“You always were second-rate, boy.”

Written by: Nathan & Noelle Pico
Beta readers: Noelle Pico




Charles Xavier sat at the head of his table and smiled. Friday evenings were his favorite, for like a father, he always looked forward to having as many of his children home for the weekend, if not, just dinner at the least. Though a significant number was present with more still to come, not everyone was around. Some of the one’s he’d been hoping to see were too busy to make it. He sighed and daintily placed a bit of steak into his mouth, chewing on it softly and thinking: There will always be next week.

Among the absentees was Warren, who had called to explain that he and Betsy had had a whim to go to France and that they would make up for missing dinner by bringing him home some pastries. Alex and Lorna had a less luxurious excuse however, both having been called by Jamie to help him on a case X-Factor Investigations was currently working on and the two had obliged their good friend’s request.

Forge and Bishop were the two he worried about the most, the prior having left to do military research and development for S.H.I.E.L.D. and the latter, untrusting of all but his closest friends, had accompanied his mentor (never mind that this was not the same Forge from the timeline he had come from) to assure his safety.

Charles surveyed the room with a bemused look in his eye and chuckled at the antics his elder students were up too: Bobby, Sydney and Kitty were squabbling by the buffet table, a scene that would engrave itself in his memory given that the latter two were now utilizing their mutant abilities in rather creative ways, while Ororo dangled a shrimp above the not-so-quite-amused Hank who just cocked an eyebrow and gave a smug smile, his mouth moving to comment.

In his eyes, no matter how old they got, no matter twenty or thirty some-some they may be, they would always just be children. His children.

The Professor smiled and cut another bit of his sirloin with the side of his fork, the meat so soft it just seemed to give way. He was always amazed at how Jean did such wonders in the kitchen. He, for all the grand achievements he had to his name, couldn’t cook to save his life.

Some of the younger ones, mostly of the squads Corsairs and Gen-X had formed their own little group, putting together several of the smaller tables to cater to them all. It was good to see them well, laughing at the jokes Thomas was cracking.

The sight of Gen-X bed-ridden alongside the Hellions had kept nagging at the back of his head even while he was entertaining their then-guests, now newest students. He’d left the scolding and sermons to Ororo and Emma, not having the heart to do so himself, after having to deal with both Max and the Corsairs in the sickbay right after the others had just gotten out. They’d probably never know, but the sight of any of them hurt kept him up in the evenings, forcing him to find solitude in old books, personal favorites of his, placed neatly in his bedside drawer.

The Hellions, he glanced, as he heard excited hollers and cheers from outside and well-past the balcony, were playing a game of basketball. Among the squads, they were the most tight-knit, to the point of seeming somewhat exclusive; but what teenager wasn’t cliquish to an extent? Even he had gone through that stage once, and he knew that it would pass with time.

And although he wished that his legs were like they were back when he was still in college (he’d been on several of the school teams, mind you) so that he could show them how to really play ball, he pitied that they wouldn’t be eating the wonderful dinner meal while it was still hot.

He plopped another soft slice into his mouth, shutting his eyes to savor the taste, just as Jean squeezed his shoulder, commenting: “You seem to be enjoying yourself, Professor.”

Don’t I always? He smiled.



“Come on, Bobby, the rest of us want to eat too.” Katherine Pryde, more commonly referred to as Kitty by her peers, threw a mock scowl at her fellow X-Man, Bobby Drake, as he took (what in her opinion was) his damned, sweet time selecting which of the fish fillet he planned to put on his plate. “They’re all the same anyway.”

“Do you mind, Kit?” The older of the two responded, a mischievous glint in his eyes. Annoying as he was, he was doing this whole delaying tactic on purpose, simply because he could. Right now, most of his friends found his holding up the buffet table line quite irritating. He, on the other hand, preferred to think of himself, in the words of his old business professor, as ‘considering his options’. “Why don’t you go and check out the rest of the table first and come back when I’m done?” He teased, not bothering to look at her and instead using the tongs in hand to check which of the fish fillet was turned just that particular shade of golden-brown.

He seemed a bit more annoying than usual though, and Kitty surmised that it might be because Warren had bowed out for the evening and naturally, the law of nature dictated that there had to be at least one insufferable X-Man within the general premises on a Friday night, if only to make things interesting. I’ll show you, she thought and smiled lopsidedly to herself as she promptly bent forward, phasing her upper torso through that of Bobby’s, extra tongs in hand to select several bits of fillet for herself.

