Warning: This is a big departure from my larger story, although it happens within the same 'alternate universe'. It is NOT a romance, and any humor is definitely of the dark variety. Plus there's gross AND explicit stuff. Read at your own risk if you hate things like that!
Marvel characters copyright to Marvel, as per usual.
For Theresa, who innocently started it, and Chris, who fanned up the spark....
Signs That Might Be Omens
"Hey! Hey you--furry guy!"
McCoy half-straightened, the hackles on his back raising as his muscular shoulders bunched. The degree of effrontery it took for someone to address him thus amazed him, particularly when that individual was so imminently slated to become his newest test subject.
But after the instant of reaction, he chose to ignore her and
concentrate on loading the materials before him into the injection
gun. It was late, and he wanted to get this test started so he could
go to bed. He thought he might see some interesting results by
"You the boss here?"
"That's ri-ight," he crooned, turning his head around enough to flash
his teeth in a humorless smile. Presumptuous little flatscan was on
the verge of finding that out....
Not so little though, actually, he mused as he finished his task. She
would be a good candidate for that idea he'd had for inducing
mutations in ordinary (he didn't like the implications of calling them
'normal') humans. Taller than the average female, in fine physical
condition--he'd been told she'd put up a good fight when his
operatives had found her in the tunnels that were his domain. But he
wouldn't be ready to delve into that experiment for a while yet, and
she'd be a bother to keep....
McCoy turned, tapping the gun against his palm. As they said in the
His intended subject was standing--well, as close to it as she could
manage, given the dimensions of the cage--with her bruised face
pressed partway through the bars, wearing a peculiar grin. "You know,
you need a lab assistant."
Now she was criticizing his lab? McCoy scowled as he crossed the
floor. There was a limit past which boldness ceased to impress him
even a little, and she was perilously close to that line. "No offense
intended," she continued in a friendly, familiar and yet vaguely
mocking tone. "It's just that this is a big setup, and you're doing
your own simple preps. Looks to me like you don't have a tech."
McCoy paused to study her, sardonically wondering why the ones who
didn't scream always seemed to think they could talk their way out of
the situation. "And in a remarkable twist of fate, you happen to be
"Small world." Her manic eyes teased him.
Two could play at this baiting game. "You don't seem to have
your...credentials with you," he observed, admiring once again the
clean lines of her sleek form, now that she'd brought it to his
attention. When the patrol found her, it was clear she had wandered
through some of the more noisome pipes on her way in from the world
above. Drub and his team had hosed her down before securing her here,
but apparently her outer garments had been judged unsalvageable.
Either that or the boys had been having some illicit fun.
"Ha-ha." She stopped smiling, but the intensity of her gaze, if
anything, increased. "My ID, including my hospital employee badge,
was in my fanny pack. I suspect you could get ahold of it...if you
felt like it."
"True. But to feel like it, I would first have to see some potential
benefit that outweighs your current usefulness to me as a test
subject." McCoy noted a hint of apprehension slip past the brave
facade she was presenting, the first normal response she'd shown.
"Just between us, it's pointless trying to charm me. I don't have a
better side to appeal to." He laughed harshly at a stray thought, the
most private of inside jokes. "Then again, perhaps I do...but he's
not here. At any rate, I'm not going to set you free in response to
such a transparent ruse. Even if you have the qualifications you
claim, I'd waste more time watching to be sure you didn't escape than
I would save by delegating simple chores."
She shook her head, a derisive half-smile quirking her lips. "Escape
is not an option. What, do you think I ended up in these hellpits
because I took a wrong turn out of the subway?"
This was a waste of time all on its own, and yet...just a fraction too
entertaining to end. "What, then, led you to my humble abode?"
She suddenly seemed to have second thoughts about whatever it was she
had been going to say, and only stared at him, assessing and
suspicious. McCoy shrugged, hoisted the injection gun, and grabbed
her arm, pulling it out through the bars. Oddly, she didn't fight or
try to resist, didn't protest; her faintly challenging look struck him
as strange, out of place for the situation. He paused, one eyebrow up
in surprise at both of them. Ah, well, curiosity, one of his best and
worst traits. "Well?"
