Disclaimer: All characters belong to Marvel Comics.

Daddy's Little Girl

Chapter 1

The flames of Apocalypse rose higher and higher on all sides, threatening to seriously burn the little girl. But she didn't move. She was waiting.

Apocalypse's black smoke tainted the clean air in the small chamber. As clean as Apocalypse's air could get, anyway. She coughed a few times, but nothing more than that. After all, she was waiting. For him. As the smoke burned her eyes, she remembered his last words.

"Don't worry, sweetie. Daddy will be back soon."

She coughed into her hand, trying to ignore the intense heat. She had to wait for him. He promised he would come back soon. How long was soon?

"Don't worry, sweetie."

So she wasn't afraid. He'd told her not to be. She hugged her knees tightly.

"Daddy will be back soon."

She wiped away the tears, lowering her head so the smoke wouldn't hurt her eyes as much. They were very sensitive, he'd told her once. Why did Apocalypse's world have to hurt so much?

She looked at Apocalypse's brick floor, and wondered if his citadel had the same bricks. It was getting harder to see in Apocalypse's chamber, because of all the smoke. The little girl wondered if she would ever get to see Apocalypse.

Everything belonged to him. That's what Daddy had said.

Apocalypse owned everything, now and forever.

The girl tried to remember where he had gone. Something about an important meeting. When he came back, they'd go to live somewhere else. Somewhere big and empty, where she could run up and down the halls without tripping over Apocalypse's dead and dying bodies.

She lifted her head as the voices approached. Was it Daddy? Infinites? Apocalypse?

"I'm tellin' ya, Vic, we gotta go! The place is gonna burn to the ground!"

This man sounded angry, irritated. He wasn't Daddy.

"Like I said, Logan, I'm pickin' up a scent!"

This man was louder, more determined. Could he be Daddy?

The locked door shifted slightly, as if someone was tugging at it. The girl could see a large shadow blocking the thin line of orange light underneath the door.

"Get out o' the way, Vic! If yer gonna do it, do it right!" the first one shouted.

She heard the sound of metal on metal three times, then the door slid away. The girl looked up to see a large shadow take up most of the doorway. As the man came closer, her eyes lit up with hope. Yes, he was larger than she remembered, but who else would come for her?

Another man stepped in the doorway. "Well?!" he barked.

The larger man picked the girl up. He cradled her gently in his arms, as if he was afraid of breaking her. "A kid, Logan," he said softly, staring at her face. "Somebody's kid."

The girl stared intently at his face. He wasn't familiar to her at all. Daddy's face fuzz was dark brown and curly. This man's face fuzz was yellow and straight. He wasn't Daddy.

Still, her young mind wouldn't be swayed. Rationalization came quickly.

The flames. Yes, that was it. The flames had brought the smoke, the smoke had burned her eyes, and she couldn't see well. He was Daddy, and he was here to take her away. She just couldn't see it.

"Daddy?" she whispered, running her tiny hand through the face fuzz along his chin.

The man flinched at her touch, as if she had hurt him. Then he held her closer, sadness dominating his face. "Aw, kid, I'm not--"

"Vic, move it! The whole place is comin' down!"

Instinct told him to move, to run out of the building with the possibly wounded child clutched tightly to his chest. But Victor Creed didn't react as he normally would have or should have. He slowly stood up, turned, and walked out of the chamber, handling his precious cargo with deliberate caution.

The girl continued to touch his face fuzz, confused as to why he wouldn't answer her. "Daddy?" she repeated, worry creeping into her voice.

He glanced down at her, and she saw his eyes, only for a moment. They were sad. Daddy's eyes had been sad when he left her.

Suddenly, the flames, smoke, and heat were gone. Cold night air whipped at her skin, and she shivered.

The cold disappeared as the man shifted her in his arms, and she was surrounded in the gray cloak he had been wearing. He tied the collar around her neck the best he could, then bundled her small frame in the warm cloth, leaving just enough material to form a little hood for her head.

"That better, kid?" he asked, stroking her cheek with one large thumb.