“OhGodyuckKITTY!!!” Bobby cried out helplessly, feeling his skin crawl as the odd and none-too-pleasant feeling of his teammate passing right through him took over. “Couldn’t you wait!?” He stared down at the back of her head accusingly, feeling his desire to eat go promptly down the drain. Her stupid molecules were swimming alongside those of his stomach. Gross didn’t even cover it.

“Feeling mighty close with Kitty, eh Bobby?” the familiar snicker that belonged to Kevin Sydney a.k.a. Morph—though he was just Sydney to them, hovered overhead as he extended his neck to mimic Reed Richards proportions in order to look his fellow X-Men’s current predicament from front row seats. “You guys look pretty cozy,” Sydney cracked up, thoroughly amused at himself and his jokes, both of which Bobby decided to ignore by closing his eyes.

“No,” Kitty replied bluntly and pulled out of Bobby. She watched him smugly, feeling totally in the right when she noted how he shuddered as if to shake away the lingering feeling of having had her invade his personal space. She was sure that her friends knew she wouldn’t unphase while still through them, but she also knew that it wasn’t a feeling any of them had ever gotten used to.

“That was disgusting, Kitty.” Bobby made a face, unaware that Morph had begun to swipe the pieces of French bread that had been, up until two seconds ago, sitting on the edge of his plate.

Kitty simply shrugged, beaming at him the way annoying little sisters often do to their unendurable older brothers. “You deserved every bit of it. Oh,” she pointed to his plate, bringing to his attention Sydney, and with that, she left him to deal with his little food-thief while she turned to take her place at the main table beside Peter.

Over by the front door, more of the Xavier Mansion’s overlarge and vastly extended and adoptive family came in from the November cold. “Sam!” Doug Ramsey grinned and shook his head as he shrugged off his coat, watching bemusedly as thirteen-year-old Melody Guthrie rushed forward to greet her older brother, her smile as wide as a summer is long. “Hey there, Melody,” he listened as the two embraced, the older promptly picking the girl up off of her feet. Paige joined them shortly, moving past him to give her little sister a pinch on the cheek.

“Another Friday, what else is new?” Tabitha Smith grinned as she hung her coat on the hanger beside Doug’s. She shook her head, her blond bangs falling briefly into her eyes. “Four Guthries under one roof. Man,” she sent Doug a look of amusement, “have to wonder where the other boy is though.” Her words were more statement than question, but the latter merely shrugged, replying “Who knows? Probably out back,” before they both caught sight of familiar faces and wove their way into the crowd to mingle.

By the stairs, Clarice Ferguson led two girls down after her—the newcomers, as most of the kids had begun to refer to them. Sam looked up just then and recognized both faces from the night before at the diner where he, Doug, Tabitha, Paige, Monet and Jubilee had shared dinner. He called out a warm greeting, leaving Melody to pepper Paige with whatever questions she’d been wanting to ask her sister.

Ellie Ridley, opting to make the most of her cheerful mood, smiled and tilted her head one side and then the other—a gesture that she often used as a greeting to those who fell under the list of ‘good people’. Lee Delgado on the hand merely nodded politely, her smile a breath away from a wary grimace. She was still shaky from the morning’s earlier incident of her powers manifesting in a less than comfortable manner, and while she was still reluctant to be out in public due to her possibly over-thought embarrassment, she followed Clarice and Ellie, who had coaxed her from her self-imposed isolation in her upstairs dorm room.

The trio passed the Guthries by and headed past the buffet table to where the rest of the kids their age were enjoying themselves. Tommy was pulled out his best X-Men impersonations; quietly, of course, lest someone with a less than open sense of humor called him on it.

Sam followed their trail with his eyes until Jubilee walked up to him and Paige with glasses of punch in hand. “Don’t take it personally, Sam.” The Chinese-American gave him a sympathetic smile. “I’m sure the girl will warm up again halfway through dinner. The kid’s apparently embarrassed at being the object of public consumption.” She shrugged. “You know how it is in this place with everybody seemingly everywhere. Lee was today’s little power manifestation.”

