Hi there. Neither Kael nor I are professional writers or associated with Marvel Comics in any way. The following is a work of fan fiction featuring Victor Creed and mentioning Logan and Prof. X of the X-Men, and Jubilee of Gen X. No profit. Don't sue.
Zach, Kai, and Three Eyes are ours. Don't use them without permission. There are two of us now. We can take you. Oh, and Jack is also ours. We like Jack. We're very possessive of Jack. Remember that. <Jaws theme music.>
All righty, then! Here we go … part 1 of "Greenland." I (that's Kaylee) wrote the beginning of this little section because Kael was extremely busy getting around to writing the end of the story. The story, however, is Kael's, and any comments should be addressed to her. (Conveniently, though, you still send 'em to me, and I'll pass 'em along. That means I get to peek first.<g> I love power.) You'll wanna read the "Greenland: Intro." before this. Quick recap: Victor Creed is injured and powerless and stuck in an icy wilderness with a talkative psivamp. Of course, Vic doesn't know Jack's a psivamp… Following this is Kael's own intro to her story. (Kaylee hereby denies any compliments or insults heaped on her head.)
Hi! This is Kael. I am the intruder/collaborator in Kaylee's "Angels/Devils" version of the Marvel Universe and I have only one thing to say about it.
I came here under protest!
I am not a Marvel fan!
OK. (Oh, Kai -- never mind.) That's two things, but you have to realize that Kaylee had to strand me in a keyless car in the middle of a horse pasture in the middle of the night to get me into a place where "mutant" can be literally applied to men who don't lurk in country music bars at 2 AM. Of course, if you're following Kaylee's work you know that her writing goes beyond wild powers and wilder egos. (She saves those for reality.) She actually had an incredible idea developing and saddled me with the challenge of "But how did they get here from there?" My answer of course was, "They can't. Give me the car keys." But she left me out there and well, I hope you enjoy the results. Under Chinese water torture I might even admit that I had fun writing it. I definitely had fun waking Kaylee up at all hours (most of them after 2 AM) to badger her for the details on Marvel's version of reality. I appreciate her help, but any mistakes you find are still her fault -- Hey, she got me into this!
OK. (Oh, Kai -- I said never mind.) Well, so maybe I decided I like writing in the Marvel Universe, but that's Kaylee's version. I like tormenting bad guys. I like tilting established mind-sets forty-five degrees (preferably further). And I like writing sweet-faced, innocent young men who want only to live simple, uncomplicated lives. No buying trouble. No far-reaching consequences. (Must remember to write about one someday.) Anyway, what are you still doing here? Go. READ. Enjoy it as much as I did. (Just don't tell Kaylee, OK? (Oh, Kai -- just, never mind.))
(From Kaylee: <achem> Kael and I have a little argument over the pronunciation of "Kai." I say "Kah-ee" run together to sound kinda like "Kye." She says "Kay." ;-P Since I made up the character, that means my version is the right one. So HAH! I win. ;-)
There's violence and bad language. Don't read if that'll bug ya.
Address comments to Kael, please.
Sabretooth and Jack: Greenland 1
The first couple of sessions when Jack cleaned and treated his wound were almost enough to have Creed wishing for death. Each time the kid regretfully told him the injury had to be tended, Creed painfully shifted to rest his chin on doubled forearms, then spent the indeterminable period of soul-tearing agony struggling to keep from emitting the strangled cries of pain that caught in his chest. He flexed claws into dirt, gouging rents in the soil, and reminded himself firmly that survival was the goal. As long as he lived, he could turn around one day and make those who hurt him pay dearly. Like the boy who winced with every involuntary flinch or smothered groan Creed couldn't suppress.
He focused on the pain, and on the rage, in order to shut out the flat, dull world that surrounded him. To forget that he was blind, deaf; almost lacking entirely the heightened awareness of his environment that had kept him alive as long as he could remember. That Jack saw him like this, weak and helpless, only sealed the kid's fate as soon as conveniently possible. He would bide his time and use the boy until he was well enough to make it on his own, and then he would give him a hard lesson in exactly what it felt like to have raw flesh scraped clean with agonizing thoroughness on a daily basis.
