Sabretooth: The Hunt – Flipside – Chapter 3 – The Lion and the Lamb

Is it sick of me to need control of you
Is it sick to make you beg the way I do
Is it sick of me to want you crawling on your knees
Is it sick to say I want you biting down on me
Are you sick like me

Is it sick of me to feed the animal in you
Is it sick to say I tease the hunter like I do
Is it sick of me to watch the wicked way you thrill
Is it sick to say I live to break your will
Are you sick like me

Am I beautiful
As I tear you to pieces
Am I beautiful
Even at my ugliest you always say
You’re beautiful
As you tear me to pieces
You are beautiful
Even at your ugliest I always say
You’re beautiful and sick like me

Am I beautiful
As I tear you to pieces
You’re beautiful
Even at my ugliest you always say
You’re beautiful and sick like me

~ Sick Like Me (In This Moment)

“Don’t talk rot, Whitney,” said Rainsford. “You’re a big-game hunter, not a philosopher. Who cares how a jaguar feels?” ~ Richard Connell, The Most Dangerous Game

“Sometimes I think evil is a tangible thing – with wave lengths, just as sound and light have.” ~ Richard Connell, The Most Dangerous Game

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Victor didn’t waste any time when he reached the Beekman hotel. He entered the narrow alley that ran alongside it and headed for the deliveries entrance. The moment an employee saw him, doors began to be opened to him with courteous respect, and he already knew none of them would bat an eye at his blood-spattered appearance. They were used to it.

He let the kid slip down from his back and led her inside.

“Bring me a manager,” he told the man who had let them in.

“Yes, sir – I’ll be right back.”

Jubilee didn’t even try to hide her surprise when the manager appeared and behaved like a long lost sycophant.

“Mr. Creed, it is always a pleasure to be of service. Do you require a suite? It would take just a few moments to make one of our turret penthouses available to you again.”

Knowing the man would preen over it and wanting the brat to see it, he dug this one’s name out of the jumble in his head. “Goin’ low profile this visit, Gonçalves; gimme a snug corner suite high up an’ have somebody fetch bubblegum fer tha kid – she’s been a bit stressed gettin’ shot at. Managin’ t’ keep ‘er free o’ holes has got me needin’ grub, so we’ll order when we get settled. Is Marechal workin’ t’night?”

“I’ll call him in, sir – he’ll be honored.”

“Good. Nobody but ‘im comes knockin’ with my dinner. Send whoever ya want with breakfast.”

“Of course. Follow me if you’re ready sir, and I will take you to your suite.” The balding thick fellow in an impeccable dark suit lead the way and Victor steered the kid to follow as he took up the rear.

They only got a glimpse of the magnificent old-fashioned lobby, but it still made the girl gasp. She went into the corner suite first when they reached it and seemed less star struck as she explored the quaint 600 square feet of luxury. Closing and locking the door after sending off Gonçalves, Victor watched her.

“Ya live in that monster o’ a Dutch mansion upstate, why’s tha lobby get a gasp?”

“It’s gorgeous, like an old movie set. There’s tons of tech all over the house, not to mention under it, so it’s easy to forget it’s old or grand. I barely notice most days. I grew up rich – until my folks were gone. We used to live in a massive house in Beverly Hills.” Her fingers stroked over a bespoke chair by the couch as she looked up at him standing in front of the door. “What now?”

“On tha desk, menus fer tha grub – two restaurants here, American an’ French. Fig out what ya want. They already know what t’ bring me.” She went right for the American one and headed for the phone. “Room service button only – tell ‘em yer order an’ t’ bring up mine. Then yer gonna find somethin’ else t’ do ‘til it gets here.”

Victor paced and listened as she put the order in. He wanted to get into the rain shower intensely. All the furniture was bespoke and he tried not to bleed on it as a rule – or get other people’s blood all over it.

When she was finished, he unplugged the phone and took it into the bedroom with him. “Watch TV if’n ya want, gonna grab a quick shower. Touch either door an’ ya won’t like what ya get – lessen ya wanna watch me scrub all tha blood off.” He winked at her and grinned. “Won’t bother me none – I’m worth an audience.”

“I’ll pass – I’ve seen my share of bloody hairy freak – especially lately.”

“I bet. Does Wolvie ever let ya top?”

After spluttering in outrage a moment or two, all she managed to get out was a heartfelt, “Gross!”

Laughing, he shut the bedroom door.

~ ~ ~

Emerging shortly after scrubbing everything clean, he ignored the ball of trauma on the couch in front of cartoons as she stared at his bathrobe and trailing ropes of damp blond hair. Marechal’s knock had been a polite three taps, but Victor had heard it while still toweling off his hair in the bathroom.

The cart the pretty young man pushed through the door was piled with food and a trio of bottles of his favorite booze.

“Anythin’ that ain’t my steaks is ‘ers, plus tha pop.”

“Yes, Mr. Creed.”

Victor watched him move the small round table and set trays out as the pretty thing’s heat scent thickened in the air. He eventually sat on the maroon armchair next to her blue couch and gave an eager growl when the serving platter full of warm and nearly raw beef steaks were placed near him on part of the table.

Jubilee snagged the plate full of cheeseburger and fries, curling up on the couch to eat like a starved waif with the plate in her lap and tall glass of Dr. Pepper tucked under it in the middle of her crossed legs.

The boy opened the first bottle of Glenfiddich for him and then smiled down at Victor’s predatory smirk.

“Do you require anything else, sir?”

“Not now – come back later, say a couple hours, t’ take out tha trays … an’ maybe I’ll think o’ somethin’ by then.”

His hungry smile was as amusing as the kid’s expression of surprise as she chewed and watched them both. “Of course, sir – enjoy your meal, Mr. Creed … and young miss.”

With a slight bow, he took the cart out with him, but his delicious scent lingered. Breathing deep to drag it into his lungs, Victor popped claws and dug them into the dead meat instead. Silent as she ate, the girl continued to watch him, wary and subdued.

“Ya got ‘nuff t’ eat there, kid?” She gave him one nod. “Gonna go all quiet on me tha second I get used t’ yer non-stop yammerin’? I ain’t ‘bout t’ grow ‘nother head on my shoulders, so ya can relax tha stare.”

When she looked away to watch cartoons again, he snorted and got to the business of scarfing down the meat. Glancing over at her now and then as she ate, he arched an eyebrow when the purr rumbled up in his throat.

