Disclaimers in part one.
This part of Blood and Honey is dedicated to three
people who I don't appreciate often enough. :)
For J. Lynn, who made a whole page just for my stories
Thank you. I don't tell you often enough how much I
love the page. :)
For Acetal, who is always kind, always considerate,
and does wonderful feedback - thanks, Acie. You
always know just what to say.
And for Icewing, who I only got to know recently, but
who has done more to encourage my writing than many
people I've known for longer. Thanks to you too,
Icie, for showing me the window of opportunity and
then pushing me through it.
The Land of Blood and Honey
Jonny stirred his soup aimlessly, listening to the
cheerful noises of a number of people devouring a good
meal. It smelled kind of good, but he didn't want
any. Ever since his powers had fully emerged -
literally emerged, in his case - eating didn't really
appeal to him. Marie had called Doctors Grey and
McCoy the day afterwards, and they'd concocted and
sent over the thin, nutrient-rich soup he was eating
now. It tasted blandly sweet, and was supposed to
supply what his own internal energies couldn't. He
still drank, sometimes, but he didn't seem to need
much of that, either.
It was still nice to sit at the table and watch
everyone else do it, though. He smiled fondly at
Kyle, who was happily inhaling about half a cow.
Kyle looked up as he sensed his friend's gaze, and
smiled back. "Finish your soup," he said firmly.
"It's good for you."
"I don't really need it," Jonny said, because he
really didn't seem to, but he started eating again
"Is there any more news about Jubilee?" Annie asked
Logan, who'd spent the morning in the village and made
that week's check-in call to the school.
"Nope. They haven't found hide nor hair of her."
Logan chewed reflectively on a mouthful of steak.
"Storm said they've put out a missing persons on her,
but they ain't hopeful. She hasn't contacted them
again, so it seems like she's decided she wants to
strike out on her own."
Annie sighed a little. "I'll miss her," she said
mournfully. Jonny recalled being told that Jubilee
and Annie had been roommates for a while back at the
school. "But self-determination is a good thing." The
others all nodded, and silence fell as they went back
to eating. It'd been a long day, and those without a
literally boundless supply of energy were probably
Jonny went back to his soup, sipping it slowly as he
glanced around the table.
They'd all changed in the nearly six months since
they'd come here.
Kyle was no longer quite as rail-thin as he'd been,
his lean frame decently covered with long muscle. His
hair had grown longer too, and he'd taken to tying it
back with a strip of leather the way Creed did. More
important than the physical changes, he seemed happier
than Jonny had ever known him. He liked being part of
a pack, or a pride, or whatever, and didn't mind
taking a subordinate position to the alpha and beta
males; although which was the alpha and which the beta
was never quite clear at any given time. Anyway, Kyle
seemed perfectly content with his position around the
middle of the pecking order, lower than Creed and
Logan, but higher than Jonny himself and Geordi.
Geordi, though he probably didn't know it, was on the
bottom rung of the pack-ladder. He was a lot less
obnoxious now that he'd once been, but he still didn't
grasp the complex status-definition of the pack.
Since he gave the wrong responses to the subtle cues
of body-language and tone and so forth, he was firmly
relegated to bottom of the heap status. Being a
telepath had made it easy for Jonny to slot himself in
just below Kyle, assuming appropriately submissive
body-language towards the senior males, who probably
weren't even aware of what was going on.
On Geordi's other side was Annie. Since there were no
adult females in the group, Annie seemed to have
assumed the position of alpha female. Marie was
older, but Annie was physically stronger and
emotionally more assertive, and Clarice and Meggan
were too small even to be considered. Annie had
relaxed a lot, though, in the last six months. The
manic energy had faded a bit, although not much, and
the constant chatter had slowed down a fraction. She
was a bit taller, too.
Creed had calmed down a lot too. He knew that it was
mostly being attributed to having Annie and Clarice to
'bring out his softer side', but Jonny had his own
suspicions about that. By now, all of them had
started picking up bits and pieces of body-language
and so on from Creed and Logan, except for Geordi who
was consciously resisting. Creed invariably untensed
when he got the 'right' response to his unspoken cues,
and tensed up again when dealing with 'normal' people.
