(Disclaimer in previous parts. Some adult themes.
Sequel to 'The Godless Among Them' and 'Slavery,
Deliverance, and Faith'.)
The Land of Blood and Honey
"I'm not hungry," Jonny insisted, leaning back
against the trunk of a tree. "You go eat."
Kyle eyed him with concern. "You've hardly been
eating anything the last few days," he said, squatting
easily beside his friend. "How can you not be hungry?
We're doing enough exercise to burn off a small cow."
He'd more or less gotten into the habit of talking
again... at least to Jonny, who always listened to
him. He didn't talk so much to the others, except
Annie and Clarice, who were just too little and cute
"I'm just not hungry," Jonny shrugged. He gave Kyle
one of those innocent looks, big brown eyes wide. "I
just... don't seem to need it. I'm fine, really."
"Uh-huh," Kyle said sceptically. Sure, Jonny hadn't
been getting tired much lately... in fact, he'd
outraced Kyle a few times, and that was hard to do.
But Kyle had trouble believing in mysterious energy
sources that didn't require food.
He gave his friend a worried look. Jonny had been
acting a little... odd, lately. Odder than usual.
He'd always been a bit quiet and stiff-upper-lip-ish,
as befitted his British heritage, but now he was
getting positively vague. They all knew he was a
telepath, but he didn't seem to be able to pick up
more than fuzzy impressions from the others, maybe a
word or two at most. Before they'd left, Xavier had
told them it was because Jonny's powers hadn't
developed yet. Could developing powers make Jonny go
weird? Kyle didn't know. But he knew it was his job
to take care of the little guy. "Are you sure you
don't wanna eat something? A cookie?"
"Maybe later." Jonny pulled his knees up under his
chin. "I'm just gonna sit here and watch the stars
"Okay..." Kyle said reluctantly. He didn't want to
leave, but he was hungry enough to eat his own shoes,
and if he didn't show up for dinner, the other three
with healing factors tended to polish off any food in
sight. Especially Annie, who was still growing. "But
I'm coming back after."
"Right. Go eat," Jonny agreed absently, his eyes on
the darkening sky.
* * *
Creed growled softly, clawing restlessly at the
phonebook again. He was down in the tiny townlet
again, in the middle of the night, this time. The
little phonebox's light was out... he'd taken care of
that first thing... and he gazed out at the dim
The phone was picked up between the fourth and fifth
rings, although nobody made a sound on the other end.
Creed grunted. Back to business as usual. "It's me,"
he growled, giving the words a little roar at the end.
Nobody else could even make that noise, except
Mystique, and she wasn't very good. They'd know it
"Well, well... the prodigal housepet." Oh, hell, it
was Toad. He hated Toad. "Calling to change your
mind? Rejoin the crusade?"
"No," Creed growled. "Calling to make sure my message
"Of course," Toad giggled, and Creed could almost see
him making that stupid face. "You were worried that
we might interpret 'No. Fuck off', as a joyful cry of
Then he made a weird squeaking noise, there was a
thump, and Magneto's rich voice filled the phonebox,
even through the tinniness of a trans-Atlantic line.
"Sabretooth. Dare I hope that you have chosen to
return to the fold?"
"No," Sabretooth growled unhappily. He'd liked
working for Magneto. Sure, he'd been treated like a
dumb flunky, but he'd fitted in. That had been a new
and precious feeling. "Thing's've changed since you
got put away."
"Nothing has changed," Magneto said, his voice getting
a little sharper. "Not the world, and not our duty to
our brothers and sisters. Have you become soft,
Sabretooth? Don't tell me that you are choosing to
side with Charles!"
"No," Creed growled again. He was NOT siding with
Xavier. He was just using him to get what he wanted.
"I ain't on anyone's side anymore, Magneto. I got...
stuff to take care of."
The sharpness instantly faded into sympathy. "Of
course, my friend, if it is a personal matter... but
perhaps I could assist you? Surely, whatever this
difficulty is, it would be better handled by all of
Creed closed his eyes, resting his forehead against
the cold glass of the booth. He wanted to agree. He
wanted to tell Magneto everything and let him take
care of it, like he was so good at doing. "I can't,"
he said softly, knowing that there was a little
whimper in the growl and hating it. But he was
defying the pride leader and it was hard, even though
he knew he had to. "This is something I gotta take
"Very well," Magneto agreed slowly. "I regret that
you don't consider it possible to confide in me,
Sabretooth, but I will not interfere. Please do
remain in contact, however."
"If I can," Sabretooth agreed reluctantly, and he
hadn't meant to promise that much, but this was all so
hard... "I gotta go." He hung up quickly, before
temptation became too much.
It was... frightening. He'd had a pride and a pride
leader - before he'd even known that was what he
needed - and now he'd defied the alpha male and he was
out all on his own. Which he'd always been, but that
had been before he knew it was possible to be
No. He shook his head, slipping out of the too-small
booth and starting his walk back up the mountain. He
wasn't alone. It was just that HE was pride leader
now. With an annoying but necessary lieutenant -
Logan - and a couple of little, soft cubs who needed
him to protect them. After what Magneto had done to
Rogue... and the memory of those frantic screams still
haunted Creed... he couldn't be trusted with the
others. Especially Annie, with so much potential
He growled softly, realizing that he'd found the right
trigger. Magneto would hurt Creed's cubs if he found
them. In his primarily instinct-driven mind, he
watched Magneto flipped neatly from the 'pride leader'
slot into the 'marauding male' slot. That was better.
