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

Chapter 10

From Scratch

"I have no intention o' hurtin' or killin' ya."

Irbis laughed her incredulity into the night air.

"Mas o homem julga que eu sou estúpida!"

"No, I don't think ya're stupid." If he did, he'd have expected her to believe him. "Even if you are a moron."

And having said that, he returned to his spot near the fire, leaving Irbis sitting on the rocky ground. Frustrated, she took a while before getting up and returning to the fire herself. Once more, she stopped in front of him, the fire keeping them apart. Before she could say anything, though, Creed quickly played his hand.

"If ya're dead or hurt, ya won't do yer job right, cleanin' my house. So stop being all melodramatic and suicidal an'sit down." He roughly threw the animal leftovers at her. "Eat first. Then ya can take care o' yer wounds."

Irbis's chin trembled with anger and frustration.

"I'm not your dog, dat you can order around!" Tears started rolling down her cheeks, which pleased Creed. "You think you can beat me every time you get mad because I don't obey? Well, you can't. And I'm not going back to your house! I'm not working for you anymore. I demand respect! You know what dat is? Do you? It's what you don't give anyone, but demand to receive from everyone."

She choked for a moment, the strength of her emotions threatening to overcome her, now that the adrenaline had diminished. And Creed was determined not to do or say anything that could be seen as dangerous so as not to rise her adrenaline levels again.

"I'm not working for you. I'm not going back wid you." And she shook her head.

"Fine. Whatever. Now try and give it a rest. The food's still there and ya still gotta take care o' yer wounds." He got up and looked down at the teary eyed woman, still holding onto her ground. "Or not. Either way, have fun. I'm through with yer nonsense fer now."

Without another word, he turned his back on her and disappeared into the darkened trees. Irbis's tears rolled thicker and hotter.

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Over an hour later, Irbis was laying on the ground, unmoving, next to the fire. From the darkness, Creed could see she hadn't eaten anything and, if he focused hard enough, he could even smell a faint scent of tears. He grinned. He had quenched her fury effectively. While playing her game! Just like he had wanted to. He felt the rush of victory overcome him.

Creed got up and stretched. It was a different kind of hunt, this manipulating his prey's mind, and he didn't often go for it. Well, if you didn't count terrorizing his vics into doing whatever he wanted them to. But not using violence, just words… that only happened if he wanted to distract his opponent into giving him an opening for an attack. But either way, he only used manipulation to get his vics deeper into his game. But this! Willingly playing the kid's game and winning… this was completely different. And it wasn't even like when he had been trapped in the X-moron's mansion, making belief his mind was still that of an innocent cub, because he had only been buying time, playing their game, before he could turn the tables on them.

No, this was so much more different. This was so much more exhilarating. He was twisting the kid's mind into anything he wanted. And he'd be doing it until she was a rag doll in his hands, no will whatsoever. Playing by her rules.

Something in his mind warned him she wouldn't be that easy to play. And no, she wouldn't. She knew he had a short fuse. He was well aware of it. But he could control himself, he insisted. He might have a short fuse, but he was in control. He might kill her without meaning to, if he lost his temper and went berserk, but he had enough control to not go into a rage. She could do whatever she wanted to provoke him… he would be the only one doing the manipulating, in this game, not the other way around. And even though she might prove a difficult challenge, he'd still win. Because he was the one in control. He, and no one else. And right now, he had some more mind games to throw at her. Her stubbornness was still begging to be crushed.

He quietly left the tree cover and approached her defeated form. The fire lighted the drying trail of tears on one side of her face, her eyes closed. Creed carelessly kicked some pebbles, so that his approaching steps would be noticed by her. As he expected, she opened her eyes to look at him.

"Ya haven't eaten." She didn't budge. "So, what's yer plan now? Starve yerself ta death? Ya're such a stupid moron, girl."

Her nostrils flared almost imperceptibly in the darkness. Creed shrugged as if he couldn't care less and moved to the other side of the fire, where he arranged a couple of sleeping mats under him as a protection from the many rocks. He laid down to a nap but kept his senses on guard.

He had hardly settled down when she spoke.

"What do you want from me?" Her voice was even and soft.

"I want ya ta stop bein' an asshole, fer starters. An' then ta start doin' yer job without complainin'."

"No, you don't." Her voice was even softer now; gentle almost. "You want me to stop resisting to your orders and to become your slave."

Creed knew she'd still hang on to her stubborn ideas for quite some time before she'd let herself be effectively squashed by his will, so it wasn't hard to resist any annoyance. After all, he might not have any patience to put up with general crap, but he had all the patience in the world for his prey, when he was hunting. After a while, when he didn't answer her, she continued.

"I've lost a lot of things, Mr. Creed, but I'm not letting go of de only thing I've got a word over. I'm not letting go of my dignity. Of my…" She paused for a second before continuing in a fierce whisper. "I'm not letting you destroy me."

Stubborn to the core, Creed almost snorted before picking up her challenge.

"Fine. I ain't gonna destroy ya then, I'll just let ya do it yerself. Would that be acceptable ta ya? Look, kid, I ain't no nice guy, but I did lose my precious time ta teach ya how ta defend yerself, remember? Right in between saving yer life a couple o' times. Ya remember that? Is it that strange I'm gonna demand something back from ya?"

She didn't answer and he got up, going over to her side. Without delay, he grabbed her by her shoulders to pull her up in a sitting position, ignoring Irbis's pained whelp. Then he sat down in front of her and looked her straight in the eye.

"Yup, ya're right. The only thing I wanted ya fer was cleaning my house so then I could kill ya. But since ya proved yerself ta be just a great asset, I decided ta keep ya alive. That's what I'm doin'. Keepin' ya alive. If I didn't want ya alive, I would destroy ya, make no mistake. I'd destroy ya painfully."