The last two words seemed to explain everything. “Wha’ happened?” He asked, voicing his concern for Ben Delgado’s granddaughter. In response, Jubilee shrugged half-heartedly and explained: “Poor kid went deaf for a good thirty minutes. Professor had to calm her down a bit and figure out what she’d done.” She turned to Paige then and grinned. “Warren’s not around and he left his Häagen-Dazs defenseless in the fridge. I shook off Rhia since she’s talking with Hank.” With a shared mischief in their eyes, both girls disappeared just as Rogue waved Sam over to a conversation she was having with Kitty, Pete and Remy.



The ball flew into the hoop with only the swoosh of the net to accompany it as Lance shot his fist into the air. “C’mon, Julian,” he laughed, pushing away the stray locks of his dark hair that fell briefly onto his eyes. He high-fived Dallas before they both set themselves, “you guys are making this too easy.”

“Six to fifteen?” Julian Keller cocked an eyebrow and looked to Santo Vacarro, his partner in this little two-on-two game they were having against fellow Hellions Lance Alvers and Dallas Gibson. “What do you think, Santo?”

Santo recovered the ball, dribbling it a bit before passing it to Julian. He smiled cockily, “Easy pickings for us.”

“You guys talk big after letting Lance score three straight threes.” Dallas laughed and went to guard Julian, who turned his back to him to keep him from stealing the ball.

“Just keep talking, Dallas.” The Hellions squad leader faked left but quickly feinted right, driving past the free-throw line and taking a jump shot, which was sadly blocked and swatted away by a grinning Lance Alvers. The ball was recovered in mid-air by Dallas who faked past Santo and tipped it in with an easy lay-in.

“You were saying?” He laughed and patted Julian on the shoulder before setting up for the next play. “Seventeen to—what was it again?”

Santo passed the ball again to his obviously annoyed teammate, who proceeded to do a jump shot from just a little past the half-court line, which went in with a clean swish. “Nine, Lance,” Julian nudged his head cockily before adding, “but not for long.”

“No fair.” Dallas pointed his finger accusingly at the dark-haired youth. “No powers.”

Santo grinned slyly, cocking an eyebrow as he placed both large, granite hands on Julian’s shoulders. “What are you talking about, Dallas?” The big teen chuckled as he spoke the words. “I’ve seen people shoot buzzer beaters from way further and under pressure at that.” Julian laughed as he watched Lance recover the ball, face serious as he dribbled the ball rhythmically. The young blonde was about to contest further but stopped when he felt Lance place a hand on his shoulder. “He’s right.”

“But—”

“But you’re right.” Lance grinned back at Julian and Santo, their chuckles fading away once they noted that ever-so dangerous sly tone in his voice. “It was just a lucky shot.”

Dallas caught on easily, picking up the pace where Lance had left off. “Yeah,” he laughed and cocked his head at their squad leader, “no way Julian could pull that shot off again without his powers.”

Julian’s eyes narrowed, tapping Santo lightly on his chest before setting up to guard Lance. “It’s your call, Alvers.”

“I could beat you at any game, Keller.” Lance feinted forward, his right foot crossing the three-point line, only to step back out quickly and jump backwards, taking a fade-away three pointer that Julian, who had lunged forward to try to steal the ball, failed to block. The ball sailed through the net neat and easy. “Just like that.”

Santo gave Julian a look, who noting it, took a deep breath. His tense expression faded and made way for a smile. “Fine, Lance.” He called Santo and Dallas over to where both of them stood. “Lance here is obviously dreaming about shooting for the NBA,” he jabbed Lance playfully on his arm, “so that puts the rest of us here at a disadvantage.”

Dallas cocked an eyebrow and put an arm around Lance’s neck. “Why you mixing me in your predicament?” He laughed. “I’m on the game winner’s team.”

“I don’t think Lance needs a team to win, Dallas.” Santo pointed out matter-of-factly. “I think he could take the three of us on easy.”

The young blonde deflated, taking his arm off of Lance who just gave him a raised eyebrow. “Fine, what do you guys propose we do then? Three on one?”

“Mutant ball.” Julian placed it with a grin.

“Now wouldn’t that make it all too easy for you, wouldn’t it?” Dallas placed his arms on his waist while Lance stepped out of the conversation to recover the ball by the ring post, spinning it on the tip of his index finger as he walked back.