It wasn't bad enough the kid had to be naïve and foolish…he was also a talker. He'd figured out quickly enough that Creed wouldn't eat the dried food he was packing, so once the man was able to sit up and move to a limited extent on his own, Jack took to hunting once a day to provide fresh meat. Then he'd come back, set the typical rabbit to roasting, and rattle on about nothing and everything; from the weather to philosophy to snippets of his own life. For the most part, Creed ignored him. Easy to do when Jack didn't demand conversation in return. But then, in the midst of another long ramble about this friend "Zach" he seemed to think so highly of, the kid let another name slip…one far too familiar for comfort.
"What was that name ya just said, kid?"
Jack blinked, thinking over his words. "You mean Kai?"
So. He hadn't heard wrong. "Short little woman? Dark red hair an' all muscle?"
Jack smiled, happy to have found something to draw a response from the man. "That's Kai, all right. She's the one who brought Zach in when I was so sick. Saved my life. You know her?"
Creed's eyes stared at Jack's face, but didn't see him anymore. Instead, he remembered a pair of deep auburn eyes looking up at him, their clear gaze clouded with pain. The scent of blood, of sweat tinged with agony, of crushed vegetation beneath her broken body. Screams wrung from a throat loathe to give them. "We've bumped into each other a few times in the past," he muttered distantly. Then focused more directly on the kid's face. "How is she?"
An absent shrug. "Good as ever, I suppose. Haven't seen much of her lately. She's living with her boyfriend and a bunch of his friends in New York, somewhere."
Another quick grin, this one with a flash of mischief. "Guess that's a pretty juvenile sounding way of putting it. Maybe I should say 'lover' instead."
Creed shook his head impatiently. "Who?"
"Guy named Logan. Good man. Helped me out once when I didn't even know I needed it."
"Lucky you," Creed muttered insincerely. Kai and Logan. Logan and Kai. Why hadn't he seen that one coming? Not certain why he gave a shit about knowing – or what answer he wanted to hear – he asked, "I heard she got…hurt…a while back. She recovered okay?"
Green eyes crinkled at the corners as the kid thought about it. "Hmm…I didn't know about any specific injuries or anything, but she looked fine last time I saw her." He grinned and shrugged at once. "She's always getting into trouble, you know. Lucky for her she's got great recuperative abilities."
"Yeah." Creed looked more assessingly at the lean young man. If this kid knew Kai and Logan well enough to know about their lifestyle, there might be more to him than this seeming innocent naiveté that he put forth. He sure didn't seem to have any idea who, exactly, Creed was; but still…this bore watching.
And if he was busy watching, he could ignore the frightening dullness of the mere human senses he was left with.
Jack had gone hunting again, and Creed was left once more alone at the campsite. He listened to the forest around him with his half-deaf human ears. The eerie dullness of plain mortal hearing, sight, scent, was more disturbing without Jack's distracting presence. The world around him felt flat. Empty. Someone could sneak up on him without his awareness. He couldn't remember ever being so…vulnerable.
How could normal humans stand it?
His upper back throbbed with the constant echoing agony he was almost growing used to. Nearly a week, now. Injuries took on a whole new perspective when he couldn't count on a healing factor to repair the damage. His head still ached dully. His back seared him with pain when he moved it wrong. It was a minor miracle that he was alive, and he couldn't bring himself to be pleased about it. How long was it going to take him to recover? How long before he could hunt down that Wipeout pig and make him return his powers?
Hours slid by with dreary apathy. Creed was left with nothing but his thoughts for company. Memories, fractured by time and tampering, paraded their discordant selves through his mind.
Almost all of them dealt with pain and death.
He tried to wrench his thoughts in another direction. Without conscious choice, he found himself thinking of Kai again. Kai. Who, after he'd made every effort to break her will, had stubbornly professed her faith in him.
Kai and Logan. Kai and the man he'd fantasized about killing for more years than he could recall. The runt who fought him toe to toe; challenging him, mocking him, hating him.
