The room stretched long, completely illuminated not by one window, but by a row of windows. If one could imagine the sanctuary of a church minus the pews and alter, filled with nothing but mirrors, and brightly lit by sunlight, they could imagine this.

He surveys this domain, which passes both for his memories and for his retreat; a place where it becomes slowly clearer, a place where there's nothing but the most fundamental. The essential. It will take years to piece everything together, and decades to learn the complete truth. For now, that can wait. For now, it's enough that he knows how much effort and patience it'll take, and for the first time that he can actively remember, he doesn't shy away from it.

He idly thinks about the price for peace -- the cost being the retrieval of memories he would rather forget. But to find himself he has to look at those, and everything else. When it's all over, hopefully before he's long gray, it'll be worth it. Still, there's time for that later.

Her echo graces the walls, the floors, the high ceiling, and if he listens hard enough, he can hear her laughing at some joke. He doesn't laugh with her, but he smiles a real smile, untwisted and light. Then the echoes fade away, back to the mirror they came from.

The whisper could have been imagined, or dreamt, or maybe it was real. He would never know.

"See ya later, boss..."




Northern Canada was beginning to cool off, the nights bringing frost that it seemed to take longer and longer for the morning sun to burn away. It was a quiet place, though, a quiet town if there ever was one. One bar, one church, a post office, a Canadian Park office to regulate the logging industry, a diner, a gas station or two, and one general store. It was a town for people who wanted to be unknown.

Not that they were exactly unknown to each other. Most of the people living in the little logging town were running from something, and Victor fit all too well into that category. No one questioned his appearance there, nor did they question his fanged grin and generally unsocial attitude.

He had gotten away from the X-Men without as much trouble as he had expected. From there, it had been a trip to New York City, and to a small graveyard where his former sidekick was left with only a small cross and her name marking she ever existed, the type of place people who had no home or family ended up. Birdy was there, but she was very well remembered by the man who had been her boss, her lover, and even occasionally her friend.

He had knelt there, mind wandering across the memories he had been painstakingly ordering. Because of her. Because she made him promise, and he wouldn't break a promise to her. He still didn't have all of the pieces of the puzzle revolving around the little blonde telepath, but they would come with time. What he knew now was enough.

The keeper of the stones might have wondered when he came in the next morning where the carved claw marks came from, an admission in marble.

"I love you."

After that, it was Seattle, hitchhiking until he got home to his mansion there. He hadn't stayed longer than a night, just long enough to get some essential paperwork, a few clothes, and the keys to his pickup. Then it was north. He hadn't known where he was going, but when he ended up in that town it rung familiar. Finding a cabin off in the trees had added another piece.

The logging company picked him up without a question, not even bothering with an application, and he worked a good six days a week, from dawn to dusk. Sometimes he went to the bar, got into a fight, but nowadays he just sent people to the hospital rather than the morgue. Needless to say, fighting had tapered off.

Walking up the steps to the post office, he didn't think about anything but the water bill that was due in, and the letter in hand sent to reroute through Seattle to Dallas to Salem Center, and addressed to Hank McCoy. He dreaded walking into that place...

And for good reason. The older woman came around the counter, squealing, "Victor!"

Creed sighed. He had been hoping to avoid the self-appointed mother hen of all single men in town, but she never missed him. "That's me," he said, unnecessarily, disengaging himself from her carefully.

"I haven't seen you in weeks, where have you been hiding? Why, I even brought cookies for you and the other boys, but you make yourselves so scarce," the lady chattered, taking his arm and half-pulling him to his box.

"Been kinda busy, Ruth," Victor defended, trying uselessly to pull away. Why he put up with being manhandled was beyond him, but the last time he had growled at her, she had chewed his ears off. It wasn't worth the browbeating to just get his flippin' mail. Besides, she did make good cookies, and she was just like him... running away from something bad and hopefully to something better. Getting his arm free finally, he unlocked the mailbox and tossed aside a few pieces of junk... damn, junkmail even plagued the Great White North.

Ruth took the letter, walking back to her station. "I'll make more. How's the work coming on your home?"

"Slow," he replied, trying not to sound too terribly short tempered. It wasn't easy.

"I'm always willing to help, sweetie. I can handle a hammer with the best of them," she offered, stamping the letter and putting it in the appropriate slot to be sorted later. Mail service in that region wasn't exactly swift.

Creed made a quick break for the door, calling back over his shoulder, "I'll keep that in mind!" Yea, right... when pigs flew on the wings on angels.



McCoy,

No one's dead yet. Mail service sucks. Work's not bad. Getting cold up here. Anyone miss me?

Creed


Hank set the letter aside, chuckling slightly to himself. No, he couldn't say anyone missed Sabretooth, though they had went hunting for him. But without a blood trail to follow, they hadn't had much luck. Hank had certainly come under some fire, mostly from the newer members, and he had been reprimanded quite heavily by Scott and the Professor. He was expecting more than that, though, and he was surprised when Jean came to his aid after the bruises she had gotten from Creed.

Eventually the weeks went on, though, and people forgot about Victor as much as they ever did. Hank went back to his research, spending more and more time in the lab, and they were on a good trail. Getting this particular letter was a break from the constant effort of finding the cure to the Legacy Virus, and he smiled, picking up a piece to write a reply. He was surprised that Vic had trusted him enough to put his address in the envelope, though only a doctor would be able to read that sort of handwriting anyway. The least he could do was answer.

Victor,

I honestly cannot say that we particularly miss your sunny disposition, wonderful and colorful use of language, and general presence, but I will venture to say that it gets lonely sometimes in the wee hours with no one to argue with. I hope that the mail service improves, and may winter bring good fortune. Take care.

Hank


"He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe." -- Marcus Aurelius




Crossing the narrow road from the post office, boots crunching in the snow, Vic hopped into his pickup and headed back home. It was a good half-hour drive, the roads were less pavement and more dirt, but it was as secluded as he could get and still make it to work on time. Pulling up next to the log cabin, he shut the ignition off and walked up the steps, opening the letter from Hank with a claw.

It wasn't a long letter by any stretch, but then, he hadn't written much to the scientist in the first place. He unfolded the paper, smiling slightly when he read it, then tucked it into one pocket and opened the door.

What was left of a fire still glowed slightly in the stone fireplace, and though the room wasn't heavily furnished, it still had a distinct feel of home. His home. A few pictures sat on the mantle, most of them of Birdy or the two of them together, and a newspaper article about Hank that was framed. He didn't dwell on why he kept it, since it made no sense to him, but it was a whim of a decision.

Tossing a few more logs in the fireplace he then went back and flopped on the couch. The fire crackled and sparked, catching, the smell there but not overpowering, even to him. Leaning back, he closed his eyes, intending to nap on his day off. He had earned that much; a rest from the near constant struggle of man and animal versus monster. How long it would last didn't matter -- maybe the battle would rage forever.

Maybe not.

For now, the sun breaking through the gray clouds was enough.

------------------------------

Comin' down the years turn over,
And angels fall without you there,
And I'll go on now and lead you home and,
All because I'm... all because I'm...

I'll become what you became to me.


-Goo Goo Dolls, Black Balloon