Disclaimer: I don't own any characters except Naomi, Irbis and several innocent short-lived bystanders; everything else is Marvel's only.

13. The Final Test

Creed had spent the entire night on his bike, speeding away as much as the engine allowed, but he only arrived at his doorstep past ten in the morning. The house stood quietly on its spot, an image of peace and tranquillity amidst the sleepy neighbourhood.

It made his blood boil. Growling, he marched in and bust the door open, immediately banging it shut so hard, it bounced back and remained open. He stalked in and saw Irbis entering the living-room space from the left. Without thinking twice, he lunged at her, brown eyes open in surprise, and grabbing her by the collar, he slammed her against the wall.

"What d'ya think ya been doin', ya useless piece o' trash!"

She puffed and whined for a moment before moaning a soft "I was studying… like you said…".

He let go of her, his breathing still eliciting an irritated growl every time it coursed past his throat, and watched her sliding to the floor.


"English," her voice was less soft now, surprise giving way to a pratical intonation that was far less aggravating. "You said me to learn English, and I was studying. Everyday, I…"

"My breakfast!"

She blinked and frowned, looking up at the angry face towering above her. Creed's growling grew slightly more intense and his claws unsheathed. Irbis swallowed.

"I… Do I prepare somesing fast?"

"Fast." And it was much more a growl than a word.

Irbis got off the floor, her back still against the wall, and bowed her head slightly, excusing herself. Creed took one step back, allowing her to escape his glare. The moment she entered the doorless kitchen and turned left, towards the cooking area, he couldn't keep himself from punching the wall so hard the plaster cracked and his knuckles smeared the surface red.

He stalked the girl into the kitchen. She was hurrying herself, garlic and an onion on the worktop and fridge door ajar. She glanced at him and halted her movement for a moment.

"How many eggs I…" Her voice, now breathing a promise of quick efficiency, left the question dangling in the air.

"Half a dozen."

She nodded and resumed her task. Creed, a subsided growl ever present, watched her closely but didn't say anything. Her movements were calm and purposeful, and never once did she hesitate or did her hands tremble under his watch.

"Where do you like to eat, seer?" The expression took him off guard and he frowned threateningly, the growl strengthening. She hesitated for a split second, only. "Here in de kitchen, in de living room, dining room… or maybe in de garden?"

"What did ya just call me?"

She blinked and frowned. "I'm sorry?"

He was immediately holding her by the neck, once more. "What the hell did ya just call me!"

"Seer?" Her eyes widened, her cheeks blushed. "Uh... Sar? Sir? Ser?" There was no fear oozing from her, just an intensifying blush, and Creed simply threw her back as he let go of her, sending her crashing onto the cabinets.

"Sir? Who told ya ta call me that?"

Irbis opened her mouth and blinked twice, looking at the man's animalistic snarl, before straightening herself.

"Uh... I read is de most educated... uh... respectful way off a… off a… off talking to a man. I'm sorry I say de pronoonciation wrong. Sir."

His claws unsheathed, and Irbis took a deep breath.

"Please. I take your breakfast to… to where? Mister Creed. Sir."

He moved silently and slowly, as if he were stalking a prey, until he reached a hand that grabbed her face. His claws scraped her skin, but her breathing was calm, just as her heartbeat.

"Get. Out. O' my. Sight."

She held the glare of his reddened eyes, and blinked only because some speckles of his spit had hit her eyes. His fingers had already bruised her cheek before he pushed her aside. Without a single word, she left the kitchen and, as soon as she entered the living room, she could hear the pan with the eggs being thrown and banging alarmingly against a machine, and then against the floor. She had gone a step up the staircase when the pan was once more sent flying – kicked, she supposed – against a wooden surface. She raced all the way to her bedroom, a maddening roar echoing through the house and chasing her into her bedroom.

"Virgem Santíssima!" She whispered breathlessly. "Onde é que eu estou metida?"

And even as she sat down on the mat next to her bed, she wondered why she wasn't terrified.

Creed had left the house for some time already when Irbis tiptoed down the stairs. She didn't know what had possessed the man, but one thing was sure: something really very bad must have happened. She knew he killed for a living. Perhaps he hadn't been able to kill someone and had got in trouble with the people that had hired him to kill that someone. Or maybe he hadn't been paid after the killing. Anyway, whatever the reason, it stood to Irbis's logic it was best to do everything she could to soften his mood.

