, or were ya plannin’ on livin’ up t’ tha moniker ‘Meltdown’?”

“I’m not supposed to burn you, so how am I going to stop you?”

Victor grinned. “Didn’t I tell ya we’re usin’ live rounds fer this lesson? Pop me if ya can catch me.”

Hands on hips, she frowned at him. “Yeah, you left that part out. I’m not sure I buy it, though. You’re not going to whack me later for breaking a rule you told me to break?”

“Wouldn’t make much sense, huh? No, I won’t. Gonna buy that?”

“Taking the word of a moody psychopath probably proves I’ve gone around the bend.”

“Probly. Ya ready now, or should we just let our proverbial hockey puck sit there an’ bleed a bit more first?”

“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”

“Keep all o’ my good advice in yer pretty li’l head, an’ yer gonna do fine.” When she turned to look at Vaughn, Victor slipped away into the shadows of the long room, disappearing almost as fast as his teleporting banker.

“Victor? Crap.”

In the dark, he moved farther away from the skirt. Crouching down in his worn jeans, he watched her.

She had stuck close to the long hearth, as if light to see by would help her. The chandelier was dim, giving off an eerie glow but no real illumination. Heavy drapes covered all of the tall, narrow windows.

“Sit up,” she commanded the man, her voice deceptively harsh. “Get ready to move – if you can.”

“What reason do you have to protect me?”

“Not a damn one, dude – besides the fact that I’m one of the good guys. Saving people, even mutant-hating scum like you, is what we do.”

“You think you’re still one of those ‘heroes’ – after turning yourself into Creed’s whore?”

Her face twisting in anger, she turned her boot and pressed the toe against his fractured ribs. The smirk on her lips at the sound of his pained cry made a purr start up in Victor’s throat.

“Not in the best shape, are you? Might be better if you didn’t tick off the only person here who gives a crap if you live or die.”

“He won’t let me live; if you save me, he’ll just take me back to that table. I’d rather die on my feet.”

“Bully for you – if you can get there.”

“Give me your hand.”

She glared down at him, but then she held out her hand. The muscles of her slender arm bunched impressively as she helped haul the heavy male to his feet. “Without your guns and flamethrowers, you’re about as challenging to Creed as a puppy – stay behind me and get ready to scoot in the opposite direction when he jumps us.”

Victor moved again until the male was between him and the skirt. Her back was to him, but she was starting to turn.

Without a sound, he jumped twenty feet to land directly in front of his prey. Claws flashing, he snarled and began to slash. Tabitha whirled and shot a spray of fiery slivers into his chest.

Roaring, he ignored the pain and stench of burning fur and skin to advance on the man.

She grabbed the prey’s bruised wrist and pulled him back behind her, standing her ground mere feet from Victor’s teeth. Hands raised, the air charged with her gathering power, she waited.

“Think I won’t go through ya t’ get t’ ‘im, girl?”

“I know you will; I also know it’s stupid to run from you – it just weakens us and hypes you up.”

“Shit, ya are payin’ attention.” He swiped at her, one claw slicing a clean cut into her t-shirt.

She flinched, but didn’t retreat. “He likes to play with his food,” she told the prey. “We have to stand and fight.”

“You do that,” Vaughn muttered, his hands lifting.

Victor growled. Before the man could strike her with fists, Victor reached out and grabbed her shirt in a wad; twisting it, he pulled her forward into him.

She hit him with a trio of small fireballs at once in his gut the instant he moved. The smell of burning filled his flaring nostrils again. The pain was sharp, but as easy to ignore as the first strike. Snarling, he let it burn, stretching his other hand out and catching Vaughn by the throat.

“Don’t kill him, Victor! I won’t have anyone to practice defending if he’s dead!”

Claws cutting into the man’s flesh, Victor hissed. “Told ya not t’ mess with ‘er, asshole.”

“Mess with – he was going to whack me?”

“Yup. Imagine that.”

Her little hands pressed into his healed abdomen as she looked up to meet his narrowed gaze. “Turn him loose, Victor.”

Curious, he released him, grinning when the skirt turned and punched Vaughn solidly on the jaw, knocking him into a sprawl on the polished wooden floor.

“I’m trying to save you, you demented ape!”

“You’re trying to prolong my torture, mutie bitch – fuck you.”