The part of his mind that he tended to ignore - what
he thought of as the human part, full of aimless
thoughts and unnecessary complications - was rather
amused at how easily Magneto had gone from being
someone Creed almost trusted, to being a potential
enemy. He was starting to get a handle on his own
instincts for the first time, and everything was
falling into place more and more easily. He was a
feline, like a lion. Male lions protected their cubs,
and kept other males away... unless they were
easily-whipped subordinate males like Logan. It was
all so amazingly simple and comfortable.
Smiling a little, he jogged easily up the road towards
* * *
"You're sure," Magneto said uneasily, tapping his
fingers on his desk.
"Very sure." Helixx agreed, their voices as always so
perfectly matched that it sounded as if only one
person was speaking. "Sabretooth visited the
headquarters of the X-Men regularly while you were...
Magneto chewed on his lip thoughtfully. Charles was
just about soft-hearted and trusting enough to give
Sabretooth a 'second chance'... but surely then he'd
have stayed at the school, not come and gone. "What
did he do there?"
Helixx blinked their wide blue eyes in exact unison,
scrolling back through their memories. "He took a
young girl away with him, then brought her back, at
the beginning and end of each weekend," they reported.
"After several events of this nature, he brought back
two girls, not one. After one more weekend, he began
taking both girls with him. The first resembles him
physically. The second does not. Nine weeks ago, he
was observed removing both girls from the school, in
company with the man called Wolverine. Between them,
they removed six adolescents, and took them away
together." They frowned slightly. "Where they went,
we do not know. They left our range."
"You should have..." Magneto trailed off and sighed.
"Of course, you could not follow them. I had ordered
you to watch the school, not Sabretooth."
"Yes," Helixx agreed in vacant unison. "We observed
the school most closely."
Magneto sighed. Helixx were telepathically
undetectable psi-spys, and thus were an invaluable
resource, but only if you knew what orders to give
them. They were identical twins... male, he thought,
although it wasn't really possible to tell, given the
perfect androgyny of the pair. For all he knew, they
might be female, hermaphroditic, or genderless. It
didn't matter, since the two of them cared for nothing
but each other, and the Cause. They would obey any
order he gave them, but that was all they could do,
and they wouldn't follow up on what they observed
unless they'd been told to. He was amazed that they'd
had enough initiative to come to him and tell him of
Sabretooth's apparent treachery. "Thank you, Helixx,
that will be all. You may go finish generating your
"Yes, Magneto," they agreed, smiling in unison, and
they walked away, arms wrapped lovingly around each
other. Magneto suspected that much of their loyalty
to him was derived from his acceptance of the
inviolable bond between them.
Damn. This was an unfortunate complication. It
dovetailed with Sabretooth's sudden, totally
uncharacteristic insistence on dealing with whatever
it was on his own. Where he'd gotten either of the
little girls was anyone's guess, but... Using Rogue
to power his machine might have been a greater error
than he'd realized. Sabretooth wouldn't be keeping
the children from him if he didn't think he had to,
and if either of them were truly powerful...
* * *
Logan sighed, picking up the discarded gun. "Marie-"
"I don't want to!" she insisted, stamping her little
"I know, kid, but you have to," he said as gently as
he could. "You might need to know one day."
Marie did that little hurt pouty look at him that made
his knees go all mushy. "I don't like guns," she said
He squashed the urge to tell her she didn't have to,
that everything would be fine. "I know, but you gotta
learn how to use one anyway. Just in case." He
tousled her hair carefully. It was one of the 'safe'
ways to touch her, and it was good for her not to feel
like such a pariah. At least the other kids didn't
treat her like one... Kyle, Annie and Clarice could
easily have passed for not even knowing about it,
Jonny didn't touch ANYONE except Kyle and sometimes
Annie, and Geordi didn't touch anyone much either but
that was because he was trying to cultivate a
reputation as a complete asshole.
Even Sabretooth was casually ignoring the touch-issue.
Only the day before yesterday he'd responded to
Marie's complaints about having to wade through cold
water (on the edge of a small lake, for a training
exercise), by picking her up by the back of the shirt
and the seat of the pants and throwing her out towards
the middle. Which Logan hadn't been entirely happy
about, mind you, but Creed certainly hadn't been
flinching wimpishly while he was swinging Marie back
to get some momentum.
Anyway, she'd swum back to shore fine.
"Why do I have to know how to shoot a gun?" Marie
complained, taking the weapon again.
"Because someday you're gonna need to know," he
repeated patiently. "Trust me, Marie, you ARE gonna
need to know. I know these things."
"I guess," she muttered, a little rebelliously, but
she went back to her target practice. She was getting
They all were. Clarice was, surprisingly, a naturally
good shot. Geordi had the same slightly odd spatial
perceptions that Logan himself did, but he was doing
okay. So were the others.
