Title: How's it Gonna Be? (Chapter 1: Dark Side of the Moon)
Feedback: Yeah, that would be good.
Disclaimer: This is not a cash venture. Characters are property of Marvel Comics. They will be returned unharmed later, though I make no such guarantees about their clothing.
Notes: Takes place during the bone claw era. Sabretooth escaped from custody at the X-mansion as described in 'Red Zone', but in this timeline, he was never re-captured.
Snow and claws flashed together in the white-cold sun, and blood covered Logan's hands. Not nearly enough. He could still smell Silverfox's blood under Sabretooth's, and the numb despair from earlier had flashed up like lit kerosene in the face of Logan's suddenly focused rage.
Sabretooth was winning. It was not that he was stronger or faster than Wolverine was, it was the memories he had and Wolverine did not. It was the gleam of full awareness and recognition in his eyes as he landed blow after blow, and it was the wet, slimy trickle of blood that was slowly working it's way into the claw housing of Wolverine's right arm.
The dream ended abruptly, with a knock at Wolverine's door, and he wiped it out of his eyes before anyone else saw it.
The nightmare returned.
It was stronger this time, and the tactics Sabretooth used for this fight were far more brutal. He gouged Wolverine's eyes with his thumbs, and tore a mouthful of Wolverine's side out with his teeth. Wolverine returned the favor as best he could, but some of the tactics he would have used in the waking world were useless to him here, as if he couldn't remember how his body was supposed to move. Nothing made sense in this dream. The only familiar thing was Logan's hatred of Sabretooth, and his enemy's mocking smile. They fought...
And then a burst of unfamiliar, shattering pain struck Logan's hip, dropping him to the ground at Sabretooth's feet. Gasping for breath at the shock of actually having something BROKEN, Wolverine realized that he was in the past. Before the X-men, before Jean Gray, before the tank, and the hot, liquid metal that made his claws masquerade as simple retractable knives.
He'd lost the Adamantium since then, but until now, his dreams hadn't reflected this.
Sabretooth flashed his hand down, sharp-nailed fingers locked out straight like harpoons, and Logan caught it, because he had to. Sabretooth ground his fingers into a fist, most around, and one THROUGH Wolverine's hand. He struck down again, this time twisting as he did so, and the bones of Wolverine's wrist snapped, bone claws, casings and all.
The third nightmare struck like a snake. There was blackness, no sight, only feeling and smells, so many crisp, loud smells. Mostly something sharp, salty like sweat-stiff leather. Pines. Dust. It wasn't winter anymore, it was summer. Juniper and fresh-broken weeds. Not Canada, but...
He was fighting a hand-no, a knee on his throat. One arm was temporarily out of commission, and the other was buried up to the base of his claws in the meat of Sabretooth's leg, just above the offending knee. He was struggling with that hand, trying to keep it from suffocating him, and trying to twist his metal claws hard enough into the muscle to tear something.
Then came another pain, a different one. This was a pain that no man was meant to know and live, and his conscious brain was wise to have hidden it from him. It was many things. The impossibility began with Sabretooth's pointed fingernails punching through his skin like wet cloth, four just above the pubic bone, and one actually beneath it, behind Logan's 'family jewels'.
Then it got worse, because Sabretooth closed his fist, soundly crushing everything within his palm. Sabretooth raised Logan over his head one handed, his arm covered in blood and clearer liquid from the puncture wounds his fingers were holding open. He roared triumph into the red-orange sky of late afternoon, and the echo came back off the mountains with an unnatural clarity, the only thing besides the pain that Logan's mind could still comprehend.
He had it.
This was the place behind the pain, behind the berserker itself that had so often kept Logan alive in the past. And Sabretooth couldn't hold him out of striking range like this forever. As Sabretooth lowered him, however, there was the nova of a punch at the back of his head, and he knew nothing more.
Logan awoke breathing shallow and harsh, teeth set together against remembered acts of madness. One set of claws was out, slicing three neat holes in the sweaty blanket that covered him.
The night after that was actually the third night since the last dream, but Logan hadn't slept in three days.
He just didn't feel like sleeping, for some odd reason. Each of the three previous dreams had the good grace to fade a little by morning's light, but they still hunted the edges of the peace that Wolverine had carefully built within his mind. He was hoping the ridiculous amount of scotch he'd just drunk would forestall ANY thought, much less dream, but ...
He was in a mineshaft now, the air close and hot, with a trace of spent explosives seeping out of the walls themselves. He had been stripped and tied, no... staked to something. Not railroad spikes, or he could have pulled off of the ends, but something like them.
Wait... That was it. A rock drill, through both wrists, and seated deep into the rock beneath. He felt light-headed, and thirsty. How much of the damp ground beneath his head was wet with -water-, anyway? At first he thought Sabretooth had staked him in this tunnel to die, but Wolverine discarded this thought almost immediately. To be that sloppy wasn't Sabretooth's style.
Nor to be that kind.
He was right, and Sabretooth soon returned. The hairs on the back of Logan's neck stood stiffly, knowing and not knowing, remembering what until now had been safely buried.
Sabretooth had definitely waited for him to heal, but without at least a little water, not much of the blood loss from their previous fight had changed. If he could just get things to move faster, just enough to get his hands around the handle of the rock drill...
Sabretooth smiled down at him evilly, then pounced. Logan kicked him upside the jaw, and drew blood at the corner of Sabretooth's mouth. This took a lot of effort, and delayed Sabretooth for all of four seconds. Sabretooth laughed, and reached down towards Logan's most unprotected area, apparently to crush him a second time. Logan ripped down on his hands, tearing the tendons around his wrists, and driving the bit of the rock drill almost up to the level of his palms. The hole in his wrists and hands started bleeding again, and though it didn't do so long, it didn't help. Sabretooth took hold of Logan's privates in one hand, and used the other one to hold his head down so he wouldn't bite.
This was new. New and BAD.
Sabretooth did not disappoint him. Using only a thumb claw, Sabretooth tore open the same thin skin he had in the previous dream, only this time it seemed he was being more methodical about it. ...Like maybe he had a -reason-.
A wave of cold, sick certainty hit Wolverine's mind, and he bit Sabretooth with a desperate twist. A fraction of a second after he felt his teeth sink into the side of Sabretooth's hand, Sabretooth bit Logan's neck just below the ear, and bit deep. The warmth spreading around the back of Wolverine's right shoulder wasn't just blood, it was blood that was flowing too fast for Sabretooth to drink.
Sabretooth was no vampire, but the taste of blood was very attractive to him.
Especially Logan's, because he had tasted it in the past, but never very much at one time. Never this much. Sabretooth checked Logan's eyes, and drew back from Logan's neck, licking the broken skin wistfully, and reached for-
Wolverine awoke with a harsh and terrified scream that made him wonder how long he'd been screaming. He was glad he wasn't at the X-mansion, because the last thing he wanted to do was explain a dream like that, particularly to anyone he knew.
The sick thing was, Logan knew the difference between dreams that had happened and dreams that hadn't. And somewhere, some time, this one might have.
It did explain a little of why he both hated Sabretooth beyond all reason, and feared him above far more powerful enemies. But it didn't feel complete, this terrible reflection...
Two days later, Logan awoke in a field of new grass and wild onions, under the mid-morning sun, a long way away from anywhere. The only nearly-human scent around was his own, and this was a comforting thought, but he couldn't remember why he'd come out there in the first place. What had he done, and why couldn't he remember?
The same thing happened a week later, but he woke up back in his apartment. This was getting really disturbing, especially since the mineshaft dream had returned in bits and snatches, but never with any words or meaning he could make sense of. Sometimes he remembered Sabretooth talking to him about something, but he could never remember what it was upon waking. Maybe finding the real, flesh-and-blood Sabretooth, and beating the ever living shit out of him would help jog his memory...
It had been a long ride North into Alberta. The weather that had been threatening when he left the X-Mansion settled in somewhere over North Dakota, and the bent grasses on the edge of the interstate frosted white. Logan though about the Indian reservations nearby, and wondered what the friends he had in these parts were doing this time of year. The shades of Winter darkened as he rode into Canada. Late October could look a lot like early January here.