Her fury was glorious, bombs forming and swelling over her palms in an instant. Victor moved close behind her, bending to whisper in her ear. “Yer ‘bout t’ react on emotion again, Tab … suck those babies back in an’ turn ‘round – gotta bigger threat behind ya.”

One of the bombs faded back into her, the other constricting to the size of her palm. Victor straightened, stepped back, and she twisted around to attack him. The bomb exploded in the air where he’d been standing.

Crouching over Vaughn, Victor snarled at her. His fingers were moving, the claws piercing clothes and skin like the kneading motion of a cat.

“Get the hell off of him, damn it!”

“Make me, frail.”

She glared at him, another bomb growing over her hand. “I’m not going to let you kill the bastard – whether he deserves it or not.”

“Might wanna change yer tactics, then; I can dodge that easy – then yer one step closer t’ drained.”

The skirt hesitated, her face half in shadow and half lit by the glow of her floating weapon. When the plasma bomb split, bursting into the splinters of fire, Victor laughed with delight. They moved around her head, spinning and darting like pet sparks.

“That’s it,” he encouraged her. “Avoid tha big ones when yer too upset t’ aim ‘em right. Ya wanna knock me off this meat an’ yer brain’s lyin’ t’ ya, tellin’ ya ‘bigger is better’. Two things ya need t’ feel right now, Tabitha: mad or not, stay chilly, an’ know – deep in yer gut – that ya can take me out.”

Her anger held for a few shallow breaths, and then her shoulders slumped, her eyes sliding away from his stare. “I can’t, I’m not powerful enough; I never will be.”

“Rattled my brains at Xavier’s, didn’t ya?”

“All I did was break your restraints.”

“Got any idea how impossible that shoulda been? My money says those chumps were fair shocked that ya managed it.” She shook her head, rejecting it. A growl erupted, his lips peeling back from his teeth. “This filth ain’t got time fer ya t’ balk. Gonna save ‘is stinkin’ life or not?”

“I won’t be fighting you in Vancouver.”

“Ain’t ‘sposed t’ be fightin’ shit – it’s destruction o’ property, not people.”

“That’s not the point; if you were anyone else, what you’re getting me to do – it would kill someone.” She stiffened, standing a little taller with defiant pride. “I’m not a killer and I don’t want to learn how to be one.”

“All that posturin’ is gonna strain yer back, girl. I only know how t’ teach one thing – how t’ be a more efficient killer. Trackin’, tha spy game, all o’ that – it all ties int’ killin’. If ya wanna set yer bombs on ‘stun’, that’s yer own business.” He watched the whirl of thoughts play out across her face. “Come on, Tabitha, push Cueball’s brainwashin’ outta yer head; ya know I can make ya a better fighter. Now ya wanna learn this shit or not? Cuz if ya don’t, I ain’t got no more use fer this motherfucker.”

Watching his claws cut the man again, she winced and said quietly, “Yes.”

“Prove it – fire those things at me; do it right tha hell now.” Again, she hesitated. Leering at her, he taunted, “Bet ya’d burn me if this lump was yer precious Psylocke. My claws went through that bitch’s scrawny middle like butter – didn’t even have tha adamantium yet.”

“You’re trying to make me angry. That’s exactly what you said I shouldn’t do – attack in anger.”

“Ya should attack t’ save this puke; thing is, focus, concentrate – make yer hits count.” Victor bent down low over the trembling body under him. Sniffing the man’s throat, he made a rude and hungry noise. His eyes lifted slowly to stare up at the skirt. “Somethin’ I never told ya, frail – when I sliced Psylocke’s guts open, smelled ‘er terror an’ watched that slippery mess start t’ fall t’ tha floor … no lie, I fuckin’ came in my shorts.”

With a cry of rage, she focused her power and sent the fiery bullets right into his face and chest. One of them blew out his left eye, the others cutting in before they began to catch and burn.

Instinct launched him at her, his roar inches from her face as his weight flattened her to the floor. Claws scored the wood on either side of her head, curling it up in thin shavings.

She shut her eyes tight, her forehead and cheeks sprayed with blood from the exploded eye until it healed. Smoke rose from his chest before those wounds closed. His sight returned to the injured eye as his claws pierced her shirt, his fingers tearing it open. One claw cut the thin material that held the bra cups closed, and then his tongue flattened and licked a wide wet trail hard over her breasts, the tiny barbs of it rasping harshly over sensitive nipples.