She wanted to nod, but she was tired. Tired of waiting, tired of the flames, tired of everything. She wrapped her tiny hand around his thumb and yawned. Her eyelids grew heavy, and then closed completely. Before she fell asleep, she whispered, "Tank you, Daddy."

The words broke Victor Creed's heart, and with a frown on his face, he followed Logan's quickly fading trail.

* * * * *

Clarice shrieked as she woke up, sweat covering her body like a second skin.

Instantly, there was an answering cry, and a gangly figure bounded into the room, hopped onto the bed, and stared into her violet eyes.

Clarice sighed and ran a hand through the unruly, tangled mop that was his hair. She began to relax slightly when it reminded her of her savior's face fuzz. "Sorry I woke you, Kyle. I had the dream again."

Kyle yipped sympathetically and curled up by her side, laying his head over her bare belly as it gradually rose and fell. Even from there, he could feel the rapid beating of her heart.

With another sigh, Clarice returned her head to the pillow and tried to get some sleep for the third time that night.

* * * * *

Victor Creed leaned back in his chair, allowing a look of serenity to pass over his tired face. This was in sharp contrast to the wild look that had only been there seconds before. That was before one of Kyle's familiar grunts had come through their psychic rapport, though. This particular grunt meant, "Never mind, false alarm." In plain English, that meant, "Clarice is fine, it's just the dream again."

Creed quickly noticed that the room had gone quiet. He glanced up at his poker partners. Sunfire, as usual, was the picture of indifference. Quicksilver was studying his hand, which probably meant he was going to bluff soon. Morph, of course, was staring directly at Creed.

"Go ahead and get whatever yer thinkin' outta yer system," Creed growled.

Morph grinned. "Well, since you asked, what's up with you and the kid lately?"

Creed's eyes slowly returned to his cards. "Nothin'. Why?"

"Just seems like our resident violet angel has been floating on air more often, now that you're here on a more permanent basis."

"Leave the man alone, Morph," Quicksilver muttered. "Play the game."

"I would, but it's always fun to mess with Furry here, and I'm winning anyway!" Morph pointed out. "Besides, don't tell me you haven't noticed the way the kid acts when he's around."

Creed bit down on the cigar in his mouth, despite the fact that he never smoked anymore. Clarice didn't approve of it, and she insisted that she'd rather see him die from Holocaust's fatal blasts than from something smaller than his thumb. "Morph, you got one more time to say somethin' bad 'bout that kid, and when you do..."

"I know, I know. You'll pound me to bits and gut me. I've heard it all before. Just like you boys have heard this line before. 'Read 'em and weep!'" Morph proudly pushed his four aces across the table, displaying them for all the players.

Sunfire and Quicksilver angrily threw down their cards, but Creed only smiled. "Not so fast, Morph. Hope ya like the taste o' toilet water, cuz yer goin' down the hole!" He slammed his flush on the table and laughed heartily.

Morph's face turned a shade of crimson as he mumbled and slipped out of the room.

"I owe you one, Creed," Quicksilver said, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "I was beginning to think he would never shut up."

"My thanks as well," Sunfire agreed. "I was about to roast him alive."

Creed chuckled. "Can't say I woulda stopped ya, Shiro." He stood up and stretched his legs. "I'll clean up here," he offered.

Sunfire nodded and followed Quicksilver out of the room, leaving Victor Creed alone with his memories.

* * * * *

He'd never seen Logan so angry. Not over something so trivial, anyway.

"Vic, I'm only gonna say this once. Ever since you brought that kid here, she's been screamin' for her Pa. When I go to bed, either she's gonna be quiet, or I'm gonna shut her up...for good!"

Creed laughed as he climbed the stairs. "I'll take care of it, Logan. She's just a kid." That's what he'd thought, anyway. He didn't know she'd become so much more.

The girl was, in fact, screaming when he walked into the room. But as soon as she spotted him, the room was plunged into silence.

He pulled a stool up to the bed and sat down. "Hey, pup. Remember me?"

She nodded, her eyes wide and focused on his face.

"Well, listen up. My friends and I have a long day ahead o' us, so we need some quiet around here. Got it?"

She nodded again, not daring to open her mouth.

"Good girl." He patted her head gently, then got up to leave.