That how it’s gonna be, huh? he asked his inner beast. Ya know, if ya feed ‘em, they follow ya home. The kid startled when he snorted, but he ignored her. “Should get some shut-eye, try t’ rest while they ain’t found us. Take tha bed.”

“You’re huge, I’m compact – the ratio here speaks for itself. Besides, after your last performance, I may never be able to sleep on a bed ever again.”

Victor shrugged with a smirk. “Yer call, but there’s a full-size sofa bed hidden in there.” He rose and pulled the blackout curtains closed, went to the switch and used the dimmer to leave the suite in a murky gothic gloom. He carried the bottles into the bedroom but then came back out with the open one and reclaimed his chair.

“Looks like we’re hangin’ out t’gether a bit longer, shortcake – my paranoia wants t’ make sure no fuckin’ snipers’re gonna scale tha damn buildin’.” He drank from the bottle and smirked at her when she tried to stop and hide a yawn. “Plannin’ t’ stay awake tha whole time?”

She reached to slide the empty plate onto the table, grabbed the new pack of bubble gum on the tray there, and sat back to nurse her glass of fizzy pop. “This isn’t hanging out. You kidnapped me and you’re using me for bait.”

The disgust in her tone stung him more than it should have. Butt out, Puss in Boots – she ain’t gonna start likin’ ya one burger away from bein’ hauled all over town in a hail o’ lead.

Her gaze shifted to the open bedroom door before returning to meet his focused stare without flinching. “Let me at that phone, you could get out of this. I can call in the cavalry.”

“Maybe I don’t want outta this. I’m havin’ fun. Def ain’t gonna call in tha X-idiots – I don’t get along with yer regular babysitters, ya know.”

“I wouldn’t describe my weekend as a barrel of monkeys, dude.”

“Then ya ain’t lookin’ at it right. If’n yer not a thrills junkie, why stay with Chuck’s militia at all? Past a pointless crush on tha runt, ya could be doin’ anythin’ ya want. What is it, ya don’t wanna be poor an’ homeless? California probate ate up yer dead parents’ money, an’ Chuckles won’t help ya get on yer feet somewhere, huh? Typical old-money asswipe. Least he could do is teach ya t’ dress better – ‘is very own Li’l Orphan Annie.”

“Shut up!” she flared.

“Or what?” He grinned when she wilted. Taking a long pull on the bottle, he wiped his mouth with the bathrobe sleeve. “Ya look like what a dog threw up – or a blind hippie’s couch.”

“Why don’t you just call your chew toy back and leave me alone?”

“Oh, I’m plannin’ t’, but maybe I’ll make ya watch – like last time.”

“You told me not to watch. I’ve seen those horn dog looks on a feral mug before y’know, but usually they’re aimed at a curvy skank.”

“Skank, huh?” He laughed outright. “Still gonna try t’ pretend ya ain’t got tha kiddy hots fer ol’ Wolvikins? He ain’t never gonna see ya as nothin’ but a kid. See, he’s int’ big ol’ hooters like Red’s got – silo tits, mmm, mm – nothin’ like ‘em. Mosquito bites ain’t no fun.” His smirk grew and curled cruelly, scenting blood in the water. “Now a fella like me ain’t so picky.”

Glaring as rage she didn’t dare show paled the initial blush on her cheeks, she tried to change the subject.

“How do you know we’re really safe here? These people keep calling you Mr. Creed. If Hydra just checks the books, they’ll know where we are.”

“My name ain’t on tha books an’ this particular branch o’ Hydra are dumber’n moose shit. ‘Sides, even goin’ door t’ door – not easy with tha NYPD on their tail – these folks ain’t gonna say they saw me. They know what I’d do t’ ‘em if’n they did.” Holding out the bottle, he tipped it toward her. “Wanna snort in yer bubbly? Might could help ya sleep.”

“No thanks.”

“Suit yerself.”

Grinning, he chugged it and let the bottle thunk onto the table. Thoughts about the night’s games he had planned nudged his dick awake and he palmed it and gave it a shift for more room under the robe before he slumped down farther in the chair to relax.

Victor watched as the tension leaking from her almost made her choke. He didn’t have to wonder why she wouldn’t step foot in the bedroom or try to sleep. The implication would have pissed him off if making her sweat bullets wasn’t so entertaining.

Apparently nerves kicked in her faulty chatterbox function. “So if you’re really just trying to kill more Hydra guys, why are we in hiding?” She drank more pop and watched him warily but expectantly. “I came up with the last brilliant plan, and I’ve blown a lot of their guns to bits to save our butts, too – don’t you think I’ve earned knowing what’s really going on?”

Huffing out a sigh, he leaned his head back against the wall and stared up at the ceiling. He began to talk before he knew he wanted to.

“Makin’ Hydra bleed is never a waste o’ my time but truth is, I ain’t gotta world o’ time t’ spend on ‘em right now. I want tha boss o’ this group, asshole named Paul Ebersol, a.k.a. the Fixer. If’n he weren’t a fuckin’ coward, I’d have had a shot at ‘im by now. Need a new plan but too wiped t’ think o’ one before catchin’ some Zs.”

“This Fixer guy is bad, huh?”

“‘Hydra boss’ should really be ‘nuff fer ya, kid.”

“Well, yeah, ‘kay…” Finishing off the pop, she put the glass on the table and tucked the new gum pack into her belt. “If anybody climbs all the way up here, you’ll hear it. So go get some sleep. I call the couch, though.”

“Ya don’t wanna shower? Hotel’ll bring ya clean clothes – mine’ll be here in tha mornin’ – or afternoon, since it’s ‘bout t’ be mornin’ soon ‘nuff.”

“Not on your life. I’ll scrape off your stench at home.”

“Yer assumin’ a lot, there, but hey – dream big, huh?” Victor rose and stretched as all the claws popped out at once, yawned solely to display a mouth full of lethal teeth. “It’s cute how everybody thinks wearin’ clothes would stop me from bendin’ ‘em over on a whim. Sleep tight, Short Round – don’t forget t’ check fer monsters under tha hide-a-bed.”

He strolled off to the bedroom but didn’t shut the door. Picking up the phone in there that was actually plugged in, he called room service to have the boy sent back up. Sure the kid heard it, he chuckled. She’d hear a lot more before the tasty thing left.