He knew it hurt and for a red-haze moment, he wanted to hurt her more. Drawing in a deep breath full of her enriched scent, he shook his head and forced his fractured brain to return to the lesson at hand.

Behind him, the prey had moved. Instead of running, he crept up on them. He held something metal in one hand, something heavy.

A wicked smile stretched Victor’s lips as he spoke; his voice was low and rough as rage and lust fought for dominance within it.

“If I weren’t me, ya said – that mighta killed a lesser man.” He shifted, lifting his weight off of her. Backing down until he could press his lips to her belly, he turned his head to nuzzle the soft skin, rubbing his sideburns over it.

“Victor,” she whispered, “I’m sorry – don’t…”

The blast of her fear in the close air between them told him that she thought he was about to bite or slash the tender shivering flesh of her exposed abdomen. She was oblivious to the real threat over his shoulder. He continued speaking, teaching, enjoying the confusion and terror that gathered in her tearful eyes.

“Not killin’ just hampers tha shit outta yer peers an’ yer betters on a global scale. That’s why tha runt’s tha only one o’ ‘em worth a damn t’ fight – only one with tha stones t’ go all tha way int’ tha red an’ straight through t’ tha big black.”

Victor heard the breath whistle in the man’s lungs, his heart slamming against his ribs. With a grunt, he brought the metal down at the back of Victor’s skull.

Rising and twisting his upper body, Victor grabbed and snapped the wrist that held the five pound barbell. Yanking the broken wrist as the barbell crashed to the floor, he jerked the man down across the skirt’s middle and dropped his jaw.

“Victor, no! Please stop!”

Glaring at her with ears pinned, he snarled. Levering his jaw up to speak, he ground out, “Meat’s still tryin’ t’ kill us an’ ya don’t wanna see ‘im dead?”

“No, I don’t. Please … spare him for me.”

Hissing, Victor fisted his hand in the man’s clothing and threw him away from them. His claws retracted when he turned back to her, his fingers slowly opening her belt and jeans. “Deny me my kill, gotta give somethin’ else.”

“Why not?” she asked, her words bitter. “I’m your whore, aren’t I?”

“Damn fuckin’ straight, ya are.”

She cried out when he ripped the jeans down, the force of it lifting her body. His tongue shoved inside her and her back arched, a groan spilling from her lips. His fingers fumbled to open his jeans, the claws snapping out to shred hers so he could spread her legs wide and sink his aching cock deep.

Victor allowed her to wrap her legs around him before he pushed against the gouged floor, rolling them until he was on his back. She rose off of his chest, her little hands slapping down onto it. Sweat beaded her brow; she hadn’t been ready and he’d hurt her. Yet the desperation on her face proved she understood her danger.

“Fuck me, girl – suck tha mean out with yer li’l pussy!”

She began to move without hesitation. Heat glowed in her eyes in moments, but shame burned on her blood-spattered cheeks.

“I’m definitely going to Hell for this,” she muttered, and then winced when he arched, grinding up into her.

His face covered with his blood, the salt of it in his mouth, Victor smirked up at her. “Plenty o’ folks, if they saw where yer sittin’, would tell ya that yer already there, frail.”

~ ~ ~

She was still and silent, lying against him on the floor with her head pillowed on his stomach. She smelled like him, his cum still leaking from her body whenever she shifted.

Her fear had faded with his receding anger and the choice to touch him after he had finally rolled off of her had been hers alone.

“Keep wonderin’ when yer gonna try t’ damage me while I’m fucked stupid.”

“I choose life.”

He moved out from under her and slipped down her body. “Mmm… Yer makin’ me so hungry, girl.”

Her fingers plucked at his bare shoulders, weak and listless. “Victor, please … I’m raw after all that…”

Shooting a leering grin up at her, his fingers pried her legs open. “Not up t’ more just yet – wanna taste ya.”

“Taste yourself, you mean. Ugh.” One small hand rose to cover her eyes. “You don’t have any sense of shame or gross-out over the messy side, do you?”

“Not a lick,” he replied, and put his tongue to work cleaning her up.

“Most guys I’ve been with are squeamish about their own junk.”

“Fuckin’ infants,” he muttered, loving the shudder she gave him when the shafts of his fangs pressed against her tender slick flesh. “If I could figure out how t’ suck myself off, I’d never leave tha house again.”

“Ew?”