From the point of view of a feline - or a Sabretooth
- human cues were weirdly aggressive and
confrontational, which put him on edge. The more time
he spent with the cubs, especially Annie and Kyle, the
more relaxed he got.
Clarice, looking small and very pink and girly sitting
between the two men, had gotten a lot less shy lately.
She was surprisingly good at anything involving
projectile weapons, and was equally competent with
those guns small enough for her to handle, throwing
knives, blow-darts, and the small but well-made bow
Creed had gotten her. She was still too little to be
much good with close-contact fighting, but she'd put
on a lot of muscle, and knew a few good tricks to give
herself time to run away. They still hadn't broken
her of her tendency to wear clothes with cartoon
animals on them, though, nor had her fondness for Miss
Pinky the bear diminished the slightest bit. Creed
tended to use this as evidence for the defense
whenever one of the X-Folk started making accusations
about 'robbing them of their childhood'.
Logan hadn't been as emotionally wired as Creed to
start with, but he responded well to the subconscious
cues too. He was having fewer nightmares as time went
on, and he smiled more often than he had. He and
Meggan had formed a strong bond, and he spent a lot of
his time with her. It was truly bizarre... and very
funny, Jonny thought... how blissfully happy even
foster-fatherhood seemed to make both the men.
Meggan was still a puzzle. In the month they'd had
her, she'd visibly altered. Her batwing ears had
narrowed and shortened significantly, her face had
subtly altered its configuration, becoming less
monkey-like and more human, her fur had thickened with
the arrival of winter, but also gotten shorter for
some reason - and, most inexplicably of all, she'd
shrunk. Oh, she'd put on weight, she wasn't skin and
bones anymore, but when she'd arrived, she'd been eye
to eye with Clarice. Now the top of her head barely
reached Clarice's nose. Still, she was a nice kid,
and she'd finally started talking. Just an isolated
word or two during the last week, but it was progress.
Marie was sitting on Meggan's other side, fussing over
her a little, and Jonny smiled. Marie was sweet, and
fondly indulgent of her fellow cubs, especially the
little ones. She seemed a lot more self-confident
now, too, and much less fearful of her powers and
their effects on people. There'd been a couple of
times she'd accidentally touched people, and although
the feeling wasn't exactly pleasant, they'd all more
or less taken it in stride. They all knew she didn't
mean to, and Marie had been pitifully grateful for
their forgiveness of what she had always considered a
heinous offense. She was much more relaxed about it
now, knowing that everyone would avoid touching her
skin if they could, but that they wouldn't be angry
with her if another accident happened.
Now she turned away from Meggan to eye his soup-bowl.
He'd almost emptied it while studying the other
members of their odd little family, and she smiled
approvingly. "Good for you," she said softly. "You
"Maintain physical strength as well as psionic
strength. The mind is only as strong as the body that
houses it. I know, I know." He gave her a small,
lopsided smile. He was more comfortable with having
Marie up close than anyone else except Annie... and
Kyle, of course. It wasn't that he didn't trust them,
it was just... he didn't like people being too close,
or people touching him if he couldn't see them coming
and be ready for it. But Marie didn't touch anyone if
she could help it, so she felt... safer.
"That's right," she agreed. "Have you been sleeping?"
"Not much. Don't seem to need it." Jonny shrugged.
"I nap whenever I get tired, though."
"Good." She ruffled his hair lightly, then turned
back to Meggan, who was having trouble with her fork.
Jonny felt the tight knots inside him loosen a little
more. After what had happened in the Facility, he'd
never thought he'd be able to trust anyone again,
except Kyle. And he still didn't, in some ways. But
it was getting better. Easier. And Kyle was always
there, to keep him safe.