~ ~ ~

Claws pinned the pretty creature’s back, keeping him down on his belly on the luxurious sateen Sferra linens. The little slut had already cum on them and the perfume of his seed might actually help him sleep – if he managed to stop shoving in and fucking the slick messy hole over and over.

The sounds it made under his weight were like helpless prey which spurred the claw tips in a bit deeper. Growling over the trembling tender flesh, Victor pushed his cock inside it again.

“If’n I said I wanted t’ kill ya … would ya scream?”

“Tell me that’s what you want … and I will – but then I wouldn’t be here for you … next time.”

“Damn – leave it t’ tha pretty things t’ call my bluff in tha best way. Gonna fuck ya bloody, though. It’s ‘bout nothin’ but my pleasure – ain’t that right, ya li’l bitch?”

“Yes, Mr. Creed – please do it, anything, do it all – please…”

Inspired by the begging and the scent of tears, he thrust harder, tearing roughly into the tight slicked hole until he painted it white again – and red.

He backed off and pulled out fast and brutal, hissing at the clipped yelp and whimper. Sitting up on the edge of the bed, he let his cock hang down between his legs. After all that, now the fear scent came on thick. He knew why, and it made him angry.

“Get up. Make me wait an’ I’ll start openin’ up veins. C’mere. Where ya belong.”

With the scents and the sounds of pain, it was hard not to just leap and roll it under him. He wanted to bite it, to dominate, to eat.

Still wounded, no tellin’ how many bullets… Think o’ somethin’ else. Unbidden, the memory of Tony sucking the head of his dick in the cabin of his cargo plane made it twitch where it hung. Why not? This one hates it, an’ he likes bein’ treated like shit. I’m nothin’ if’n I ain’t an accommodatin’ fella.

Struggling to remain in control of himself, he growled. The boy limped to him and stood with shaking legs between his thighs. Blood and cum ran in little lines in different directions between the light hairs on the pale flesh. It reminded him of kanji brush paintings in Japan. With a hiss, he reached around and retracted claws on two fingers barely in time before shoving them into the hole to make the blood run down them. The body winced, trying not to cry out or crumple.

Pulling them out, he licked the delicious drips as the prey watched and whimpered. Then he used bloody fingertips to mark the white thigh with a kanji symbol, pushing inside for more of the precious red ink. When it was done, he sucked the fingertips suggestively.

“That’s a Japanese kanji fer ‘possession’. Do it.”

Obeying, he fell more than sank to his knees and a sniff detected a bit of bile already rising in the slender throat.

“Ya got it dirty, ya worthless piece o’ shit. Clean it.”

Watching him lift and begin to suck it artlessly, Victor placed a foot over the kanji symbol and let his claws prick it.

“Harder or these holes get deeper. Ya like tha taste o’ yer ass an’ my cum? Yeah, ya do. Suck, motherfucker.”

His head fell back and he closed his eyes. Trying to just feel the sensation on the head as the foreskin retracted, he wanted to remember how it had felt in Tony’s mouth, but Tony had wanted to suck him – then.

Eventually, the bruised and bleeding prey managed to get him ready again as memories of Tony’s body filled his head. He tried to remember the times in the workshop and alien concrete house when they had been passionate and Tony had wanted him. What came out of the jumble was the harsh mating in Hawaii, when his mate had come to him – to be punished.

A growl was torn from his throat before he realized the scents of fear and bile had alchemized that dark festering loneliness and helpless confusion inside him into a cruel anger. He gripped the hair and forced the weak thing on its knees to take more, choking it on his cock. With a twist to the head by the hair, he stared as it tried desperately not to fight.

Tony would hate ya fer this… He snarled at the random thought but then relented. Slow down, ya don’t wanna kill it … ‘im. Ya don’t wanna kill ‘im.

Feeling the vicious instinct fade back, the anger remained. Flashes of being forced to his knees in the cold, afraid and bleeding, fueled it.

Ease up, asshole, ya like this toy – gonna break it in a second.

He gave him a short jabbing thrust or three before letting him breathe. Slowly, he dug the claws on his toes into the thigh more until the flesh bled again.

Scent o’ fresh blood’s always better. “If’n ya wanna play ‘just tha tip’, I’ll let ya stroke it off while ya suck, but that’s a privilege, comes with a price. Other hand, finger yer ass – hard, fast. Suck it like ya mean it while ya do that. More yer ass hurts, more hot I get. Make me come, swallow it all, an’ I’ll let ya go home in one piece. Bore me, an’ I’ll skull fuck ya t’ tha root o’ tha thing. Got all that?” Pale and still reeking of blood, bile, and fear, he nodded as the head of the dick rubbed the lips. “Good. Open wide.”

The cruelty plumbed the depths of his forgotten past, soothing a hurt he refused to acknowledge aloud in the waking world – when he had been the shuddering broken thing on small bruised knees.

Turning away from it as he always did, he watched the terrified young man who hated doing this and making him do it abruptly curled into pleasure in his gut. His breath came shorter as it began to sharpen toward release.

Should tell ‘im t’ stop makin’ tha pain sounds – but I love that shit too much. He couldn’t see the fingers as the boy obediently hurt himself, but the face was tight and ruddy with the abuse.

The moment of his cum bursting into that hot disgusted mouth caught him by surprise. The wretch tried to swallow it all and barely managed it, his tongue licking his lips to get the stray drops even as his stomach churned with sickness.

It was only then, after, that he realized the toy had come again, making a slick white mess over the bloody thigh and Victor’s foot.

Fuck. Nice. “Good boy,” Victor praised him, with an ugly smirk. “Ya got what ya wanted. Now get outta my sight.”

Wanting his solitude back didn’t stop him from drinking in the sight of the wounded body pulling on clothes as soundlessly as he could. The white shirt was clean only for moments until another kanji image soaked into it from the many scratches on the back. Before he could try to sort out what it might say, it smeared as the trembling thing turned and struggled to pick up and put on the rest.

“Thank you, sir,” he whispered, with a proper bow and scrape. “Thank you.”

Before he allowed the boy to limp out of the suite, he ordered him not to wake the kid in a voice loud enough to wake the kid – just in case. Hearing her sharp intake of breath under the sound of the trays and dishes being taken out made him chuckle.

Victor rolled onto his back and closed his eyes. By the time the suite door clicked and the automatic lock engaged, he could hear the brat trying to keep her breathing even and regular.