"I shot a man." Though she said it with bravado, he could sense
through the tremor in her arm that there was distress-driven truth in
"He annoyed me."
McCoy couldn't help but bark a laugh. "Another valid reason to keep
She looked down, away from his face, and the muscles in her arm drew
tight with remembered emotion as her words bubbled out unchecked. "I
went out with the jerk one time, one stinkin' time! And after that he
wouldn't leave me alone!" She was either an excellent actress/liar,
McCoy thought, or recalling actual events. "And no one would do
anything! Not even after he started threatening to kill me." She
raised her head again to stare at him, anger clouding those remarkable
copper eyes. "I knew how it would come out--seen it on the news a
dozen times. A woman gets killed by a stalker and people knock each
other over to say how tragic it was society failed her. But she stays
"The dead do tend to stay that way. In my experience," he said,
pointing out the obvious in an almost gentle tone that was ruined by
She took a stronger grip on the bar of the cage with her free hand and
considered her surroundings. "Huh, I might as well have let him kill
me. Didn't really improve my situation much, did I?"
"Not significantly," he agreed. "Although you'll at least be serving
the cause of science this way."
She shrugged now, plummeting from her adrenaline high of a few moments
before. "The hell with it. Whatever." She looked from her arm to
the injection gun, as if suggesting he get on with his task.
McCoy raised the gun, twisted the subject's arm so as to expose the
center of the deltoid, sighted the needle...then lowered his hand.
Not that he wanted, or needed, a Scheherazade...but there went his
damned curiosity melding with his analytical skills. "It's my
understanding that self-defense is considered a legal right up there."
She grimaced. "I didn't like the odds, and I shortened 'em. I'd
overheard a guy at work say he knew how to get unlicensed guns--and
sure enough, he did. That's a felony right there. And when I filed
for a restraining order from the creep, he filed one back against me--
like I'd voluntarily come within a hundred miles of the bastard!--so that would sound bad read out in court. Plus...I went to his place.
That makes it premeditated."
Against all odds, it was beginning to seem she might have the sort of
mental toughness he would require in a lab assistant. "What caused
you to take that step?"
"He had come to my apartment while I was at work, and...carved
something in the door."
"'Soon'." She met his eyes to gauge his reaction, almost seeming to
seek his approval.
"Poor strategy on his part," was McCoy's only comment. If you were
going to kill someone who was in a position to retaliate, it was
simply stupid to give them warning.
"He worked nights, see. And since most people work days, a lot of
buildings are nearly deserted then. So I thought it would be safe. I
went over, knocked, and when he came to the door I shot him in the
"The direct approach," McCoy grinned. He was almost starting to like
"I guess." She drooped in despondency. "But wouldn't you know...the
guy living across the hall from him? A cop. A cop who works the
night shift." Shaking her head, she muttered, "Ten thousand apartment
buildings full of people who don't want to get involved...and I pick
the one guy with a neighbor who'd come running at the sound of a
"What appalling bad luck," McCoy chuckled. Her disgusted expression
was actually quite...amusing.
"So anyway...I heard the guy across the hall start to unbolt his door,
and I ran for it. I threw the gun down--I guess I thought it would
look funny to run down the street with a gun--I don't rememberwhat I was thinking. I read in the paper later that they found it in the
hall, and got my fingerprints off of it." McCoy was not an expert on
this world's jurisprudence, but her story was sounding more and more
like it would result in a short trial with a predictable outcome.
"I'd brought some money and all, so I could hide out for a few days if
anything went wrong." She laughed bitterly. "Great foresight there.
But I didn't plan on my picture getting in the paper right away." She
looked at him, not quite pleading. "So see, you could check it out,
if you can get a copy of the Bugle. Today's or yesterday's--I'm not
sure which at this point. Lost track of time."
The idea of having an assistant to do menial chores was growing
steadily more attractive. It was certainly true he never seemed to
have enough time to accomplish everything he wanted to. He'd toyed,
in the past, with the idea of training one of his minions, but
teaching was not one of his better skills; he knew he'd just lose his
temper and end up being short one underling. "Not inclined to try to
find your way back to the surface and throw yourself on the mercy of
She stared at him sourly. "I bet good ideas are the only kind you
He might end up killing this one too, for different reasons. "Is this
the way you normally act on a job interview?" McCoy noted the leap of
hope countered by her instant wary look. "What can you do?"
