What The Cat Dragged In Ch. 28bypsyche_b_mused©
I know this has been a terribly long time in coming, and I hope it was worth the wait. Thank you for your patience and for reading. :)
More action is coming, I promise. :)
28. That's Different
Kelly lay on her side and held the crumpled up sheet against the outside of her throbbing thigh. It had begun in a curious, playful tenderness and progressed to an unhurried intimacy that left them both tied up together in arms and legs. One clawed hand rested on her hip, the bite of those talons just enough to remind her of how fragile she was. It made the moment perfect.
He came back into the room with the black bag of medical supplies, a small towel and a bowl. He sat down on the edge of the bed. "This is your fault."
His statement lacked accusatory conviction.
"I didn't know the ice was going to fall off the roof at that moment." A shrug with one shoulder. "I only jumped a little."
"At the wrong fucking time." He poured peroxide into the bowl and wet the cloth in it. "Lemme see."
Kelly took her hand away and he carefully moved her makeshift dressing. "Don't tell me, tell the ice." She lifted her head. "Is it as deep as it seemed to start with?"
"Eh. It's one of the deeper ones you've had." He dipped the edge of the towel in the bowl and started to clean the long cuts. One was barely a scratch. Unless she miscalculated her new healing factor, that one would be gone within the hour. Two of the others might last until mid-morning. The one in the middle was deeper and more ragged. It was still oozing blood.
Kelly shivered. "Do you have to do that? I mean, won't it heal on its own?"
He looked at her. "Sure it will. Course on you it'll take awhile so every time you move it'll open up again. Meaning however long it would've taken, it'll take three times longer and that's if it stays clean. 'F it doesn't, then we're talking about even longer. Wanna keep arguing with me?" A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
She smiled a little. "No."
"You're learning, frail." He pressed the cloth over the wounds again.
Kelly suppressed a whimper. For a long moment, a comfortable silence grew between them, her body curled close to his. She hadn't been able to dress, he hadn't bothered. Dim light played off the slopes of his muscles. For the moment, the almost perpetual tension in his shoulders had eased. Despite the throbbing ache in her hip and thigh, Kelly's smile got a little wider.
"What?" He smirked a little.
"Just thinking what an amazing man you are."
His hand paused and he looked away. "I'm a son of a bitch."
She stroked his leg and looked up at him. She stayed silent until he looked at her. "Not to me. To me, you're the person I trust completely. The one who makes me smile." She looked down at her hip. "The one who takes care of me when I do something stupid."
He gave a grudging little smile. She smiled back and gave a little shrug. "You're my mate, and I'm entitled to my opinion that you're amazing."
A slow grin spread across his face. "Sentimental shit." He leaned down and kissed her, his mouth more commanding than it had been in the last few hours. "You gonna let me finish this?"
She lay down again. "It's too big to bandage, isn't it?"
"Too deep to just bandage. Lucky I got these." He held up a box of butterfly-shaped tape strips. "'Less you want me to wake up the ape so that he can stitch you up."
Kelly groaned. "Please, they'd think you did it on purpose. I don't have it in me to try and explain and I really don't have it in me to listen to another lecture at this hour of morning. Though he does have anesthetic."
He shifted a little closer. "Keepin' the kit stocked is your thing."
"Guess I haven't been too focused lately." Kelly squeezed her eyes closed and felt tears well up when Victor started pulling the edges of the wound together and securing them. He kept one hand on her at all times. A soft purr rumbled through his chest. Kelly knew he was trying to comfort her, she clutched a handful of the pillow and did her best to say silent. It didn't work entirely.
For the most part, he ignored her pained mewling sounds and worked quickly to close the long wound. He stroked her hair, then picked up the bowl, the towel and the sheet and left her alone for a long moment. Kelly took a deep breath and waited for him. He settled behind her. "When we get to where we're goin', you'll have the chance to get set up again."
Kelly settled back into his chest. Any time she thought about leaving, a feeling between ache and nervousness settled into her chest. "Does...that mean you're leaving as soon as we get there?"
Clawed fingers stroked her stomach. "Nah. I need time to plan." He moved a little closer. "'Sides, I want you all to myself when we're actually alone. Fucking hate having a herd of people around all the damn time."
