What The Cat Dragged In Ch. 17bypsyche_b_mused©
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17. How You Remind Me
A sound tugged at Kelly's consciousness. It wasn't a loud sound, but even in her drugged state she knew something was different. The music that Victor always had playing while he drove wasn't present, but a deep thrumming was. It seemed to come from under her head and all around her at the same time. It was an undertone to the fragments of dream images that cascaded through her head.
The drug kept her mostly unconscious, but her body still struggled for comfort and her mind still struggled for wakefulness. If it weren't for the numbing white noise and the warmth that surrounded her, she might have succeeded in forcing the effect of the drug away.
Creed had bought the warehouse when he found himself spending more time in the Midwest. It was in the years between the strict usefulness of such buildings, and time when the cavernous brick structures were being converted to trendy lofts, galleries and clubs. He'd picked the place up for a song and pretty much worked his ass off over the next few months to make it livable. If anybody had asked, and if he'd chosen to answer, he might have made some excuse about money or not wanting anybody else pawing through his shit. The truth was, he liked doing something with his hands in a way that didn't involve his claws.
It reminded him of the time before. Before he'd gotten lost in all the wars. Before he'd become saturated in the blood and shit of an uncounted number of nameless victims. Before the animal in him had driven the man into hiding and driven Jimmy away. Before he became Victor Creed the monster, he'd wanted something normal. Course he had no fucking idea what 'normal' meant, but he knew it had something to do with having a place of his own and the freedom to feel the sun on his face whenever he wanted to.
Through the years he'd forced himself to forget about it. Told himself it was stupid and unformed and that it wouldn't satisfy his bloodlust or his rage. The houses he'd owned had been comfortable, built to suit him, and not places he could see himself living for any length of time. It'd reinforced the idea that anything 'normal' was permanently out of his reach. It'd made it easier to tell himself that he didn't really want it in the first place.
The weeks he'd spent with the frail had reminded him of that time before and had breathed tenuous life into that long-repressed dream, except now he wasn't alone in that deeply secret fantasy anymore. It was still stupid and probably impossible. He was in too fucking deep to get out completely and she was human. Along with all her other frailties that meant she would be an easy target for any of the enemies he'd made over the years. Still, the sweetness of her lingering scent teased him toward that walled off place inside his head.
He'd never tell her. She'd think he was out of his fucking mind. Besides, he had too much shit going on now to indulge in some kind of dumbass fantasy.
He slowed down on his way through the city, wanting to make sure that the car following him saw exactly where he went. Once he reached the distressed-looking red brick building he typed in a code and the ground level garage door opened. It was the only way into the building from the street. Once the door closed behind him he changed the code for the outer door and placed his palm on the scanner to open the inner door. Conlon's car was there already. Conlon was waiting by the elevator, gun at his side. Creed rolled his eyes and pulled the trunk release lever.
"You piss with your dick in one hand and that thing in the other?" Creed asked.
"Just wanted to be sure you were alone."
"Think I would've come in if I wasn't?"
"No." Conlon admitted. "Guess it's habit."
"Well break it. No wonder the frail's fucking so nervous around you." When he opened the trunk, the stench of anxiety was almost enough to make his eyes water. He turned his head away until the majority of the scent dissipated into the gray, harshly-lit room.
He turned back again to find the frail was still clutching his shirt, but the blanket was mostly off of her. Her shoes were off as well. The blanket might have shifted with the motion of the car, though he thought he'd been careful to tuck it in around her. Her shoes were another matter.
One of the other reasons he'd chosen Hypnocyn was the fact that it didn't produce sleep-walking and all that other crazy shit that Ambien and other drugs like it could. He wondered what else his research had gotten wrong as he carefully lifted her out of the trunk. She shifted in his arms so that she was pressing closer to his chest. At least she was still unconscious. According to his calculations, she should have at least another hour and a half of that extremely deep sleep, and two to three hours after that of a more normal sleep. He wasn't at all sure any of that was trustworthy though.
"You got the groceries I wanted?" He asked Conlon quietly as they stepped onto the steel-paneled elevator. The other mutant entered a code and the elevator started to rise.