In a roadside motel, two miles away from the Canadian federal park he was looking for, Logan quietly fell apart. It was something he allowed himself to do, because just once in a while he needed to, or the outcome was worse. In a better mood, he might have compared these episodes to the beginning scenes of 'Apocalypse Now'. Logan half-trashed the place, then curled up in a ball in the center of the floor, shivering, fingers raking through the stained brown carpet as if trying to get a hold of something. Inside Wolverine's head, memories slammed into being and melted like globs of wax seconds later, unrecoverable. There was a foreboding sense of deja-vous about this, and Logan grabbed a thought with all of his concentration as it appeared, not much caring which one.
Gibney. Kyle Gibney. Wildchild, now Wildheart. Not all of him, just his scent. That not-quite-washed teenage madness smell.
Irritated, Wolverine grabbed for another.
A bridge. South America, perhaps?
A storm at the top of a mountain, bare rocks and black rain, jagged stone spikes, waking up after being hit with a shot of lightening, and laughing at his skin burned as it healed.
Madness and power.
Wolverine grabbed for another thought, and blacked out suddenly.
Logan woke up in the deepest corner of the closet, wrapped tightly in the dull blue blanket that had been on the bed the night before. There were no new smells, and he was alone. His stomach growled. Feeling very clear-headed, Logan got up and tossed the blanket back on the bed, then stretched. This would be a good day.
Logan's bike made good time into the mountains, and he left it at the last gas station before the road ended. It was a deliberate message. The best way to hunt a predator was to make him think he's getting a free meal. Sabretooth was no different, but the trick was to have a good enough plan to deal with what happened when he DID show up. Wolverine had planned carefully, and set up what appeared to be a simple and effective deadfall snare. Thing was, that wasn't the trap. The trap itself was a series of snow-covered claymore mines set to go off when Sabretooth approached the trap to laugh at the attempt. Which he would. The smell of the claymores was well hidden by layers of long-dried latex paint. The paint would smell, but wouldn't put Sabretooth on guard the way the scent of gun powder or C4 would. It was a dirty, underhanded, nasty trap that was as far from Wolverine's style as such things got. And that might be why, two days later, it worked. It was a hell of a mess, and Sabretooth had embedded shrapnel from the tops of his leather boots to his blood-matted hair. He didn't get up.
Wolverine looked at his fallen nemesis speculatively for a long, dangerous moment, the scent of Sabretooth's blood heady and sweet in his nostrils. It would be easy to kill him now... but Wolverine had come for answers, not an easy win, or he would never have used the explosives trap in the first place. He tied Sabretooth up to a stout tree, using tow-truck chain and two sets of heavy steel shackles.
Sabretooth's eyes cracked slightly, then opened when he saw Wolverine staring at him intently. Sabretooth's lower lip had been torn, and hadn't quite healed. His tongue probed the cut, and after a moment, Sabretooth spat a small piece of bloody metal onto the snow in front of him. A slow smile crossed his red-streaked face, and he looked back at Wolverine.
"That was good, runt. Didn' think ya had it in ya."
"Surprise," Wolverine replied, deadpan, "-and I want some information."
"COCKSUCKER!!" snarled Sabretooth. "-And here I thought ya were finally gonna be fun!"
"Knowin' how ya love ta bleed, I'm gonna start real simple," Wolverine continued, "...jus' tell me a story." Popping one claw on each hand, Wolverine ripped what was left of Sabretooth's clothes off.
"Guess I was right," Sabretooth grinned smugly.
Wolverine kept his face carefully blank, because he had no idea what he was about to release- -in his OWN mind. He'd been reacting differently to uncovered memories lately, and blacking out in front of Sabretooth, even a well-restrained Sabretooth, was a probable death sentence.
Or maybe not. Sabretooth had had the opportunity to kill him in the past and hadn't. Degrade, torture, dominate, destroy, these things Sabretooth was ready and willing to do, but perhaps for the same reasons, Sabretooth didn't seem to be able to bring himself to kill Logan. This was the only creature that could heal as he could, sense as he did, hate like he could. This was Wolverine.
In the back of his mind, Wolverine remembered something else. Something that incited feelings that were much less than human. Sabretooth had effectively raped him. Maybe more than once. How many times had he blocked this and kept going like nothing had happened...?
Sabretooth needed a sense of perspective. He needed punishment and a reminder. What better way to get him talking about the past than to re-enact it?
Thing was though, Wolverine didn't really want to have sex with Sabretooth, willing or otherwise, and he damn well didn't want to unchain him for the purpose.
There was, however, more than one way to skin a cat.
Logan used his claws.
"Lame-brain sonofawhore..." Sabretooth choked, after he stopped screaming.
"Start talking," Wolverine advised coldly, eyeing his wet claws.
"Bad answer. We got all night."
"Logan, whaddya think you know?" Sabretooth asked, still hurting, but suddenly serious.
"Enough." growled Wolverine. He was lying, and they both knew it.
"I'll have you, one of these days," Sabretooth promised, grimly. "I don't care whether you remember or not. Your mind's a pile o' crap, Logan."
Sabretooth looked at Wolverine thoughtfully. He made a choice, then said,
"Since th' metal. You ain't remembered who ya were since."
"Who was I, then?"
"My bitch," Sabretooth grinned.
"I don' think so, Creed."
"Yeah, 'think'. Ya do that real well, don't ya. Tell me Logan, wha'd ya think o' Kyle?"
"Gibney? ...Wildchild?" Wolverine remembered the night at the motel at the bottom of the mountain, and felt cold. "He's an impulsive shit who reminds me o' you with less smarts."
"Yeah, but he didn' have ta be, did 'e?" Sabretooth's tone was almost but not quite accusing.
"What are ya talking about?" Wolverine demanded, as a second cold wave made it's way down his back.
"THEY made 'im like that, don't ya see?"
"Which-" Wolverine started to ask, but then the world went black again.
"Wakey, wakey, runt," Sabretooth called, softly. Wolverine opened his eyes with a start, and for a second, was not sure whether or not he had. Reality was disturbingly close to the dreams. The sun had risen, and it was warmer. Sabretooth was sitting on Wolverine's stomach, and had enterprisingly used the shackles to chain Wolverine's wrists to a thick tree root above his head, and his feet to stakes driven into the ground. Seeing the pleased, wicked look on Sabretooth's face, Logan's eyes narrowed.
"This is trouble ya won't live through, Creed."
"Maybe so..." Sabretooth smiled back, "-but until then, your ass is mine."
Logan fought. The way Creed had staked him out, it made not a damn bit of difference, and it meant that he took a lot of unnecessary injuries. Not that they mattered for long, of course. For all that he was, Wolverine fought anyway.
Sabretooth had him twice that day. The first time, he fought like a wildcat, and the second time, he made no sound at all, mind locked in to resist showing weakness in the face of torture. At the very back of his mind, Wolverine noticed that the second time, the only damage that Sabretooth did him was actually at the point of entry. Elsewhere, he mocked Wolverine with sensations that lied. Sharp bites, and warm, hard licks, rough strokes and deep, purring growls, and underneath it the great dull pain of his dick, forcing it's way inside. Sabretooth came hard on the second round, and his teeth broke the skin on the side of Wolverine's neck. Wolverine's patience snapped, and he roared in outrage, tearing his neck out of Sabretooth's mouth, and sinking his own teeth deep into Sabretooth's shoulder, severing deep muscles. The rush of Sabretooth's blood in his mouth was like no other, but it made him remember something, and Wolverine started to fade out.
/I am not. Doing. This blackout shit. Again./ Logan promised himself.