Kelly nodded. Her mind was suddenly racing with a thousand worries. It was the worst kind of anxiety. The kind that came with only nameless, formless images that slid through the dark corners of her mind. She didn't realize how tightly she was gripping the pillow until he wrapped his hand around hers. He waited until she relaxed her grip.
"You haven't asked where we're goin'." His voice was soft.
"I didn't think you'd tell me." The words came out too quickly.
He was silent. "And?"
She shook her head.
"You don't wanna go, do you?" He sounded hurt, but not surprised.
She twined her fingers with his. "That's not it, I just..." She took a deep breath. "It's not something I can explain. I do feel safe here because of all the walls and the gates. It was nice to have Cassie so close by." She fell silent again.
He pulled his hand away from hers and started to massage her breast. "That all you're gonna miss?"
She smiled a little, the possessive intimacy banishing the gathered tension. "I certainly won't miss the accommodations."
"Thought you could get comfortable just about anywhere."
"But there's this thing you do when you get into bed."
"Thought we been doin' plenty of that thing already." She could hear the smirk in his voice.
Kelly laughed. "I don't mean that. I mean when you get into bed somewhere you can really stretch out, you kind of stretch and arch and moan when you're settling in. You don't do that here."
"Think that's the bed or the place?" He toyed with her nipple.
"I don't know. Maybe both. I figure either way it doesn't matter much. If you can't even get comfortable in bed how you want to, how can I be really comfortable here?"
His arm tightened around her. "Right at the moment I'd be more comfortable if you'd shut the fuck up and go to sleep. It's three-thirty in the goddamn morning."
Kelly smiled and settled back into him. Sleep might not come, but relaxation would.
Creed looked down at the frail's profile sculpted in the gray light of false dawn. He knew she wasn't deeply asleep, but at least she was finally nodding off. There was more that she hadn't told him earlier. He knew that as sure as he was laying there, and he had a pretty good idea of what it was. She was going to see the ape in the morning, no reason for him to sit around and stare at walls. She shifted in her sleep. He purred softly and she settled again.
Kelly sat in Hank's office and waited for him to pull his gloves on.
"Why do you need another DNA sample? Everything is still working." Her hip was mostly healed, but the longest scratch was still throbbing dully.
He smiled and opened the swab. "The treatment was experimental. I know your healing factor is still working, but I want to be sure that nothing else was affected."
Kelly opened her mouth and let him swab the inside of her cheek. "Will you tell me how it turns out?"
He glanced at her, then hesitated. She waited.
"You'd like me to call Victor?" He said finally.
"If you want, but you could just call me." She smiled a little, took a Post-It note and a pen from his desk and wrote her cell number on it. "You could have just asked Cassie. She has it." She handed it to him.
"Victor won't mind?"
She looked at him with a level gaze. "Victor would be upset if I kept it a secret. I have no reason to do that."
He looked down at the paper in his hand, then back at her. "This is not a lecture, but I want you to know that if you need to come back, you can. No questions asked."
She smiled a little. "Thank you. For everything."
He shook his head. "You held on. You gave me enough time to put the pieces together." He smiled a little. So did she. A long moment passed in silence. "Physically I know you're fine, but as far as I know you haven't talked to anyone about how you're doing emotionally."
Her smile froze. "Of course I have, just not to you."
"Not to Cassie either."
Her eyes were fixed on his. "She's been debriefed already, has she? That's efficient. We haven't even left yet."
He took a deep breath. "Kelly, you should know that students who come here come from all kinds of backgrounds. Cassie has a loving family who had difficulty knowing how to deal with her mutation and thus, couldn't help her manage it. Many of our students come here severely traumatized. You've been through as much if not more than most of them."
Kelly shook her head. "So what's your point? You think it would be better if I sat around and cried about it?"
"If you bottle up your feelings-"
She gave a short, angry laugh. "Who said I was doing that? Any question Cassie asked me about what happened, I've answered as honestly as I could."
"Narrative doesn't always get to the emotion of the matter."