He had to stop going all mushy inside every time Marie
looked pathetic, though. She was too good at it, and
he was pretty sure it put that goofy 'my cub is
cuuuuute' look on his face that Sabretooth got every
time Annie bagged a bunny and came running to show
Reminded of Annie, he wandered over to her. She
should have been doing better than she was. She could
load the gun fine, take it apart and reassemble it,
the works. He'd been impressed by how good she was at
everything... right up to actually firing the gun.
Which she could do, she just wasn't a very good shot,
unless she had at least two or three minutes to line
"Stupid eyeballs," she muttered, glaring at the holes
peppered all over the home-painted silhouette. Only
two had hit anywhere immediately fatal, although quite
a lot of them would have caused a long, lingering
"Most people blame the gun," Logan grinned. It was
nice to know there was something the kid stank at.
She regularly kicked his butt in unarmed combat,
although he was sure that was only because SHE didn't
have all that adamantium weighing her down.
"It's not the gun, the gun works fine," Annie
grumbled, scrubbing at her eyes with her knuckles.
"I'm just having trouble aiming my eyes."
Logan raised an eyebrow. He and Creed had... at
least, he thought they had... an identical problem
with their eyes, in that they didn't see close up and
stationary very well with eyes that were designed for
far away, moving prey. But the target was far enough
away from Annie that she should be able to focus on it
fine. "Why? Because it's two-dimensional and staying
still, not three-dimensional and moving?"
"Partly." Annie's yellow eyes narrowed, her pupils
shrinking and dilating as she squinted at the target.
They changed shape a bit, too. "I just... see a lot.
More than most people."
Logan raised the eyebrow again. "Look, kid, I know
you have good eyes, so do me and your dad, but it's
not that different-"
"Can you see mass?" Annie inquired, still squinting
at the target. "Like, seeing something, and knowing
exactly what it's made of and how much of it there
"Uh..." He blinked slowly. "No..."
"Do your eyeballs have a zoom function?" she inquired
sweetly, still eyeing the target.
"Mine do." She fired the gun, and Logan jumped a
little. Annie gave the hole in the silhouette's
forehead a satisfied look. "It takes me a while to
focus properly on where the bullet's going to be after
I fire. I should probably stick to hand-to-hand and
blade weapons." She handed him the gun and wandered
off towards the arena where Kyle and Jonny were
hacking awkwardly at each other with dulled practice
Annie's turns of phrase were sometimes strange. He
wasn't sure if she'd meant that it took her a while to
focus on the target in order to fire the bullet, or
whether she'd said she could see where the bullet was
going to hit *before* she fired it.
* * *
"Poit," Clarice said, picking up her training 'sword'
- which was currently a weighted stick - and dragging
herself along the path back to the house. She should
have remembered how far away it was before letting
Annie talk her into one last round. "What are we
going to do tonight, Brain?"
"The same thing we do every night, Pinky," Annie said
with equal solemnity. "Help make dinner. I hope
Clarice gave her surrogate big sister her best
eyeroll. "There's always meat," she pointed out. "We
live with Sabretooth and Wolverine. Wishing for meat
is like wishing for oxygen."
"True." Annie skipped a bit, but only a bit. Even
she was getting tired under all the heavy training.
"Then I hope there's dessert."
Clarice brightened a little. "There's pudding," she
remembered. "I saw it in the icebox this morning."
"Pudding!" Annie crowed. "I love pudding!" Small
white wings appeared between her shoulders for a
moment, then got sucked back in again.
Clarice giggled, recognizing the reference to Kero
from the Cardcaptors cartoon. Cartoons. She missed
cartoons. "Are we going to stay here for long, you
think?" she wondered aloud.
"I dunno. We might go back to America eventually."
Annie mooched along, poking at the ground with her
toes. "Or Madripoor, maybe." Sabretooth had unbent
enough to tell a few rather bloody stories about the
pirate city, and some of the cunning assassinations
he'd performed there. "Madripoor'd be fun."
"Maybe." Madripoor sounded kind of scary to Clarice.
Living without cartoons wasn't THAT bad.
Annie stopped mid-mooch, lifting her head and sniffing
the air. "People," she breathed, eyes narrowing. "A
lot of them. With horses and dogs."
Clarice frowned. "Do they have hunting here? At
night?" she asked a little nervously.
Annie shook her head. "It's not a hunt. It might be
gypsies. Dad says there's still some around,
especially back here in the mountains." She started
walking again, faster this time, head turning from
side to side as she listened and sniffed. "I better
tell him. He'll want to check them out if they're
this close to the den."
Clarice picked up her tired feet and hurried to keep
up. She was tired, but the woods were getting dark
and if there were strangers around... "Will he chase
"Only if they get too close." Annie took Clarice's
hand comfortingly. "It'll be okay. Daddy and
Wolverine can chase away ANYTHING." She frowned,
sniffing the breeze again. "Something about them
smells... bad. Wrong." She sniffed again. "Scared.
They're scared of something. And it's not us."
(end part two)
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