“He can use his powers if he wants to.” Lance stated simply as he got back. “Santo really doesn’t have a choice in the matter of using his powers but you’ve still been whooping his ass.” The last remark elicited a grunt from the granite big-man of the Hellions and Lance added a quick, “No offense meant, big guy.”

“So,” Julian leaned his weight onto one foot, crossing his arms as he did so, “it’s your call, Dallas.”

The young blonde gave it some thought, looking from the faces of each of his friends before tapping Julian on the arm, signaling his affirmation. “Let’s do this.”

The four set themselves, Dallas slipping into shadow form as Julian gave ball control to Lance out of courtesy. “Don’t be shy about using your TK.” Lance said, his smirk cocky as hell.

“I won’t.” The latter laughed and beckoned for the ball with a hand movement. It didn’t come to him, Lance’s grip perfect and unyielding, although the strain was evident with the tension in the boy’s arm muscles.

“Uh-uh, Julian.” Lance looked to him and wagged his free hand’s finger at him. When he felt his teammate’s influence on the ball fade, he started to dribble, carefully pacing himself as he eyed his squad leader.

“Don’t worry, Lance.” Julian kicked the pace up a notch, quickly covering his opponent. “I’ll only use my powers when I take a shot.”

Lance laughed and grinned, dribbling the ball behind his back to keep the boy codenamed Hellion from stealing it. “I’ll take your word for it, Julian.” He successfully faked out his guard and passed the ball to Specter, who feinted past Rockslide and tipped the ball into the basket with a lay-up.

“Oh yeah!” Dallas pumped his fist into the air and, pointing his fingers like guns at Hellion and Rockslide, mouthed a ‘bang-bang!’

Julian exchanged glances with Santo, and through unspoken assent, the two switched who they were guarding. He’d be able to keep Dallas from scoring. Powers or not, he still played better ball than his blonde teammate. He trusted that Santo, with his height and mass advantage, would be able to pressure Richter enough to keep him from scoring any more threes.

The pace of the game indeed changed with the use of mutant powers and the switching of defense. Dallas couldn’t get a point past Julian’s defense and Santo had guarded Lance well enough for the game to play out evenly, well, as evenly as any game could get with a telekinetic sharpshooter that never missed any shot he took, no matter how absurd the position was.

The score was 38-38; two-points away for either side to win the race to 40, and Julian had the ball. To him, the game was in the bag. He successfully faked Dallas, and then turned around, taking a jump shot in the opposite direction of his goal, using his telekinesis to curve the ball towards the hoop with perfect accuracy.

Specter, infuriated that he had been able to do nothing to stop Hellion’s scoring streak, leaped into the air, and for a brief moment, felt like he was flying. He caught the ball easily, but the shock of what he’d just done caused him to lose concentration, and he plummeted down to the ground. A very surprised Julian was bearing down on him, so with a mighty throw he passed the ball to Lance who caught it with ease.

Two points, a lack of telekinetic proficiency, and a six-foot granite Rockslide in between him and victory, Lance felt the pressure and tension build up.

He tried to feint past Santo but the walking wall wouldn’t let him past, and at the worst moment, Lance’s grip slipped. Rockslide quickly shot his hand out to steal the ball, but Richter was faster, and after retrieving the ball, the dark-haired youth spun 360 and found an opening past the grey giant.

But Santo wasn’t going to end it just like that. With a burst of excitement, he quickly blocked the opening Lance had found and shot his rock-hard hand out again to take the ball away with great force. His hand made contact, and for a brief moment, both their hands were on the ball. But just as he thought he’d be able to wrench the ball away, his strength significantly greater than that of Lance’s, his entire arm shattered into a myriad of little pieces.

Richter grinned and drove past Rockslide like lightning, dunking the ball into the hoop so aggressively that the whole court shook.

Dallas, back on his feet, tackled Lance and lifted him off his feet. Santo plopped down onto the floor, shaking his head as he chuckled while Julian ran his hand through his hair, happy at the outcome of their game even though they’d lost.