Shoulda snuffed you out years ago, Logan.
Damn fools deserved each other. She was as bad as him, really. Trying for some stupid ideal that would never be reached. Risking her life for people who didn't give a shit about her. Blind. Stupid. He forced a laugh. What was it she had said to him, that long ago day in the Danger Room? What was that ridiculous promise that she'd taken so damned seriously and applied to far more than he ever intended her to?
"Don't give up."
He stopped laughing. Glowered at the memory voice. Leave me alone, Kai. I let ya live. What the fuck else do ya want?
The memory voice was silent, but not with absence. It sat with heavy quietude at the back of his mind…waiting.
The sun ticked the hours by, sinking lower towards the horizon. What was taking the kid so long? Creed scanned the sky. Traced patterns in the dirt with a clawed forefinger. Counted rocks on the ground. Anything to keep from being left with nothing but his own thoughts.
A sudden sound in the distance…a gunshot, out here where there shouldn't be any guns. How far? Hard to tell with these weak human ears. The kid sure as hell hadn't been carrying, and anyone else out this far…
Creed pushed himself to his feet, cursing silently. Sight flickered, then slowly reasserted itself. He caught his breath and headed unsteadily for the sound of the shot. One step, cursing pain and weakness and Wipeout. Another, cursing cold and snow and uncertain footing. He fell into an unsteady rhythm, unmindfully trusting that he'd find the intruders before they found him. Ground crept by beneath his feet with agonizing slowness as he kept his ears peeled for a second retort. His lip curled in disgust at his weakness…his irregular steps. With a snarl he pushed himself on, forcing feet to keep moving until his new sense of hearing picked up voices. One…the kid. Sounded rattled. Another, no…two others; male and brash. Still unaccustomed to his dulled ears, he almost stumbled onto the scene without realizing it. Almost.
"Pretty little boy," crooned one of the meaty thugs. "Almost as pretty as a woman, huh Trent?"
"Near so, Tommy. Near so. What's a guy to do with a delicate kid like this?" the second one asked with a cold smile.
Jack eyed the both of them warily. In one hand was a dead rabbit. The other gripped a branch he'd probably been using as a walking stick. "Look, guys…I already told you I don't want any trouble."
"Oh, neither do we," the one called Trent assured coarsely, the sick gleam in his eye clearly saying otherwise. "But see…you're in our woods. We can't let that go unpunished. People might get ideas, y'know." Creed saw the shotgun slung over the man's beefy shoulder. Tommy, at least, appeared to be unarmed.
Jack's eyes gleamed faintly. "Don't do this," he said fervently. "You don't know what you might cause." They laughed at him as one, their expressions almost eerily identical.
"The boy's scared of us!" chortled Tommy. "Maybe he's not so dumb as he looks!"
"Handsome little fella like that? He probably gets this all the time. Don't you, boy?"
Tommy stepped forward confidently, his eyes intent and ill. Creed waited for a moment, watching to see how Jack handled this. If there really was more to the kid than met the eye…if he really had learned a thing or two from Kai and Logan and their ilk…then now would be the time to show it. Jack tossed the rabbit aside and took the walking stick in both hands like a staff, expression somehow conflicted. The fading light was playing funny tricks over the kid's emerald eyes…they almost seemed to glow dimly.
Tommy didn't take the threat too seriously. He closed on Jack, his breathing already rapid and heavy. With a sure hand, he reached for the staff to draw it away.
Then screamed as wood swung around and impacted with his knee. Tommy dropped to the ground with a holler of pain. From his hidden vantage point, Creed grinned. Trent slung his shotgun around and brought it to his shoulder. "Stop that! Stop that now!" Jack froze. "Drop the stick!" Wood thudded to the dirt.
"Bastard!" sobbed Tommy. "Trent, I think he broke my knee!"
"Shut up, Tommy. Your knee's not broke."
Tommy sniffled. "Shoot him. Shoot him fulla holes."
"It's no fun if he's dead."
"I don't care. I don't want him anymore. My knee's broke, it is!"
