I've not been
reading the X-Men for a while, so I thought best to describe my story as being set in an
alternate timeline. Historians out there, don't flame me! And hey, I love mail! E-mail
your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The best lack all conviction, while the
Creed strode into the room. The few men that Bobby had fought with earlier flanked their leader on either sides. But the suits they wore were not as immaculate as before. Several of them were limping and Creed himself was bleeding from a cut on his forehead.
Bobby rose to his feet as fast as possible, not willing to reveal any sign of weakness to his enemy. Disappointment threatened to cloud his composure; it was obvious that his friends had attempted a rescue but failed. But he saw that Creed's face was not quite the expression of a victorious man. The older man's skin was livid and the veins on the sides of his face stood out in prominent relief. If Bobby could put a name to that expression, it would be anger.
Secretly, he was glad; the X-Men may have failed but Creed was unable to capture even a single perpetrator. But now Bobby saw that the anger in his adversary's eyes was like a caged beast, searching for a victim to tear apart. It was his misfortune to be the sole mutant Creed could lay his hands on, for when those eyes fell on his person, Bobby knew he had been singled out to suffer the same wrath that murdered his father.
Strangely, he looked forward to the experience. Frost's words had re-opened an old wound and the any anger in the room was now mutual. This was Bobby's well of rage and it drank deep after every encounter with Creed. It had struck bedrock on the day his father died, never regaining consciousness to see his family for the last time.
Frost was a distant past now; Bobby's real enemy was in front of him. But his cheek muscles remained taunt, his jaw hinges locked. Not a sound could escape from his stifled lips. It was a measure of his hatred that mere words could not find release. The two men stared long and hard at each other, caged beast and molten ice, oblivious to the other occupants in the room.
The spell was broken finally, by a subtle hand movement from Creed.
Two of the men stepped forward and laid hold of Bobby before he could react. As they locked his arms in a vice-like grip, Bobby saw Creed strode forward. A movement too fast to follow and pain overwhelmed the side of his face. The world turned pitch-black for an instance before regaining its hues again.
"I tire of waiting for you to provoke me, X-Man. But thanks to your mutant friends, I no longer need an excuse to use unnecessary force."
Bobby spat the blood from his mouth and grafted his eyes on Creed.
"I'll give you one chance." Creed grounded each word slowly between his teeth. "Tell me all you know about the X-Men if you want to walk out of here with your limbs intact."
If it was anything else, Bobby's jaws clamped even tighter than ever.
Creed ordered the rest of his subordinates to beat the young man up. Fists threatened to drive Bobby to the ground but he could not tear himself away from the blows because at any time, two men were constantly holding on to him. Manfully, he kept his jaws shut and endured the pain as quietly as he could; he owned his father that much.
An elbow against his back finally drove him onto the floor and Bobby saw, amidst the black trunk of legs, Creed approach Frost.
For an instance, fear coursed through him; what if Creed coerced Frost and she confessed the information? Bobby almost laughed aloud immediately and he would have, if not for the promise to his father. She'd never diverge the information just to save him. To her, he was but a fair price to pay to protect the interests of all mutants. He knew that for a truth.
He bit the inside of his mouth, resolving to keep the inevitable sounds of pain down so that he could hear their conversation better.
Creed began: "Give me the information I want and I'll order them to stop. Make no doubt, I'll even maim him if that's what it takes to make the both of you talk."
"Be my guest, Mr Creed."
Somehow, it pained Bobby to see his suspicions proven so correctly.
He saw Creed returned the smile; a man too experienced to be caught off-guard. White heat smashed into the side of Bobby's temple, and blood began to trickle down his face, threatening to gum his eyes shut.
"I've all the time in the world, Ms Frost, but that young mutant might not last so long."
As if in response to Creed's words, the blows rained down even harder. A blood-dimmed tide threatened to overwhelm Bobby's vision and terror struck him as he sensed that he was beginning to lose his hearing.
"-not worth my sacrificing - compromise is inevitable-"
Breathing grew difficult as viscous fluids filled his air passages, threatening to choke him. He sneezed and sprayed the floor with blood.
" - won't stop - till - get what I -."
An abused arm-joint cracked against the unnatural angle and his jaws parted, emitted a strangled scream. After what seemed like a long while, his head was allowed to hit the floor.
There was absolute silence.
In some coherent part of his mind that had somehow been spared of the ordeal, Bobby realised he had gone deaf. Maybe it was an act of Fate but he suddenly wished that Creed had beaten the life out of him as well. That would have been mercy.