"Fridge and pantry are all stocked." He replied in an equally subdued voice.
"And what needed to be gotten rid of?"
"No one'll ever find it."
The elevator stopped on the second floor and Conlon typed in a second code. A panel slid open and Conlon set his palm on the scanner. A moment later, they began their ascent again.
"They better not." The soft growl that laced the statement sent a little shiver through the frail. He held her closer in an instinctive gesture of protection. "Bags?"
"Inside the door." Conlon said.
The doors slid open and Creed stepped out. "I'll call you when I'm ready to leave. Stay downstairs unless she calls you."
Conlon nodded and the door slid shut again.
Once they were alone, Creed set the frail down on one of the large sofas, taking care to set her on her uninjured shoulder. He turned on the gas fireplace. He hated the fucking thing. It smelled all wrong and he didn't think it got the damp out of the air the way a wood fire did. Still, he had to admit it was more convenient that hauling firewood through the city.
He watched the frail for a minute and when he was satisfied that she wasn't going to move, he went to take a shower. There was no trace of the whore's blood on his skin, but the scent of her body and her death was still on his clothes and it disgusted him. After he was cleaned up, he'd find himself something to eat. It occurred to him that this was the first time he'd had to cook for himself since he'd found her. His meals appeared either on schedule or on demand and almost always exactly the way he liked them. A little smile curled his lips as he walked into the bathroom. Fucking frail. Had him spoiled already.
Kelly's eyes fluttered open, but her limbs still felt as if they were being held down by lead weights. Panic crested and then ebbed away as she realized it was nothing more than the result of prolonged deep sleep. She concentrated on waking up the rest of her body and tried to figure out where she was. When she looked down toward her feet she could see the fire moving, but it looked unnatural. The tumbled river stone surround was not as perfect as the one in the cabin. The imperfections made it more pleasing to the eye.
The wood floor had suffered years of distress, but had been polished anyway, turning the scars into something beautiful that stood out in sharp contrast to the pattern of the oriental rug immediately in front of the sofa. She scanned the room in front of her eyes slowly, and found most of the space to be in darkness. Even in the lack of light, she could tell that the room was enormous. She could see the dark shapes of oversized furniture arranged in clusters, she presumed to denote specific areas. She could just about make out a difference in the texture of the floor in the clusters and the spaces between them. She guessed that a rug tied each cluster together, giving the illusion of rooms without walls. She couldn't discern more detail than that though.
Slowly her body started to respond and she turned over onto her back and rubbed at her eyes. The ceiling soared above her, making her head spin. She closed her eyes until the feeling went away. When she opened them again, she focused on the opposite end of the room where she could just make out the sinuous patterns of wrought iron railings around an elevated loft.
The sounds came through next, but it took Kelly some time to recognize them as the clink of utensils against a plate. She sat up slowly and set her feet on the floor. Victor was sitting at a breakfast counter, illuminated by a row of pendant lights. His back was to her. Seeing him there made her surroundings seem less important.
Kelly tried to get up, but the world spun around her again. She sat back down and took a deep breath. Her second try was more successful, though there was still a distinct feeling of disconnection from her body. Her knees trembled with each step so she moved slowly. The shift from carpeting to bare floor was too much for her tenuous balance to take and her knees buckled. If she hadn't caught herself against an ottoman she would have hit the floor hard. As it was, the sound drew Victor's attention.
"What the fuck-" He was across the large room faster than she would have imagined. He grasped her elbow and lifted her enough so that she was sitting on the ottoman. He grabbed a handful of her hair and tilted her eyes up to his. Kelly's heart started to pound as he studied her eyes intently for a long moment. His eyebrows knitted together and he let go. "You really are awake."
"Yeah, kind of." She managed a smile. "Where are we?"
"Chicago." He was still looking at her curiously.
"What?" With each passing moment she was starting to feel more normal.
"I figured you'd be asleep for another couple of hours. You hungry?"
Kelly hadn't thought of it until that moment. "Yeah. Show me where the kitchen is."