"Diagnostic tests. Collect samples." She shrugged. "Make coffee,
clean up junk. Just normal tech stuff."
Would she do for his sort of work, though? "Let's see." He opened
the cage door and she came out, moving stiffly at first, limping on
one leg where a huge bruise purpled her thigh.
"Don't suppose you have a spare lab coat?"
"Shy, are we?" McCoy leered. She actually was worth leering at, if
one cared to take the time for that sort of thing.
"Cold," she corrected, with a disdainful look down her nose. Her very
short dark hair was still visibly damp, though beginning to dry into
"Sorry, don't wear them." With an 'after you' gesture he guided her
to a workstation. After gauging the distance to the door--he could
easily catch her if she tried to bolt, he decided--McCoy turned to a
smaller wall cage. "Here," he said, tossing the white rat he'd
The creature spasmed for a foothold as it cartwheeled through the air.
His job applicant, to her credit, managed to catch it, just, by
fumbling it with both hands until she could trap it against her chest.
"Dammit, that hurt," she snapped at him, once she had the rat held
securely on the counter. "Some of us with plain bare skin don't like
juggling things with claws!" He just smiled coldly, arms crossed.
"What do you want me to do with it?"
"Get me a kidney."
She stared at him, narrow-eyed, until she was sure he meant it.
"Fine. You'll have to tell me where you keep things."
"You tell me what you think you need, and I'll get it." He didn't
want to skew the results of this test of her knowledge by providing
the optimum equipment.
"Okay." She looked down at the rat. "Razor. Scalpel, probe,
forceps. Rubber gloves." He quirked his eyebrow. "Hey, I don't know
what you've been playing with here."
"True enough." With a few quick passes through storage cupboards, he
gathered what she had asked for.
"Let's see--alcohol, and something to put the sample in."
"You want a contaminated sample?" Now she looked disbelieving.
McCoy didn't usually trouble with such niceties, but this wasn't a
standard sample pull, either. He gave her the rest of her requested
supplies without comment, and watched as she shaved a bald patch on
her squirming victim, then gloved up with speedy efficiency. "What's
your lab protocol for killing specimens?"
He considered asking her why she thought she needed to kill it, but
decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. It was simpler to
surgically extract something from a dead specimen. "I usually tear
their heads off."
She snorted. "Not bite 'em off?"
"Only when I'm very bored," he assured her blandly. "Or very angry."
"Hmmph." Without further ado, she grabbed the rat by its hind legs
and, with an abrupt but forceful swing, bashed the back of its head
against the edge of the counter. With a faint squeak, the rat spasmed
and died. She splashed alcohol over the shaved skin, then drew a slit
with the scalpel. Using the forceps to widen the gap as she teased it
further open with the blade, she switched to the probe to lever the
kidney up to the opening. Clamping the forceps on the ureter and
cutting that cord on the far side, she drew out the organ and dropped
it in the petri dish he had provided. Hands on hips, she stared at
him, waiting for his pronouncement.
"Have you ever done that before?"
She only paused a second. "No."
Good. He'd thought not; though she hadn't hesitated, it had been
obvious she was thinking through each step instead of doing it on
autopilot. But she had performed the task acceptably all the same.
"In the future, if you don't know a procedure, ask me. I'll show you
how I want it done. Once."
McCoy took the kidney, and the rat, and threw both back in the cage
from which they'd come, where the surviving denizens began to swarm
over the carcass, squealing as they fought. "Run some cold water over
the soiled equipment, in the sink there. We'll get it in the morning;
it's late." He pulled the cartridge off the injection gun and put it
in the refrigerator. Now he would have to send out for another human
specimen. Oh, well, always plenty available....
Again guiding her, they retraced their steps to the holding area.
McCoy pointed wordlessly. She hesitated, looking sidelong at him, and
he thought, with some satisfaction, that she was finally going to act
like she should and beg him for something. "I haven't verified your
story yet," was all he said.
To her credit, she didn't argue. Squaring her shoulders, she took a
deep breath. "Fine."