Odds are, she heard it all. Take that, Puss in Boots. Gonna find a way t’ change up tha game, so ya can quit puffin’ yer tail over tha runt’s useless loudmouth brat – we ain’t gonna need ‘er no more soon ‘nuff. He beat the pile of pillows into submission and tried to get comfortable, breathing in the delicious smell of violent sex all around him.

~ ~ ~

The first of probably many nightmares woke him up in a snarling cold sweat. He caught the kid’s scent coming closer and his eyes popped open to stare at her figure in the doorway, enhanced by his mutant vision in the dark room. She was holding a large long pillow from the linen closet.

Growling low at her, he groused, “What tha fuck do ya want?” To his surprise, she tossed the pillow to the foot of his bed.

“Sometimes I hold onto one of those when I’m having nightmares – cuddle it or destroy it, either way, it might help.”

Victor snagged it as he rolled to his side and leaned on it like the rest. “Should I be suspicious?”

“Why, because I’m being nice to you? Gimme a break. Feral nightmares can get dicey for everybody – I’m still looking out for number one.”

The sheet was almost not covering his hips and he didn’t bother with it. She wasn’t brave enough to look anyway. “Did ya offer tha boy one o’ ‘em pillows when he left? He might need t’ sit on it fer a bit.”

She managed a shrug but her laidback stance was an obvious mask. “He sounded like he wanted to be here, and you didn’t eat him at least. None of my beeswax, right?”

“Wouldn’t be, willin’ or no.”

“Yeah, well, Danger Boy isn’t my problem. If he wants to go after a violent psycho boyfriend, that’s his thing.”

Victor snorted. “He’s gotta wife, pretty thing – straight as an arrow, both o’ ‘em, accordin’ t’ ‘is nervous yammerin’ on tha first visit. But ‘is woman before that was a kinky Domme type an’ he misses tha peggin’, humiliation, an’ punishment. New woman’s too milquetoast. So he ain’t a fag at all – near gags an’ tries not t’ spew when I make ‘im suck it. Me, I don’t much care what kinda package tha convenient holes come in. Surprise, surprise.”

“I’m just surprised you keep using that word, if it offends you to be called that. I bet you’re just saying this stuff hoping to upset me. That last jump sort of wiped my brain, so I’ll need a mani-pedi or something to reset my gauge – then you can try again. Hopefully, Logan will have all six claws in you before then, though.”

Victor’s initial smirk at her sass faded as other ghosts, far less fearsome than those that drove him to madness, crowded in on the heels of her words and tone. Anger and the comfort of cruelty left him and the hollow nameless hurt crept back in.

Lyin’ in bed in ‘er arms, sharin’ secrets an’ pain. Tabitha… She gave me ‘er body an’ made me feel safe. Such a tiny thing – how’d she do that? Before it all went wrong, before tha end … how it felt is fadin’. Don’t wanna forget. Need t’, maybe.

“What is it?” the girl whispered, fear sparking as she watched him. “Do you hear bad guys? Badder guys?”

The night was quiet around them. All the havoc was inside him. “Naw, it’s safe. Nothin’ bad out there.”

“Yeah, safe out there, shoor – all the danger is in here.” She began to turn to go back out but then paused and faced him again. “I shouldn’t, but… Is something wrong … with you? Besides the obvious.”

The way she leaned on the doorframe, arms crossed and frowning, but lingering, braving the danger – it made his heart sink.

She’s gone, even when ya see ‘er – hold ‘er – just gone, as much as tha rest. Alive or dead – outta yer reach. “Sometimes ya remind me o’ Tabitha,” he muttered. Startled at the heartfelt admission to the runt’s pet, he frowned and tried to spark another baiting taunt. “Ya sorta talk like ‘er, too. Guess it’s tha age – yer both modern horrors o’ aimless youth culture.”

The girl wilted a bit and held herself closer as she shivered. “What did you do to her? She won’t talk about it. She’s so not into hearing your name, she won’t even stay in the room if the rest of us start to badmouth you.”

Her words pierced him. As all pretense and defenses leaked away, the loneliness and loss he’d tried to hold at bay since setting foot in this city poured in as it tried in vain to fill the abyss.

Forcing himself to answer, he spoke softly, “Didn’t know she was back with ya. Did she re-up with tha brat pack?”

“No, she moved to California, somewhere. I’m officially jealous. Sometimes she visits up here and we get to go shopping. Things are tense back home, seems ridiculous now, but… That’s why I took off – sort of having a solo window shop because I miss her. She could always make me forget my problems.” The kid watched him closely. “What did you do to her?” she asked again in a whisper.

“Can’t tell ya that, girl. It’s ‘er biz. If’n she wanted ya t’ know, ya would.”

“You seem … sad.”

Her tone had shifted softer, striking a chord in him. All at once, he didn’t care about posturing anymore. Tabitha was lost to him and it still hurt more than he could fully understand or cope with.

“Regardless o’ how she feels ‘bout yers truly … I miss ‘er, too.”

“Really? Wow, ‘kay… I won’t ask.”

“‘Preciate that, Short Round.”

“I should … yeah. I’ll go.”

He was likely to pass out before the kid would, but she seemed mollified enough as she shut his door and returned to the couch to pretend to sleep. If she got up to any tricks, he’d hear and scent it.

As he drifted off, his brain was still circling around one thing she had said about Tabitha. It was what he hadn’t realized that he needed to hear before he could let go.

She won’t stay in tha room if’n tha rest o’ ‘em start badmouthin’ me… Thanks, darlin’.

~ ~ ~

Victor woke with a start and his stomach dropped at the thought that he might have cried out. In the sitting area of the suite, all was quiet except for the light sound of the kid breathing easy. On the couch, which she hadn’t pulled out into a bed, she was dead to the world.

He tried to relax again in the messy pillows and sheets and began to think it all out. His back alley kill strategy had been fun, but it wasn’t giving him what he needed. Hydra had also upped the stakes in weapons, and snipers with exploding rounds were something he wanted to avoid.

Not t’ mention crazy ninja snipers – gotta be new tech or mutants o’ some stripe; hard t’ nail down by scent when tha lead flies. Hope it ain’t what it seems t’ be – if’n those bastards can teleport, nobody’s gonna have a good day.