Trent sighed and sighted down the shotgun barrel. "All right. But it's not fair you ruin my fun, too."
Creed waited for Jack to make a move. What was the little fool doing? Just standing there, frozen, with his face a mask of indecision. Was it fear? Surely if this kid was a friend of Kai's he'd been in real danger before…and that knee strike looked practiced. What was his problem? Why wasn't he doing anything?
I need this kid.
Creed crept around behind the gunman silently. Trent was too caught up in taking careful aim to notice his approach. Creed stalked right up behind him, his heart starting to thud that familiar deadly rhythm. A little smile of anticipation curved his lips up and let teeth glint in vanishing light.
Tommy's head lolled towards Trent. Piggish little eyes widened as his mouth worked. "T-T-Trent! Be…behind you!!" But Creed's left hand darted around Trent's thick neck. Claws bit down into flesh…tore four gaping bloody trails as he nearly beheaded the man. This close, he could even scent the coppery tang of blood faintly. A shiver of satisfaction passed through his massive frame, and his smile widened.
Trent fell forward, making burbling sounds that might have been an attempted scream. Creed shook off the heady sensation of the kill, eyeing his second target, and snatched the shotgun awkwardly from the ground. Tommy, the screaming fool, had found his feet…was trying to run on the ruined knee. With a snarl, Creed half-crouched and sighted down the barrel. Left-handed. He'd never been as good a shot left-handed. His finger tightened. Ready…ready…
The shot roared out, the recoil hammering his unsupported shoulder. Tommy shrieked and fell in a spray of crimson. But somehow, the desperate victim lurched back to his feet and staggered forward again, wailing incoherent prayers to a deaf god. Creed felt the rage catch at his mind. The pellets had only half-caught him in the lower left side of his back. Pain goaded Creed into a graceless run, his only desire to get within a better distance and finish off the squealing coward.
"Victor!" Jack stepped into his path, one hand up in a warding gesture. "Stop, you don't have to–" Creed bowled him over without a thought, his whole being intent on the one who tried pathetically to flee. A distant corner of his mind noted the way Jack sprawled face down in the snow, but he didn't spare the boy a glance as he flung himself forward.
Jack pulled his knees under him on the cold, hard ground and spat out a mouthful of dirty snow. His eyes were stark as they sought the second source of the blood scent, the concussion of the shotgun blast still ringing in his ears. Creed had actually come to help him, but this was going too far.
The blood left his head in a rush as he staggered to his feet and it took a moment for his vision to clear. He almost wished it had taken longer. The big man -- Trent? -- lay face down with a low mist spreading around him as warm blood slipped outward over the ice to contact snow. Dead.
And then some.
And past him stood Creed, taking extra time on his aim with his awkward left arm. They'd already made enough noise to bring anybody within fifteen miles investigating. The shotgun had a clip, but he only wanted to fire one more shot.
Realization of his rescuer's intent hit and Jack scrambled forward. "Victor -- wait!"
Creed ignored him, rounding his shoulders as he fined his aim. The punk was moving slow, but with all that lurching and staggering it was a tricky shot.
He put final pressure on the trigger.
Then watched, slack-jawed, as the expanding cloud of pellets soared neatly over the head of a mark not twenty meters off.
The kid. The damned kid standing there wide-eyed, his hand still on the barrel he'd knocked up.
The look in Victor's eyes made Jack wonder suddenly if, denied one kill, the injured man might turn that dazed rage on the closest target. And he realized that he was standing awfully close to those claws.
The mark shouted and fell with the retort of the weapon and wasn't rising, but Victor shook off the damn boy by the simple expedient of thrusting the shotgun at him, hard. He lunged across the bloody snow, feeling the chill of this wasteland in his very bones. Rage carried him forward; made his hands twitch in anticipation of the taste of flesh. The corded texture, the grain stripping apart like soft wood beneath the ax. It brought heat to dissolve the chill, like the prey's blood did the snow.