Something about the way that motion set off the well-defined muscles
tapering her back gave him an idea, although a vaguely disconcerting
one. He was not usually tempted by the pleasures of the weak and
inferior. "Or...we could make alternative arrangements?" He stroked
the backs of his fingers suggestively against her arm.
She grew very still. "Is that going to be part of my job
"Only in the sense that you maintain your newly upgraded status at my
whim." McCoy made sure his tone was unconcerned. Even the
implication of rejection by such as she would be more than he cared to
endure. "My suggestion was for your benefit, actually. I have two
secure sites available, this cage and my sleeping quarters. Where you
sleep is entirely your choice."
Why did that make her relax again? Was the illusion of being in
control of her life so crucial to her? That would make her easy to
manipulate. She gave the cage one rapid glance, then said, "Fine,
lead on. Why sleep on concrete if I don't have to?"
Her cold calculation almost made him change his mind, but he decided
her actions were more important than whatever was going on inside her
peculiar little mind. They walked through the monitor room together,
and into the bedroom that adjoined it.
Blue light from the single security monitor within made the colors
strange. Their shadows chased erratically across the walls. McCoy
secured the door, as was his usual practice. She watched him do so,
nodded to herself, and with fatalistic aplomb reached behind her to
unfasten her bra. She stepped out of her panties next, then held both
items out. "Where do you want me to put these? They're still a
"Throw them over the back of that chair," he instructed as he stripped
off his pants, hanging them over a different one near where he stood.
She approached him, businesslike, making no pretense of passion, which
at least was more dignified for them both than faking it. But her
face took on a thoughtful frown as she placed her hands on his chest,
cautiously assessing his fur, and from there on up his neck to his
head. McCoy allowed it, curious despite himself. She lifted a few of
his braids, and half-smiled. "I have to say, the hair and the
earrings are very stylish."
"Mmm," he replied, and placed a hand on each of her hips, just at the
curve of her waist, to pull her closer to him. He half expected her
to push away, or at least fold her arms between them. But instead she
let his action guide her forward, and she slid her arms up over his
shoulders to clasp his neck in a loose hug. When she felt his penis
stir against her body, she smiled with a knowing, secretive look.
McCoy almost laughed. If she thought she had found the key to
manipulating him, she was in for a shock. And yet, there was no need
to...spoil the moment.
The peculiarity of this experience intrigued him. He assayed a kiss,
and she responded with exploratory nibbles, letting her lips survey
what they could reach of his face. McCoy found himself obscurely
pleased she hadn't tried to fool him; he had had a real kiss before,
and would know the difference.
"Might as well get comfortable," he suggested, breaking away from her
ministrations. He inclined his head towards the big waterbed, and she
agreeably climbed in. Laying himself next to her, he studied her
form, reconsidering that potential mutagenic experiment. It truly was
tempting. But he would have to think of a method to control her as
well, he could see that now.
Idly, he drew his taloned fingertips across her belly, and she
shivered, nevertheless giving the impression she liked it. "Trusting
soul, aren't you?" he mocked. Surely she was under no illusion about
the potential for destruction in those claws, or his total lack of
qualms about using them.
"I imagine I trust you about as much as you trust me," she retorted.
"And that is as it should be," McCoy said, playing at soothing her
ruffled sensibilities. He gently tweaked her nipples, erect from the
room's chill and perhaps something more. "Satisfy my curiosity on one
point, though." She met his eyes with candid challenge. "How is it
you aren't afraid of me?"
"What makes you think I'm not?" she responded in a whisper, and put
her hand on him in an intimate caress.
Giving up the pleasures of interrogation for more basic ones, McCoy
encouraged his new assistant in her acquisition of his personal
protocols. Initiative, within reason, could be a good thing.
With an eye towards the future, and that tricky control issue, McCoy
made some effort to stimulate her as well. He had no idea how well he
was succeeding, though, until partway through the actual act. The
resilient body beneath his began to shudder, then spasm as she gasped
out nonsense syllables and clutched handfuls of his back fur almost
hard enough to hurt.
His next thought, after his conviction she was dying purely to spite
him, was that she was faking her response. Except...one thing he knew
well was physiology, and he did not believe her capable of altering
the appropriate physical signs to this degree. Plus she was staring
at him with undisguised shock and amazement.