When he came to, the shackles were gone. Logan was simply lying half-curled on the ground, already fully healed. He felt sticky. Sabretooth was sitting on his heels a short distance away, still naked and bloody, watching Logan thoughtfully. Logan said nothing. What he felt most was confused, because by all rights he should have been furious, and he wasn't. Angry, yes, but not the kind of senseless, visceral rage that was most common when it came to Sabretooth and him. On some level that his mind couldn't quite reach, Logan understood what had just happened. Sabretooth was insane, and he liked to dominate, but he hadn't gone out of his way to torture. Perversely, he'd almost completely avoided it, so the memories of what he'd done couldn't just be lost in a wave of remembered pain. There was something in his quiet expression, too, that bordered on...
"WHAT?" Wolverine glared at him.
Sabretooth looked very disappointed.
"Y' are a stubborn cuss, I'll give ya that," Sabretooth sighed, "-still, it don' matter. Sooner or late, I'll have ya back."
"I wouldn' count on that," Logan snorted. He wasn't sure what had just happened, but he was sure he couldn't take Sabretooth in a fight with the energy he had left, and he wanted to put as much distance between them as possible until he could get it back. Wolverine stood up, dusted himself off, and picked up what he could find of his clothes.
"See ya 'round, runt!"
...How the hell had he known Sabretooth would be in this part of the mountains, anyway?
Sabretooth was following him. Wolverine had the sensation of being watched at least once or twice a day, and now and then, he thought he could smell Sabretooth nearby, but he never saw anyone. Sabretooth was being very sneaky, and very, very uncharacteristically cautious. Once or twice Wolverine lost his pursuer altogether, but Sabretooth always seemed to locate him again after a week or so.
He couldn't go back to the Xavier Institute like this. No, Sabretooth was his own personal demon, and there was no bringing him home to meet the kiddies. So, now what?
Logan had been dreaming of the Adamantium procedure lately. Occasionally of Sabretooth, but more often of the night he had been captured by Dr. Cornelius' thugs. He hadn't been expecting them, and his mind had been on something else...
/What have I done?/ Wolverine wondered. /Why does it feel like I HAVE done something?/
...And if I haven't, why can I remember being basically raped by Creed, but not this?
Scratch that. What leads do I -really- have.../
This was a private war. Kyle Gibney might have arrived on the scene late, but he was by no means unarmed, whatever his older Alpha Flight teammates thought of him. He would hold it together in the face of overwhelming odds for the longest time, and nobody else would even notice, yet every time he slipped, they were always there to see it. Not today.
Kyle was hunting moose, and doing it well. Walking lightly through the snow, using rocks whenever he could, Kyle approached. The small group of moose he was tracking had been moving down the valley all day, and they were approaching a chokepoint. Kyle waited.
And waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited.
Shit. Goddamn slow-moving moose.
"Yaaragggh!" Kyle pounced, launching himself onto the back of the lead animal, and tearing it's throat open with his talons. The moose refused to die, and attempted to buck him off. Kyle was having none of it. He brought his elbow up and forward in a vicious arc, smashing into the base of the moose's skull. The moose staggered, and fell. Kyle leapt from it in midair, landing with a light crunch in the snow beside his kill, and plunging his hand into the moose's lung, through it's ribcage. The heart was just past there. Kyle yanked the moose's heart out, and watched it stop beating. Then he ate it.
That was how Logan found him, and as their eyes met, there was a silent agreement not to mention it.
"What's up Wolverine? Whaddya want?" Wildheart asked.
"Talk to ya."
Wildheart shrugged his agreement.
"When's the first time we met?" Wolverine asked.
"Dunno," Wildheart frowned, "Alpha Flight, probably."
"What about Sabretooth?"
"How the hell should I know when you met Sabretooth?"
"I meant when did YOU meet him."
"Why are you asking me all of this?" Wildheart asked, eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"'Cause it's important," Wolverine replied.
"Yeah, well... guess that's all I get from everybody else," Wildheart sighed. If the question had been anything else, he might have told even Wolverine to go to hell, but he found himself wanting to talk about this. Besides, if there was ANYONE who would believe him, it was his former teacher. "-I met him a couple of years before I joined Alpha Flight. I was kinda wandering, and he drove by in this old pickup truck. He just stopped, and looked at me, and told me to get in the truck. No explanation or anything. And I did, 'cause he scared the bejezus out of me," Wolverine was really paying attention to this, Kyle noted, "-anyway, we drove around for a while, just me and him. Somewhere. He got me food, and stole me this really cool buck knife. When I'd wise off to him, he'd hit me, but otherwise we got along good. He thought I was kinda funny."
"How'd ya part company?"
"Some guys shot 'im. I didn't know he'd come back, so I split. After that I didn't see him until after I met you."
"Huh," said Wolverine, thoughtfully.
"What does all that mean to you?" Wildheart asked.
"When I figure that out, I'll let ya know," Wolverine replied.
"You're gonna go now, aren't you?" Wildheart observed.
"Watch your ass out there, kid," said Wolverine, walking away.
/I am so close. I had him once and always, mine and mine alone. The only one strong enough not to fold like a frail, the only one for me, the only one who's really my kind.
I've lived into this century pretty well. So did he, for a while. I remember our trip t' Egypt. We worked a steamer across, no airplane or nothin'. Got there in winter, just like now. Ended up roaring drunk at a bar in Cairo I couldn't pronounce the name of. We slept it off, and went to the valley of the kings on foot the next day. Just him and me, walking through the sand. It was wet on top in the morning, dark and cold, and everybody else pretty much kept to the camel paths. In a way, we'd never been more alone and together at the same time.
When we got to the valley, Lake met us, and- -ah, hell. What did I ever do to Logan that he can remember Landau, Luckman and Lake, and not me?
Maybe that's the point.
I wasn't always like this, you know. There's a part o' Logan, and a part o' me, that are always like this, but while mine focuses outwards when the fat hits the fire, Logan's turns inwards, protecting whatever cubs he can find. I turn around and kill anything that ain't us. It's what we're wired ta do, an' we do it well, both of us. Thing is, somewhere along the line, Logan decided he was protecting the 'cubs' from ME. And he's very passionate about these things. And with that metal in his bones, there was no reasonin' with 'im. Fucked 'im up good, that stuff. I watched him AGE for chrissake! AGE. That ain't supposed to happen, not then, not to him.
Drove me nuts.
My partner, an' e's sick, and there was NOTHIN', NOTHIN' I could do about it. I owe Magneto big time for this, and he don't even know it. Adamantium don't come loose by shakin'.
I've been watching him. Day by day he comes back to himself, rootin' out the truth about his past with a new rage, all quiet-like.
I doubted 'im once. God damn stupidest thing I ever did.
'Mine-o-mine, no matter what she do,' -Spoon had that right./
He hadn't blacked out since Canada. Maybe it was Wolverine's luck, maybe just deciding not to black out again last time. Wildheart had- or maybe could have had- a strong connection to Sabretooth. Creed had taken one look at the boy and taken him under his wing, yet hadn't tracked him down a second time when they were separated, and had allowed Kyle to keep believing he was dead. Kyle wasn't a bad kid, really. He had a lot of things against him, and he still fought for who he was, who he wanted to be. The similarities between Creed and the kid were painfully obvious, from mutation type to looks. To pass on a list of mutations like having a healing factor, heightened senses, sharp claws, and feral tendencies on to the next generation intact and unchanged was almost unheard of. Mutations tended to shift and change, seeking more effective forms. Yet Kyle had them. Wolverine didn't know much about Kyle's family, but it appeared to be just a regular, if abusive, set of human bloodlines. Wolverine wondered if Sabretooth had had Kyle's Human mother, and she just never told anyone about it.
Sabretooth was strange when it came to the subject of Kyle. Maybe on some level Creed realized that he needed to take care of Kyle, but couldn't form the right kinds of ties himself, and had let Wolverine check on Kyle instead. ...That almost made sense. To his undying annoyance, Wolverine had gained the reputation of taking on 'strays' from time to time, and who better to teach and protect Wildheart than a mutant with abilities similar to his own?
Wolverine's head hurt. Part of what he was thinking was probably responsible, but what the hell. He'd been trying to figure this mess out for weeks, and though he was making SOME progress, he wasn't sure he was going in the right direction with it.