* * *
Geordi lost himself in the flow of the movements,
barely even feeling the cold anymore. All that
mattered was the opponent, the fight itself, the light
taps of carefully contained blows, the way his muscles
answered to his will and his body responded faster and
He was grateful for his healing factor, though. It
kept the cold from biting too deep. Even though it
was only the beginning of winter here in the
mountains, still fall... autumn... in the low country,
it was fairly cold. The snow was wet and mushy, but
it stayed on the ground, and the wind chilled bare
And he had a lot of bare skin right now. They still
hadn't worked their way down to full nudity, but for
two weeks now most of the hand to hand fighting had
been conducted in nothing but a loincloth... for both
genders. Geordi had gotten his butt kicked a dozen
times a day for a straight week through gawking at
Marie (who was doing staff-fighting rather than
hand-to-hand, for obvious reasons), but now he was
pretty much used to her. For once, the guys had sat
them down and explained why, exactly, this terribly
embarrassing thing had to be done NOW; because it
*would* happen later, at some point, and it'd probably
be fairly emotionally scarring if they weren't
prepared. That made sense, Geordi had had to concede.
If he was going to have to get used to walking around
and fighting naked, *he'd* certainly prefer getting
used to it in the company of a lot of other
embarrassed, naked people who he at least knew
personally, if not well.
Surprisingly, although he'd figured Marie would be the
most bothered by the idea, it had been Jonny who'd
made the biggest fuss. He'd flatly refused at first.
It had taken a lot of arguing - a discussion which
Geordi had not been privy to - to get him to give it a
try, and Creed and Logan had been ostentatious about
never pairing Jonny with anyone but Kyle or Annie, who
were less threatening or something.
Geordi didn't know why the kid had reacted the way he
did, but he probably had his reasons. Geordi was
confident enough in his own self-image that he didn't
mind *too* much. What *he'd* objected to was doing
the naked training outside, with only a thin mat
between his bare feet and the snow.
It wasn't so bad, though. He was partnering Kyle
today, who was a bit faster but a bit less strong, so
they were fairly evenly matched.
Geordi let himself get lost in the bout again.
Fail to duck, pain, gouges in the skin from the claws,
blood on the muddy snow, red rising before the eyes,
angry seething fighting NOW-
Something hit him very hard on the side of the head,
knocking him sprawling in the snow. As his head
fogged up, filling with grey mist this time instead of
red, he vaguely heard someone muttering about
'hereditary berserker tendencies', and asking Kyle if
he was all right.
* * *
"It's always the quiet ones," Logan grumbled that
night. He and Creed had fallen into a habit of
sitting in the kitchen for a while after the kids had
been sent to bed, talking over the day's training and
planning tomorrow. As long as all they talked about
were neutral things like kids and training, they got
along surprisingly well.
Creed shrugged. "Annie got it from me. Stands to
reason the brat'd get it from you." He picked at a
knothole in the table's surface with the tip of one
claw. "It's instinct, I guess."
"Yeah, I guess." Logan sighed. "I just... I dunno...
hoped he hadn't got it."
"You think it's a curse," Creed said, looking up from
the table with those cold black eyes that even Logan
still couldn't read. "It scares ya, being out of
control like that."
"Hell yeah, it scares me," Logan admitted, shaken
enough by the sudden, snarling rage he'd seen in
Geordi's face to be honest. Did his face look like
that, when he was lost in the bloodlust? "I never
know what I might do... who I might hurt... Don't it
worry you, knowing you might hurt Annie? Or Clarice?"
"I won't." Creed sounded utterly sure of the fact.
"See, I'm not like you. I don't fight it. I trust my
instincts." He hiked up one massive shoulder in a
shrug. "Thinkin' ain't all it's cracked up to be.
Nine times outta ten, instinct is all ya need to get
"And the tenth time?" Logan asked, meeting the cool
black gaze without flinching.
"The tenth time you back instinct up with explosives,"
Creed said, baring yellowing fangs in an unpleasant
Logan snorted, but he hadn't really expected anything
more profound than that. "That's your answer to
"Usually." Creed shrugged. "We're animals, you and
me. We fight, we hunt, we mate, we take care o' the
cubs. What else matters?"
"It's not that simple."
Creed shook his head slowly. "It's always that
Logan looked away.
