Its Own Reward

by Renn

Disclaimer: Must we do this? Really? Well, he's Marvels, but would do much better in someone elses hands. The rest is mine.

WARNING: Language, mainly. If profanity offends you, read something else.

Feedback is hoarded lovingly.

Custom-fitting suits is a real bitch to do when you're me.

Name? I got plenty to pick from. The New York papers called me the Slasher. I liked that one. Raised more fear in my time than that slack-off Jack did in his.

Course, maybe I was Jack. My memory ain't the most reliable. Doubt I was Jack, though. No sense of deja-vu when I did a tour of Whitechapel.

At one point, I was El Tigre. Can't remember who came up with that for me. Don't really care, either. Haven't used it since...hell, I'm not sure. Like I said, the memory ain't the best thing for me to trust.

My instincts, though. Those I can trust. I listen to what they tell me, unlike some I could mention.

I won't think of him, though. I have to use my mind on this mission, and he pisses me off faster than most can. And once the mind goes...well, that's where the names I've collected come from. Partly.

Uncle Sam doesn't like doing its own dirty work. I'm doing it for them. This time.

So there I was, briefcase in hand, walking through a park where business-types and spies do business during lunch or break hours. Not a bad place, smells nice and green. Be better if this herd of meat were gone, though.

You have any clue how hard it is to NOT stand out in the middle of a park when yer six inches over six feet tall? And weigh in at 275 pounds? I managed it.

Dumb game plan this time, but I'm not in charge. Oh no, the guys in charge said to look like a businessman. I'm better at sneaking and stalking. Much better. But I can do this, too. I'm early and have plenty of time to get the layout of the place. Walking trails, bike trails, seating areas, a lake, a small stream, grassy fields, small wooded areas.

That's where I smelled something. Something interesting. Heard it, too.

Stale sweat, fresh fear and a hitching of breath.

Trying to hide from everyone else.

Can't hide from me, though.

And I don't like the smell of fear if it ain't caused by me.

That can be changed.

I got plenty of time.

Here I come, like it or not.


Behind some bushes, I spot her. Straggly, unwashed hair falling out of a pony-tail. Knees drawn up to her chest, wearing sweats.

I'm GOOD at sneaking and stalking.

Even while wearing a custom-fit navy-blue suit and dress shoes.

So it's a surprise when she says, "I was here first. Go away."

Her voice is strained. This close, I can smell the tears, hear her trying to not sob.

Awwww. Poor frail. Upset, and I'm here now. Just one look at me, and she'll have a REAL reason to be afraid.

Prey gets edgy if you don't talk to 'em. They have to look around, make sure what's there.

Even with contacts in to disguise my eyes some, make me blend in with the herd, I'm a bad-ass, pure and simple.

Sure enough, she looks up, but her scent doesn't change.

"Go. Away. Please."

I don't move. She gets sarcastic.

"What? You want a cookie?"

Damn. I don't know if I'm losing my touch, or if I should be impressed. I don't have the time to listen to my instincts and kill..

They ain't telling me to kill. They're telling me to get away from her. I test the scent again. No gun oil and her posture ain't reading aggressive. That don't mean much, really. She could be some new enhanced cyborg or maybe a mutant. Can't tell what she could be. Only that she's upset.

Curiousity ain't killed me yet. Maimed me, tortured me and fucked me over, yes. But not killed.

Could be why most of my collected names got to do with cats.

I reach into my back pocket for the ordinary handkerchief. The one in the chest pocket is special.

She shakes her head at the sight of the white cloth.

"No, thank you. I couldn't return it to you unless I washed it."

Well, hell. I ain't seen manners like that since the 50's.

Her voice, still shaky, breath still hitching, fills the silence between us.

"My dog. There was an accident. They don't know if she, if she."

The frail inhales, trying to be calmer. You ain't fooling me, kid.

"The vet just told me to go home. I've been waiting since 10 this morning."

It's almost 5 now. That mutt sure has someone that loves it.

"I could strangle those kids."