"Mister?" she asked quietly as he reached the door.

If Creed didn't have enhanced senses, he never would have heard her. "Yeah, kid?"

"Is my Daddy comin' back soon?"

Creed lowered his head. With a sigh, he walked back to the stool and sat down. "What did he say the last time he saw ya?"

"He said he'd be back soon."

"Well, the door was locked when we found ya, squirt. I don't think yer Pa was comin' back too soon, if at all."

The girl's eyes begin to water. "My Daddy left me?" she asked, her lips quivering.

Creed sighed heavily and wiped away her tears with his gloved hands. "Don't you worry none 'bout him, kid. I'm gonna watch out for ya now. Got it?"

She nodded again. Something was wrong, though. This man was big and strong. His voice was rough, like gravel. So why did it sound so quiet and soft now?

"You got a name, kid?" he asked.

She nodded, but it took her a second to sound it out. "Cla-wice. You got one?"

"Yeah. Name's Victor Creed."

She tried to sound out his name, because she wanted him to be proud of her, for some reason. "Wic-Ter Weed?"

He chuckled. "Close. Try 'Creed' by itself, squirt."

"Cweed?" She looked up at him hopefully.

"Gettin' there. Ya ever need somethin', ask for me, okay?"

She nodded again. "Tanks for savin' me, Mister Cweed."

He smiled and patted her head again. "Welcome, kid. Get some sleep."

"Mister Cweed?" she asked as he turned to go.

"Yeah?"

"Can I touch your face fuzz? Pwease?"

"Fine, but after that, yer goin' to sleep." Creed leaned closer until his face was over hers. "Yer Pa have this, too?"

Clarice slowly ran her tiny hands over the stubble. "I like yours better." She pulled her hands away and quickly pressed her lips against the fuzz, planting a small kiss on the tip of his chin. "Bye, Mister Cweed. I wuv you."

Creed stared at the child as she pulled the blanket up to her chin and closed her eyes. He gently brushed the hair out of her face. "Night, pup." Somehow he resisted the urge to return the kiss and finally managed to tear his eyes away from her face, but he wouldn't leave the stool until the next morning.

* * * * *

Clarice crept from her room as quietly as she could. If she was caught, at the very least, she could end up with guard duty for the night. At the most, she could get a lecture from Magneto on how valuable the proper amount of rest was. Of course, he wasn't having the same dream night after night, and even if he was, it wasn't bothering him as much as hers was.

She had just reached the stairs when she felt a gentle tug on her robe. Looking down, she saw Kyle pulling at it with his teeth. There was a silent insistence in his eyes, and he tried to lead her back to the room.

"No, Kyle," she said, crouching down to rub his head. "I can't sleep. I need to talk to Mister Creed."

At the mention of his master's name, Kyle grew more determined, pulling on her robe with his claws.

Clarice gently pushed him away. "Kyle, please. I really need to do this. For me."

Kyle growled a bit, but finally licked her cheek and returned to her room.

Clarice waited until he was gone before venturing downstairs. Upon reaching the final step, she heard voices coming from the basement. Gathering all her courage, Clarice took a deep breath and cautiously entered the dark passageway. She knew, as all the other X-Men did, that she could only walk for six paces until the floor suddenly dropped away to a staircase that always seemed to creak, even when it wasn't being used.

Instead of risking discovery and ruining the whole trip, Clarice simply transported herself to the lower level, being precise enough to step out behind a large pile of crates. She sat down and focus solely on the conversation.

"As always, Victor," Storm was saying, "I appreciate your assistance, but I assure you that I am perfectly capable of guarding this entrance to the tunnels alone."

"Maybe so, Stormy," he replied, "but that's not why I came down here. I got a problem, and you're the only one I feel like talkin' to."

Clarice frowned. What's so special about Storm? She probably never dreams about childhood trauma anymore, and even if she does, they have nothing to do with Victor. She doesn't owe him her life like I do. Why does he trust her more than me?

"The same one as before, I assume?" Storm asked.

"Yeah. Only this time, it's worse. The others are startin' to pick up on it. Well, Morph is, and he's 'bout as sensitive as a brick. The rest can't be far behind."