"You want to know how I feel? Fine." Kelly fought to keep a furious tremor out of her voice. "I hate Stan. He dragged my brother, my mother and I through Hell for no good reason and if it weren't for dumb luck and sheer ineptitude on his part he would have torn us apart. He's worse than Cavallo because Cavallo didn't know any of us. To him it was just business and maybe some kind of sick entertainment. Stan lived in the same house with us. He used us to show off at all his events and then when it suited his purposes he didn't hesitate to get rid of all of us. I hate him, and every day that goes by I hate him more." Kelly turned away and dug her fingernails into her palms, trying to get control of her raging emotions.
"If anyone deserves hatred, it's Stan." She wasn't facing him, but she could hear the 'understanding' tone in his voice. That just made her angrier.
She turned to face him. "And I suppose now you're going to tell me that it's not right to hate anyone, no matter what. You might as well save your breath."
"Morality doesn't enter into it. Hatred is a parasite. At first you don't feel any different, but as it grows it consumes more and more of your time, your energy, the essence of who you are. Besides, what do you get out of it? Your hatred doesn't affect him. You carry the burden and he goes on with his life as he always has."
She took a deep breath. "So what am I supposed to do about it? Forget about the fact that I almost died, that my brother almost died-"
"Of course not, but you might want to consider being selfish enough to forgive him."
She gave an angry little smirk. "Like you're so forgiving with Victor."
"Different." Kelly finished the thought for him.
"I hate the things he does."
"That makes it better?"
He attempted a half-hearted smile. "I never said it was easy."
Kelly sighed. "Then what are you saying? That I'll feel all warm and fuzzy if I do it?"
"No. I'm saying that because of your healing factor, you're going to live a very long life. Don't give Stan power over those years. He's taken too much from you already."
Kelly sat back in her chair. "You give me too much credit for being evolved."
Creed stood in the middle of the old man's office with his arms crossed. Room was fucking pretentious, even when it was empty. Jimmy was lounging on the sofa, doing his best not to hover. The runt had been unusually quiet, but Creed didn't feel like digging any deeper into that at the moment. He had other things on his mind.
He turned when he heard the door open. "Took you long enough."
"It's Sunday. We're a bit more informal around here on the weekends."
Creed stared down at him. "Well good for you." He walked over to the window and looked out. "We gotta talk about the frail."
"Really?" He moved closer.
"Don't get all excited, it ain't what you think." He didn't turn his head. "How much more has she got to go before she graduates?"
"According to the records I've seen, English Literature and trigonometry. She's been talking about staying?" The last statement held a practiced nonchalance that set Creed's teeth on edge.
He suppressed a growl. "Only to say she don't want to. Course staying here and getting a diploma from here ain't necessarily the same thing, now is it?" He looked down at the old man, looking for any reaction. Creed was certain he saw curiosity crinkle the corners of the old man's eyes. He didn't give a shit about what was causing it. "Bottom line is this, the frail is damn smart, and she deserves better than a fucking GED from whatever state we happen to land in. She won't tell you that because that bastard stepfather of hers has been treating her like she's second rate for so long she believes it. One day she'll figure out it's all bullshit, but until she does I gotta keep reminding her."
A small smile quirked the corner of the old man's mouth. "Even if I could do something about that, what makes you think that I'd be inclined to?"
Creed grinned and sat down in front of the wide desk. "'Cause right now she don't trust you completely, but she's mostly convinced that you're not dangerous to her. I figure you wanna keep it that way and if she gets the idea that you only made the offer to separate her from me, then she'll probably start to think of you as a duplicitous asshole. I'd bet the payment from my next three jobs that you don't want that."
"And you would be only too happy to tell her."
He shrugged. "She's been kept in the dark too damn long. I'll be damned if I'm gonna contribute to that."
Cool eyes appraised him for a long moment. Creed didn't move. "What makes you think that what you want is even possible?"
"'Cause I'm not an idiot. I know what kind of technology you've got here, and I know her. That's all I need."
"If it were possible, it would be more difficult for her instructors to manage. A bit of compensation wouldn't be out of the way."
Creed rolled his eyes. "I ain't gonna owe you shit. What do you want?"
"You have certain talents that, if they were trained in the right direction, could be-"
Jimmy sat up a little straighter. Creed growled. "No. I ain't gonna live my life with the threat of you hangin' over my head."