The broken man rolled over, sobbing, eyes wild as Creed landed spraddling him, pinning him into the snow. The arms came up, twisting in a pathetic attempt at defense, and there was the wet thock as claw met bone. The blood lust was in him, but as he drew back a hand for the killing blow he stopped. Habit old enough to be instinct had drawn a breath for the cry of joyous rage, to voice his revelry in the taste/scent of the blood, in the sound of the hammering, erratic, fading heartbeat, and the feel of the warm but cooling body beneath him. In the sight of the particular film that terror gave the eyes of a dying man.
Jack caught up to him then, latching onto the sound, upraised arm at the elbow, where the claws couldn't be turned on him. "Victor, stop!"
Where the hell did the kid find that kind of calm, standing up to him, standing between him and the kill? Quiet, steady, he was droning on; words skipping across the surface of Creed's rippling mind, touching consciousness only briefly.
"The other one's dead, Victor. This guy's no threat. It's over. You did it." Dulled yellow-green eyes turned slowly to look at him, uncomprehending. Didn't the kid realize he wanted to…
Reassurance, the kind a person would give a child -- or, the thought flickered, an invalid -- lit the bright, deep gaze so intently holding his own. Reassurance, and acceptance, and a gratitude deep enough to flood the world.
Creed looked back at the bleeding, twisted thing beneath him. No warmth, fading or otherwise, penetrated the thick clothes. A faint tang of salt and iron cut the breeze a moment, then gone. And all that shone in the dying man's eyes was uncomprehending terror as Tommy babbled a nonsense plea for mercy. No feel, no taste. No shiver in Creed as death possessed him. No comprehending gleam in the prey's eyes as he became sacrifice.
The only pounding of blood through veins was in his own ears and as he faltered, shaken out of the ritual, full of a breath that had no emotion to spend itself on, his blocked nerves sent the flood of agony from beyond the dam of adrenaline.
Victor Creed began to shake.
It only took a hard shove of the powerful arm to send Jack sprawling back into the snow. Creed found his feet, looking about at the dull, flat world he now inhabited. No dimension, no color, no depth, no pleasure. Not even in this. It had become as the rest of his life had always been.
His voice came unexpectedly from somewhere beneath his volition. "He'll die anyway. Soon." I want to kill him! But the inner shriek was as muted as all else in this surreal world. The pine needles were shifting at the corners of his vision without benefit of wind.
Taking ashen rage for something finer, Jack looked up from what would obviously within minutes be a corpse. "They would have killed me. You only kept them from…"
A gruff, mocking chuckle interrupted. "I need you, kid. Least until this back heals."
But Jack's certainty didn't waver, not in eye or voice. "You saved my life. More. You don't know…"
Creed whirled, the rage rekindling. He sneered. "I saved ya from getting your hands dirty, pretty boy. You want a hero…" Abruptly he stuttered: simple rage became something more complex. "I thought you already knew some," he finished, spitting, but quieter.
"I do," Jack acknowledged, those goddamn intense eyes still boring into him. Fucking kid must be fucking crazy, sneaking up on him--
--he snuck up on you. You didn't know he was there.
Twice! And standing there trying to fit excuses on his killings. He didn't want his reasons. He didn't need his warped explanations. This was what he was; the heat of the killing justified its own existence.
Those goddamn eyes.
"I've had my hands dirty. You saved me from something worse. You can't even imagine. Thank you."
Thank you. Thank you? Thank you!!
The roar that had not come earlier ripped free and Creed lunged. He killed for this, not little fuckers’ reasons.
Jack stood still as the huge form came for him, as it had gone for Tommy. One step, two. The curled lips revealed gleaming teeth in a vicious snarl. Another stride…
Jack sighed and went looking for his rabbit, trembling in every cell, wondering how to get back to camp with the dead weight passed out in the snow.
It was pain that welcomed Victor Creed back from the realm of unconsciousness. That was not a first. There was also a feeling of pressure, of something pinning him down, that he really didn't like. But that was not a first either.
"You are the love of my life, You are the reason I'm alive…"
As sound joined his slowly returning senses, Victor realized that there was someone very close to him singing a sappy love song. Badly.