"You want to bend my will, like we do to horses and bulls."

Creed gazed deep into her eyes and struggled to soften his own voice.

"What do ya want, then?"

Her nostrils flared and her chin twitched for a mere second.

"I want… I want what I can't have." She blinked to keep away tears from forming, but held his gaze.

"Then pick somethin' else ya can have." He challenged.

"No… It's everything or nothing. I want… I just want to feel happy. Contented, if nothing else. But I can't. In all dis time I've been working wid you, I've been eider miserable or… or… just passing time. I want to feel alive! And I can't find a way to do it." She stopped a moment to sniff and steady her voice. "You have offered moments when I felt happy. Very few moments. A couple. You've made me feel alive a few more. And… if I am grateful to you for anything, it's because of dat. But it's not enough! One moment in days and weeks is only teasing. Is only hurting."

"Ya want me ta make ya feel alive?" And what the hell had he been trying to do if not just that.

Irbis shook her head softly.

"I want to make me feel alive myself. But I can't do it alone."

"So ya want me ta do it." He forgot to suppress some sarcasm from spicing his tone, and her eyes shone with rebellion.

"No!" She snapped. "I want you to respect me."

"Well, so there is something ya want from me." No sarcasm, this time, even if he couldn't help a slight undertone of annoyance.

"One more thing I can't have." She added, her accusing voice suddenly hard. "You have no respect for anyone but you. Even when you pretend to respect me, it's only dat: pretending."

Creed suppressed a grin of victory. He had her now.

"I don't give my respect to nobody. Ya'd have ta deserve it." He took a great effort to soften his voice, but there was still an edge to it. "And ya have. Ya deserved my respect when we first met, when ya slit open that guy attackin' ya. That's why I didn't kill ya. Then ya deserved my respect again when ya managed ta stand up against those four stooges that Canadian asshole had sent down. Why d'ya think I took ya with me? 'Cause ya showed me ya deserved ta have yer own vengeance. 'Twas also why I took ya ta the doctor ta check ya up. 'Cause I respected ya. Ya also deserved my respect fer doing yer job right. I ain't ever had a house-keeper woman or agency doin' a better job than you did. It's 'cause I respect yer hard work that I don't wanna kill ya. Then ya once more deserved my respect when ya single-handedly escaped yer kidnappers. Which is why I thought ya were worth spending my time ta teach ya somethin'."

He paused a moment to let the information sink in before continuing.

"But then ya goes an' throw tantrums and act like a spoiled brat. I can't respect that. Ya want me ta respect ya? Deserve it. Not once in a while, but all the time."

"You mean dat, to respect me, I have to take care of myself when you aren't around and to obey your orders when you are around."

Creed breathed out forcefully. He was doing a hell of an effort here, would it really be that hard for the brat to just let go of her stubbornness against taking orders? She held his annoyed gaze. For a split moment he wondered if she could guess what he was trying to do.

"I respect strength. But instead o' tryin' ta be strong, ya play the helpless frail who ain't even interested in tryin' ta improve."

She was thoughtful for a moment.

"What about obeying your orders? Isn't…"

"My 'orders', as ya calls 'em, are only aimin' at teachin' ya somethin'! Teachin' ya ta be stronger. But ya don't want that, do ya? All ya want is ta bury yerself in a tiny hidin'-hole; that's why ya refuse ta obey when I'm tellin' ya what ta do so ya can get stronger. And that, lil' girl, is what I despise about ya."

Creed was particularly careful to make sure she could hear plenty of despise in his last sentence. He was glad when he noticed her jaws' tension and her breathing getting harder. She was fighting herself, her stubbornness. He knew he had her. But he still suppressed his victorious grin and tried his best to keep his eyes hard. The slightest hint would through her stumbling back to her blasted adamant resistance.

Finally, she looked away from him and closed her eyes with a sigh, her head trembling for a single moment. She was broken. Her stubbornness, at least. But Creed still kept his face from showing the slightest hint of his victory. It all amounted to nothing, though. He almost growled when he saw her open her eyes with determination and gazing back at him. They were shining with defiance.

"Very well, Mr. Creed. I will deserve your respect den. You want me to fight and to shoot? You want me to learn it from you? I will." Creed frowned. He had expected her to say something farther from his wishes. "But den, respect dis: I will not shoot at you or cut you. I will not hurt you. Because I do not want to. Now respect my strength to stand up against your beatings because of my decision."

Creed growled audibly. She was so begging to… But no, he would not touch one hair of her head. Not just yet, he wouldn't. With a great effort he sheathed his claws, which had come out of their own accord at the provocation. He took deep breaths for a moment, before speaking again. She didn't avoid his eyes. She didn't believe he could control himself, he recalled.

"Why. Not." He spat through clenched teeth. "Just explain that one to me, an' don't gimme that crap 'bout me savin' yer life."

"Because." She blurted, almost haughtily. "I decided I wouldn't."

Creed closed his fists so hard it hurt.

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Thank you for reading and reviewing.

Special note for Kristy a.k.a. Satanicmidget69:

Although I enjoy even the shortest reviews, yours was so expressive it has boosted my ego for quite some time. Thank you for your words and should you feel like dropping a line and not be able to think of anything 'specific' or 'helpful', just tell me which part you enjoyed the best. I can assure you that knowing what my readers laughed or cringed at helps me a lot.

I'm afraid I won't be continuing with further adventures of Irbis and Sabretooth for a few months, for I don't start posting chapters to a new story until I've finished every chapter in it. On the other hand, and since you like Sabretooth, I hope you will enjoy the next stories. They are two spin-offs from the "Wolverine: Origin" series and the second in particular might interest you.