Storm cleared her throat. "Have you spoken to her?"

Clarice's eyes widened. Her? Who is that? Why hasn't he mentioned her before?

"I've tried. Every time I look at her, all I see is that kid I saved ten years ago. I keep tellin' myself she's all grown up now, but it never works."

Me? Clarice blinked in disbelief. He's talking about ME?

"Victor, Blink is not a child, and you cannot continue to treat her like one. I realize that she is very special to you, but your problem stems from the inability to acknowledge your feelings for her."

Feelings? What feelings?!

"I can't go on like this, 'Ro. I feel like dirt just talkin' 'bout her."

"Then go to her, Victor. Tell her. That is the only way you can reach a solution. Together."

Go to her? Me? Uh-oh!

Creed sighed and stood up. "Guess I don't have any options left. Thanks, Stormy." He nodded in her direction and started up the steps two at a time.


Chapter 2

"Okay, kid. Open your eyes now."

Clarice slowly opened her eyes. A birthday cake two times her height was directly in front of her. It was decorated in light green and violet, her favorite colors. It was even raspberry flavored. And yet it meant less than nothing to her.

"See, sugah?" Rogue said. "Just like y'all wanted."

"He's not here," Clarice muttered, tears forming at the corners of her eyes.

"Who's not here?" Morph asked, stretching his neck so that it looped around the girl's waist a few times.

"Mister Creed," Clarice replied, a frown on her face. "He promised he'd be here."

Rogue and Morph looked at each other. Considering that Sabretooth was probably battling Abyss to the death at the moment, it wasn't a very smart move.

"The big lug would promise to be here t'day, of all days," Rogue whispered.

"Well, at least there's more cake for us," Morph pointed out. He held Clarice up to the candles on top of the cake. "Make a wish, cutie!"

Clarice shook her head and hopped out of his arms. "It didn't come true."

* * * * *

Clarice went to bed without dinner that night, and at least an hour early. She was angry, confused, and most of all, hurt.

Mister Creed was the one person in the world that never lied to me. Why would he do this? Why would he break his promise on my tenth birthday?

Just as her depressing thoughts led her to a restless sleep, a heavy hand came to rest on her forehead. Clarice's eyes shot open. A smile appeared on her face, then was quickly replaced by a look of horror.

Victor Creed sat on the stool next to her bed, a tired smile on his face. Blood seemed to be all over his bruised face, and one eye was either completely gone or so badly wounded that it refused to open at all. He gently brushed the hair from her face and glanced at the clock on the wall. "Twenty minutes to midnight, squirt," he said quietly. "That means I made it, just like I promised."

Clarice quickly got over her initial shock. She tossed the blanket aside and threw her arms around his neck. "Oh, Mister Creed! I knew you wouldn't leave me!"

"Not a chance, pup," he responded, wrapping his large arms around her. "I'll never leave ya alone."

She reached up and fingered a dark bruise on his chin. "Mister Creed, you're hurt!"

He pushed her hand away. "I heal fast. Just gonna take a bit longer this time. Abyss ain't no amateur."

Tears welled up in Clarice's eyes. "I want to take care of you! The same way you took care of me!"

Creed shushed the child and sighed. "Kid, yer heart's in the right place, but these wounds will heal on their own. See?"

Clarice touched the same bruise, which had already lost its dark color and wasn't as large. "At least let me make you feel better, Mister Creed." She placed her small hands on his cheeks and began to cover his face with butterfly kisses, always making sure to avoid his lips. Then, gathering her courage, she softly kissed the corner of his mouth.

For a moment, Creed only stared down at her. Then he set her on the bed. "Go back to sleep, kid."

"Did I do something wrong?" she asked, tugging on his hand.

Creed sighed again. "I'm a bloody mess. Don't wanna get any of it on you."

"Is it cuz I kissed you?" Clarice asked quietly.

He said nothing as he tucked her in. Finally, Creed kissed her forehead. "Happy birthday, squirt." He patted her cheek before leaving the room and closing the door behind him.

Clarice sat up and looked at the stool. Resting on it was a neatly-folded forest green outfit. She quickly got out of bed and read the card tucked into one of the boots.