Chuckling, he quipped, “Even without that, I’m tha best I’ve ever had. We’ve established I’m tha best ya ever had, so shut it an’ lemme suck ya in peace.”

He was surprised when she did stop talking, although she wasn’t silent. In spite of how sore she was, he could still coax a shivering orgasm out of her limp body.

When it was over and he had the taste of both of them on his tongue, he rolled to his back and closed his eyes.

“Is the moron still breathing?”

“Unfortunately. He’s just passed out, darlin’.”

“Is the lesson over?”

“Fer now, yeah.”

She fell silent again, but he wasn’t fooled – it wouldn’t last.

“When we get back to it, how about a nice classroom session without the floor demonstration?”

“Ya missin’ Chuck’s hero school?”

“Hell, no.”

Victor laughed and sat up. She was spent, splayed, and finally too exhausted to be ashamed about it. “Don’t be shy, Tabitha; tell me how ya really feel.”

She struggled to rise. Grunting, Victor grabbed her and pulled her up to sit in his lap. Her clothes hung from her in strips. His jeans had survived, though they were almost rucked off of his hips.

Leaning against his chest, she sighed. “I’m a high school dropout and I left for a reason. Xavier’s school was better, but not by much – not for me.”

“Didn’t get much schoolin’ myself.”

“Self-made man, huh?”

“Among other things.”

“Teach me something else – one of your ‘lessons learned’.”

“Hmm … how ‘bout excess versus efficiency?”

“Sounds riveting.”

Grinning, he told her, “Hold still.”

Opening his teeth, he curled around her shoulder and dropped his jaw. She gasped when he took her face and most of her head into his mouth, hooking his fangs at the back of her cheekbones. After a tense moment, he backed off, closed his mouth and kissed her curls.

“That’s fun, but it’s often overkill; plus, it takes longer an’ leaves my back exposed t’ other attacks.”

“How can you open your mouth like that?”

Victor shrugged. “My jaw’s diff’rent.”

“How?”

“Dunno – ain’t never seen tha works. Every time some asshole tears my face off, it heals before I can get t’ a mirror.”

Without missing a beat, Tabitha suggested, “Maybe you should carry a pocket-size compact.”

Victor howled with laughter. “Not a bad idea.”

“I can’t put someone’s head in my teeth, but okay. Assuming that’s excess, that means the claws are more efficient.”

Victor lifted his claws to her throat, letting the points prick her lightly. “Claws’re faster, freein’ me up t’ deal with other threats sooner. Ya figured that out yerself before, with Manis.”

“Never mind that you used your teeth on his men a lot.”

“I ain’t a student no more.”

“When were you? Did you go to ‘assassin school’?”

“Sorta, yeah. Fellow called tha Foreigner taught me a lotta shit; one o’ tha few men ever made me feel respect, tell ya that. Government goons ain’t nothin’ compared t’ ‘im.” Victor fell silent, his thoughts pushing through the murky past.

“Well, don’t clam up now – give me dirty secrets.”

“No.” With a grunt, he flopped down onto his back again, smiling at her squeak of surprise.

The skirt twisted to face him, his arms keeping her on top of him. Her slight weight was barely noticeable, lying warm and welcome over his sated and softening cock.

Her fingers lifted and timidly touched the sticky blood on the left side of his face. Flicking her gaze up to meet his stare, she paled.

“It was gone,” she whispered, “blown to goop.”

He gave her a toothy grin. “That ain’t just blood ya got yer fingers in, neither.”

Snatching her hand away, she glared at him. “Don’t make me sick, or I’ll barf on you in revenge.”

“Been doin’ an awful lotta that, did ya notice?”

“Yeah, well, you’re a revolting freak a lot, did you notice?”

“Here an’ there.” Enjoying her discomfort and guilt, he winked at her with the eye she’d destroyed. “Told ya t’ do it, what’s tha point o’ feelin’ bad ‘bout it? Ya hate me, remember?”

“I do – but I wish I didn’t have to.”

“Spare me tha cape speeches, huh? What’s with females, anyhow? Ya get laid good, get a few o’ yer fuses blown out, an’ all o’ sudden it’s gotta be love?”

“I didn’t say that, and if you think the events of the last forty-eight hours involve me falling for you, then you really are crazy.”

“My crazy ain’t never been in doubt; don’t change tha fact that ya go all smarmy now an’ then – ‘specially right after I knock yer hungry li’l pussy int’ next week.”