“Game, set, and match.” A girl’s voice came with the sound of solo applause. “Wait, that’s for tennis.” Cessily Kincaid, Mercury of the Hellions, came into view, her arm melting into liquid metal that gathered up the stray pieces of Santo’s broken limb, piling them up beside the armless giant who nudged his head and uttered a soft ‘thank you’ to the only female in their fivesome. “You guys done goofing off? Cause if you guys don’t hurry up, you’re all going to be eating your own cooking for dinner.”

Dallas separated with his shadow and ran toward Cessily who slithered out of the way of his hug. “Aw c’mon, Ces, I’m not that sweaty.” The look on his face was like that of a puppy that had been denied the opportunity to pounce on his owner.

“Yes you are.” She said bluntly and just dared Julian to even try to hug her. “You all are.”

“We’re sorry for being boys then.” Santo laughed as he swung his newly reformed arm left and right, testing for any mistakes he might’ve done piecing it together.

Lance went to the foot of the ring post and retrieved the towel he’d laid on top of his bag. “Actually, I am hungry.” He said as he ripped off his shirt, wiping of the sweat before reaching into his bag for his extra shirt.

“A little decency please, Lance.” Cessily turned away and covered her eyes with one hand. “Not everyone wants to see you half-naked.”

“You’re the one who’s looking, babe.” Lance laughed and put his shirt on before slinging his bag over his shoulder and walking towards the balcony steps. The others followed suit, Cessily trapped in an “icky” headlock applied on her by Julian.



He looked down at the cracked, white music player in the palm of his hand. Right now, what with things happening so fast, he just wanted to drown away in his regular tunes. But, as life would have it, it had gotten broken the other day in the scuffle with the Rhino and it looked beyond salvaging, its screen broken and everything else pretty much cracked or bent out of shape.

He placed the mangled iPod onto the smooth, flat surface of the balcony railing and watched as the teenagers he had watched playing basketball slowly ascended the stairs.

In the lead was the dark haired young man who had won the game, his duffle bag slung over his shoulder as he wiped the sweat out of his hair with a white towel. The boy reached the top of the steps and, seeing him looking, acknowledged him with a nudge of his head before entering into the dining room and heading for the buffet table.

The next ones who followed were the young blonde and large one with the stone body. He caught snatches of their conversation as they passed without taking notice of him. “Did you see?” The blonde exclaimed as he drew a picture with his hands. “I flew, man. I flew!” The big guy just laughed and smiled, patting his friend on the back before they faded into the festivities indoors.

The last two were the metal girl and the black haired telekinetic. The latter had his arm slung around his companion’s neck and, discounting the obvious differences in looks, the two just seemed the perfect picture of brother and sister.

And yet, there was that aura that seemed to just push others away. He was very familiar with it. Taking the time of day to actually analyze people’s relationships was something he got a kick out of. The teens he had watched play basketball together were a clique, a group of their own, and their late entrance into the dinner, and their taking a table for them alone to sit by, separate from everyone else, made it very evident.

The boy laughed. This place really was a school.

He turned away from watching the kids and went back to admiring the evening scenery. His gaze fell on the dimly lighted school grounds. The basketball court’s lights had gone out as soon as the children had left, and everything was now blanketed in darkness. The skyline of Manhattan could be seen in the distance.

His eyes made their way up to the vast night sky. This institution was so far from the city that it allowed a beautiful, unobstructed view of the shining stars, twinkling in all their glory.

He easily found Orion’s Belt, and in his mind connected the lines that formed the warrior himself. But his musings were disturbed by a hand on his own.

“You okay, Max?” The voice startled him back to reality, and he turned to see the woman who had been with him when all the excitement of the past few days had swept him off his feet. A breeze blew that slightly blew her auburn hair to one side, a white lock falling onto her face as she rested her elbows on the balcony. “Looks like you’ve got somethin’ on your mind.” She said, smiling, as she placed a hand over one of his. A warm feeling rushed through from his arm, making its way to his cheeks. Lucky for him, he never really was the blushing type.

“I’m okay, ma’am.” He smiled sheepishly as she pushed back the stray tuft of white hair on her face.

“Ah told you not to call me that, didn’t ah?” She cocked an eyebrow at him as she hoisted herself onto the marble barrier’s flat surface. She tapped the space on her side, inviting him to sit beside her, but he shook his head and simply leaned back on the spot, his elbows supporting him. The next thing he knew, his feet had left the floor and he was being lifted by his neck like a kitten by the scruff. “Didn’t your mama ever tell you not to say no to a woman?” The woman laughed and lightly placed him into a sitting position beside her, examining skeptically the amused grin on the boy’s features. “Is there something on my face?”