She means it, too. It ain't quite a growl, but it's close. Those sweats are running clothes.

"Ought to have licenses for bikes."

Mutt probably saved her from getting hurt, and got messed up in the process.

She's getting worked up again. I press the handkerchief in her hand.

"No matter what, she'll be blind in one eye. I don't care! I want her to be okay!"

Shit. She ain't using the handkerchief, tears stream down her face. She's still trying to not show it.

I can't stand sobbing and wailing that ain't been caused by me.

There are ways to stop it. I know most of 'em, and probably invented a few.

The briefcase is fully loaded for my type of work. Leather gloves keep fingerprints from showing up. Extra shirt and tie, in case blood splashes on me. Baby wipes to clean blood from my skin. The suit's dark blue. It'll hide blood stains from casual eyes. Garrote in the fold, several knives and a gun with silencer built in.

Uncle Sam has some neat toys. Too bad they'll take 'em back from me when I'm done here.

I get what I'm looking for, a real pen (not the pen-knife. Handy thing. No blood spurts if you use it right. I know how, but rarely do. Clean kills ain't much fun for me.) and piece of paper. I jot down a few lines on it and when I hand it to her, I don't know if she can really read it, but she uses the handkerchief, like a good little girl.

Ain't many that know it, but I like animals. Not just for eating or hunting, but really like them. I'll rape yer sister without thinking about it, gut ya with my claws, lick the blood from 'em and laugh over yer disembowled body, I'll do just about everything and enjoy it, but I don't torture pets.

Torture their owners with the bodies, sure, but not the animals. The animals deserve, and get, a quick, clean, as painless as possible death.

Hamsters don't count as pets.

Birds don't, either. Or rabbits. Or turtles.

And what's with those goddam aquariums? Home-grown sushi if you ask me.

Snakes are to be used in chili, not called Fluffy.

Only dogs and cats count as pets.

Time's up. I got real work to do.

"Get someone to drive you home, frail."

If that mutt lives, it'll need her.

Now, if it had been the frail's kid...

Life sucks that way, don't it?

I leave, on my way to set up some traitor. There won't be no trial for him, either. Just an unfortunate run-in with something bigger and badder than him.

They don't come much bigger and badder than me.

I like it that way.


It's about a month later, X-Factor prison.

Anywhere you're forced to be is a prison.

I'm forced by an implant. So's Raven, better known as Mystique. The rest are forced by some sense of right and wrong.

Idiots to the end. Them, not me. I'm just waiting for my chance. A chance always shows up, sooner or later. Usually later.

I'm having a brew and watching television with the other inmates.

WildChild. Rip-off of me. Has potential, but ain't using it.

Mystique. A real, double-crossing, looks-only-after-her-own-ass bitch. Good at it, too.

Polaris. If only she'd fall into the wrong company again, she'd be worth something.

Shard. Too long and involved to think about. And any time I've tried, I get a headache.

Forge. Jailer. Walking dead, he just don't know it. Yet.

He's got the mail. Mine and Raven's are always searched through. They swapped out my Hustler, thinking there was a message for me in it.

There wasn't, but it's fun jerking their chains.

He's watching me carefully. Watching each facial expression, probably has it being recorded somewhere.

How about that? The box he has is for me.

It had been wrapped at one point, but they're probably still trying to analyze it. There's a bag of cookies in there. Homemade. Chocolate chip. No nuts.

My nose is good.

I keep back the laughter. Forge's expression is just too much.

I tuck the ironed handkerchief into the back pocket of my jeans, and take out the envelope.

I raise my beer bottle an inch and can't stop the smile.

Damn, but this has to be really messing with those analysts that go through my mail.

I know it's fucking Forge up seven ways til Sunday.

This couldn't have gone better if I'd planned it.

Who would send me-El Tigre, The Slasher, Sabretooth, Victor Creed- a handkerchief, a bag of cookies and a picture of a border collie that's all bandaged up, a patch over the bandages of one eye?

Why ruin the fun and tell them?

The cookies are good.

Sometimes a good deed ain't such a bad thing.

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