One thing was for sure, Wolverine had been re-evaluating his nemesis. Every year on his birthday, Sabretooth dropped by to take a crack at him. Mess him up, confuse him, fuck with his head, fuck HIM, soak the ground with blood, leave bodies of Wolverine's enemies and threatening notes- "Nobody kills you but ME- especially today!" and the like. Now, Wolverine knew about betrayal, and since Creed had claimed to have had some kind of a long-term relationship with him, however crudely, Logan had been looking at Creed's actions in this light.
At first, Sabretooth had tolerated the fact that Wolverine didn't remember much, but as more and more time passed, Wolverine noticed that Sabretooth had gotten more violent and frustrated by the blank look in Logan's eyes when he brought up the past. Silverfox he remembered, but she hadn't actually died then. A lot of memories got tampered with, and not just in HIS head. It was only in the last ten or fifteen years that Sabretooth had really lost it, and if he thought- -never mind whether it was true- -if Sabretooth believed that he and Wolverine had been together and Wolverine had spontaneously, for whatever reason, forgotten everything about it, that would explain a lot. More points towards the theory that Sabretooth was Kyle's father, because Kyle's age matched up roughly with the time right after Wolverine would have disappeared after getting the Adamantium, leaving Sabretooth with no explanation and a missing 'partner'. Maybe he'd gotten pissed enough to go looking for a woman.
That added up disturbingly well, and Logan found himself wondering... could he have actually been with Creed at some point? A somewhat more stable version of the Sabretooth he knew, a powerful, loyal predator who even NOW refused to give up hope that Logan would someday remember him for what he was, and came back every year to see if that was the case?
That was TOO close. Maybe there was something to it...
/But I was NEVER/ Wolverine decided, /Sabretooth's 'bitch'./
"Ring... ring... ring... ring... ring... CLICK-- Hey. This is Victor Creed. You're callin' my phone, so I figure ya want something. After th' beep, say what that is, and if ya leave me a number, I might even get back to ya."
"..." Wolverine looked at the receiver in annoyance. Even Sabretooth's answering machine was capable of irritating him.
Wolverine took a breath.
"It's me. Pick up if you're there. ...Fine. I've been thinkin'. We gotta talk, Vic. Not like beat the crap out o' each other, either. We'll get t' that anyway. I know ya been around. I want a face t' go with the smell. Be seein' ya."
The outskirts of Ottawa were beginning to settle into a striped pattern of clean and dirty snow. Telephone poles were now joined by high-voltage wires from time to time, and long, empty fields stretched out in all directions. Wolverine had been driving overnight, and his nose and cheeks felt frozen. Probably were. He was also being followed, but that could be a good thing. A charcoal-colored Chevy pickup truck had been pacing him for a good seventy miles, always keeping back far enough to blend in nicely with the early morning traffic. Wolverine saw a rest stop up ahead, and pulled over. It wasn't much, just a gravel patch, a hutch with a plastic-cased map on one side, and a port-o-john chained to the leeward side of a wooden snow break.
Logan parked his bike, and got off, stiffly. He walked over to stand by the hutch, but didn't look at the map. Logan stretched his arms over his head, moved his wrists a little, and cracked his neck a few times. Feeling somewhat better, Logan shoved his leather-gloved hands deep in the pockets of his jacket, and waited.
The Chevy knew the game was up, and pulled into the rest stop as well, parking about fifty feet away from Logan's bike. Sabretooth got out, retrieved a tan cowboy hat from the passenger's side, and crammed it on his head. Creed looked tall, gold, scruffy, dangerous, and completely familiar. Logan waited. Creed walked over, and looked at him for a moment, uncomfortably. Then he lit a cigar, and pretended to check the map. The scratched transparent plastic caught Logan's expression well enough.
"Creed," Wolverine acknowledged him, somehow making it sound like an insult.
"Talk," Creed shrugged.
"I know you," Wolverine stated. Sabretooth froze, and in the dingy reflection of the map cover, made eye contact. There was no lie in his eyes.
"Well it's about time," he said, roughly.
"I don't remember everything," Wolverine cautioned.
"Huh," Creed turned and looked down at Logan for a long moment. Then he took the cigar out of his mouth with one hand, and walked over in two paces. Wolverine stood his ground, wanting to know Sabretooth's thoughts- -and his- -worse than he wanted to attack or get out of arm's reach. Creed put his free hand at the back of Logan's neck, and pulled the other man tight to his chest, bending his face down to breathe in the scent of Logan's hair, and securing him with his other arm, not quite burning Logan's jacket with the cigar. Creed's breathing was tight, and the cigar smoke Creed brought with him was hot and familiar against the side of Logan's neck.
Sabretooth was trembling. It was just enough to be perceptible, and it didn't mean he was trustworthy, but it gave away a few things that Logan was glad to know. Logan decided not to mention it.
Somehow, with the distance between him and his long-time enemy reduced to zero, and smoke in his hair, Logan felt a peace he had no name for. Creed's heart was against his ear, the beats loud and fast. Sabretooth couldn't fake this. Logan noticed that his hands were clenched into fists in the brown leather of Creed's jacket, holding onto him, but didn't move them.
This was wrong. This was horribly, disastrously wrong, but...
/I can't do this. HE can't.
I can, and I will, and fuck it, he's warm.
I can't forgive him this easily. He don't deserve that.
It's gonna be a long, hard road...
But... I know him. He's worth it, if only just.
I can't let this go. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
But we both need...
A few minutes later, the horn of a red suburban intruded on the moment. Sabretooth glared at the driver over the tufts of Wolverine's hair, and the horn stopped abruptly.
"Asshole..." Creed muttered, putting the cigar back in his mouth and stepping back a pace. /I am gonna-/
"Wanna get some breakfast?" Logan asked, knowing all too well what that look meant.
"Yeah, that sounds good. Follow me out," Creed agreed, giving the order casually.
/He don't ask, but I don' think he's tryin' ta piss me off.../ Wolverine's train of thought was interrupted by Sabretooth kissing him. Really, really well, as a matter of fact. In front of the sky, the early-morning highway traffic, and the terrorized driver of the red suburban.
/I'm gonna have t'lay down some rules.../ thought Wolverine.
Sometime later found them at a Waffle House, finishing off a really big pile of bacon and scrambled eggs. Logan caught Creed looking at him from time to time, and was often caught himself, but there seemed to be an unspoken agreement not to talk until the food was gone. A waitress came by and re-filled their coffee cups. Doris was a 40's-ish woman with imprecise makeup. Wolverine thanked her with a sound that could have been a word, and Sabretooth said nothing. Doris didn't look surprised.
"Creed..." Logan began.
"I ain't gonna sleep with you."
"Right," Creed drank some of his coffee. Logan couldn't tell whether or not Creed was being sarcastic, but he let it ride.
"You gonna keep following me?"
"Want me to travel with you?" Sabretooth asked.
"Then yeah, I am."
"'Cause the last time ya went for a beer run on yer lonesome, ya never came back."
"Huh," Logan had some coffee. As sweet as this was by their unique standards, Wolverine was not happy with the idea of being shadowed by Creed for the rest of his life.
"Don' get yer shorts in a twist," Creed smirked, "-y'know we're a hundred times harder to kill when we team up."
"Yer missin' the point," Wolverine growled.
"You'll see," Sabretooth winked at him.
/Like hell I will/ thought Logan, shrugging into his jacket. At the door, it occurred to him that he'd stuck Vic with the check, but he kept walking.
Doris looked like she could handle him.
Memorial day weekend at the X-mansion was a ZOO. The sun beat down, the mosquitoes were out, and the thrashing pool sparkled like lit magnesium. This year a few of the students' families were there. Most of the moms were looking alternately amazed, uncomfortable, and bored. The little brothers and sisters contingent thought this place beat Disneyland hands down, and the dads were trying to look unimpressed and skillful on the BBQ.