The skirt dared to stare back at him for a long moment in silence. He sniffed the air, surprised to catch fear as it began to saturate her scent. He started to speak, to reassure her, but then her next words sparked his anger, hot and fast.

“Did she tell you she loved you, Victor? Is that why you keep her hair in that crystal box?”

He almost reached up and broke her neck, but something in her eyes stopped him. She wasn’t defiant, challenging, or simply seeking death as Vaughn had been. He wanted to shout at her, bruise her – even as the shock of the pain the question caused rendered him unable to speak.

In his rabid silence, her fingers stroked his bloody cheek again, her face full of sorrow. If it had been pity, he would have risen up and bitten out her throat.

“Look, I know I don’t know anything about it, but I can see how lonely you are, because I’m just as lonely. Sometimes, though, I wonder if you’re trying to have me take her place. You know it wouldn’t work – you’ll never feel the same way about me and there are things I could never look past that you’ve done. I’m sorry, Victor; I swore not to talk about it or tell anyone and I won’t, but … I really think you need someone to talk to about her. I just wanted to say … I wish you still had her, that’s all. Maybe if you did, she could help you … to change…”

Clenching his teeth, he let the rage wash over him as an idea bloomed in the flotsam of his mind, nudging the murderous urge back down. Swallowing a growl and narrowing his eyes at her, he tried to ignore the sharp stab in his chest as he had the other injuries she’d done him.

“She never got tha chance,” he muttered, forcing each word. “Every look, every breath – told me just tha same. She … wanted t’ be with me.”

Her eyes widened slightly, the tears beginning to spill. Her fingers stilled on his face. “How did she die, Victor?”

Closing his eyes tight, the growl slipped free. “I broke ‘er neck – had t’ do it. What they did … it woulda killed ‘er, killed half tha damn continent!”

“What did they do to her?”

The quiet urging was strangely familiar, but he couldn’t catch the wisp of thought as barely healed wounds were torn open. Floundering, he strove to focus on baiting the line that might drag her down at last.

“Bioweapon, a homemade fuckin’ plague – they infected ‘er with it by mistake an’ then they had t’ hunt ‘er down t’ stop it before it activated. Didn’t know that ‘til later. I walked int’ tha middle o’ their shit an’ they tried t’ plug me; fuckers were hard t’ kill – fer me! They were maybe tha weirdest things I ever smelled in my damn life, too. I was curious, so I stole ‘er from ‘em.”

“You didn’t abuse her; you couldn’t have, or she would’ve hated you.”

“She…” Abruptly, he began to laugh, his voice cracked and shaking. “Believe it or not – she fuckin’ seduced me. Didn’t take much. Saw what I could do, what I was – an’ it excited ‘er. She was so hungry an’ wanted me so bad – never felt anythin’ like it, my whole messed up life.”

“Then you found out about the infection? How long were you with –?”

“One damn night – that’s it. She was just a girl, a flatscan; only left fuckin’ Mayberry, USA three months before an’ ended up dead fer nothin’. One damn night … an’ it was over…”

“Oh, Victor … I’m so sorry.”

His guts writhed before the burn of his healing factor wiped the nausea away. Yet it couldn’t heal the twisting clench in his chest or untangle the threads of sanity before they knotted. Beneath it all, the rage roiled, demanding her blood. His eyes opened to slits, the murderous glow flaring.

“Frail – if ya wanna keep breathin’ – get gone; go up t’ yer room an’ stay there.”

“But I –”

“Now!” Victor grabbed her arms and threw her from him, barely able to control his claws. “Stay there, frail – or I swear I’ll stretch yer guts all over tha fuckin’ floor!”

She hit hard, crying out. Scrambling to her feet, she fled from the room, leaving behind the scent of her terror and tears.

“So the dirty mutie bastard can feel pain?” a voice spoke, low and mocking.

Snarling, Victor turned to face Vaughn. Rising slowly, his fingers curled until the claws began to stab into his palms. He didn’t bother to collect himself or fasten his jeans. “Ya stink o’ death wish an’ ya think I’ll give ya what ya want.”

“Do it – you disgusting animal.”

“Gotta better idea.”

Victor advanced, grinning when the man shrank back. He jumped down, landing on one knee with his hand fisted in the man’s hair. Forcing his mouth open, the claws reached in. One slice and the tongue was sheared off at its root. Darting his head forward, Victor licked the spill of blood that rushed over the man’s chin.

