- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Dark Themes
- Death - Child
- Death - Major Character
- Death - Minor Character
- Discussion - Other Trigger Topics
- Discussion - Rape
- Discussion - Torture
- Disturbing Imagery
- No Beta
- Permanent Injury
- Rape - Off Screen
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Violence - Graphic
- Violence - Sexual
- Alternate Universe
- Episode Related
Cover Art by WaterSoter
The whine of another storm blew through the shutters and shook windows and doors. The twak twak twak of it a comfortable rhythm alongside the gentle roar of the fire and shik shik shik of the knife sliding through wood. Like a lullaby long forgotten, familiar in ways a lot of things were familiar and comfortable in Alaska.
Scott sat on his cot, a small piece of balsam poplar wood in his hands. Most of the looming trees in the area were either sitka spruce, ideal for lumber and timber with their tall and straight trunks, or balsam poplar, with their soft wood that was perfect for crates, pulp and construction. So far Scott had found balsam easier to work with. Smoother and less likely to leave splinters all over his hands.
He moved the knife, carefully over each contour. Jagged edges smoothing and sharpening. It wasn’t meant for anything. To be anything. More of a way to keep his hands busy and his mind clear and empty. Help with his hands, to return and keep the dexterity of his fingers. The movement easier now then a year ago. Ignored the sinfully looking couch abandoned in place like the intruder it was. It looked like it was made of clouds and probably melted at the slightest touch.
He would had set it on fire if it didn’t risk the rest of the house. It didn’t have a place in the utilitarian way he kept things. From the plastic and stainless steel utensils and dishes, to the military style cot on one side of the fireplace. Away from the main entrance. Windows. Safe.
Bit down the resentment of having the couch in a place of honor, in front of his fireplace. The very spot where he’d sometimes wrap himself in a blanket. Stare into the tinder and flames that always felt as if they were reaching for him.
At least the extra supplies were easier to deal with. Stored away, out of his way and out of his sight. Except Scott could feel them in his space. An itch beneath his skin, a hitch in his breath and Scott stopped, waited until the room settled, his lungs no longer struggling. Pretended. That they weren’t there. That things were as they should be. If he didn’t to deal with them, he could pretend they didn’t exist. It was easier that way. A lot of things were easier that way now.
He breathed, ran his hands over the wood. Not anything, not yet, but it felt like a lopsided dumbbell. One side bulky and straight edges and the other rounded, almost circular but not quite. If he cut it just right, shaved off a few areas here and there, smoothed certain parts, he could almost imagine the shape it could be.
Closed his eyes as it unwittingly took him back to a mission so long ago. Kitty, so new to a X-Man’s life, still so bright eyed and innocent. Penguins. Her face when she’d seen them and Scott missing Bobby so much it was like a physical ache. Knew that he would had loved to had been there. Would had thrown snow balls and had had a snarling Wolverine trying to skewer him.
Breathed and forced the memory away. He considered doing the same with the wood. Throw it into the fire and watch it burn. Or he could leave it as is. Dump it as the latest failed attempt at something remotely recognizable. Scott glanced at the left of the room, where a narrow shelf ran the entire length. Where each of his pieces, distorted and abnormal as they were, were displayed. There was progress, he knew that. Seeing each piece in their order from first to last.
Not something he would have chosen, not consciously at least, as a hobby. But there was something that pulled at him. Maybe some long forgotten memory, maybe not. There were things in his head, from before, that were now a jumbled mess of fragmented bits and pieces. What had once been precious moments. It could had been something his dad did, before the plan crash. His mom. Someone else. No one else. He’d never know, not now.
Outside the wind slammed hard against the roof. Rattled windows and storm shutters. From where he sat, had the perfect vintage point of the floor to ceiling windows. The glass fogged from the cold but he could still make out the flurries that fell in waves. There was already a thick blanket on the ground. In a couple of hours it would block doors and bury his garage.
Scott eyed the rifles by the door. Resisted the constant urge to bring them closer. By his cot, under his pillow. Within easy reach. Wouldn’t do much good, not if he couldn’t use it without a lot of preparation. Time to brace himself, his arms, his legs. Keep the shot from going wide. The recoil from landing him on his ass.
He moved the knife, carefully. Ignored it as the light faded, the sun slinking behind trees. Pitch black in minutes but for the white of the snow. Came back to himself as the wind stopped howling like some hellhound. Now just a steady, gentle pressure against the cabin, over the roof.
With a sigh, Scott put his latest project away. It no longer looked like a small, lopsided dumbbell. Not barely much better. Braced himself. Cold and inactivity always made his body lock up. Got up. Bit back a hiss. Knees and leg protesting the whole way. Stretched. Forced muscles to relax even as they shook and jerked.
At the door he considered his options. Two rifles. One with scope, a shotgun and a sawed-off shotgun. Shotguns did a lot of damage. Not much good for precision. He grabbed his rifle, no scope, juggled it, cane, shovel as he bundled up. Opening the door, on the other hand, was hard. As hard as he thought it would be.