He glanced away, ran his hand through his hair, and looked back at her. “No, I’m sorry.” He gave a chuckle and picked his iPod up from where he left it, juggling it between both his hands. “It’s just that I’ve never met a woman who could literally sweep me off my feet.”

The X-Man Rogue couldn’t help but smile. The boy had a certain charm to him, a distinct flair that she couldn’t deny. She cocked an eyebrow at him, leaning her weight backwards onto her open palms flat on the cold marble. “You trying to sweet talk me, boy?”

A sheepish chuckle, a glance away, and the next moment, the boy looked her back straight in the eye, with a long, deep stare. “Maybe I am?”

The woman tried to hold his gaze, but couldn’t. She laughed, blinking and shaking her head, as the boy gave a chuckle too. A moment of silence passed between them as their laughter faded away, and the pause was a comfortable one where they just sat and looked at each other, glancing away now and then just so as not to seem like they were rudely staring. “How’s your iPod?”

The boy’s attention went back to his little gadget, and the depressed feeling of losing his entire one-thousand song playlist kicked back in. It was annoying, but there was nothing he could do about it. Or was there?

Something in him just wanted to show-off for this beautiful woman, but there was something more, a feeling of using a talent he’d so often in the past tried not to use.

The woman noticed the glint in his eye, and she watched as he turned his gaze to the table of the Corsairs and Gen-X, trying to spot who it was he was looking at. The answer made itself evident when the battered, white music player in his hand slowly flattened out, its broken pieces falling back into place as the crack on the LCD melded itself together.

“I think it’s good now.” He laughed and untangled the white earphones. “Any requests?” He handed her one ear and smiled.

The woman smiled, amused at the boy’s showcase of powers. “Fly me to the moon.”

“I love that song.” The boy laughed and looked for the song in the library only to have himself dragged into the air by his arm. “Huh!?”

“Not the song, dear.” The woman laughed. Her hair waved in the air and he was at a loss for words to describe her. “Ah meant for you to fly with me.”

The boy was a bit stunned, but as he watched the figures down below shrink in size, he regained his composure and synched with this woman who he just seemed to connect with incredibly, and they soared into the clouds, her hand on his, allowing himself to just bask in the wonderful freedom flying into the heavens gave him.

It was amazing.


* * *


Time slowed, the seconds stretching out into minutes of eternity. Memories flashed through Logan’s mind: David reaching out for help, steel being stabbed in and out of Fox, the horrific visage of the pale, blonde Russian, the voice on the radio apologizing.

The chair flew toward him, and his instincts kicked in, pain shooting out from in-between his knuckles, as he slashed both hands through the air, ripping the wood into pieces and sending them flying to a nearby wall. “Everyone out now!” He screamed as the huge, blonde figure that haunted his dreams pounced on him, his long, locks flailing through the air. He caught the man by the neck with his left arm and drove his right claw into the lower abdomen, using his opponent’s own momentum to flip him over and apply a modified powerslam. The edge of his claws drove into the monster of his past, viciously rending flesh as they made their way into the tiled floor. “What the hell are you rambling about, bub?”

But his interrogation was done a bit too early as the large, blonde man pulled back his knees and kicked his legs out from under Logan, driving into the X-Man’s stomach with great force, throwing him off and sending him flying.

As Logan flipped through the air, he watched the patrons of Nowhere scramble out the door and Jimmy run into the back room. At least they were all safe. He could concentrate on business now.

“Get up, Sabretooth!” He roared and pounced on his nemesis, taking him down just as he had gotten back on his feet. Logan raised both arms above his head and shot them back down quicker than gunfire but his rival simply blocked him by length of his arms, effectively placing his claws off target; they landed inches from his ears.

His face connected with two clenched fists and he was knocked off and away from his assailant. The man let out a feral growl before pouncing back at Wolverine, who instinctively did the same thing.

They lashed out at each other with ferocity only found in animals, only found in themselves, punching, clawing, grappling, in the beautiful orchestra of untamed wrath and fury that had always lain between them.