"I've spent a lifetime waiting, always anticipating…"
The singer was a man. Who was sitting on his back. Slowly taking his shirt off.
This has to be a dream.
There was a man on top of him singing a love song and undressing him.
This had better be a dream.
He couldn't smell anybody. Or feel any body heat.
"Then you came and saved me from myself…"
Oh yeah. This is definitely a dream.
He went back into darkness where the pain couldn't get him.
Jack tensed as his psivamp senses felt Victor's consciousness flirt briefly with the idea of returning to his body, then relaxed as, after a moment of dazed confusion, it went back to real dreams. If there hadn't been so much pain in the moment's contact, he might have laughed at the realization of what he had been singing as he prepared to clean Victor's wound.
It embarrassed him sometimes, the things that came out of his mouth whenever he got his attention totally occupied elsewhere. Zach had teased him that he could always tell what was on Jack's mind by the day's chosen theme song. Jubilee, who ran her mouth as much as he did and had no room to talk, had only critiqued his singing voice -- or absolute lack thereof. Jack wondered what either of them would have made of this particular tune.
Now there was a subject he had been avoiding the past few days. Not without some justification, he told himself truthfully. But the whole point of this trip had been to get away from Jubilee's yearning looks and Zach's quiet desperation so that he could decide what he really felt. Fact was, he hadn't been doing too well at it even before his unexpected patient had turned up. Too much had happened too fast in recent months, and his mind was still playing catch-up. As for his heart…
He had always imagined that he'd spend his life alone. It went with his lifestyle, both the path to self-destruction Logan had helped him turn from and the new one he'd only just begun to make. Now he was faced with not one but two near-perfect chances for a real future with someone, and he didn't even begin to know how to choose.
He had tried first to imagine himself as a part of each of their lives in the long term. But that had been all too easy, on both counts.
Become an X-Man and serve beside Jubilee. Let Professor Xavier train him in the control of his powers. He could see himself as a part of that team, with Logan and Kai and the others. Good people who had taken up a fight that was theirs only by virtue of their decision to stand where no one else would. He could join them in stopping some of the madness. Learn to master himself, serve a good cause, with Jubilee's vibrance sustaining him when duty called, her laughter waiting for him when duty ended.
But then there was Zach. Autumn shade to Jubilee's spring sunshine. What exactly he did in the organization called Three Eyes wasn't something he'd shared. But he was a good man; one who had known Jack's own demons, mastered them, turned them to his own service. Who had brought Jack from the edge of death by showing him the secret to controlling the hunger. Whose understated humor warmed his soul and whose taciturn ways hid a tender passion it had been Jack's joy to discover.
God, how maudlin.
The thick shirt out of the way, Jack began slowly peeling back the bandage on Creed's shoulder. It wasn't sticking, which made it easier, but that was actually a bad sign. The damned gash was as long as Jack's forearm and bit well into muscle, and after several days it was still oozing; trying its best to establish an infection that would kill the man way out here. Jack sat staring at the ugly wound, wondering how such a thing had happened, who could have done something like that to someone like this. His eyes traced over the broad, heavily muscled shoulders. Dense muscle, too; the kind one got from hard, sustained effort, not a few hours in the gym.
With a piece of bandage, Jack set himself to cleaning the unmarred skin where the tape had left its adhesive. Across the broad back, over the curve of the shoulder. The cold air took the moisture instantly. He rubbed fingertips across a few threads of bandage caught in curly hair and remembered the unique, somehow smoothed roughness of hair on another man's skin. Zach…
Returning from memory, it came to Jack suddenly that he was admiring the body beneath him. Not in the way of envy, of wishing he could have something like. In the way of appreciation, and an acknowledgment that here was something beautiful, something attractive. Not that he was actually attracted to Creed -- the thought gave him a sick feeling in remembrance of the sound of claws sinking into the bones of a dying man. When Victor was awake he was a person to Jack, and Jack related to his personality. But while that personality slept the body was left as an inanimate display of extremely masculine beauty.
