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

6. Inner Beasts

Creed drove in silence all the way to the hotel. Irbis remained just as silent at his side, her heartbeat setting a quiet rhythm in the silence. His own heart, on the other hand, was speeding with rage and craving… craving for more blood. When they reached the hotel, though, he smelled a difference in her: little by little, the strong scent of fear filled the car and excited the hunger he was feeling. He got out abruptly, banging the door and trying to keep himself in check. This was not the right time to snuff the girl.

There was no one in sight and the crickets' voice was only interrupted by the few cars that sped through the road, every now and then. But the road was several feet away, and the area was just a wide and well groomed lawn with a few young trees scattered around. Creed felt the scent of fear fill the air and realized Irbis had come closer to his unmoving shape. She stood there, squeezing her hands in one another in a nervous way. Waiting for him, he guessed; waiting for him to kill her. And fearing it intensely.

He looked at her: her pale face seemed paler in comparison to the darkness smearing her forehead and left cheek. His throat vibrated with a low growl. Still holding back his hunger, he turned to her and took one step closer, half his mind captured by the scent that kept emanating from her. Suddenly he remembered the girl's offense, the previous night, over his questions. How she had told him he couldn't know anything about her – who she really was, her nature – no matter how many questions and how much he might guess about her. The memory of his derisive laugh then scraped his troat and he roared it out.

"Ya wanna talk 'bout people's nature, ya brainless frail? That ya saw, that is my nature: killing. I live fer the kill, ya understand? Fer the hunt, an' the blood, an' the fear, an' the… the pain an' sufferin' o' my victims. That is what's in my nature. Ya understand what I'm tellin' ya, girl? I ain't no nice guy ya should be pokin' with yer stubbornness and yer wants and yer scruples. I wanna hurt, I hurt. It's in my nature an' ya can't go 'gainst yer nature; ya can't say 'this ain't me', when everybody can see that's exactly what ya are."

Irbis's eyes were wide and moist, fear enveloping her like a thick blanket. Breathing soft if ragged, a lonely unnoticed tear trickling down her right cheek after blinking. Creed growled and stepped closer.

"People like me, we's animals. Wolves in a world o' sheep." And Logan's face bubbled up in his mind. "We can't fit in, 'cause it just ain't in our nature ta fit in. We're blood thirsty animals, s'what we are. Blood thirsty animals. But he goes about fightin' his 'animal side' an' thinks he's all the better fer it, an' all his buddies pat 'im in the back an' says he's so great fer keepin' his beast in check… It's all crap! He's less than nothin' fer denyin' what he is. 'Oh, I'm a man, not an animal', he says. Bullshit! We are animals, both of us: animals hungry fer blood. But he refuses to admit it; even though he knows I'm right – an' he does, make no mistake – he just refuses it."

Creed's face was mere inches away from Irbis's trembling face, a disgusted expression playing upon his features.

"He's got his friends, his girls, his pals… His very own make-belief family! Thinks he's so high n'mighty! He's nuthin'! He's got no right ta be in their middle! They're lil'rabbits, all of 'em, an' we're the wolves who's gonna eat 'em. That's how it works! An' he just plays it like he's one of 'em. His so called family… He's got no right ta none of it. No right."

He punched the car with all his rage and frustration, not noticing he had indented it. "Ya're so very right ta be afraid," he snarled quietly.

"No." Her voice was hard and suddenly unnafraid, angry actually. "Animals live for... for life. Not blood and kill; dey need it, but dey don't want de kill because off de kill. Dey kill to live. People kill because dey want kill; not animals. Animals are only animals, and people are monsters."

It took Creed off-guard and he narrowed his eyes while Irbis took a trembling breath and a second tear trickled down her right cheek. "Everyone is a monster inside. But society don't like monsters, and people learn to put… to prisionate her monsters in… in de… de basement. Sim. Your head is like a house, and you put your monster in de basement off your mind. De difference is you put your monster outside. Not only in de house, out off de basement; you put it outside, to everyone to see. And den you sink you are so different and special because you're a monster. Everyone is!"

Creed got a hold of her in a swift movement, squeazing her neck in his hand. "Don't challenge me, girl." It was a growl, rather than a whisper; and her fear neither ebbed nor flowed to the sound of it. "Get t'yer room and be ready ta leave at day break."

The room is very dark and I can't see anythin' 'round. I feel strange… like I'm not myself: small and scared. This ain't me. I can't smell nothin', an' that's impossible: even if I didn't have my heightened senses I'd still be able ta smell somethin'. Then I hear a voice. It sounds familiar, but I can't understand what it's sayin' right away. Where am I? Fortunately, the voice becomes a bit louder, even if it's just a fine whisper.

"You put your monster in de basement off your mind."

Who said that? Where am I? Suddenly, a door opens and it sheds enough light fer me ta see where I am.

"You put your monster in de basement off your mind."

It's just a memory, and I start ta feel more relaxed as that idea sinks in. I'm in the basement where my parents used ta lock me up…

"You put your monster in de basement off your mind."

And I can recognize that voice, too. It's Irbis; it's somethin' Irbis said sometime… There's footsteps coming down the stairs into the basement and every muscle in me tenses up. I feel my fangs 'gainst my lips and the growlin' in my throat – I know this memory, and I don't like it. Not a bit. My heartbeat gains speed and I wanna wake up; I wanna stop this stupid nonsense. I try ta pull away, but the chain that keeps me locked in here hurts my neck and I just stay put. Wake up, already, dammit! If this whole dreamin' is the girl's fault, she's gonna regret it in the morning…

The footsteps are still soundin' in the wooden stairs, and much to my annoyance, I can hear myself whimper. It ain't really me, I know, it's just the memory o' me… but that don't help my temper. If only I could break loose… I wanna growl; I wanna attack those legs I see already walkin' on the dirt floor… but this puny, childish body that used ta be me just backs away until the wall don't let him retreat no more. Stupid kid! Ya should be springin' forward, killin' that… that…

The white rabbit drops ta the floor and just stays there, unaware of its comin' death. I look at the man – my Pa… my father… – bastard, son of a… He's grinnin' at me. I hear his words even if he don't really speak. I've heard 'em so many times before… Dammit! Why can't I just wake up, now?