She ignored the scattered frying pan and scrambled eggs and opened the freezer to take out some pieces of sirloin, wondering how he preferred them. "Better safe than sorry," she whispered to herself in Portuguese, as she allotted different recipes to each piece. Grilled, fried in the pan with only the basics, fried in the pan after marinating, stewed with onion… that ought to be enough. She took care of the marinating first of all. It was almost eleven in the morning. She wondered when Creed would wander back into the house for lunch and, fearing it might be early, got herself busy.

Creed arrived early, indeed, and was also calmer. He approached the French windows and then followed his nose into the kitchen. He didn't make any sound and Irbis didn't notice him until she turned around and saw him. She hesitated for a moment, holding her breath.

"Mister Creed!" His eyes felt like ice going through her. "Is good you're back. I wanted to prepare lunsh and didn't cknow what you prefer. Dis is O.K.? Seerloins in four ways."

Creed answered with a low growl and a very slight snarl.

"Well… dis two are almost ready. Do you like to go to de dining room? I prepared some starters… bread, cheese, ham… and are some appetizers, too." She led the way, ignoring his murderous glare, and opened the door. Inside, the table had been set with great care and, standing on a coffee table between the two windows, opening onto the garden, was a tray with drinks, glasses and the mentioned starters.

"De seerloins stehw and fried are almost ready. I bring everysing togeder, or…"

"Whatever." Creed didn't growl, this time, but simply waved her away, which she obeyed promptly.

He sat down on an armchair near the coffee table and picked up a bottle of whisky. A black bird flew past the window. Creed downed the bottle, thoughtfully.

Creed was sitting under a tree in the back of the house, watching Irbis while gardening. She was trying to recover a few flower beds, but was planning on adding some aromatic herbs, too. She had asked him if he allowed the changes before buying them, which had pleased him immensely.

He sighed. It had been very good he had kept the woman. Not only had she not been afraid of him when he had arrived, ready to kill everyone in sight, but she had also striven to do her best. And succeeded. If she had been afraid at any time, though, he knew he would have killed her; as surely as she was now breathing. But no. She had taken her time, and he had had time to calm down.

Now, he could think rationally; now, he could dwell on the reasons for his bad mood without going into a berserker rage; because the one "reason" for his worst moods could indeed drive him into a killing spree. Logan. He closed his eyes. He hated that man so much it was almost insane. He hated him so much that words couldn't even describe it. It was a red hot insane and desperate rage that filled him and then he just couldn't think… and that was always why Logan managed to beat him up in the end. It was really Logan's fault. If the man wasn't such a stupid bastard runt, he wouldn't stop thinking and he'd defeat him without breaking a sweat. As he had done in their last run in. He had kept his hate in check, then.

Irbis cursed in Portuguese and he looked at her but didn't really see her. His memory conjured up the image of a woman half covered in clothes and fishing in a cool Canadian river. Native. He sighed. He hadn't had a choice but to keep his bearings together. Logan would have taken her with him to the X-Chumps, and then what? Settle down, have a pack of cubs? They'd find her. Logan and Native would have been the pet target of every secret agency in the universe, much like Jean Grey and Summers had been Mister Sinister's pet project. And then what? Then what? They'd pick up their kids, they'd turn them into new Weapon Xs… Logan couldn't be so stupid as not to see the reality! He and Native would become nothing more than the breeding mare and stud for the secret agency of the day. Sure, he'll kick about for some time, he'll swear to kill everybody who points out that Native had to die… but sooner or later he'll realize that her death was for the best. Even if he doesn't admit it to anyone, he'll have to realize it was the best thing.

Settle down… They hadn't been born to settle down. And Logan was a jackass for not seeing the obvious. There was no woman for them, no cubs, no family. That was the simple truth which Logan refused. He was always drooling after some chick and whining about how she was too good for him, going down on his hands and knees for them. The image of a blonde woman flickered through his mind and he shook his head. Bonnie had been a one night incident. She had been impressed with him, true, but she didn't know anything about him. Even if she had wanted to run away with him, she'd soon have seen what he really was… and then what? It was good she was dead. It was good he had killed her. And he had killed Native for Logan, too; because they were not meant to settle and raise a brood.

"Mister Creed?"

He opened his eyes. Irbis was a couple of feet away.

"Whaddya want?"

"I just wanted to say dat I'm going to de florist. I return in twenty minutes. OK?"

"Whatever. Ain't I told ya I don't wanna be bothered unless it's somethin' important?"

She left. Soon he could hear the engine of the mini-van speeding down the lane. He closed his eyes again, enjoying the heat of the afternoon. Now that he was alone he could finally indulge in a well-deserved nap.

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