"Sure, then I can watch you set the place on fire too. I'll make you some eggs and sausage. You gonna be able to get to the counter without falling?"
"I think so." She got up again, this time her head didn't spin. "Bathroom?"
He started back toward the kitchen. "Over there." He pointed to a door in the enclosed lower part of the loft.
"Thanks." Kelly walked slowly at first, but with each step she gained more confidence. By the time she came out again, the unbalance and weakness was gone completely. As she crossed the room she saw Victor still cooking her eggs. She hesitated at the edge of the tiled kitchen, amazed at how comfortable he looked.
"What?" He didn't take his eyes off the scrambled eggs he was finishing.
Kelly blushed a little and smiled. "It smells good."
He gave a derisive snort and put the eggs on a plate. "You thought I couldn't cook?" He set it on the counter, then put his arm around her waist and lifted, saving her from an awkward climb up onto the tall stool. He put the plate and utensils in front of her along with a glass of juice.
"I didn't say that. Just that I've never seen you do it. Well, except that first night." She took a bite of the eggs.
"That first night I could've fed you shit, you wouldn't have noticed." He put two sausage patties on her plate. She knew in his estimation they were overdone, but they were just how she liked them.
She smiled at him. "Thanks."
The corner of his mouth twitched into a smile before he turned away. "Don't get used to it, frail."
He sat down next to her and for a few minutes they ate in silence. As her hunger was satisfied though, she began to notice tension creeping into Victor's neck and shoulders. She bit back the questions that formed on her lips. She knew from experience that if she asked him what was wrong he'd tell her she was imagining things and she never would find out. Difficult as it was, she maintained the silence and kept her eyes on her plate.
"Told you I was gonna give Stan's goons a show." He wasn't looking at her.
Kelly chose her words carefully. "Yes. Did you?"
"Yeah. 'F it worked, people will think you're dead."
Kelly looked at him quickly. "Won't they look for a body?"
Silence hung between them for a long moment. "They've got one."
"But I'm not..." The meaning of his statement broke though. She tried to hide the shudder that went through her body. "That was screaming I heard." She murmured.
His head came up quickly. "Heard when?" His tone was harsh and demanding. Kelly dug her nails into her thigh to keep from flinching.
"I don't know when exactly. I was sleeping. There was someone screaming and it didn't seem like part of the dream I was having at the time." She didn't want to ask the next question, but she knew she had to. "You-"
"I did what I had to do!" He turned away again. His shoulders hunched.
Kelly couldn't absorb the full impact of it all. Not yet. She stuck to the details that seemed farthest removed from her feelings. "They'll know it's not me. Fingerprints, DNA..."
"They gotta have your fingerprints to compare to first. Unless you got an arrest record you're keepin' quiet, your prints wouldn't be on file anyway. DNA," He glanced over at her. "Let's just say I made sure it would be pretty goddamn difficult to find any."
Kelly nodded. Her head was starting to spin. She murmured something about wanting a shower, slid off the stool and retreated into the bathroom.
He'd watched her start to shut down before, but he'd never seen it happen so fast. One thing he was sure of was that when she came out of it, she'd fucking hate him. She'd look at him like the animal that he was. She'd be disgusted. How could she feel anything else about a murderer?
And why the fuck did he give a shit what she thought or felt in the first place? She was just a frail. She happened to belong to him and she would until he decided he was sick of her. She didn't really matter. He started repeating that to himself like a callous mantra as he got up and took a bottle of whiskey out of the cupboard.
Intoxication was another kind of solace that was lost to him. He hoped that the burn of the alcohol would at least take his mind off the pain in his chest and that he would start to believe the words that were running on an endless loop in his head.
He opened the bottle and took a long drink.
Kelly didn't know how long she'd been sitting on the floor of the shower while the water cascaded over her. She knew that when she first got in the water was hot enough to be painful to sit under and now she was shivering from the cold. However long the gradual switch from hot to cold took, it hadn't been long enough for her to get anything straight in her mind.