"Because you have to kill it first. You must kill it… eat it, if you want to survive… If you want to become strong and big and be a free man, one day. Kill it! You eat only what you kill!"

This is stupid. I look at that man's face… it's been a long time since I've had a dream where I can see his face. It's always just a dark mask. I know he's grinnin', I know his eyes are shinin' with hate and evil… they always are… But there's never no face. Just darkness.

"Kill it!"

I growl at him. Good boy! Now, if that bastard would just come closer… I don't need ta look at him ta know he's displeased. It's gonna hurt now. No matter that it's all just a dream; it's still gonna hurt like all hell.

"I'm gonna fix ya, boy!"

I close my eyes. I don't wanna, but the boy closes his eyes and I'm blind to anythin' but the pain o' the damned rod. This is where I wake up. It's where I always wake up. My back and neck and head are throbbin'… but it's just a memory: the pain will go away the moment I wake up. Any moment now… any moment…

"I'm gonna fix ya! Drive away the devil from ya!"

This is wrong. I should be wakin' up, dammit! He's stopped hittin' and I'm still dreamin', still rememberin'… I see the rabbit standin' in front o' me, lookin' at me with its innocent eyes. It'll stop if I kill it. The idea comes ta me all of a sudden: he's not hittin' me 'cause he wanna drive the devil out o' me… at least not this time, he ain't… It's 'cause he wanted me ta kill the rabbit, 'cause… He'll let me be if I kill the rabbit, he'll… What am I thinkin'? This is the memory's thoughts, not mine… right?

I look at the man's feet. I'm gonna twist things 'round a bit. You can twist dreams a bit, like that… You just wait… I can see yer feet right at my side: ya're right in the perfect place fer losin' some pieces. The boy looks up at him and I see his face hoverin' over me… it' just a dark mask, as always, but the mask has red eyes that shine like fire and… and fangs? He has fangs?

The floor is wet and sticky. I look down and there's nothin' but dead white rabbits all 'round the room, and everythin's red from their blood: the floor, the walls, the ceiling… even their fur is gettin' red. And he's grinnin' at me. Did he have fangs? He couldn't… he wasn't a mutant… This ain't no real memory.

"Now, you'll be able to survive. Now, you'll be big and strong."

He's happy. He's grinnin', pleased that I killed the rabbits… but I didn't, did I? I'm scared. It's just a stupid dream, but I feel like… dammit, I don't know! It's just… I feel so weak. My back's still hurtin' from the beatin' an' my legs are covered in blood, an' my hands and arms. I feel weak and I can't hold my head up no more. I lean it against the soft white fur. And I can smell the blood, makin' me sick… so sick… I wanna sleep… I wanna get out o' here, breathe in some fresh air… but I can't breathe… I can't…

Creed opened his eyes, feeling suffocated. He had sprung up in the bed and was looking around, trying to figure out where he was. He was soaked in sweat and his breath was ragged. He got out of bed with sudden rash movements and had a cold shower. He remained under the running water until his breathing became even. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his head of whatever it was he had been dreaming. He often had nightmares, some he remembered, others he didn't; but he always preferred not remembering them.

When he returned to the bedroom, he still felt weak. Weak and small and sick. And lost. He ran a hand through his wet hair trying to sort out his thoughts, but there weren't any thoughts to sort out, just those feelings, those… He quickly grabbed a pair of jeans and a shirt. The night was cool, but the air seemed hot and thick and sticky to him. He wanted to take a deep breath of fresh air, but the air was the same everywhere and it felt as if he was drowning.

He roamed through the empty streets. What time was it? He couldn't think straight no matter how hard he tried. Then he heard a couple of voices. Quickly hiding in the shadows, he saw a car drive by with two men inside. Now, more than ever, he couldn't think straight. But it didn't bother him anymore. He registered the slow movement of the car… the two men in it, surveying the area and talking to one another. The air reeked of something, making him sick, but he couldn't distinguish what it could be… and then the car drove by him. It took less than a second. He jumped and reached for the driver. The window was open, but it wouldn't have stopped him even if it had been closed.

A new scent filled the air and his nostrils. He could almost taste it: salty and thick and warm. It spilled to his hands and his face and he licked it. Now he felt utterly relaxed; now he felt strong and in control. He took a deep breath; for the first time since he had woken he felt he could think straight again.


Next to him was a police car with an open door, and two police officers in their dark uniforms lay chopped at his feet. He ducked and cursed himself under his breath. These had been two very bad targets. He surveyed the street. It was an old, small street and he couldn't see any cameras. Cameras were everywhere these days, checking both traffic and anything else that went down under their watching eye. There was probably one, at least, but since he couldn't see any, maybe his attack hadn't been taped.

He swiftly returned to the hotel. It took him a half an hour to return, going through dark alleys where he was less likely to be spotted. Once he was back, he returned to his room in the same way he had left – through the window. He showered, packed his things and looked at the watch. 4.34 am. Perfect time to start travelling.

He got his things, went over to Irbis's room and walked in. She was already up and in the bathroom.

"Hey, girl! I'm goin' down ta check us out. Ya better be ready in five minutes."

He left before she had time to answer.