Victor looked over at Kitty again, his eyes lingering in the places he knew she'd have bruises. Both from the bear and from him.
Her ankle might become a problem, but she hadn't complained and he wasn't going to bring it up. He didn't want to listen to her whine about it, only wanted to make sure she wasn't going to slow him down in a situation on foot.
He sighed through his nose and ground his teeth. His eyes snapped back to the road and away from Kitty.
Alive was the only thing he needed her to be. The rest of it, he couldn't care less about. And anyway, he'd also bet good money that she could fight like a hell cat even when she was hurt. Hell, she probably could take care of herself better than some of the men he'd served with.
Some of those boys would have just stood there and let that bear kill them. His kitten had been clever, and if it wasn't for that little telepathic bitch the bear wouldn't have posed a threat to start with.
Victor glanced at Kitty again, and then back at empty road. He should have killed those damn kids.
He'd thought about it the entire night as she lay sleeping in front of the fire - and it been so tempting to join her, to just lay down next to her on the pallet of blanket and sleep with her scent in his nose. Victor clenched his jaw and tightened his grip on the steering wheel.
Kitty interfering had been a given. He'd had no delusions of her staying put where he fucking told her. Why hadn't he killed them before she'd gotten up there? Neither of the teenagers were anywhere near a threat once he had them. The little telepath had been too damn scared to do more than blubber, let alone try any tricks on him. And the boy had been pathetic, ready to throw his little girlfriend to the wolves - so to speak – in order to live.
They should have been dead before Kitty could have intervened.
Kitty made a soft noise in her sleep that half sounded like his name, drawing Victor's eyes back to her for split second.
He should have killed the girl, even with his kitten standing there.
But he hadn't.
She'd been right, neither of the brats were worth it, and they would have died too quickly and too easily to be much of a challenge. No sport at all, and it would have left him with a pissed off, horrified little kitten.
Now Kitty -- she'd have put up a fight and given him a hell of a chase.
He ran his tongue over his fangs and then his lips. Bet she'd be almost as much fun to really hunt as LeBeau. He hadn't thought about it back in Logan's cabin, but he should have known better; that Logan's favorite would have a lot of fight in her.
Victor's hands flexed on the steering wheel. What would she of done if he hadn't let that girl go?
He had no problem with killing. She knew that, and if she hung around Jimmy she couldn't be that squeamish about death.
But oh the look Kitty would have given him, if he'd gutted the girl in front of her.
A look he hadn't wanted to see on her face.
"Fuck," Victor growl out loud. His fist hit the dashboard with a very audible smack.
Kitty stirred again, eyes opening slightly. "What's wrong?" she mumbled.
"Go back to sleep, kitten," he told her, steadying his voice.
She reached out, brushing her fingers against his knuckles. "Don't break anything important, 'kay?"
Almost without thinking he curled his fingers around hers and brought them to his lips. "Promise."
Sighing happily, she slipped back into sleep.
His fingers still wrapped around hers, Victor admitted to himself why he hadn't killed those two teenagers.
Kitty never would have forgiven him for killing a couple of kids, and he'd known it from the moment he'd realized they were just that.
Damn her to fucking hell. This wasn't going to change anything.
All Kitty could see was white, bright and blinding, in whichever direction she looked. It was cold without being wet, but the chill had still seeped into her bones. Her legs ached as if she'd been walking for hours. Behind her stretched smooth unbroken snow and the sun never seemed to move.
Nothing moved but her. No sound but her breath, the snow didn't even crunch under her boots, and if she hadn't watched her feet sink into the snow again and again she'd swear she wasn't moving.
Closing her eyes, she wished there was at least some destination, some point to her continued walk. Something besides endless white.
When she opened her eyes she saw something. Up ahead was a dark speck, something she couldn't quite focus on but that stood out in the sea of white. So she continued walking towards it, ignoring the burn of her muscles, and the icy fire that made every breath agony.
This was just a dream.
She told herself this over and over, hoping to wake up. It was too much like being in the danger room, something being so real even though your mind iknew/i it wasn't. But in the Danger Room there were safety measures, there were ways to stop the program. You couldn't just tell yourself to wake up and have it happen. At least not for her.