A flicker of anger through the old man's eyes and the barest hint of it in the air. "That's the first time I've ever been referred to as a threat."
Creed shrugged. "First time for everything."
The old man didn't move. "Perhaps you aren't as willing to sacrifice for this girl as you claim to be."
Creed leaned in close. "You want me to come and work for you? Fine. I'll stay here and act like a good little housebroken cub while the frail gets what she needs. I'll go on all your little missions, wear your ugly ass outfit, the whole nine fucking yards." He grinned, his fangs teasing his lower lip. "Course she'll be finished in a few months. Then she won't need you and I'll still be here, inside your gates with all your precious impressionable students. They'll trust me by then no matter what you say, I'll see to that-"
"What exactly do you propose?"
Creed leaned back in his chair and savored the tang of anger in the air. "You made her the promise, and I propose you honor it. Seems pretty fucking clear that you're trying to weasel out of it now though." He didn't give the old man a chance to respond. "You still taking in charity cases?"
A nod. "I offer a place to deserving young people who are in need."
Creed rolled his eyes. "Well la dee fucking da. Just tell me how many you got."
"Put this together for the frail, you get a year's worth of tuition for all of 'em."
The old man's eyes narrowed, and Creed could see him weighing the value of his services and threats over the value of the cash. Then he rolled over to his desk. "Tuition, room, board and special activities fees for all eight."
"Done." There was no hesitation in Creeds voice.
The old man wrote a figure on a piece of paper. Creed glanced at it. "Got a computer I can use and an account I can put this into or do you want it in small, dirty bills?"
"An account transfer will suffice." He put a small laptop in front of Creed. A few keystrokes later the transaction was complete. The look on his face said he was kicking himself for not asking for more.
"I had expected more...bargaining."
Creed shrugged. "As long as people got enemies, I got more work than I can handle. Tell me how this is gonna go."
"First, does Kelly have reliable access to a computer, a webcam and the internet?"
Creed stared at him for a long moment. "Reliable and secure."
The old man looked at him; a little smile touched his lips. "I wouldn't have expected anything less. We've started a new program recently. Even though students live here, they still miss classes from time to time. We've started video recording all lectures from certain core classes so that students who are ill can get the entire lecture, and students who were present can review. That's already in place for the trigonometry class. I'll make sure that Kelly can participate via video link. It'll be set up by Wednesday."
"The literature class?"
"It's not part of the program, but looking at her previous scores and knowing what she likes to read I don't think she'll have any difficulty with it. She will have to come back here twice for testing. Once for a mid-semester exam and once for a final. The rest can be accomplished at a distance."
Creed smirked. "And you get to keep your hooks in her."
A facsimile of a warm smile. "I wouldn't put it quite like that."
"Course not." Creed smiled back. "She comes back, I come with her."
The smile evaporated. He shook his head. "This is a school. I have to think of the moral well-being of my students as well as-"
"Whatcha think I'm gonna do, fuck her in the foyer? What's so fucking immoral about me being seen in broad daylight with my mate? 'Sides neither one of us is gonna be sleeping here."
Anger flickered over the old man's features. "Then why come with her at all?"
Creed grinned. "'Cause you don't want me to. Makes it seem like you got some kinda reason for wanting to get her alone. Since I'm pretty damn sure you don't wanna fuck her, I figure you want to try and 'persuade' her that she wants to stay, no matter what she happens to want."
"You really think I would-"
He leaned in. "I think you would do just about anything that furthered your own agenda." He got up. "She get textbooks?"
"You sure about this?" Jimmy asked. They were walking toward the ape's office.
Creed stopped. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
"I mean she's a kid. You're carrying her school books for Christ's sake."
Creed groaned. "She ain't been a kid since her mother married Stan. 'Sides, how old was your mother when she married your father?"
"Sixteen or seventeen, but that's-"
"Different." Creed finished. He started walking again. "My mother was fifteen when she had me and nineteen when my asshole of a father beat her to death. Age don't mean shit."
"I suppose the fact that times are different now don't mean shit either," Jimmy said.
Creed stared at the smaller man. "Times ain't that different."