Through the blackout curtains, he could scent that the sun was up but the heat was beginning to fade from the glass. They had slept through the day and soon it would be night again.

Distracted by the discomfort and occasional pain of bullets in his flesh, he dropped the bathrobe on the bed and returned to the rain shower. Knotting his hair up at the base of his skull, he used claws to cut out the ones he still could, rinsing the blood away. The rest would have to wait.

Drying off and putting the robe on again, he called for food to be brought up – a mix of breakfast stuff the kid might like and plenty of meat. The cart could deliver his fresh clothes, too.

The moment he opened the bedroom door, the girl woke and sat up, grabbing a yellow throw pillow to hold it against her.

“Light sleeper, huh?”

“A handy skill around all ferals.”

Victor responded with a snort, “What, Wolvie ain’t a puppy fer ya? Putty in yer hand?”

“As if.”

“Ya must not be scratchin’ ‘is belly right. I bet Phoenix can get that foot twitchin’ – red rocket in no time flat.”

“You are so gross. Way too early for gross, dude.”

Victor chuckled. “Ain’t early. Hungry?”

“Um … shoor.” She shifted and peeked around the heavy curtain to look out. “We slept all day?”

“Needed it.” Claiming the armchair again, he tried to relax but his problem had him wound up. Ebersol ain’t gonna face me in a back alley no matter how many o’ ‘is grunts I slaughter. Revilo Timchs usually cares more’n that fer ‘is troopers, so maybe he’s under orders t’ stay outta sight. Still dunno if’n they want tha brat or not – or dead or alive if they do. Gotta get sneakier, need a plan that’ll gimme a shot at ‘em. Ebersol’s a coward … how can I use that t’ flush ‘im out?

He waved to the kid to get the door when the knock came and ignored her and the older male server when it was set up. He didn’t shake it off and sit up until a rich dark coffee was poured into a mug in front of him. Cream and sugar, lots of it, a pile of ham and bacon – he was set.

The door closed again and the kid came into view on the couch as she dove into the plate piled with pancakes and scrambled eggs. Ignoring the coffee carafe, she went for the orange juice.

“Not a java fan?”

“Stunts your growth.”

Victor arched an eyebrow at her. “‘Parently not.”

She actually grinned at that, to his surprise. “You’re not a tipper?”

“It all goes on my tab. Didn’t bring cash fer this nutso caper.” Pouring fixings into the mug, he drank it and sighed. He ate in silence, which didn’t last long.

“So you have think face.”

“‘Bout t’ have shut-tha-fuck-up face.”

“I don’t do shut up much.”

“Noticed that.”

She was quiet as long as she was stuffing her face, but once that void was filled, the mouth reengaged for its other main function once more.

“For our death jump, you didn’t let me piggyback or grab on to you – if I had, they would have shot me, a lot. You missed a chance to off me, there – so maybe you don’t mind letting me go home. They’re trying to kill me, and that makes me pointless as bait, right?”

“Maybe killin’ ya is their point. Can’t see why they’d care lessen they’re aimin’ t’ get tha runt’s attention.”

“I have more worth than just ‘make Logan mad’, y’know.”

“Not t’ me ya don’t – not t’ ‘em neither, I’m thinkin’.”

“Well … you still saved my life. Thanks.”

“That better be Stockholm Syndrome settin’ in an’ not ya tryin’ t’ make me soft over ya.”

“I’m just saying thank you, sue me. So what are you so tied in knots over? Aren’t dudes supposed to be relaxed after they get some? Logan nearly goes into a coma post-skank. Massive snoring. Which you don’t. Weird.”

He growled, exasperated, but tried to ignore her. Thought makin’ a fool o’ Ebersol might draw ‘im out. Arrogant chip on ‘is shoulder tippin’ over as I turn ‘is men int’ blood puddin’ – but he’s too big a chickenshit t’ stand up on ‘is own hind legs like a man.

“Anyway,” the kid continued to babble, impervious to being ignored, “we took a big gamble on that crazy jump, me more than you, but hey, it worked.”

“What tha fuck did ya say?”

“It worked?”

“A gamble…” He finished off the coffee after the meat was gone and got up to pace, unconsciously growling as the pieces fell neatly in line. How t’ make a coward brave ‘nuff t’ face ya – meet ‘im in a joint where he thinks he’s safe. Fuck. That might could work.

“Maybe you need decaf, dude.”

“Finish up an’ keep quiet, need t’ make a call. Get yer shit wired tight, we’re on tha move soon.” He grabbed the brown paper parcel tied with twine from the cart and didn’t bother to shut the bedroom door.

Heading for the phone, he called one of his least favorite clients. The short Italian lost no time asking him again to take a protection gig he wanted nothing to do with. He could scent the kid hanging about in the doorway but didn’t care if she overheard this part.

“Hear me out, Paganucci. How fast can ya get t’ tha Big Apple? Need ya here t’night, couple hours, tops. Ya gotta jet that’ll make that happen.” Impatiently waiting for the man to babble on about how busy he was, he finally interrupted him. “Make me a happy man, scratch my back, maybe I’ll scratch yers.” Glancing up to glare at the kid, he put a hand over the receiver and hissed at her. “TV, now. Watch yer cartoons – an’ shut tha door, lessen ya wanna watch me get dressed instead. If’n ya stay, might could make ya help.” She disappeared quick and slammed the door. Victor smirked.

“What was all that?” Paganucci asked through the phone handset.

“My latest reluctant guest. So start headin’ this way – an’ contact Paul Ebersol. Calls ‘isself tha Fixer, with Hydra. Ya know how t’ get hold o’ any-fuckin’-body.”

“I want no dealings with Hydra, we agreed on that years ago.”

“Yup, I know – if’n ya wanted t’ play footsie with ‘em ya wouldn’t get tha use o’ my services.”

“I hardly do now.”

“Need ya t’ pretend yer lookin’ fer new friends. I think Ebersol either wants my guest or he wants me – ‘is grunts have been shootin’ at us all last night, but he won’t come out t’ play with me. He’s mine, an’ I want ‘im alive. So yer gonna help me an’ then we’ll talk ‘bout yer gig.”

“Oh, very well, I’ll be there. For you. What is it you want me to pretend, exactly?”