Snow piled on high.
Slammed his shoulder to loosening up, pushed until the door got unstuck. Slipped through. The wind ripped through the thick layers as though they were thin veils. The bitter cold bitting right down to the marrow and stiffening muscles that were just beginning to uncoil.
Scott took a moment before plunging into that darkness. The porch lights a muffled ring around the front. There wasn’t as much snow near the door, but by the garage it was piled near half way up. He walked down the stairs, a cautious elbow on the banister before starting on clearing the snow off the porch, what little snow there was there.
It was hard work, when he needed to constantly recenter himself or fall flat on his face. His leg cramped and there was a painful pull at his back. God, he was an old man. Old and worn and felt every one of his twenty eight years as if they were a hundred more on top of that. Leaned against the banister, felt the burn over his shoulders and arms, his calves and back. Let himself rest, just a minute.
And that was when he felt it. It wasn’t anything tangible, nothing Scott could reach out and hold. Just an itch between his shoulder blades. A tingling at the back of his neck. Something that went beyond the logical and crossed the line into something more. Something more basic, primal. Not the first time he’d gotten that feeling. A sense of being watched. The raising of hairs at the back of his neck, his heart pounding in his chest but never catching a hair or hide.
Scott angled himself to get a better view of the woods. It was dark, impossible to see clearly even without his glasses. Not with the light from the porch turning everything beyond an inky black. Even with the brightness of the snow. Just a shade or two lighter. Not enough to get a clear look through the corpse of trees, but Scott didn’t need it. He knew there was something out there.
He didn’t freeze but rather kept shoveling half-heartedly. His rifle sliding gently down his arm. Everything was quiet, still. Even the flurries that fell seemed somehow unnatural, otherworldly. Almost hovering in the air.
There was movement and Scott had the rifle up at the ready even as his footing slipped and stumbled. He managed to stay standing by sheer force of will though his leg was screaming at him and a cold sweat broke out on his back. His hands shook with the effort of holding the rifle up. Not enough strength to keep it steady. Dammit.
There was displacement of snow to the left and he jerked that way. Whatever it was didn’t move. A deeper shade than the forest. Large, large enough to be a kodiak but Scott didn’t think it was a bear. Not with the way it sat on its hinges, more like a dog or a wolf. Paws stretched out in front of it. Ready to pounce at a moments notice.
He kept the rifle cocked through herculean effort. His shirt was already soaked with sweat and beats of it were rolling down his face and into his eyes. He wanted to wipe them off but wouldn’t risk taking his eyes off the whatever-the-hell that was.
Wisps of breath blocking his view. He tried to slow down his breathing, or breathe in smaller puffs of air but his lungs were already burning. So disgustingly out of shape despite months and months of effort.
The creature coked its head at him. Scott got the strange sense that it was observing him as much as Scott was observing it. He really hoped it either attacked or got the hell out of there, and soon, because he didn’t think his arms were going to be able to hold the rifle up much longer. His entirely body was now shaking uncontrollably from the effort. His legs trying to fold in on themselves.
Scott knew if he fired now, he would probably miss and as an added bonus to being an appetizer, land flat on his ass. Might not have a choice, with his hands shaking so badly now. He was seconds away from dropping the riffle and folding over like a deck of cards on the ground. Then the damned thing took one loud whiff, scratched the ground twice and disappeared in a single bound.
Scott needed a moment to close his gaping mouth before his legs gave way. Depositing him in an undignified heap on the snow. He sucked in air, his whole body vibrating with exhaustion. Too overheated to feel the cold.
He closed his eyes for a moment and froze when he heard the crunch of someone walking on snow. He opened his eyes to the sight of a tremendous snout inches from his face. Held perfectly stiff, not so much as twitched towards the rifle not even a foot away.
The snout lowered and Scott waiting for the inevitable. Instead of the tearing and searing pain, there was a wet tongue. It was licking his cheek. Scott blinked, and blinked again as he was lapped up like a cat a bowl a cream. Well, okay then. If it wanted to savor his meal before eating it . . . but instead of a bite it kept on licking him.
Slobber covering his face, dripping into his hair. He was still heaving. Lungs seizing and Scott coughed and chocked. Fought against the black spots dancing in his eyes. The world narrowing down to a pinprick. Inhaling like trying to suck a lemon through a straw. Not enough. Even as he tried to relax, to slow down his breathing, the pounding in his ears. Not enough, not nearly enough.
Black spots in his eyes and Scott knew what came next. Too familiar with that. Outside, in the cold, bad idea. Needed to move. But he couldn’t. His body like lead. And cold, as he started to loose consciousness. Dark and out but before then, before he was completely down, Scott heard the receding flurries of crunch, crunch, crunch leading away from him and deeply into the forest.