* * *
It was an hour before dawn, on the north side of the
Creed stood in the snow, turned to watch the first
hints of pale blue touching the horizon.
Feet slushed through the snow behind him, and Annie's
scent drifted by. "Hey, kid," he said, without
"Hi, Dad," she returned, tucking herself companionably
against his side so that she leaned against his hip,
with his hand on her shoulder. "Are you and Logan
done arguing? I could hear you all night."
"We don't got much in common, and what we do have, he
tries to pretend ain't there," Creed growled moodily.
He petted her ruffled curls absently, scritching
gently down the back of her skull. She purred a
little, and some of the black mood that was on him
lifted. "He thinks he's human."
"If he's a primate, then I'm a horse," Annie sniffed
a little disapprovingly. "I mean, he's not like *us*,
but he's still higher on the food chain than
"Yeah, well... he doesn't wanna think about that.
Keeps going on about being a man, not an animal." He
snorted, lifting his head to sniff the sweet, clear
morning air. "Like bein' a man is so damn special.
Lookit me, I can stand on my hind legs and build a
nuclear weapon with my damn opposable thumbs. Big
"Clarice is a monkey," Annie pointed out a little
anxiously. She was young. She still thought humans
were cute and funny, not evil-minded dealers of
uncaring death. Still, she had a point about Clarice.
"Yeah, but we got Clarrie early. We can train it out
of her," he decided. "If wolves can do it, I guess we
"The wolves didn't. Romulus killed Remus," Annie
pointed out, snuggling against his side with a
resigned little sigh. "But they're not all bad."
"Enough of them are." He looked down at her, the
still unaccustomed tug of affection pulling at him.
She was his cub, and he loved her, although not in the
way a human parent might. "You can't trust them,
Annie. Even the nice ones, like Cyke and Storm.
Their minds don't work like ours."
"But I like Scott," Annie said a little plaintively.
"He's nice to me and he gives me fun toys, like my
"It's fine to like 'em. Like 'em all you want. Just
don't *trust* 'em." He gave her shoulder a little
shake to emphasize his words. "I ain't saying they're
likely to ever turn against you... but they might.
F'r all they've got powers, they're as human as any
other naked ape. They ain't like you and me."
"Is that why you left Magneto?" Annie asked, rubbing
her head against his side and yawning a little.
He hadn't thought about it that way before, so he
pondered his reply for a minute. "Kinda, yeah. I was
all for fightin' the good fight and stuff, but after
what happened on the statue... I dunno. Guess he's
like all the others." He sighed, rubbing Annie's head
gently. "He was gonna kill a whole bunch o' people
who he never met, who never woulda known what happened
to 'em, just to get what he wanted. That's human
"You kill people all the time," Annie pointed out.
He looked down at her again and nodded. "Yeah... but
it ain't the same." He sighed. "I better explain it
to alla you, huh? Got too many human brains here to
let 'em start thinkin' the wrong way about killing."
Ten minutes later, Creed had herded the whole sleepy
pride into the kitchen. "Okay. There's something we
gotta get cleared up," he said flatly. "Right now. I
want you all listenin' up good, and that includes you,
Logan scowled. "I've been listening to you all night,
Creed, and so far you ain't said diddly-squat worth
"Yeah, but now I figured out what I was trying to say
before." Creed lifted one claw-tipped finger for
attention. "It's about killing people. You all know
that someday, you're gonna have to, right?" They all
nodded, a little reluctantly, but they nodded. Good.
At least he'd finally pounded some sense into the
little brats. "Okay. And some of you... 'specially
Annie... might wind up making a pretty good living out
of it. I've been an assassin f'r years, the pay's
good and it's easy work. But..." He held up the
finger again to silence their startled noisemaking.