A sharp grin spread over Victor’s face as he explained. When he hung up, he pulled the new black jeans and a black Armani dress shirt from the parcel and dressed fast. Socks and decent black work boots that actually fit impressed him. The thick leather belt had a heavy iron buckle shaped like a skull. The addition of a wide boar bristle wooden hairbrush and band tie with the clothes made him chuckle.

Somebody in guest services has figged out what I like – they do know how t’ keep a fella comin’ back.

Leaving the bedroom to find the kid, he made her scramble out of the way as he sat beside her on the narrow couch.

“Ya got any fancy braids skills?”

Without waiting for her to reply, he handed the brush and stretchy band over. Turning to give her his back, he left her staring at the wrapped bun of hair at the nape of his neck as she clutched the brush.

“I … can sort of manage a herringbone. Really, this is what we’re doing? ‘Kay…”

Her slender fingers were surprisingly gentle as she undid the hasty bun and briskly brushed it out with the efficiency of someone who had experience with long hair. The brushing and braiding felt good, and it was all he could do to not sit there purring.

Typical. Once I protect ‘em often ‘nuff an’ then feed ‘em, tha beastie gets all pride-brained. Won’t matter in tha long run – I disappoint ‘im a lot. “Last call on a shower o’ yer very own,” he offered when her braiding was done.

“I’ll pass. If you’re staying in here for a bit, does the bathroom have a lock?”

“Watchin’ folks piss ain’t one o’ my kinks. Go on.” He smiled as she huffed and then nearly bolted for the bathroom. Moving to the armchair, Victor worked through his plan, looking for holes.

When the girl returned, she flopped back onto the couch. “Are we going somewhere that requires fancy? One designer shirt over goth redneck duds does not formalwear make.”

“Yeah? Folks that look like a human road flare shouldn’t comment on fashion, kid.”

Crossing her arms over her chest with a glaring frown, she tried again. “Where are we going?”

“Takin’ ya t’ a bar.” He rose and offered his hand to help her up. She ignored it.

“I’m not old enough to get into bars.”

“This one won’t care. Put yer game face on, shortcake. We got us a mission t’ run.”

Jubilee walked beside him with his hand on her shoulder. He used it to steer her out of the room and down the hall.

“Do I get to know what we’re doing?”

“All good things t’ ‘em that wait fer that shit, girl.”

~ ~ ~

A limo from the Beekman hotel drove them northwest. The area around the Woolworth Building was still a hive of activity, but they slipped away from it undetected. On the Hudson River side of Manhattan, Hell’s Kitchen waited; in the neighborhood’s murkier depths, a very odd bar was hidden in plain sight. When the limo stopped and the driver got out to open doors, Victor waved him off.

“Why are you sending the car away? This is … the middle of disgusting nowhere. I need a tetanus shot just to stand here!”

“Bitch, bitch, bitch. This here’s uptown compared t’ our dumpster couch – plus free peanuts.”

Turning to face what looked like a derelict old wooden fence with layers of waterlogged paper ads all over it fluttering in the light hot breeze, he grinned down at her.

“Better mind me in there or ya could get hurt by somebody else ya piss off, ‘sides me. Den o’ reprobates with short fuses, all gathered in one spot t’ blow off steam an’ get wasted. Just my kinda dive.”

With one hip cocked, crossed arms and a pouty frown, the kid was the very picture of not amused.

“What now? Pull up yer big girl panties or man up, whichever ya prefer.”

“Major duress.”

“Shut it.”

He reached into what looked like a hole in the fence and gave it a pull – opening the wide outer door. Behind the fence was a ratty bar that time forgot. It had no front windows, just a red brick crumbling façade with a pair of worn wooden doors sporting narrow long windows of thick bullet-proof glass.

Inside, the style was shabby eclectic sheik decorated with evil clown and freakshow art, and wooden sculptures of skulls, demons, and insects. The whole place was wood paneling that sported many a stain or burn mark. To one side of the long carved wooden bar was the door to the restrooms with the usual wet puddle leaking from underneath. It was hard to tell anymore which door back there was for what gender. Victor couldn’t recall ever worrying about it, and he’d been coming here longer than any of the other patrons had been alive. The owner was a friend – otherwise, he’d have eaten him and acquired it by now.

Over the bar was his favorite feature and the mascot of sorts: a huge wooden Japanese Oni horned demon ogre mask, painted red and covered by yellowing and flaking varnish. Its horns curved back like a goat. Narrowed wicked eyes and a wide-toothed violent grimace enhanced the effect that it was maybe watching you, no matter where you moved in the large long room. Beyond all that, it was an average dive bar with pool tables, darts, and drunks. Booths were lined along the end walls, and lots of little tiny private rooms intended for all sorts of fun activities were tucked all around the taproom. It was a pile of dirty booze-soaked rubbish – that also happened to be one of his favorite places on the globe.

The moment he pushed Jubilee in ahead of him, she took one sweeping glance at the main taproom and gasped. “This is Satan’s Circus, has to be – you can’t take me in here. They won’t let you.”

“Let me?” he asked with a sharp Cheshire grin. “C’mon, girl – yer holdin’ up progress.”

Catcalls and whistles followed them in and he chuckled when the kid shrank closer to his side. He ignored them all and headed for the center of the bar. Patrons scattered to give him a pair of barstools, but he didn’t let the kid sit on one. Enjoying her squawk, he sat and picked her up, depositing her on his lap.

“If looks could kill, shortcake. Whataya so fussed ‘bout? It’s just a bar.”

In a stage whisper, she spoke close to his pointed ear as he grinned. “This is just a bar – for villains, killers, and…” The crowd moved closer in his wake and she trailed off, staring at some of the more notorious or disturbing people around them.

“Yup. Ya wanna pop?” Turning to the bartender, he asked, “Ya got Dr. Pepper, Maurice? Ya know my fave poisons.”

“Highbrow or low?”

“Low – t’night, I need a periscope just t’ look up outta tha gutter. Open up a tab.”

When the tall and gaunt man that looked like a bald cadaver set her fizzy pop down in a highball glass, Jubilee took a while to stop staring. Victor’s bottle of Old Crow rotgut bourbon followed with a thick whiskey glass.

“Can I have my own stool?”

“Nope.”

“Creed! What is this, BYOC night?”

Victor growled. “Ain’t no way t’ speak t’ my property, Petros – not lookin’ fer other comp’ny, neither.”

The Greek man backed off with his hands up. “Meant no harm, man.”