Wolverine had elected to be the lifeguard this year, mostly because it gave him a perch well above the party, and a measure of relative peace and quiet. Jean was in the pool below, a painfully well-cut red bathing suit working to her best advantage, and completely focused on the game of water polo in progress around her. Scott, who was on the other team, had a whistle around his neck, and seemed to be working on some strategy with Rogue and Iceman. Out across the basketball court and the lawn, the woods shimmered slightly in the early summer heat.
Coming back to the X-mansion had been a tough call, but wherever he went in the world, Sabretooth seemed to always show up sooner or later. Logan didn't like it. It wasn't like Creed was intrusive, he always kept his distance and didn't allow himself to be caught, but Wolverine was most definitely being stalked. Xavier had known something was up, of course. Wolverine had told him about his shadow without getting into the details, and professor X had simply nodded after a moment, gravely. Wolverine realized belatedly the degree to which professor X factored in his numerous enemies as part of the package, and knowing which one it was this month was almost a plus.
Well, this was the man who had dealt with MAGNETO on a daily basis...
A faint sound snapped Logan's attention back to the present. It was a child's laugh, but it was coming from the woods, not the pool or the mansion, and the kids had been specifically warned to stay near the house, or else. Logan dropped to the concrete deck, and threw his lifeguard's whistle to Storm. She caught it, and in the instant that they made eye contact, she caught Logan's meaning: There's trouble. I'm taking care of it. Tell Xavier, but don't make a scene.
Logan stalked off quickly in the direction of the woods. He stuck to the tree line, and once out of sight of the pool, he broke into a dead run. He didn't know what he would find, but he was both disappointed and relieved when he found his quarry, right on the edge of the forest. She was about four, and the same shade of Midwestern blonde that Cannonball and Husk were. In a scene that was somewhat reminiscent of Alice and the Cheshire cat, she was talking to Sabretooth, who was sitting about twelve feet above her in a maple tree, grinning enough to fit the part. He was barefoot, and dressed in a pair of jeans and an open flannel shirt, both cutoffs. He looked like some nightmare version of Tom Sawyer.
"Lose somethin'?" he asked, smugly. Wolverine's eyes flashed dangerously, and he moved to stand beside the little girl. The child looked up at Wolverine, and then back at Sabretooth, dubiously.
"Am I in trouble?"
"Nope," said Wolverine "-y' not in trouble."
Sabretooth dropped to the ground beside them, lightly for someone that big, and grinned down at Wolverine.
"Nice trunks," he observed.
"Shove it," Wolverine snarled, softly. Sabretooth ignored this.
"Amelia 'ere was tellin' me all about her big brother and sister who go t' the Xavier school," Sabretooth explained.
"Really," Wolverine said, deadpan.
"Uh-huh," Sabretooth murmured. Amelia tugged on Logan's hand.
"What's his name?" She whispered.
"Tiger," Sabretooth answered for him, glibly.
"Yeah, e's a cat. Lives in th' trees," Wolverine agreed, carefully.
"A -cat-?" Amelia said, amazed. "I've never seen a cat like that before. Are you sure he's a cat?"
"Look at his claws," Wolverine said, logically.
Amelia nodded thoughtfully, eyeing the claws on Sabretooth's toes.
"Can anybody else see him?" she asked.
"Not usually," said Wolverine.
"Guess I'm pretty lucky then," Amelia decided, smiling.
"Yer right about that, kid. An' we should really be gettin' back to the party now."
"Do you have to?" Sabretooth asked.
"Yes," Wolverine shot him a warning glare over Amelia's head.
"I don't wanna go..." Amelia whined.
"Yer mom's probably wonderin' where you are," Wolverine pointed out.
Amelia thought about that. Wolverine took her hand, and started walking away.
"Bye Tiger!" Amelia called back to Sabretooth, waving. Sabretooth waved in return, and then vanished into the trees.
Despite the heat, Wolverine felt cold on the walk back to the mansion.
That night, Professor X called a meeting in his study. Scott, Jean, Rogue, Gambit, Beast, Storm, Iceman, and Psylocke were in attendance. Wolverine was just there.
"I know it's been a long day, and while some of you feel this meeting should have happened earlier, others have told me it's not necessary at all. Bear with me. As you all know, Sabretooth has been sighted on the grounds. While he hasn't actually done any damage yet, we know from experience just how little that means. Logan, any thoughts?"
"Yeah. If I leave, e'll follow," Logan folded his arms.
"Are you certain of this?" Xavier asked.
"Can ya protect the mansion fer a day or two until I'm sure 'e did?" Logan retorted.
"What's going on, Wolverine?" Scott demanded. "Who's Sabretooth working for?"
/Of course, Scott doesn't see Creed as having any motivations other than someone holding his leash/ Logan thought. /-Too bad that's not true./
"Nobody, dammit! He's in business for himself," Logan snarled, "-now we can do this one o' two ways. I deal with 'im, and you deal with 'im. Door number one, I know what I'm doin'. Door number two, you've tried rehabilitatin' him before, so you're basically just askin' for my permission to grab the posse and kill 'im, and I won't have it."
"Logan, none of us operate that way, and you know it," Jean reminded him.
/The hell we don't/ Logan thought, looking Jean in the eyes.
/What's really going on?/ Jean asked him mentally, before the chance was lost.
/Old habits die hard, Jeannie/ Logan replied, obtusely. As he broke the eye contact, Jean got the impression of a soft heat against the left side of her face, and the scent of cigar smoke. She hadn't meant to catch those, but Logan wasn't shielding very well, almost like he was projecting his thoughts intentionally. Jean had seen Logan's thoughts before. They shifted like a dark storm, never fully conscious even when he seemed otherwise awake, but subject to brief flashes of clarity and emotion that could have powered a star cruiser. She never really meant to look, but...
-Sooner or later, every girl wonders what she would look like on the playboy channel, right?
Something was going on in Logan's head right now that was just plain unfamiliar, and Jean didn't know what to make of it. His thoughts felt more clear than usual though, and she decided to back him up. If Logan said he could deal with Sabretooth, maybe he could. Jean looked back up to find Scott scowling at Logan, and Xavier looking at her reproachfully.
/I wasn't scanning, he was thinking to me/ Jean assured her teacher, with a mental roll of the eyes. Psylocke raised an eyebrow at the two other telepaths, but didn't comment.
"Uh, hello?" Iceman looked from one silent teammate to another. "Anybody wanna do subtitles?"
"Chuck, you shouldn' have called a meetin' for this. I'm leavin' in th' morning. Sabretooth's mine, and I'll deal with 'im. My life ain't a fuckin' democracy- -eat it an' like it," Logan left the table, motions tightly controlled and tense.
After the door thudded shut behind Wolverine, his teammates looked around at each other.
"Sabretooth?!" Rogue broke out finally, "And y'all are just gonna let him go?" she added, looking at Gambit.
"Dis ain't my fight," Gambit said, standing his ground, "Mebbe Canada know sometin' we don't."
"Maybe you just don't like the thought of havin' Sabretooth around," Rogue shot back.
Psylocke and Beast left, Beast casting a glance back over his shoulder.
"I'm with Gumbo on this one," Iceman stated, "-besides, how am I supposed to have anything to say when I can only hear half the conversation? -Sheesh."
"Well, I guess the meetin's over then..." Rogue walked out. Gambit watched her go unhappily, and followed half a minute later. Iceman went with him.
"That could have gone better," sighed Professor X.
Scott finished his mental notes on how to how to get his team back together- -something he was used to doing whenever Logan wigged out on him- -and looked from his wife to Xavier, to Storm.
"Look, I don't know Logan as well as any of the three of you do. Frankly, I don't want to, but I do need to know if he's in trouble he can't handle. Is he?"
"Only Logan really knows the answer to that, but he does have allies outside the X-men. He might be thinking of asking one of them for help instead of us," said Storm.
"Pride?" Scott asked.
"That and our base of operations," Storm nodded, "-for someone of Sabretooth's skills, the school would be an easy target. We have already seen how well the proximity detectors work against him."