Jack shook his head, exasperated with himself. He'd decided to clean the wound while Victor was out in order to spare the man pain. At this rate it would have healed before he got the bandage back on it. He got the med. kit and began rinsing the wound with an antiseptic solution. He wasn't a medic, but he had run in fast company enough to know how to take care of the simple stuff, which a cut was. Long enough also to know better than to ask Creed how this had happened if he didn't volunteer the information, which didn't seem likely. Creed hadn't said three sentences together since he'd found him. He just lay or sat around, a constant static to Jack's senses; an unmoving frenzy of pain and rage and confusion and unacknowledged fear that set Jack's teeth on edge. The closest Creed had come to emotional clarity had been as he went in for the kill on the downed poacher. Still the rage then; but unrestrained, unfettered, set free and mated with a hunger so deep Jack had felt a moment of purest kinship. Hunger was something he understood.
And couldn't afford to let himself feel.
It had been the wisp of that need in Victor that had driven Jack away from him for longer and longer each day. He _had_ been hunting, but _he_ didn't need to go two miles or take three hours to catch one rabbit. What he had needed was solitude and peace enough to regain his self-control. The subtle powers that kept the hunger at bay were still new to him, still required conscious attention. After that moment of piercing connection with Creed he was still struggling. Musing on conflicting relationships and babbling constantly might help drive out the mind static, but the fight had touched on the primal, on the need…
No Jack, you may not kill the nice murderer.
Sound of mental gears being shifted without benefit of clutch.
He really needed to stop letting Creed's presence distract him from his reasons for being out here. He actually hadn't been letting his thoughts get any deeper than his chatter, and that wasn't like him. The ability to rattle in detail about the irrelevant in order to give oneself time to think was an acquired skill, and one he had mastered a long time ago.
It was also one of the things he really had in common with Jubilee. She would talk about anything, any time, and at whatever depth time allowed. And when they were alone and things turned serious, she'd go right on over the bad moments in quick, detailed, hurried bursts that would lead into some better topic, never to be mentioned again. It was much harder to know Zach, who seldom said anything that wasn't necessary or pertinent to whatever was going on. He was so serious that the first glimpses of his humor had caught Jack unprepared. His playfulness, his tenderness in love, had been a wonderful surprise.
That's what it keeps coming back to, Jack thought ruefully. They're both more than I deserve. I can see living with either of them. I can imagine loving either of them. I just can't figure out who I do actually love. Because I've got to be in love with somebody. I'm way too mixed up for it to be anything else. It would be so easy to become part of Jubilee's life and world, but it was so hard to imagine living without Zach. It had only been two weeks and he already missed him so much it hurt…
Or maybe that was the tree trunk his face had just met. Jack rolled over in the snow, wiping a hand across his lips that came away bloody. All right, smart guy. That's what you get for letting your mind maunder off into sappy-land. You didn't even notice he was waking up.
"Up" being the operative word. Victor had found consciousness with a start of nauseatingly sharp pain and the realization that whoever had caused it was still doing it; was trying to pin him down and stabbing him in the back, and…
He had thrown all his strength into tossing off his attacker, leaping up and lurching forward, teeth bared.
Fortunately for the kid, his vision cleared before he could give his teeth a target. The skinny limbs were sprawled in the dirty snow, a length of gauze in one hand trailing out in the light wind, stained with blood. He pulled his strike and forced his anger into words. "What the hell did you think you were doing?" He remembered vividly going for the boy. He must have collapsed. But that would have taught anybody sane to leave him alone. That the kid had waited around for him to wake up was proof of either absolute stupidity or mental disorder.
And the kid didn't even have sense enough to flinch or look scared as Victor came to stand over him. Lunged. To stand threatening him. His voice was very steady, and he spoke very clearly, as if to someone who might not know the language and needed to catch the tone to understand.
"I was cleaning your wound, Mister Creed. I figured you were in enough pain already. I didn't want to put you through that conscious."
His back did feel like someone had laid a branding iron against it. He backed off a step. "It never occurred to you that I might just get up and get back to what I started?" he demanded, showing teeth again.