“Property?” The girl twisted her body to face him, nearly hissing the words in his ear. “Who is that? What is he trying to spell?”

“Quit squirmin’ or yer gonna trigger yer fear o’ heights with a few more rubs like that,” he answered in a low tone.

Her fist came up coupled with an ugly scrunched frown, but he caught her wrist and held it.

“That was Dominic Petros, Avalanche t’ ‘is buddies. I know ‘im from tha Brotherhood. Bring Yer Own Cunt was funny, t’ be honest – but I don’t like that guy much. Don’t like many in tha trade, tell ya tha truth.”

“Why come here, then?” she asked, still glaring. The upraised and trapped fist was ready to fly.

“Cuz I like tha place. Tha few I do get on well with come often ‘nuff fer poker games, an’ cuz I don’t get harassed by yer side o’ tha tracks. We’re here t’ meet a friend, more or less. This is how I get tha current bunch o’ Hydra goons offa my jock – an’ by default, yers. With that in mind, if’n ya wanna play along, that’d be real helpful. When they get here, ya need t’ stick close, in sight at least. These idiots are gonna think yer my latest chew toy an’ that keeps ya safer than ya might could be otherwise.”

“So you are a child molester. I’m so shocked. I mean, geez – never would of guessed.”

Snarling, he put a hand to her back and shoved her chest against his, her wide eyes staring directly into the dripping fangs and teeth.

“Go ahead, ya li’l brat – push me.” She froze, and when she wilted and looked down, he let her sit up away from his teeth. “Play it like a broken waif or a sassy handful, don’t make no diff’rence t’ me but pretendin’ yer my piece keeps tha rest o’ these felony-prone freaks offa yer ass – plus what li’l else ya got t’ offer a man. Capiche?”

“I hate you, you sick ugly bastard. You’re disgusting.” Ignoring his earlier advice, she wrenched herself away to put her back to him again.

Victor chuckled. “That’s tha spirit – keep it up.”

The barstool next to them became occupied by a mix of shifting scents attached to the same pussy. It made him hiss, alarming the brat again. When she turned her head to look and saw the slinky sexpot psychopath Typhoid Mary grinning at her, the kid shrank into him again – perfectly fitting the part she needed to play.

Natch, my least favorite member o’ tha regular poker group is tha one t’ show up t’night. “Fuck off, ya schizoid cunt.”

“Missed me, fleabag? Who’s your little toy? Honey-sweets, mmm, you need to be saved from the big bad ugly kitty? He’d ream you in half, if he hasn’t already. I’ll play with you, we’d have fun.” Leaning in close with more balls than any man in the place, she reached out as if to tweak the kid’s nipple – assuming she had them.

Tucking herself under Victor’s snarl to retreat, she yelped when his big hand came up to block her chest. Her voice shook just a little, but she managed to mutter, “No, thanks, I’m fine.”

“She’s fine?” Typhoid’s red lips pouted but the eyes gleamed with bloodlust. “Got this one cowed. I should gut you for that.”

“Pick a spot an’ a day, bitch – but I got biz here t’night an’ yer wastin’ my air.”

The woman rose in barely any clothing and rubbed magnificent tits with pencil eraser nipples across his arm. Her scent, layered with heat, might have jacked him up if it weren’t for the voice of experience stomping on inner kitty lust.

“Mmm, Vickie… Soooo taasty… Too bad we can’t play here.”

When he moved his hand, Jubliee twisted in his lap again to peer over his shoulder as one of the creepiest bitches around walked off to ruin some other bastard’s night.

“Wow. Logan’s warned me about her – that version of her. Yikes and a half.”

Pouring and drinking down booze, Victor snorted. “First met that four-in-one twat when I was checkin’ fer monsters under my bed.”

The girl went owl-eyed, and then remembered to close her mouth. “You’re afraid of her?”

“Fat chance. What that cocktease broad is kid, is a huge time suck. I got zip t’ spare.”

She glared and frowned. “Can we agree not to get handsy on the wares anymore?”

“I’ll agree when ya get some wares t’ be offended over.”

That dig cut, just like the last one. Eyes shining with angry tears, she flipped him off. Another twist over his abruptly tightening jeans, and she leaned forward to drink her pop as Victor gritted his teeth. The bottle of Old Crow didn’t stand a chance and neither did the second or third.

~ ~ ~

“Victor! It’s a pleasure to run into you!”

Turning his head as Paganucci entered the bar, he straightened up on the stool and growled, looking around him for Ebersol.

The short and round Italian with a net worth longer than Victor’s arm claimed the stool Typhoid had vacated a while back.

“They’re coming, never fear, when have I ever not come through for you?” Taking in the kid, he smiled nervously at her. “Good evening, my dear.”

“Whatever.” Moving her half empty glass out of the way, she put her forehead down on folded arms on the bar.

“She’s cranky,” Victor offered as explanation, amused at how her presence on his lap made the normally unruffled fellow uncomfortable.

“I see that. Why don’t we move to a private room? Your favorite seems to be empty.”

The kid’s head popped up to glare anew. “Private? What? Why?”

“Gotta game o’ poker t’ play, brat. Ya can have yer own chair.”

“Sounds great, let’s hit it.”

Paganucci got up to lead the way as Victor picked the kid up. He didn’t set her on her feet, lifting her over his shoulder.

“Hey! Put me down!”

“Ya squeal like a piglet an’ ya dress funny,” he quipped, grinning when nearly the whole place laughed.

Making a spectacle on purpose, he carted her across the taproom, kicking and cursing. He dumped her onto a simple wooden chair the Italian had absurdly pulled out for her at the sturdy hexagonal table. Victor took the one next her, putting her between him and his client. From the open door, he couldn’t be seen.

“I’ve challenged Ebersol to a game as a friendly overture to break the ice and he accepted. When he arrives, he’ll be directed back here. This table is a bit rustic, though … hmm.”

“Whole dive’s rustic, that’s how I like ‘em.” Victor frowned. “He gonna bolt tha second he claps eyes on me?”

Victor rose and popped claws. The other two stared as he cut a border line about five inches in on all six sides. Sitting back when he finished, he met Paganucci’s delighted smile.

“No, he won’t. I’ve told him he owes me a courtesy – you’re working for me and his pursuit has threatened a business venture.”

“Good one. Ya fig he wants t’ be buddies with yer wallet ‘nuff t’ play?”