She almost laughed but didn't have the breath for it. Sadly, everything she knew about controlling dreams she knew from iNightmare on Elm Street/i, which wasn't exactly comforting.
There probably were mutants out there that could control dreams and could go all Freddy on you, and she really wished she hadn't thought of that, because, now she was wondering if this was a dream at all - maybe a telepath was mucking around in her brain or -- no, no this was a dream.
Kitty pushed herself forward, hoping that she'd wake up when she reached whatever the black speck was.
Gradually, she realized the black speck wasn't a fixed point at all. It seemed to move as she watched it, almost as if it was something heading towards her. Kitty paused, squinting at it as it grew closer.
Part of her mind yelled to run back the way she'd come and she even glanced behind her. She looked back across the smooth unbroken snow and shook her head. No point in running, she wouldn't be able to find her way back. She wasn't even sure what there was to find a way back to. Maybe she'd started from someplace but she couldn't remember now, though she felt a vague longing for -- something.
Kitty turned her head back towards the speck, and found it had grown even larger. She could tell it was a person now.
Which was good. Maybe.
Maybe it was the almost blinding white of the snow, but the person was almost to her before she was able to tell who it was.
She smiled broadly, and half-ran the last few steps. "Logan!"
"Hey, kiddo," Logan greeted her gruffly.
Impulsively, she hugged him, infusing the embrace with all of the fear and worry she was experiencing. He hugged her back, and she could feel the barely contained power of metal under his skin, real enough to make her eyes damp. She could even smell his cigar clinging to his leather jacket. That cigar he always told her and Marie he'd quit smoking. "I've been worried about you."
He stroked her hair in an affectionate, brotherly manner. "I told you I'd be back."
Kitty blinked as the blinding white melted away into the dark metal walls of the danger room.
Kitty stepped back slightly, disoriented. She was still cold, and her lungs still pulled in cold air. "Yeah, I guess you did." Somehow, seeing Logan didn't make her feel any less worried about everything. Just more confused. "But you hadn't come back yet, I thought you were in trouble."
"I'm back now, aren't I?" he told her, folding his arms across his chest. "I can handle myself just fine without any help."
"Yeah - no," Kitty broke off and frowned, running her hands nervously over her arms. Her fingers didn't hit the wool of her coat like she expected but smooth fabric. A glance down and she realized she was wearing her old X-men uniform from years ago. When she looked back at Logan he was wearing his uniform as well. "I don't think you're getting out of this one on your own."
Logan sighed, in that fond but exasperated way he'd get with her. "No more running after me, Kitty, it's going to get you hurt one of these days. And I don't want to see that."
Kitty opened her mouth to argue the very familiar point with Logan.
"You want to see the best in people. In me." He reached out cupping the back of her neck. "I don't know much about my past but it's not a pretty one. There are things you don't have any business being a part of. There are people like Creed that will use you."
Kitty shrugged off his hand. "I know." She smiled thinly at Logan, and held her chin up. "I'm not a sheep being led to the slaughter. And I'm not a little girl. You trained me yourself! I can handle myself."
"Creed's an animal," Logan snapped. "A killer."
"That's what people say about you, but I still trust you," Kitty pointed out. She looked up at the ceiling, and had a dual vision of bright blue sky and dark metal. Her gut twisted, she wanted to cry, and found that she was. "I don't want to trust him. It's stupid, and you're right he's a killer, and he'll just break any trust in the end -- but I need to trust him and I think he needs me to trust him. I'll regret it - you'll regret it. He's got his own agenda, and there are things going on that I don't understand. You and Victor have a history that has nothing to do with me, only it does now, and I've got to see this through. And - "
She paused for a moment and closed her eyes tightly.
"-and I'd rather be doing this of my own free will, than tied up and dragged."
There was silence and when she looked back, Logan was gone. Snow stretched out before, but she could see colors in it instead of blinding white. She could see the green treeline in the distance, the gray and brown break where the road cut through the landscape.