Gripping his hair harder, making him watch, he sucked the severed flesh into his mouth and swallowed it.

No longer able to scream, the man made a terrible gurgling moan, his hands weakly shoving at Victor’s chest.

“A mind-witch once told me that folks expectin’ me t’ be a mindless beast over an’ over at first sight helped shape tha man I am t’day – funny old world, ain’t it? Thing is, I hate bein’ called an animal, cuz they always say it like I’m garbage; most that do it get dead real fast, too. Ya’d like that ‘bout now, huh? Well guess what, asswipe? I ain’t gonna let ya die – not fer a long time yet. Yer gonna take on tha skirt’s punishment … cuz she’s got uses ya lack.” Chuckling, he added, “Shame I can’t make ‘er watch – not now, with tha game afoot at last.”

Yanking his hair, Victor turned the man’s face this way and that, smirking when he coughed, splashing more blood from his mouth.

“Ya know, torture’s a hoot – but one thing I’ve discovered is, it can’t hold a bloody candle t’ tha act o’ rape.”

The face paled, his eyes widening. The moans came again, but his horror only made Victor laugh.

“Bet ya already know that – hell, yer co-workers did; they were linin’ up t’ do tha same t’ my piece when I started t’ tear ‘em up. Not one o’ ‘em cared how she felt ‘bout it. Think yer gonna get any better from me?”

Shoving him onto his back, Victor went to work, careful not to destroy the man’s clothing.

“Gotta gullible skirt t’ trick, ya see – can’t let ‘er think I took my mad out on ya, can I? Reelin’ ‘er in just cost me more’n I wanted t’ pay, though, so I’m gonna take it out on ya – where tha sun don’t shine an’ tha marks don’t show.”

One ankle was broken as he fought the man’s pants off. Claws wrapping around the pathetic dick stopped the rest of the fight.

“Coulda flipped ya on yer belly, but I’d rather see yer eyes. Ya ready? I sure as shit am.”

Victor pushed his free hand under the man’s ass, heedless of cutting claws. He jerked the hips forward, lined up and shoved. Ripping muscle told him it was a first for one of them. The sensation of the tight grip easing in an instant slick of blood gave him a rush that nearly stole his breath.

Tongue lolling out to lick up the saliva that was dripping down his chin, Victor chuckled. “Bit o’ advice … try t’ keep as still as ya can – might not tear ya up too bad if yer still.”

Blazing in the heat of his rage, his lust had been sharp and ready before the man had even spoken. The fire of it, as he used cruel violence to assuage his pain, burned away the terrible ache within – thrust by thrust.

Yet even as he sought release, he growled low, feeling the old insidious blackness inside writhe and seeth, as if demanding to be filled. As his senses blurred, his jaw dropping down, he let his claws dig deep.

~ ~ ~

Heat pounded in his temples, but he didn’t feel nauseous; as he realized that the healing factor wasn’t wiping the headache away, he shuddered. He was lying on his back as the reek of death flooded his senses: blood, bile, and worse.

Greatly daring, strong hands touched his shoulder, his cheek. He twitched – he hadn’t known anyone was there. “Mr. Creed? Victor? Are you … all right?”

Not tha skirt – Perrin. “What tha fuck did I do, boy?”

“Vaughn is in … a few … pieces.”

“Tha skirt?”

“She’s in her room; Brys is with her. She isn’t hurt, but she’s not making much sense; we didn’t know … what happened.” He sat beside him, heedless of the mess. “We should get you cleaned up.”

“Don’t wanna fuckin’ move just yet. Not … sure I can…”

Fingers touched Victor’s sweat-damp hair, brushing it out of his face. “Can I do anything? Get you … something? Just tell me what you need.”

“Headache won’t quit, but don’t feel sick – not good. Maybe I don’t wanna know why… Not one bit afraid o’ me, are ya?”

“I respect what you’re capable of, but I trust that you have a use for me and that makes me safe.”

“I ain’t … gotta clue what I did, what happened. Took out ‘is tongue, I know that; started t’ split ‘im like a bitch – then it all goes red. Wasn’t tha plan at all. I’m a fuckin’ crackpot – an’ that means ya ain’t ‘safe’. If I blank out again, get tha fuck out – need ya in one piece.”