Now, Bobby could only welcome the incoming blackness, yearningly with all his might to be submerged in it. But a voice intruded, barring him from his destination. It's mortal cadence galled and shamed him as it reminded him of the loyalties and responsibilities he was wilfully abandoning. He pushed against it, determined not to hear but it simply grew more insistent. Finally, he had to concede to its tenacity. It was Emma Frost's voice.
"- do not demand to leave this place. But now, I trust there's something we can talk about?"
To Bobby's surprise, Creed's epitomised growl of absolute frustration carried loud and clear.
"You win. This time."
He was not deaf after all. Emma had simply chosen not to respond to Creed's coercion before; now it seemed that she had challenged him on her own ground and won.
The metal door grated open. Bobby tried to lift his head off the ground with his good arm to watch his enemy's defeat. Whatever Emma did to secure his life had forestalled Creed's plans, that much, he knew. There would be a problem of payment to her afterwards but now, Bobby knew what he had to do.
His voice wavered at first, bubbling through the blood in his mouth. But from somewhere, a hidden strength fuelled him and Bobby's laughter grew in strength. He was sure that Creed was staring at him, promising of worse things to come but he never cared less. His laugh echoed beyond the doorway, through the long corridor and carried in it, his contempt of the man that finally found release for the first time.
The heavy door drew shut once more. With his strength finally spent, Bobby slumped onto the floor again. It would be so nice just to close his eyes and rest; he wanted so much to be overwhelmed by oblivion, now that the ordeal was over. But his fellow prisoner had other plans for him.
"Get up, you moron!" Bobby felt hands tug at his clothes and he moaned pathetically, hoping that that would ward Emma off.
"I didn't save your life so that you could die on me. Now, get up!"
Bobby supposed it was gratitude that finally powered his muscles and commandeered his limbs. He staggered into a sitting position with her help and the world swam as the blood rushed from his head, taking with it his sense of balance.
"God, 'feel sick." He mumbled incoherently and had to quell the retching sensation in his stomach. Emma ignored his protests and continued dragging him towards the corner of the room. Bobby was finally left alone when he could feel the reassuring presence of a hard wall against his back. Equipped with this measure of confidence, he ventured to open his eyes slowly.
The world spun around in a myriad of colours with blossoming fire-works that peppered his vision. Bobby sat there, eyes wide opened, willing for real vision to return while the hues of the room clashed and interwove into each other like a chaotic palette. The only constancy in this mess was represented by a spot of white that hovered at the edge of his sight. He instinctively stretched his hand in that direction and felt belatedly, his fingers trail down Emma's face and lips.
She said nothing but held his hand firmly aside while she took the opportunity to make adjustments to his sitting posture. He heard the sound of cloth tearing next and felt the soft fabric applied gently to his face.
Bobby closed his eyes again, preparing to relax and to leave everything to Emma when he suddenly remembered their previous quarrel. What more, he was still left in the dark regarding the deal she had made with Creed.
His hand reached out to arrest her movement. "What did you promise Creed?"
"None of your business. Now keep still."
"No, Emma. I demand to know. There's some payment involved, right? In return for my life?"
Bobby saw the sardonic look on her face; his sight must be getting better.
"Afraid that I'll betray you again?"
"No," he returned after a while, in a tone full of conviction. "No, you wouldn't do that. Not after saving my life."
Bobby saw that she only smiled at this newfound trust. She resumed her administration and presently, he asked again -
"Why save me?"
"For humanitarian reasons." She answered lightly, alluding to the sore point in their previous argument.
He frowned at her evasion and winced as the expression re-opened a wound on his face.
"Great," Emma sighed. "Stop taxing yourself, Drake. Although concussion is still a possibility, you look clear-headed enough. You can try to catch some sleep when I'm finished with you."
"By the way, that was such a stupid thing to do," she commented shortly.
Bobby had to rack his mind to understand what she meant.
"You mean the laughing part?"
"Creed makes a dangerous enemy, regardless of how you feel about him."
Bobby tried to shrug but remembered his dislocated shoulder and thought better of it.
"Tomorrow can take care of itself."
He was inexpressibly tired and was prepared to disregard her usual rebuke. But Emma continued her work in silence; which was why her grin caught him all the more off-guard when she set the bloodied cloth down.
"You know what, Robert? I'll actually buy that for a dollar."