"But if you do that, or even if you stick to
emergencies only, there's something you gotta
They were all watching him now, and he was glad he'd
sorted it all out in his head while he was talking to
Annie. Otherwise he'd have gotten all confused and it
would have come out all wrong. "Killing is a big
thing," he said slowly, trying to keep it all straight
in his mind. "Yer takin' a life, snuffing out
something that'll never exist quite the same way
again. And it's about the most personal thing you can
do to someone. More so'n sex. More'n love. That's
why I usually do it with these." He held up his
hands. "Look, what I'm tryin' to say is... sometimes
you have to kill someone. Sometimes you just want to
do it. Sometimes it's just for the money. But
whatever you do it for, you gotta understand that it's
you doing it. You gotta take responsibility." He
looked around. Some faces were puzzled. Some wore
expressions of dawning understanding. "So if you're
gonna kill someone, do it personal. Let 'em see you,
and if you got time, make sure they know why you're
doing it. Tell them who hired you, tell them why you
need them dead, whatever. But kill 'em honest, and
accept the blood on yer hands as your due." This was
hard work, and he frowned as he tried to put the
thoughts that were so clear to him in clumsy human
words. "Killing from ambush, from hiding... that
cheats your prey. Killing without knowing who you're
killing, usin' bombs or explosives and gettin' a whole
bunch of people you're never gonna know... that cheats
*you*. If you're gonna kill, you need to know who the
target is. See their face. Feel their breath on your
face, their blood on your skin. It's fun, 'least I
think it is, but what matters is that it's a *real*
kill." He shrugged, with a little sigh of relief for
having gotten to the end of it. "The other way is
just murder. It makes the kill meaningless, for you
and for the victims. And death should always mean
something to you, even if it's just for fun."
There was a long, contemplative silence.
"That's either morally profound or very, very weird,"
Geordi said, frowning. "Or both. I think both."
"If you're gonna kill someone, it should mean
something to you. You should acknowledge that you did
it, even if you don't feel the tiniest bit guilty
about it," Annie said, giving her father an admiring
look. "I like it."
Most of the others looked a bit shell-shocked, but
Creed didn't really care whether or not they approved
of him. Just as long as he'd made it clear he wasn't
going to put up with any untidy random killings.
It was nice that Annie approved, though.
* * *
That afternoon, in the middle of another round of hand
to hand combat (clothed, this time, in deference to
the intermittent sleet), a soft whine filled the air.
As all of them looked up in surprise as the Blackbird
skimmed into sight over the trees, lowering almost
daintily into the clearing in front of the cabin. All
of them hurried around the side of the cabin as the
engines powered down.
Unsurprisingly, it was Cyclops who stepped out of the
plane. What was surprising was how ill-at-ease he
looked. Usually, even when he was one-on-one with mass
murderers, Scott Summers could put up a good
appearance of calm. Now he looked tense and unhappy,
even the visor and uniform not hiding it. "Hi," he
said almost tentatively.
"Whaddya want?" Creed asked, not even noticing that
he'd put a protective hand on Clarice's shoulder. Out
of the corner of his eye, he saw Logan pick up a
whimpering Meggan and balance her absently on his hip.
Meggan hid her face in his neck.
Scott sighed. "I need your help," he admitted. "I'll
pause for hysterical laughter."
Creed raised a shaggy eyebrow. "Our help," he said,
growling a little. Boy had nerve, at least.
Outnumbered, outmuscled, and outgunned, he was still
making his play.
"Yeah." Summers scrubbed a hand through his model-boy
hair. "There's a friend of the Professor's who lives
in Scotland - Doctor Moira McTaggert. She's some kind
of expert on mutation, or something, I don't know
exactly what. The only science subject I ever took was
physics." His lips quirked in a wry smile. "Look, the
thing is, Moira has an adopted daughter. Her name's
Rahne." His eyes flicked to Annie and Clarice. "She's
disappeared. You guys are good at finding people."
Hah. He might not quite be the loner he'd been
before, but just because he had his own cubs, it
didn't mean he cared what happened to some scottish
kid he'd never met. "Yeah? So?"