Wolverine, unmatched fighter in so many fields of combat, was pushed once again to his limits by the one man who knew every move he did simply because his entire existence revolved around the sole goal of utterly humiliating and destroying him.

But there was something else, something that seemed to make him so much stronger, so much better than when he fought him in their previous encounters. What it was he couldn’t tell. But it was frightening. It was dangerous. Above all, it confused him.

Sabretooth blocked each and every one of his slashes, stopping their momentum at his arms, retaliating with fists and claws.

The frenzy tore through the entire pool hall. Chairs and tables were broken in the wake of their battle as the lights above flickered on and off. The rubble and splinters piled up on the floor and the man known as Victor Creed pushed his adversary into a position where he was forced to make a mistake.

Logan tripped on pieces of dislodged marble tiles and the sharp end of a broken table leg drove itself into the back of his knee. The pain that shot through his body was unbearable and he lost focus for a fragment of a second. But that was all Sabretooth needed to take advantage of the situation.

He ripped at Wolverine’s chest with his claws, rending through cloth and flesh as he opened up large gashes in the X-Man’s chest.

Yet as was almost always the case, Logan was able to capitalize on the one thing Victor never could control: his own savage impulses. Totally on the offensive, Creed had left himself open.

Metal claws launched out in an uppercut, driving themselves through soft flesh, past muscle and sinew, till they found air once again. Wolverine stared for a brief moment at the picture he had just painted. His claws had dug themselves from under Sabretooth’s chin right through and out of his skull. He finished off his handiwork by driving a clawed punch into his opponent’s face and sending him crashing into the wall at the end of the room. Shock and surprise could be read on what was left of the feral mutant’s visage.

Logan retracted his claws and let out a long sigh, only to draw in breath sharply as he watched his enemy’s wounds slowly close, his wounds healing at a frightening speed faster than he ever recalled, his face once again coming back into form.

The blonde figure staggered to its feet, a devilish grin on its face, only to be blasted back into the ground by a hail of gunfire.

Logan looked back at the counter where, from behind, Jimmy was rhythmically pumping and firing a shotgun, unloading shells into Victor’s still body. The loud bangs reverberated through the room till the tell-tale click came that signaled an empty magazine. “That’s for messing up my bar, you son of a bitch!”

“Jimmy, I thought I told you to get out!?” Logan roared, ripping out the table splinter from his knee, seething in the process.

“And leave you here alone with that freak?” He pointed at Sabretooth’s unmoving body with the nose of his shotgun. “He’s dead, Logan, we killed him.”

Somehow, he just couldn’t believe those words. The prickly feeling at the back of his neck drew his attention back to his opponent’s corpse, only to find the bullet’s being pushed out of the flesh by regenerating muscle. With soft clinks they hit the floor as the blonde mutant from his nightmares, no, the nightmare itself, slowly reared up back onto its legs. Victor Creed’s head calmly rose and his eyes opened to display that same maniacal glare Logan had known for so long, except that it seemed to mask some hidden contempt that he had never seen before.

“You always were second-rate, boy.” He said bitterly with his raspy voice, as he extended his arms to his sides. What happened next was something Wolverine never saw coming. Sabretooth’s knuckles seemed to extend, mimicking his own claws, except that there was one more on each hand. They had the same metal sheen his adamantium had. “When will you ever understand, Logan, that you’ve always just been sloppy seconds?”

Logan could only give Jimmy a look of shock that told him to run away fast, before Sabretooth tackled him onto the ground, mounting him and raising both arms in the air just like he had at the start of their match. “Goodbye,” the last word was said with absolute disgust, “murderer.”

Fear and confusion shot through Wolverine and he shut his eyes. The last thing he saw were the claws coming down, but they never hit their mark. He felt Victor’s weight come off of him at the last second as the tips of his nemesis’ claws grazed the skin on his cheeks, only to hear a loud crash a second later from a few feet away from him.

He felt his skin heal, stinging slightly in the process, as he opened his eyes, his vision slowly fading back in, the figure of a casually dressed, well-built, clean-cut blonde man coming into view. His back was turned to him and he was in a ready-stance. The man who Wolverine assumed to have saved him glanced back and blue eyes met with his own. “One night, Logan, all I asked for was one night.”

“Steve?”


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