Victor’s eyes snapped open when he sensed Perrin leaning in close. His kiss, chaste and oddly soothing, settled on his brow.

“I need you in one piece, Victor. From what little that silly girl said that we could grasp at all, you were baited – I would never be so foolish.”

His claws dripped with blood as he lifted his hand, but the boy didn’t flinch when Victor touched his face. “I can smell what ya want, even here an’ now.”

“Victor, wait –”

Releasing him, Victor used the hand to push off and rolled, only discovering when he lay on his face that he couldn’t feel the floor beneath him. Thoughts and emotions in a cat’s cradle knot, he hid his face in blood-smeared hair, his cheekbone lying in a pool of red. He couldn’t sense or feel the buzz of healing and far too much of his body was numb. Scenting the air again, he knew he was surrounded by his own spilled blood, and far too much of the smell of adamantium.

Fear rose. He could barely move and the healing was too slow – his body was damaged … vulnerable. Instinct made a growl rise to ward off enemies, but he knew he couldn’t defend himself.

Close and warm, the boy pressed against his side, but only a few of the ribs could feel him there. Pain was fleeting, random – too many nerves were gone. Fingers moved his hair gently, soft lips pressing to the hot muscles of his back. The sensation made him gasp, his eyes blurring with wet.

“I do want you, mon beau chat, I always do, but … we shouldn’t, Victor; you’re hurt. Perhaps we could just let you rest? We can go to the kitchen, or to my chambers. Ah, mon trésor – so wounded. Let me look after you…”

Clinging to the soothing voice, Victor tried to grasp the edges of his sanity. The black void in his soul surged again, clouding his mind. It eternally waited – cold and infernally patient, to receive him. Growling again, he tried to move, but his body wouldn’t respond. He could move the hand, and his fingers brushed over the boy’s sex. They cupped it, felt it begin to swell.

Desolate and lost, he fell still, the arm falling at his side. He was offering his body just to be able to feel – anything. He couldn’t speak – if he did, the words might be tainted, weak. Yet the longer he lay still, feeling nothing, the deeper the twisting psychic pain sliced into his spirit – threatening to break him. He drew in a shaking breath to stave it off and held it until his body began to tremble.

All at once, the smooth, strong hands touched him. A warm mouth opened on the nape of his neck, small blunt teeth grasping, bruising. A breath later, soft lips soothed the marked skin.

Gasping out as the gentle weight came down over his back, Victor sucked in a greedy breath and forced it out, and then again.

“Victor … stay with me – just breathe, and stay…”

A groan was torn from bloody lips when the first push of stabbing pain struck him, invading his flesh. The mating sparked a low growl, his body striving to tense, but then he drew in another deep breath and fell still once more, submissive and craving. The wet spilled down his face to shame him.

“You’re safe, mon blessé amour, I won’t let anything harm you. This will pass, Victor … it will – I promise…”

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

Author’s Note: I hope that wasn’t too brutal for some folks, but I really can’t promise that it won’t get worse down the road. Victor is a sociopath and a psychopath, and I greatly enjoy exploring that aspect of him. The French endearments: mon beau chat (my beautiful cat), mon trésor (my treasure), and mon blessé amour (my wounded love). Perrin is addicted to Victor and probably not the sanest boy alive; it also appears he’s allowed to speak French to Victor, stated rules to Tabitha to the contrary. I looked up the French online, and I’m fairly sure I’m correct, and that it is masculine. Feel free to let me know if I got any of it wrong. I only had one and a half years of French, around 400 years ago.

This chapter brought up events from World War II, including the Holocaust (specifically the massacre at Babi Yar in September of 1941). I’m including this because canon comics established that Victor spent some time in the 1940s working with/for the Nazis. I’m embellishing (or changing) how he was involved and with whom, but it is generally thought that he was a member of the Gestapo. I am a long-time student of WWII history and I have nothing but respect for the victims of the Holocaust, as well as for LGBTQ people, and I do not approve of anything the Nazis did. Victor has mixed feelings about the Nazis, but his opinions are not mine. Victor confesses that he had sex with a Nazi leader. Nazis persecuted and killed homosexuals, but some history books argue that a surprising number of the top Nazis may have had homosexual leanings in private. Victor is pansexual in my stories (though I’ve kept the slash to a minimum and mostly off-scene in this tale). (@MET_Fic)  –  AnonGrimm

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