"Dear Squirt: Here's hopin' your birthday wasn't too bad because of me. Each time you wear this tunic, just remember how much I have, and always will love you. Sincerely, Mr. Creed."

* * * * *

Creed paused in front of Clarice's door and sighed heavily. Was he actually going to go through with this? Would he chicken out like the last few times?

Just great, Creed. Ya survive being one of Blue Lips's Horsemen, a fight with Weapon X, and battling Holocaust one-on-one, only to be scared of a woman half yer age.

He slowly pushed the door open and went inside.

Kyle was sleeping at the foot of the bed, snoring loudly. Curled up in the fetal position, in the center of the bed, was the young woman that Victor Creed had raised from a tiny girl all those years ago. She didn't need his protection, nor his watchful eye anymore. Still, he felt as if only he could protect her from the world's many dangers.

Creed decided to let Kyle sleep. He grabbed his old stool and sat down next to the bed, staring at Clarice in silence. He leaned closer, inhaling the scent he'd grown to cherish every single day: the scent of fresh lilacs, mixed with a hint of jasmine. Then he caught the fragrant dash of a tulip, and he knew. Tulips either meant that Clarice was just ending a particularly bad dream, or that she had just teleported in a hurry and not bothered to hide the smell. She might as well have been Kurt, if she was going to be this obvious. At least tulips smelled a lot better.

"Get up, kid," he growled. "Yer not foolin' anyone."

Clarice slowly opened her eyes and yawned. "Mr. Creed, what are you doing here?"

"Stop with the act, Clarice. I know ya weren't sleepin'. Kyle here told me that much an hour ago."

She sighed and drew her knees up to her chest. "I had the dream again," she said softly, staring at the sheets. "The one where you saved me. Then I remembered my tenth birthday."

"The one when you kissed me, ya mean?" Creed asked.

Clarice blushed slightly. "I was a child then, Mr. Creed. You have to understand that the day you saved me, you became everything good left in the world to me. Can you really blame me for having an innocent crush on you?"

"S'pose not," he replied. "But there's nothin' innocent 'bout spyin' on others when they're havin' private talks. You wanna explain yer way outta that one?"

Clarice ducked her head and smiled a bit. "How'd you know?"

"Lilacs, jasmine, and tulips, kid. I can always catch the tulips."

"Well, I didn't do it on purpose. Not at first, anyway. I got up and heard voices, so I thought I'd check it out."

Creed grinned. "Guess I raised ya better than I thought. You stayed out of the air conditioner's path so I couldn't pick up on yer scent right away."

She wasn't about to tell him that was only a mere coincidence. "So you just came up here this late to tell me I smell good?" she asked hopefully.

"Not likely. I came up here cuz we gotta talk. Right now."

Uh-oh. I wonder how he's going to tell me. "Okay."

Creed looked directly into her eyes. "I was hopin' to avoid this, but I can see I ain't got a choice anymore. This has been eatin' me up inside, and I need to come clean."

Clarice closed her eyes for a moment, realizing how hard this had to be for him. He's known me for over a decade. In all that time, he's never even told me this once, not with his own mouth. Always on paper. Can he really do it now?

"I know I never told you this before, squirt. I guess it's somethin' most little girls get to hear all the time. I can only guess, since I never had a real kid of my own to look after. Everyone in the mansion told I couldn't do it. Told me I didn't know nothin' 'bout bein a parent, much less a good one. They were right, too, but I brought ya up the best I knew how. I never regretted the way ya turned out, either. I'm real proud of you, Clarice. Always have been. Sometimes, I just wanted to grab the nearest guy and go, 'See that kid right there? She's mine. Raised her from a pup, and she's perfect just the way she is.'"

"I appreciate all that, but what are you trying to tell me?" Clarice asked, smiling.

Creed sighed and slowly reached up, gently brushing the reddish-brown strands of long hair from her face. The rough skin of his large palm came to rest against her cheek. "I'm tryin' to say that I love ya, squirt. Only wish I'd had the guts ta tell ya that the first night."

Clarice wrapped her small hands around his and pressed the side of her face into his palm, slightly rubbing her cheek against it. "Me, too," she whispered. "So why didn't you?"