A strong, warm arm slid around her from behind. "You'll freeze out here, kitten," Victor admonished her teasingly, his voice a soft growl - almost a purr against her throat. His breath was warm against the side of her face as he leaned down to speak in her ear. "Ready to come back to the truck?"
She leaned back into his warmth, just a little, and hated herself for it. As close to him as she was, she could smell him - snow and sweat, something a little wild tempered by soap. Kitty brought her hand up, stroking down his arm - over coarse hair and rough skin to the sharp tips of his nails.
"Yeah, I think I am."
Kitty opened her eyes, the inside of the truck cab coming into focus. The truck wasn't running but that made sense when she realized they were stopped at a gas station. The sun didn't given her any clear indication of time, and she wasn't sure if she'd been asleep for minutes or an hour. Kitty stretched and enjoyed the feeling of her back popping after being in one position for so long.
Her dream clung to the edges of her consciousness, leaving her feeling restless as she tried to remember more than just vague impressions of the cold and of Victor and Logan's voices.
Victor -- when had she started calling him Victor?
She frowned and rubbed her forehead. God, if she wasn't losing her mind. Outside she could see Victor leaning against the truck as the tank filled up. His eyes were closed and his head tipped back slightly, exposing his long throat.
Not what a lot of women would call handsome, but she'd be lying if she said she didn't find him so. He had a certain charm and appeal, but she wouldn't call him charming.
She decided while they were stopped she should get something to drink. They'd stopped for food soon after they'd gotten back on the road that morning, and Kitty wasn't too hungry, but something hot sounded good. She twisted around in her seat and dug out some money. As she dug for her wallet she came across her cell phone and felt a twinge of guilt as she quickly shoved it away.
How many times had others gone off for weeks to deal with some problem that "only they could handle"? If they got worried enough it wasn't like it'd be that hard to track her down.
She zipped her coat up before hopping out into the cold. "I'm going to get something to drink," she told Victor. "Want something?"
For a moment she thought he wasn't going to answer before he shook his head. "I'm fine." He'd been silent for most of the day in a way that had almost been oppressive. She'd been tempted several times to joke that he'd get along just fine with some of the boys back at the mansion who seemed to make brooding a sport. She'd bitten her tongue, though, and left him be. Last night and that morning hadn't been easy on him.
He looked tired.
"Let me drive for a while. You look like you need some rest," Kitty offered, leaning against the side of the truck instead of going straight into the gas station store. "I promise I'll be careful with your baby and not kill us both in a fiery crash." She grinned, half expecting him to reject her offer to drive yet again.
Victor's mouth quirked upwards. "Hasn't been a wreck yet that's killed me."
Kitty rolled her eyes. "Well, there's a first time for everything. Only there won't be, because I won't be crashing the truck. Okay?"
He snorted. "If it makes you happy, fine. You can drive the next few hours. There's a old resort town about five hours away, we'll be staying there tonight. Just follow the main road."
"Oh good, that means no bears tonight," Kitty joked, hiding her surprise at him giving into her so quickly, or even at all. He glared at her. "Okay, that sounds good. Anyway, I'm going to get that drink now. Sure you don't want something?"
Victor shook his head again. "No. Now hurry up or I'll leave without you." There something odd about his voice when he said it. If she didn't know better, she'd say he wanted her to be left behind but...
She was tempted, just for a second, to see what would happen if she didn't hurry up. A morbid desire to test if he'd really just leave.
"I'll be like two minutes, if that," she told him. Kitty headed over towards the store, aware of his eyes on her the entire way.
It was dark by the time Kitty parked the truck by the side of the inn that serviced the old resort town. Victor had been there before, once many years ago back in the town's heyday. It was a bit bigger now, and there were new buildings, but for the most part it hadn't changed - it just showed its age.
"This place looks nice," Kitty said, cautiously. "And it looks like there are some half-way decent restaurants in this town."
Victor almost rolled his eyes. "Is that a hint?" he asked roughly. He leaned across her to snatch the keys from the ignition.
"Don't worry, Victor, I'm not expecting you to buy me dinner," she muttered, opening the driver's side door. "We're still posing as newlyweds?"