She knew exactly how she should feel. She should be horrified. She should feel some sense of guilt, since without her that woman, whoever she was, would still be alive. She should be afraid of Victor. If he'd killed a stranger so easily, what would he do to her if she upset him?
None of those feelings surfaced on their own. The only one she could muster in any way at all was a renewed nervous fear of Victor. Even that was more subdued than it had been in the beginning though, probably because she felt like she'd given him plenty of opportunities to be upset with her and she was still very much alive and – except for a few bruises – intact.
The longer she sat under that icy spray, the clearer it became to Kelly that she was glad to be alive and to have a chance at a more permanent kind of safety, no matter what the cost to a stranger. The idea that a more lasting safety was even possible for her was something she'd only recently allowed herself to entertain. She wasn't ready to start putting conditions on how that safety was won.
Someday, maybe Stan would be out of her life. Maybe then she would start to feel everything she couldn't feel now. Maybe she would still feel grateful to have lived long enough to have the opportunity for those feelings to come back. If the guilt and horror came then, she would deal with it. The act was already over and beyond her control anyway. Still, the lack of feeling gnawed at her. It was one of those other things she couldn't do anything about.
Kelly got up and turned off the water. She wrapped her hair in a dark blue towel and herself in a matching bath sheet. The large towel made her feel warmer already, but there was will the matter of clothing. She dried off and walked quietly out into the large space. The TV was on, but she couldn't see Victor anywhere. Usually that meant he was sprawled out on the floor.
She saw the shadowy shapes of their bags by what looked like an elevator door and started toward them.
She paused and looked out into the semi-dark space. "I forgot to bring a change of clothes with me. Let me get dressed-"
"Your hearing goin' bad? You need me to repeat myself?" A growl gave a dangerous undertone to the questions.
She recognized the tone of the growl as worried annoyance. She shivered a little. "No." She walked slowly toward the light of the TV. He had the volume so low that she couldn't hear it until she was right in front of it. She found him stretched out on the floor, his back resting against the sofa, an empty bottle of Jack Daniel's lay next to him.
"Was starting to think you'd drowned."
Kelly sat down next to him and hugged her knees. Her chin rested on top of them. "Sorry." For a few minutes she watched the images flicker across the screen. "Why don't I feel it?"
He looked at her through narrowed eyes. "Feel what?"
"Guilt. It's my fault she's-"
"Bullshit. You didn't have anything to do with it."
"If Stan hadn't been looking for me-"
"How far back do you wanna go? If Dawes had killed you, Stan would have no reason to look for you. If Stan had managed to drive you out of your fucking mind, you'd be locked up someplace. If your mother had never met your father you wouldn't be here at all. Any of that sound good to you?" The words were laced with anger. Kelly turned her head and saw none of that venom conveyed in his eyes.
She managed a little smile. "No."
"Didn't think so." He grasped her upper arm and pulled her into his chest, she snuggled close. "You're a survivor, and self-preservation is a fucking ugly business most of the time. Best to get used to that early on." He pulled the towel off of her hair and started drawing his claws through it, separating the wet strands. Kelly shivered and pressed closer. "What the hell did you do? Sit in ice water?"
"No, but I guess the shower got kind of cold at the end."
"Fucking understatement." He fell silent again, letting his fingers work through her hair. "First time's the hardest, even if you ain't got a choice. After that you get used to it, figure out a way to separate yourself from it."
The feeling of his claws lightly scraping against her scalp made her tremble. "I'm so sorry." Kelly murmured.
His hand paused. "For what?"
"Ever since you found me, I've done nothing but create turmoil-"
A short, sharp laugh shook his body. "As opposed to how placid and serene my life usually is?"
Kelly couldn't help but laugh a little. "I just meant-"
"You meant that you're letting yourself get all wrapped up in sentimental bullshit again." He wrapped a lock of her hair around a finger and tugged, forcing her to look up at him. "What've I told you a hundred times?"
Kelly blushed, a little smile touched her lips. "That you protect what's yours."
"Fucking right." He let her lay her head down again. His fingers started drifting through her hair. Tension was starting to creep into his body. "I'm leaving tomorrow."