"It was the first time anyone had ever made me feel that way," he admitted. "I didn't know how to handle ya, Clarice, even from the moment I first held you in my arms. I kept thinkin' I would drop ya, or that a fleet of Infinites would come outta nowhere and take ya away from me. Had ta keep askin' myself how to hold you firmly enough to protect, but gently enough to let you know I wouldn't hurt ya."

"I knew, Mr. Creed. I always knew. I just wondered if you were my Daddy on that first night."

"And what'd you decide?"

Clarice released his hand and slid out of bed, climbing into his lap and slipping her arms around his neck, as she had done so many times as a child. She moved her head just beneath his chin. "I decided that I'd never call you that unless you asked me to. I also decided that I didn't need anyone else, as long as I had you to keep me safe." She paused and allowed her eyes to drift upward, toward his face. "Part of me still wishes I could call you Daddy sometimes, Mr. Creed. Even though you never said it until now, everytime you called me 'squirt,' I'd pretend it was your way of saying how much you loved me."

Creed slowly wrapped his arms around her. "You don't have to pretend anymore, squirt," he whispered, "cuz that's exactly what I was doin'. Never thought you'd catch on, though. Guess I really did raise ya right."

"I never doubted that for a second," Clarice replied, softly kissing his cheek. "I love you, Mr. Creed."

"Kid, I've been takin' care of you most of yer life," he said. "Think it's time you dropped this 'Mister' stuff, don't you?"

Her eyes widened in surprise. "You mean it?" she asked hopefully. "Can I? Really?"

He nodded. "Yeah, go ahead. Might as well get used to hearin' it now."

Clarice's eyes filled with tears as she gently ran her hands over his chin. "I'm so sorry to have to tell you this, Mr. Creed."

"Tell me what, kid?" he asked, his voice filled with concern.

She managed a big smile as she whispered, "I like my new Daddy's face fuzz better than yours." Then she wiped a tear away and quickly added, "Now hug me, kiss me, and call me 'squirt' or I'll pout."

Creed smiled and held her tightly, fighting back what might have been the makings of a tear in his own eye. "Consider it done, squirt," he mumbled into her hair.

Clarice slowly raised her eyes to his face in disbelief. "Are you...crying, Mr. Creed?"

Creed arched an eyebrow. "You know me better than that, kid. Victor Creed don't shed no tears." Then, after a moment of silence, he added cheerfully, "That's yer Daddy's job, squirt."

Clarice held in a laugh. "Are you ever going to call me by a normal nickname?"

"Nope. Yer not a normal kid, so why should I?"

"That's a given, but I'm not short anymore!"

Creed grinned as he pulled back the sheets on the bed and set her down. "Well, you made such a good impression on me as a sweet little girl, that's how I'll always see ya. So I guess I really am cut out for this Daddy stuff, huh?"

Clarice only smiled as tucked her in and kissed her forehead.

"Still think yer gonna have that dream tonight?" he asked.

She shook her head and grinned. "Nope. I've got other things to dream about now." Then she glanced at the foot of her bed. "I wonder what Kyle's dreaming about?"

Creed tousled the boy's shaggy mop of blond hair. "Prolly the cute little girl that made him sleep right outside her door all these years." He picked up Wild Child and tossed him over one shoulder. "I'll tell Kyle you stopped havin' the dream." He headed for the door.

As he reached it, he heard her quiet voice.

"Daddy?"

He turned slightly. "Yeah, kid?"

"I love you," she said, blowing him a kiss.

Creed smiled and caught it in his empty hand. "Love you, too, squirt. Now go to sleep." With that, he walked into the hall and closed the door behind him. He had just reached the steps when he frowned, doubled back, and gently eased the door open.

Clarice appeared to be asleep already.

Creed tapped Kyle's head gently as he peered into the room. "See that kid right there, Kyle?" he whispered, a smile crossing his face. "She's my daughter. Raised her from a pup."

Kyle's reply was a loud snore.

Creed chuckled and closed the door, heading back for the stairs. "I know, partner. Perfect just the way she is, and then some."

The End!