The kid wasn't great yet, but he was good. His
expression barely flickered as he played his hole
card. "Rahne is like you. Like Annie and Kyle and
Geordi and Wolverine, a feral-type mutation. Hers
goes further than yours - she's a partial
shapeshifter, too. She goes from appearing fully
human, to an inbetween state much like your permanent
one, to being an apparently normal wolf." He jerked
his chin at Annie, the visor meeting Creed's eyes
steadily. "Rahne isn't the bravest kid in the world,
and Moira's the only family she has. She wouldn't
have gone off on her own. She and her mutation are
well known in the area, though, and anyone looking for
certain things could easily have found out about her.
The odds are, Creed, that someone out there just
kidnapped one of only two identified shapeshifting
ferals." The boy's voice was level. "Think of this
as me giving you an opportunity to track whoever it is
down now, before they decide that Annie would complete
The kid had a point, and he knew very well that
Creed's self-interest was the best part to reason
with. Creed glanced over at Logan, who was still
holding Meggan, murmuring soothingly to her. He
looked over her head, and nodded ever so slightly.
Creed nodded too. Better safe than sorry. "Been
meanin' to take the kids on a proper hunt anyways," he
decided magnanimously. "All right! We now have our
first official job - a standard hunt and snatch. You
all know the drill, you got three minutes to grab the
stuff you need and be on the plane! Marie, you get
Meggan's stuff, and don't forget the damn bunny or
she'll be howlin' for hours." He looked back at Scott,
and grinned toothily. "They're inexperienced, so we
won't charge full price for the rescue."
"Full price?" The boy grinned in startled amusement.
"What... never mind. I get it." He turned to go back
up the ramp, then turned back, holding up an
admonitory finger. "We better get at least forty
percent off. They're rank beginners."
Two and a half minutes later, all seven kids, plus
three adults, had squeezed into the Blackbird. Meggan
was sitting in Logan's lap, still sniffling a little
and clutching her bunny. She'd probably never seen a
plane before, let alone been inside one. The others
had packed light, like they'd been taught, bringing
nothing but their cold-weather gear, the few weapons
they were cleared to use, and the bags around their
necks. And Miss Pinky. He almost wished he'd never
bought that stupid pink bear, except that it kinda
made him feel good that she liked it more than any toy
someone else had got for her. "You're gonna have to
leave that with Meggan with the X-Geeks," he reminded
her, ruffling her purplish-pink hair gently.
"I know." Clarice hugged the toy. "I didn't wanna
leave her behind."
"Yeah, yeah." He tried to lean back in the seat and
sighed. Damn things were still too narrow for his
shoulders. He felt like a damned hunchback. "If
anyone forgot to pee, I don't care, it's too late now.
Summers, we still sitting here for a reason?"
Summers shook his head and started flipping toggles
and pushing buttons. "It's not going to take long for
us to get there," he said, sounding tense and worried
again. "Uh... listen, there's something I didn't tell
Creed frowned. Anything they waited to tell you until
you were already in the plane couldn't be good.
"What?" he growled. He saw the little hairs on the
back of the kid's neck rise in reaction, and grinned
evilly. That growl had harmonics that reached right
down into the hindbrain and woke up ancestral memories
of huddling close to the fire while predatory eyes
glowed from the undergrowth all around, and he knew
"I... uh... I didn't tell the X-Men or the Professor I
was coming to get you," he confessed slowly, voice
still calm but knuckles white on the controls. Boy
was scared. Good. Creed liked keeping them a little
scared. "They don't trust you. I don't trust you
either. But I think you can find her, and someone has
to. We... the X-Men... aren't so good."
"Really?" Creed let the growl stay in his voice.
"Since you ain't got two cents to rub together, kid,
I'm wonderin' how you're planning to pay for our
services without Xavier's help."
"I'm not going to. Moira is. She's the one who's
hiring you, not me. I'm just... a go-between. You
know me, you don't know her."
Creed relaxed. Well and good, then. That was sound
business practice. "Fine. So what's the deal?"
The kid still looked guilty. He'd probably been the
one who suggested the idea to Moira. He was probably
going to run to Charlie and confess as soon as they
got there. "Well, Moira found out that Rahne was
missing two days ago, when she didn't show up for
(end part five)
Do You Yahoo!?
Everything you'll ever need on one web page
from News and Sport to Email and Music Charts