"I sensed a lot of conflict from Logan, but an unusual degree of clarity too. HE thinks he knows what he's doing," Jean volunteered.
"Professor?" Scott looked at Xavier.
"The only way to stop Logan from leaving is to restrain him, and even if that could be done, I for one don't want to know what Sabretooth's idea of a 'rescue' would be."
"Agreed," Scott said, grimly. The three younger X-men started to leave.
"Jean, may I have a word with you alone?" Xavier called after them.
Beast looked up, somewhat surprised.
"Logan. What help can I offer you?" -the unsaid 'didn't seem like you wanted anybody's help' did not go unnoticed.
"I don't take interventions kindly," Logan shrugged, by way of an apology.
"So, what brings you all the way down here?" Beast asked, in a less hostile tone.
"Information. I need t' know- -I-" Logan broke off for a moment, then continued more coherently. "Sabretooth. We've got the same stuff. What is 'e, my cousin or somethin'?"
"You want to know the genetic relationship between you and Sabretooth." Beast stated.
"I can do that. We have his blood on file. Mostly frozen on scraps of fabric from your old uniforms, as a matter of fact," Beast smiled, with his fangs.
After a while, Wolverine brought his duffel bag down to the lab with him. -He was leaving through the garage anyway, and he didn't want to run into the others over breakfast.
"Well, that's that," Beast adjusted his glasses.
"What have you got?" Wolverine looked at the screen, but it just looked like a couple of partially overlapping frequency diagrams.
"You aren't related to Sabretooth, at least not within the last ten generations, but your mutations are damn near genetically identical. It's very striking. -Uncanny, you might say."
"So what's got ya so int'rested, Hank?"
"That image up there has about as many anomalies as a photograph of deep space. Your DNA in particular. Take this section here," Beast keyed in a magnification on part of the diagram. "This indicates a keyed chemical trigger, and in this strand, it's inactive. Over here-"
"You're sayin' Creed's genes are more Human than mine?" Logan wasn't sure whether to laugh or not.
"Not by much, but yes. It's probably the claws, which Sabretooth doesn't have. Something else that may interest you, you're at least a second-generation mutant."
"Really?" Wolverine hadn't even considered that, once Sabretooth was ruled out as his father.
"Yes. Most mutations tend to shift drastically in form from one generation to the next, for example a speedster might have a daughter with heat powers, but in your case, I'm almost certain that one of your parents was a Mutant with similar powers. I'm really quite glad you-"
"What about Syren an' Banshee?" Wolverine pointed out.
"The exception that proves the rule... though her genetics are stabilized too. This could be a trend in second or third generation mutants..." Beast hurriedly made some notes.
"Ay, Hank-" Logan began, shouldering his duffel bag.
"Yes?" McCoy looked up from the keyboard.
"You're most welcome."
It was good to have the wind on his face again. Wolverine rode South, keeping to the seaward roads. Down through Pennsylvania and Maryland, then into West Virginia. As he'd assumed, Sabretooth came with him. He even drove alongside Wolverine's motorbike for a while, but Wolverine slashed the right front truck tire and gunned the bike's engine before Sabretooth could follow him.
He rode all night after that, changing direction often, trying to lose his pursuer in the hills and hollers of what became Kentucky by dawn. He needed time, and he wanted distance. And he also needed a plan, because while evading Sabretooth had featured in his life often enough before, Wolverine didn't want to make a life of it. Frankly, he had better things to do. That left confrontation or deception. He could face Sabretooth and kill him, he could give the whole 'stronger when we team up' thing another try, or he could arrange for a third party to capture and keep Sabretooth, such as SHIELD.
Deception wasn't his style though, and hell, he didn't want to kill 'im...
But just as certainly, he couldn't let Sabretooth win. That wasn't in his nature either.
Wolverine wondered if he'd run into this problem before, and smirked at the thought.
He had to get Sabretooth away from the 'you're my bitch' idea, that would be a good place to start. That demanded an equal footing though, and as long as Sabretooth remembered the past and he didn't, Sabretooth would hold that over him.
And what of the stuff in the dreams?
The stuff in the cave with the rock drill had happened, more or less, but the details could well be wrong. Memory implants were tricky things, and while it hadn't occurred to him that even the Weapon X project would go that low, who the hell really knew? Last winter with the tow truck chain had happened, but there'd been serious provocation involved, and if the cave thing had gone down differently than he remembered, maybe HE was the one who had tortured Sabretooth first. Which was a very strange thought. ...Besides, Creed hadn't minded the chains so much, just the-
No. Fuck it. Maybe the past needed to stay where it was.
The future, that was the question.
Any kind of physical restraint, Sabretooth would eventually get out of, and it might give him ideas. That left mental control, something that Sabretooth really sucked at, even when he was willingly trying to restrain himself. Wolverine wasn't a telepath, and while his will was incredibly strong, Sabretooth's was equal to it.
And that left respect, which he should have thought of first anyway, even if it wasn't Sabretooth's strong point either. Sabretooth respected the fact that Logan could kick his ass, but the reverse was also true. He respected Logan's tactical ability and deadly finesse, but usually in retrospect rather than real time.
Thinking this over, Wolverine realized that his skills as a warrior and hunter were probably the only thing Sabretooth had any respect for, period. He didn't respect authority, personal rights, life, or even himself, beyond the all-powerful equalizer of combat effectiveness.
So basically, Sabretooth held Wolverine in the same esteem he held himself, and thought the rest of the world was a cage of scared white mice, which by comparison was often true.
He was already in a cage with Creed, a cage called time, and no matter how many times Logan out-witted or out-fought his nemesis, there would always be a next time. Maybe this had nothing to do with what they wanted. Maybe they needed each other to exist because the thought of looking down the barrel of forever alone would be enough to drive either one mad.
/Fuckin' morbid this morning./ Logan thought.
Maybe Sabretooth had a purpose. Maybe he was the answer to self-righteous and inflexible superheroes the way Wolverine was the answer to evil sons-of-bitches that needed to be put down. The cosmic check that came due just when you thought you'd dodged it successfully. They were both good at that library policeman routine.
Four days later, Sabretooth spotted Logan's bike parked outside of a roadside bar. It was between two hills, with a dusty parking lot, dark wooden siding, and neon signs for Miller, Coors, and a local brew called Pronghorn Fix. Sabretooth looked the place over with a glance, matter-of-factly stole a small but vital part off of Logan's Harley's ignition system, and pocketed it. Then he went in. The owner, a thin, balding man, looked up from the glass he was drying to see who had come in and then looked back down, disinterested. Elsewhere in the bar were some booths along the far wall, a pool table in the corner by the narrow front window, and several small round tables in the middle of the room. At three o'clock, the bar was mostly empty, but there was a smattering of die-hard drunks, and a young brunette leaning fetchingly over the pool table as she read the classifieds. Logan was sitting at the bar.
"Logan..." Sabretooth took the stool next to his at the bar.
"Creed," Logan greeted him, evenly.
"Can a man get a drink around here?" Sabretooth asked, eyeing Logan's bottle of bourbon.
"Try askin' him," Logan nodded towards the barman.
"Huh," Sabretooth took the bottle anyway, and drank about four shots worth without a glass. Then the end of the bottle shattered sideways explosively, and Logan's fist was wet.
Sabretooth laughed, and ordered another bottle.
"Tough," Sabretooth upended the bottle.
"You're getting soft," Wolverine observed, when the bottle came down only half empty.
"Don't start what ya can't finish, runt."
Logan took up the bottle, and finished it.
The barman was watching them now.
Logan got the next round.
"Why're you tryin' a' get me drunk? Y'know you're just gonna lose..."
"Ah win sometimes," Logan insisted.
"Th' hell ya do."
"Th' hell I don't."
"Th' hell ya-"
"'Ey," Logan interrupted.
"Huh?" Creed lost his train of thought.
"Talk ta me."
"Don' care," Logan shrugged, "-make sense fer once."
"Sneaky li'l cuss."