Jack made no attempt to stand up. "Not really. You're wounded, Mister Creed. You were fevered, and hurting, and you'd just killed two people. I wasn't really surprised that you went for me." He drew himself out of his sprawl to sit cross-legged. "I was just surprised that you didn't do it sooner."
The snarl almost turned into a gape. This kid must keep his brain in a jar somewhere back on the mainland. But-- "Listen, kid. Let's get one thing straight…" But he didn't know what to say next. ‘Don't act like you understand why I killed those people. I did it because it was fun’ wouldn't exactly go over with someone who spoke of the runt and his cunt in hushed tones. He settled for, "I don't talk about killing people. I do it, and it's over, and I don't talk about it and you don't talk about it and it's just over. Understand?" That sounded delirious enough that even he noticed it. It grated, but better the kid think that he was crazy, and keep helping him, than figure out what he really was and take off in the dark, leaving him to die when that goddamn shoulder hit rotted a hole clean through his back. He turned away from the calm, considering eyes. "Just over," he muttered again.
"I do understand, Mister Creed." Jack found his feet slowly, as if he had a wild animal nearby that he couldn't afford to startle. Which of course he did. He wadded up the gauze he still held and slipped around to put it in the plastic trash bag by the med. kit. "I know it was probably my hurting you that woke you up," he said carefully after a moment, when the silence between them had become more neutral. "Unfortunately, I wasn't quite finished. And it was starting to infect, so I really should…"
Victor had whirled on him with a wildness in his eyes that was more frightening than the exposed canines, and Jack trailed off. That had been a flash of real fear for an instant, quickly fogged over by the habitual rage. It struck him as odd that someone sporting the other faded but numerous scars on that broad back would be afraid of something like an infection. Of course, it would scare anybody normal, but normal men in this day and age didn't wear battle scars or fight like Jack had seen Victor fight. Unless it was the thought of something like that hitting him out here in the middle of nowhere.
After a long minute Creed grunted. "Fine. Bandage the damn thing up. But hurry it -- we need to get back to that rag-ass camp o' yours before dark. Poachers ain't the only nasty things in this country."
The look in the kid's eyes was enough to make Victor growl in frustration. "What now?"
The bright eyes went down diffidently. "Mister Creed, we are back at camp."
Creed looked around, actually paying attention for the first time. There was the thermal tent under a pile of limbs and the rock-ringed fire pit the little boyscout had arranged. He sat back on the pile of thermal blankets Jack had laid out on a tarp with a thump. "Oh." Should at least have realized there were no stiffs lying around. "Oh. How did you get me back here? It was prob'ly two miles o' hills."
Jack waited as the big man slowly moved to lie on his stomach, automatically assuming the position they both had come so quickly to hate. Beneath black bangs, his face went a little pale. "I tied the dead men's jackets together and drug you. That's the good thing about snow. Things slide."
Creed couldn't think how to answer that. He couldn't think much of anything at the moment. Kid said he had a fever. Made sense that it had his brain fried. "Oh. You mean you pulled my big ass… Huh." He didn't fight it as the kid settled gingerly back into place on his butt. Big as he was the boy couldn't reach across him otherwise. He grunted as careful fingers went back to their task. He could feel cold sweat breaking out across his belly, on his neck. "Just hurry it," he growled after a moment. "Get it over with."
That was as close as he had come to admitting to pain and Jack complied, steeling himself; calling desperately on sore-tested discipline as shield against the raw feel of Creed's intensified emotions. He wasn't used to hurting people like this. Not anymore. It brought back memories of the bad old days; before the X-Men, and Logan, and Zach.
Creed wasn't sure how he managed to submit to the kids' torturing hands. Every instinct was raging, going back to the first and easiest inspiration for attack: It's hurting me. Kill it. But he couldn't afford those instincts, not now. Not in this pitiful, wounded, powerless body. He let his mind drift slightly into fantasy -- slightly, so there was no chance he'd space and act on it. He felt the pain of the kid's touch and envisioned ways, simple and complicated, involving quick claws and the death of family members; ways to pay the boy back for all this pain.
~end part 1~