He climbed out as well and folded the seat back to pull out her pack and his old duffel bag. Dropping the two bags to the ground he frowned as the hair on the back of his neck rose. He scented the cold damp air sharply through his nose. There was something in it -something familiar.
Beneath the normal smells of the town and the troubling allure of Kitty's fragrance he caught two particular scents.
Two familiar scents. One a few days old and the other fairly fresh.
The former was expected; in fact he was surprised he hadn't picked it up earlier. Looked like the delays had worked in his favor by throwing off the competition.
But the latter - the boy could be trouble. Big trouble if he knew the kitten was with him. Fuck, he didn't need this to get messier. She was making this already difficult enough on her lonesome and getting under his skin in ways he didn't need.
"Hey!" Kitty's sharp voice cut into his thoughts. She rounded the truck and was eying him with a slight frown. "You look like Logan when he's smelled something like - well, like you."
Victor's blood burned with a surge of rage that was too close to jealousy for comfort. As she reached for her bag Victor grabbed a hold of her wrist. He jerked her sharply towards him, pinning her hand to his chest. Fucking comparing him to Logan again. "Or maybe he looks like me," he growled, baring his teeth. "I'm the older one."
It didn't make sense, not even in his own head, but he couldn't stand that she was judging and fucking grading him against Jimmy.
Kitty's forehead wrinkled, and she put her hand against the middle of his chest. No fear. Of course not, she thought she could do her little trick and be free whenever she wanted. "Okay?" She sounded confused, asking, rather than telling. "Uhm, smell anything - uhm - interesting?"
He let go of her wrist. "Nothing you need to worry about." Victor reached down and picked up both their bags.
Kitty was rubbing her wrist when he looked back at her, and his gut clenched. There'd be matching bruises on her wrists now. Kitty turned and started walking around to the front of the inn from where they'd parked. When her back was turned, Victor scented the air again. The boy was close by, but Victor kept getting distracted by the fear and arousal coming off his kitten.
Her scent was like a drug. Intoxicating in ways no real drug ever had been, and he kept going back, tempted by each different variation of it.
"I changed my mind," she said suddenly. "You are buying me dinner, Mr. Creed."
"Am I?" he asked, amused and more than a little pleased she didn't make a fuss about his outburst.
Kitty nodded, and turned two steps up the stairs to the front door. "I am your new bride," she told him, smiling almost impishly. "You could at least take me to dinner after spiriting me away from my friends and family, and not even giving me a ring to show for it."
He raised an eyebrow wondering what she was up to. If he had to deal with one more goddamn telepath today...
Where she was standing put her almost at eye level with him, and it was easy for her to lean in towards him. Her arms settled around his neck as if she did it all the time. "I think someone's watching us from inside. They saw our little scene by the truck." Kitty's voice was soft, and her smile teasing.
Victor quickly realized she was right, someone was standing by one of the front windows half-hidden by the curtains. He'd been too damn busy snapping at her and brooding over the newest complication to the whole goddamn mess that he'd missed their rather obvious observer. Just some nosy tourist or local, but Victor didn't want some do-gooder butting in for any reason.
Kitty was merely using the best means to persuade any watcher that nothing at all was wrong.
Clever girl, Victor thought. And he didn't mind a bit of play acting when he had her pressed up against him. Even though he should have. "Hmm. He cupped her hip with his free hand, tugging her a bit closer and almost pulling her off the step. "Why don't you persuade me?"
Kitty laughed, an honest sound despite the fact that this was all an act. "I'd say 'you, sir, are a cad', but I already knew you were a bastard when I married you," she teased. Her forehead bumped against his. He could hear her heart speed up, as her gaze held his. There was fear there still, but then, he'd have been worried if there hadn't been.
The line between the truth and the lie blurred.
Just enough to make him reckless. Just enough that the part of him that was used to just taking what he wanted - took it.
He kissed her hard and fast. His teeth scraped against her lips briefly, before he pulled back.
Victor grinned at her sharply. "You're right about one thing, darlin', I'm a bastard."
Ignoring the wide-eyed, shocked look - which she quickly hid - and the thrumming in his own veins, he picked up their bags again then slid an arm around her as they walked up the rest of the stairs.
Their observer was gone.