"What you got figured?" asked Creed, half-serious.
"Yer not my dad," Logan told him, deadpan.
"Man, I hope not!" Snickered Creed. "What else?"
" 'M I gettin' anywhere?"
"Nah," Logan swirled the whiskey around in the bottom of the bottle, "-but you ain't exactly helpin' either."
"The fuck d'ya mean by that?" Creed bristled.
"If yer so pissed I don' remember, whyn't ya say somethin'?"
"'Cause," Creed told him, through set teeth, "YOU. FORGET. EVERYTHIN'."
"Y'serious?" Logan blinked.
"Wish I wasn't," Creed confiscated the bottle, and took it down a few fingers.
There was a silence.
Logan folded his arms on the bar-top, and lay his head on them.
"HEY!" Creed shook his shoulder, roughly.
"Wha?" Logan looked up.
"Nothin'," Creed glanced at the the floor for a moment, "-you wanna go?"
"With you? Nah."
"Logan-" Creed began, dangerously.
"M'good here," Logan insisted.
"Fine," snarled Creed, "You wanna hint? He's in Canada. Go fetch."
"Canada," Logan nodded, "gotcha."
/Blitzed/ thought Creed.
"C'mon," Creed slid Logan off the bar stool with one arm around his shoulders, just a bit clumsily. They made it out into the parking lot, and somehow, all the way to Creed's truck.
Creed lost equilibrium at that point, and leaned back against the passenger's side door. Logan was in front of him, molding comfortably against his chest. It felt fantastic. Creed put his face down into Logan's dark, scruffy hair, sniffing him. He smelled even better than he felt, an uncontrived mix of leather, bourbon, and warm darkness. There was even a trace of blood on his knuckles, from breaking the bottle earlier. Logan looked up, eyes somewhat clearer than they'd been a few minutes ago. Creed licked the left side of Logan's face, between cheekbone and ear, then again just behind his eye. Logan closed his eyes, and rested his forehead against Creed's chest. Creed turned Logan's face back up towards him, but was met with an exceedingly cold warning glare.
Creed opened the door of the truck, and climbed wearily inside. Logan followed, shut the door on the second attempt, curled up loosely on the seat beside Creed, and slept.
Creed watched him for a minute or two, then dipped his fingers into Logan's hair, and felt the texture. Then he slept as well, head on the back window.
Mist in the dark.
A waterfall, fifty feet high, with green bushes hanging along the sides, liquid splashing down around the rocks at the top. Sitting on one, a cross legged figure with a cowboy hat sat fishing, line dangling in the pool below.
Creed looked up carefully, and saw the raw, wet edge of the artery, which somehow didn't look out of place, twelve feet across and set into a hillside. The waterfall was blood, then. He smiled softly, and walked over to the edge of the pool beneath the falls. Creed took off his hat, and dipped it into the pool. It felt warm against his fingers. As he lifted the hat to drink from it, a reflection of the sun caught the glistening surface tension, and he saw that it was clear stream water after all, but he drank it anyway. On his lips it was warm, but in his throat it turned cold. When he looked up at the rocks above, Logan was standing, coiling up the rope he'd been trailing in the waterfall pool, watching him. When he had all the rope in hand, Logan turned and disappeared over the edge of the waterfall, upstream.
"HEY!" Creed called after him. He was angry. Something distracted him though, and he looked down at the dregs of the water in his hat. The water was glowing, just enough to be visible. He felt the water he'd already drunk doing the same, and Creed's skin was flushed with it. He crammed his hat on, water and all, and looked down at his hands.
Then he started laughing, and it echoed through the whole valley like victory./
Logan's first thought upon waking that morning, was that his mouth felt dry. He swallowed a few times, and sat up carefully. He was in Creed 's truck, and it was stuffy. Sabretooth was sitting in the driver's seat, and his head had fallen forward in sleep, chin on his chest. He would be awake soon, Logan knew. Logan's thoughts were moving slowly enough that he could catch them this morning.
Sleeping on the road with Creed felt familiar. Not in this truck, though. /Can't go home like this... X-Men'd be scared, and Canada'd feel like bein' locked in a room./
So then, where?
Logan wanted to know who he was traveling with, and there was only one place to do that properly. He reached over and poked Sabretooth in the ribs.
"Wake up, bub."
A pair of eyes like liquid oxygen opened and looked back at him, squinting hard against the morning sun.
"Eh?" the sound -could- have been a word...
"We're going to Africa," Logan told him.
"Merc?" Creed guessed, interested.
"You know I'm in," Creed grinned.
"At's why I said 'we'," Logan replied.
"Wolvie!" Jubilee's gleeful shout turned heads on both ends of the telephone line.
"Where are you? I mean, you-"
"Like, did you get away, or-?"
"CALM DOWN, GIRL!" Wolverine shouted.
Silence, and someone asking Jubilee a question in the background.
"Yeah, it is-" Jubilee answered, then added an indignant, "-no, I won't 'give you the phone'. Ah," Jubilee put the phone back up to her mouth, "-you were saying?"
"What are you doin' back at the Mansion? I thought ya were with Generation X."
"I drove out for the weekend," Jubilee told him, lightly, "-where are YOU?"
"I'm in Kentucky, and I'm goin' ta Africa from here."
"AFRICA? What's in Africa?"
"Not much o' anything," /-Nice, that is.../ "-at's why I'm goin'."
"Africa... cool," Jubilee decided, "-call me?"
"I'll send ya a letter," Wolverine promised.
"Maybe I'll send her a present..." mused Creed, baiting him.
"Keep yer ears t' yerself," Wolverine admonished, with a somewhat double meaning.
"Who are you talking to?" Jubilee asked.
/SHIT!/ thought Wolverine. ...He should have seen this coming. Lie, or-
"Creed," He answered flatly. He could hear the indrawn breath.
"As in... Sabretooth?" Jubilee asked, quietly.
"I- -don't understand," she said, with a degree of maturity that might be new.
"What'd 'e do last time?" Wolverine asked.
"He just like, stalked the mansion, right?" she answered, reluctantly.
"An' what's 'e don' now?"
"Nothing- -I hope?"
"I still don't understand this," decided Jubilee.
"I'll be okay, kid. Really."
"Um, right. Listen, do you wanna talk to Hank? He's hanging off the banister trying to get the phone."
"Okay. Take care of yourself. I'll call you when I get back," Logan told her.
"Logan? Hello?" Hank's voice came on the line.
"Yeah. How's things?"
"Good. Good, the stabilization theory is really panning out. I understand Creed's there with you?"
"What of it?"
"Ask him if he thinks Kyle Gibney could be his son."
"Uh..." Logan turned to Creed, trying to decide what to say. One look at the other man's shocked and disturbed countenance told him Creed had already heard the question.
"Why is he askin' that?" Creed demanded.
"What th' fuck does he-" Creed broke off, "-Logan, tell me straight, no X-Men solidarity bullshit. What kind o' 'doctor' is this?"
"McCoy's the best," Logan kept it simple.
"Would ya let 'im put you under?"
This question was loaded for both of them.
"Yeah, I would."
Creed looked at the receiver as if it was covered with fire ants.
"He is, isn't he," Logan stated. He KNEW this.
"Kyle's mine," confirmed Sabretooth shortly, looking anywhere but Logan or the phone.
Logan suddenly wished Hank wasn't on the other end of the line. This was something incredibly personal of Creed's, and to have it basically rattled out of him didn't taste right. Too late now, though. Hank's ears were almost as good as theirs. Hank was saying something, but Creed's face was a lot louder.
"I gotta go," Wolverine cut Beast off.
"G'bye, Hank," Logan hung up.
Creed scowled at the trees across the parking lot, as if he bitterly regretted tracking down Wolverine in the first place.
/I didn' know/ Logan thought. /I mean, I always figured that's how it went down, but ta hear it from him.../
"Kyle's what ya were tellin' me ta look for in Canada. Isn't he."
"You got it."
"You could 'o told me."
"Yeah, right," Creed snorted.