“Of course – everyone wants that. Also, as you well know, having picked the place, he’s aware you won’t try to harm him here.” Turning to Jubilee as if he was trying to include her in conversation at a country club, he added, “House rules. No fighting allowed.” He pointed to the etched brass sign by the doorframe: Keep it Outside or Else. The Management – Satan’s Circus.

Victor slipped his clawed fingers into her spiky hair before she could retort and pulled gently as a reminder to behave and – hopefully – be quiet. “Just us three in tha game?”

“Yes, but I’ve set it up as a high-stakes affair – I have a neutral party coming in to serve as our dealer; I’ve asked him to bring everything we’ll need.”

“Whatever stiffens ya, don’t care. This better work. Once he shows I can track ‘im if he rabbits.”

“Oh, even better: I told him he could bring his troopers and their handler Timchs if he wanted too, as long as they wait outside – in the alley next over.”

Snorting as his grin stretched wide, Victor chuckled. “Yer good.”

“I know.” He wove his thick fingers together and folded them on the table. “Ah, yes – here is Peepers. I’ve asked him to keep refreshments coming.”

Making a rude noise in his throat when he caught the little freak’s scent, Victor groused, “Great. My favorite li’l brain-scrambled meathead.”

“You are responsible for getting him a job here as a waiter.”

“Don’t remind me.”

“He will suffice for our purposes.”

Jubilee perked up when the waiter Peepers came in balancing a large tray precariously under the weight of a huge pitcher of beer and a cluster of glass beer mugs.

Another runt no taller than Logan, the weirdo Peter Quinn had once tried to be a baddie when he had a brain, working for Magneto in a new lineup of the Brotherhood. Mags had dumped that group after Captain America kicked their asses. Working for the Red Skull later, a fact that didn’t endear him at all to Victor, Quinn had ended up getting tossed into power lines. More tries, more problems – he had the worst luck. Finally ending up a short-circuiting nervous mental case by the time he was released from a sentence at the Cage, Victor had come across him again. Hearing that he had stabbed a prisoner for trying to kill the injured X-Man Beast, he’d been impressed and had the ridiculous idea of getting him a job at Satan’s Circus.

No good deed ever goes unpunished. Oh, goody – looks like tha kid’s found a new bug-eyed goblin puppy. Fine by me.

“Hey, hi,” she said to him. “‘Tooth’s not your dad, right? There’s a certain pointy-eared resemblance.”

“Oh, no, no, no, Mr. Creed is my friend, he got me this job.”

“Will wonders never cease.” Looking over at Victor, she smirked and then stuck her tongue out at him. “Hey, beer is great for the boys, but can you bring me another Dr. Pepper?”

“Yes, yes. Mr. Creed, whiskey?”

Sneering at his simpering, Victor half-snarled, “More Old Crow, fresh glass.” Gesturing to Paganucci, he added, “Bring ‘im a martini – tell Maurice he likes it James Bond style.”

Grabbing the other beer mugs, he put them roughly back on the tray, irritated when he didn’t manage to knock the little bastard over. Ignoring him after that, he got into the beer, letting it slop over the rim of the mug.

“Don’t be mean to him, geez. Pick on somebody your own size.” Crossing her arms, Jubilee kicked his chair leg and pouted at him.

“Find me some-fuckin’-body my size an’ I will.”

Paganucci watched them, drummed fingers on the table once, and then lifted an eyebrow at him. “Victor, I’m baffled – or I hope I am. Why is this young girl with you?”

“Snatched ‘er outta tha jaws o’ Ebersol’s goons. More ya dunno tha better.”

She slumped in her chair and glared at the table. “I’m going to end up bored, I just know it.”

“It builds character,” he told her with a smirk. “Sit tight, kid. I got this all figged out.”

“I bet. Peepers is kind of fun. Can I go help him with the drinks?”

“No. Now shut it.”

~ ~ ~

Two more pitchers in and Victor sat up and growled when the front doors opened, waking the kid out of her slumped stupor on the table. It had been a long time, but he still remembered Ebersol’s scent.

The smug arrogant asswipe walked into the bar looking like most of the Nazi and Hydra officers Victor had ever hated – only the skull-octopus symbol on silver belt buckle and red armband on a black and red uniform were different. He even had his black uniform pants bloused over shiny jackboots. The man’s shaved bald head sparked unpleasant memories of Charles Xavier while the neat black moustache and goatee was almost a fanboy attempt to look like Tony Stark’s.

Like many patrons of Satan’s Circus, he was armed. A holstered high-tech gun and a few hidden blades were easy for him to spot, but the random weird tech laced through the uniform might or might not be a challenge.

Victor twitched and snarled when Paganucci touched his forearm. “Calmly, Victor – poker face … the game has technically already begun.”

“Wow,” Jubilee whispered as the man approached. “A real-life Nazi. Ew.”

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

Author’s Note: Well Victor did it again – my planned three chapter fic now has to be four chapters (he does this a lot, the rascal). Paganucci is my OC. I first encountered Peepers and the villain bar Satan’s Circus in Weapon X #26 and #28 (2004) in the story Man and Monster. For those who find Sabretooth hot, ignore the cover art – the artist inside the pages didn’t do a bad job. He’s even drawn with his correct pointed ears, cat-like amber eyes, and the bottom fangs longer than the top fangs. Add that to a hubba hubba physique and I was drooling. Ahem. Back to Peepers. The backstory on him that Victor is thinking about hails from Wolverine Vol. 2 #162 through 166, the story The Hunted. All of my research had trouble finding out why Victor got Peepers a job at Satan’s Circus, since he seems to dislike him so much, but Victor says so in the Weapon X story, so hey – canon. In The Hunted, Victor gets into the prison to bust Logan out and Peepers was also there, so who knows – my Victor does have a weird soft spot for underdogs now and then.

Victor had gotten on Ebersol’s trail near the end of my Cutting Edge story, after the Hydra villain hired assassin Osiris to kill Tony Stark. The feral’s hunt for Catalyst continues. I am taking huge liberties with Marvel’s character of Paul Norbert Ebersol. He has a lot more history in the comics (including clashes with Iron Man), but he fit my plot and I liked the idea of basing at least part of him in comics canon. As usual, if I see a typo I’ll fix it as I go. Thanks for reading! – AnonGrimm (@MET_Fic)

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