"The Weapon X labs," Logan said, almost to himself as he put the pieces together, "-at's what ya meant by, 'they made 'im like that'. Cornelius really went that low. He gave th' kid Adamantium, an' it backfired- -like lead poisoning."
"Logan, shut up," snarled Creed.
Logan shut up, and felt like a shit for going to McCoy and starting this train of events. He also felt that Creed had been wrong to keep this from him, and the contradiction was giving him a really nasty headache.
Sabretooth was growling, deep in his chest. He'd gone to a lot of trouble to hide the connection between Kyle and himself, probably the only reason the boy was still alive, and now his hard-won secrecy was shot to hell.
Making a mental note to find McCoy later to have a 'word' with him about discretion, Sabretooth planned his next move. It wasn't supposed to have gone down like that, Logan wasn't supposed to find that out anything serious until later! It was too much too fast, and if McCoy kept digging like this, he was going to destroy years of work and patience. Creed's silence was for the most part, an act so that Logan would back off about Kyle. If Logan got any closer to home on that subject, he would memory-crash like he did during the fuck-up in '86. If they'd gone to Africa WITHOUT calling the happy mutie farm, that would have worked out just fine. NOW Logan would want to go to Canada and find Kyle. Just great.
Then again, Kyle didn't really know anything...
Creed thought about the way Logan had trained Kyle to fight and think, as a teenager. Alpha Flight had all but written the boy off, and then unexpectedly, Logan dropped whatever else he had been doing at the time, and taken the time to reach him. Wildchild, Wildheart, Weapon Omega, just plain Kyle. The boy had done good. Kyle was still a lot younger upstairs than a Human of his age would have been, though.
Maybe Kyle WAS just what the doctor ordered...
Back on the road, Logan suspected he'd pushed Creed way, way too far. For one thing, Creed had let him drive, and was sulking in the passenger's seat with the window rolled all the way down, forestalling any conversation. Logan's bike was useless in the back of the truck, since Creed's idea of what to sabotage hadn't been particularly bright.
Logan drove North, out of Kentucky into Ohio, and from there into Michigan. With the Canadian border a mile or so up ahead, Logan stopped at a Motel 6. Creed stayed in the truck. Logan secured a room, and came back.
"Not exactly your style," Creed observed.
"Silence ain't yours. You comin' or not?"
Creed followed him. Aside from an amused snort when he saw that the room had two beds, he didn't say much else. He took over the bathroom and showered.
Instead of making Creed's scent fainter, the water just got rid of the road-trip-stink part of it, and the steam from under the bathroom door seemed to get into every corner of the otherwise boring room. Man, he smelled good. And he was doing this on purpose.
Logan opened the window, and leaned partway out of it, elbows on the windowsill.
Creed was a hedonist when it came to hot water, especially since he couldn't always get it in the past. Logan remembered noticing the same thing in the 1930's, somewhere with a wooden plank floor. This scent, and wood-dust, and chipped white enamel. Suspenders. Creed's eyes laughing at him over the top of the tub. Irritation. The steam fogging up the small glass window, black from the night outside. -He couldn't hear the words.
Behind him, Logan heard the bathroom door open. He didn't turn.
Sabretooth padded across the carpet to stand behind him, and placed both hands on Logan's shoulders. Logan could feel the heat of the shower in Creed's hands, and through the back of the flannel shirt he was wearing. Creed's scent was all around him, burning Logan's skin on contact, and his heartbeat sounded loud in his own ears.
Creed licked the back of Logan's neck, just below his left ear. Logan shivered involuntarily.
"Reconsidered yet?" Creed whispered.
/I can do this./ Logan thought, /He would let me, and knowing how seriously Creed takes sex, not much would change. -Okay, I am now lying.
I would. Right here, right now.
If I trusted him.
...But I don't./
"No," The word -sounded- steady, at least. There was a hiss in his ear. The kind of noise that was usually followed by a blow. Then Creed was gone, and the door to the room slammed. Logan glared at the cars passing on the street below, and shut the window with a low growl of frustration.
When Sabretooth returned around one in the morning, his mood hadn't improved much. He was tired. He wanted to go out and kill. That would set back his main hunt, which was why he hadn't already done it, but dammit!
He wanted Logan this night. A fuck, a fight, anything to crack this pressure so he could feel halfway sane again. He couldn't DO this tame shit. He'd never been so close to having Logan back, but the X-Man version of Wolverine was driving him nuts. Logan understood him, and if he could just keep from alienating this 'Wolvie' sonofabitch long enough...
Creed opened the door, and didn't turn on the light. He closed the door, and threw the towel he'd been wearing in the general direction of the closet. It hit the wall with a muffled thwap, and slid down to the carpet.
Maybe he should leave. Disappear for a week or so while Logan and Kyle re-bonded, find somewhere he could do some major carnage, rub one out afterwards.
Might be a good idea.
Then he caught Logan's scent. Logan had stayed. Of course he had stayed. He had the balls to fall asleep in the presence of someone his memories insisted was dangerous to him, because his instincts told him otherwise. He'd risk his neck any day of the week, give total strangers the opportunity to kill him over some random moral principle-
/But when it comes to me, I'm still the bad guy.../ Creed thought, bitterly. /Logan trusts me with his life, but not with his rep. -Ain't that a kick in the teeth./
Sabretooth could see Logan's shape in the bed by the window, curled on his right side, arms slightly folded. He knew that pose. It was the position from which Logan could pop his right set of claws and defend himself within a split-second of waking.
/-Nervous, bub?/ thought Creed, with a predatory grin. There was a counter to Logan's sleep-position, and he knew it well. Creed reached over Logan's shoulder, looking to grab his quarry's left wrist, when the wrist in question whipped out of his reach, and the claws of Logan's right hand sunk deep into the meat of Sabretooth's chest.
From underneath him on the bed, Logan's eyes looked up into his disgustedly.
"I knew you'd slip up."
"AAaararrrghh...!" With the shock fading into rage, Sabretooth gave a choked shout as the pain in his chest registered. The bone claws hurt more going in than their Adamantium counterparts. He'd forgotten that. Sabretooth snatched Logan's left wrist viciously and pinned it into the mattress at waist level, then reached up to deal with the right hand. Logan pushed his claws in up to his knuckles, and didn't give an inch. The entry wounds were high on the left side of Creed's chest, almost to the shoulder, so his left arm wasn't working as well. He couldn't move Logan an inch. Momentary stalemate.
"You wanna get off me?" Logan growled.
"Nno," Creed snarled.
"Have it your way," Logan retracted his claws suddenly, and combined a backhand with a kick that sent Creed halfway across the room.
"Always gotta be fuckin' difficult," spat Creed, standing unsteadily. Blood flowed freely down his chest, back, and left arm, warm against his skin. Tensed to spring at the end of the bed, both sets of claws out, Wolverine was covered in Sabretooth's blood as well.
"That's right. I told ya once."
"Wha'd you do that for?!" Creed demanded, "You WANT me, I can smell it all over this place..."
"Unlike one of us, I don' always ACT on my stupid impulses," Logan shot back.
"Stupid, huh?" Sabretooth's chest was healing. It would be finished in a minute or two, if Logan kept talking.
Just then, there was a knock on the door.
"Yeah, what is it?" Logan called, not taking his eyes off Creed.
"There's been a complaint about the noise. Are you okay in there?"
"Do ya flamin' MIND?!" yelled Creed.
"...Ahh... ...Sorry," the motel employee stumbled, "-just, remember there's people next door, please."
Creed started laughing.
"Alright," Logan called back. A moment later, both of them heard feet moving away from the door.
Logan and Creed looked at each other for a long moment, with no sound but each other's breathing, and blood dripping on the carpet. -If the motel guy was mad now...
"Creed?" Logan asked, finally.
"Why'd ya fuck this up?"
"You wanted me ta-?"
"Maybe." Logan sheathed his claws.
"Why'd you shy off?"
"Ta see if you'd let me." Logan told him.
"Shit," muttered Creed.