"That was satisfactory for you, I take it?" he taunted, baring his
teeth. She nodded, almost against her will. "You see, I'm not
ungenerous with my benefits program...." This made her glare, and he
laughed with a deep rumble as he continued. She deserved that; she
hadn't needed to look quite so completely astonished....
Interesting, he mused erratically as he pursued his own climax, how
such simple things created this reaction. A few neurons jumped some
synaptic gaps when nerve endings were stimulated, various chemicals
began to run rampant within the body, and before you knew it, a chain
reaction crucial to the survival of the species ensured it would be
repeated through a clever side-effect called an orgasm.
Afterwards McCoy lay on his side, quite pleased with himself and the
situation in general. He had the feeling that now his little flatscan
friend's body would respond to him physically even when it was the
last thing her mind wanted to do. That evened things up a bit. She
was staring off into the semidarkness, looking as contemplative as he
felt, but much less happy. What did that look mean?
He decided to probe her thoughts. "Haven't I read that if you can
evade capture for seven years, you can't be brought to trial for your
"It doesn't count for murder," she murmured. After a quick sidelong
glance, she sat up, hunching her shoulders as she crossed her forearms
over her knees, blocking herself away from him.
"Looks as though you'll be here quite a while then, which is good. I
would hate to see the time I'll spend on training you wasted." McCoy
meant it as oblique assurance that he would value her, but could tell
by the way the muscles in her back tensed that she had not taken it
"It's not like I have much to go back to," was all she said in reply,
her voice cold and distant, which irritated him. After a long
silence, she asked, "How long have you been down here?"
McCoy sat up behind her. "Going on 20 years. But of course I can
go above from time to time, if I choose to." He touched the back of
her neck, intending to follow this pronouncement with a suggestion
that eventually she might be able to do so as well.
She turned her shoulders away from his caress, then recoiled in a
backlash of the same movement, hitting him in the throat with the
rigid edge of her hand before scrambling madly from the bed. McCoy
was stunned for an instant; partly from surprise, partly from the pain
and the stars bursting in his vision. Then he leapt after her,
In just two jumps he had her, slamming her against the wall in a
tackling grab that made her yelp. He twisted a handhold into her
short hair and yanked her head back, claws at the ready. His only
hesitation came from deciding whether to break her neck or tear her
throat out; or both, and if so, which first?
Then McCoy again realized something was off in this scenario. She
hadn't tried for the door, and was putting up no resistance now.
'She's trying to goad me into killing her,' he realized, which made
him even more furious.
But it was a cold and rational rage. He marched her, by the hair,
back to the bed, where he threw her down. "I thought we had come to
an arrangement!" he hissed savagely. She wouldn't look at him, didn't
respond, but her huddled position didn't strike him as properly
fearful. Despairing, yes, but it wasn't him she'd run from just then.
At that thought, he picked up her nearest hand and examined her wrist
in the dim light, running a thumb over it to be sure. It was smooth,
unscarred. And yet, he was sure he was right. "Do you know what
hesitation marks are?" he asked mildly.
She risked a look up at this, wary and surprised at his tone, and
started to shake her head, then paused. "Skid marks on the highway?"
she guessed, brow furrowed with the effort to recall some trace
"Yes, sometimes. Any indication that someone sought to commit
suicide, but wasn't able to complete the task." She pulled her hand
away, and tucked it, as well as the other, under her upper arms, the
brace of her crossed wrists a most inadequate source of protection.
"For how long have you been making choices that led you from bad
situations to worse ones?" he demanded, almost managing to sound
"I don't know what you--" McCoy tilted his head, calling her on her
honesty. "I don't know," she sighed, admitting defeat.
Better and better. This could solve the potential control problem.
If she was truly on the verge of breaking down, he could rebuild her
mind the way he wanted it, through a combination of drugs and behavior
modification. "What were you running from before you came down here?"
"The hospital." Her voice broke, and McCoy had the most appalling
vision of having to somehow comfort her. But she rallied. "I worked
at an endstage care facility. Everybody there was dying. I'd go in
to draw blood, and they would look at me like...like I might have the
secret to their survival. I had to try to think of something cheerful
to say to them, to the families. They all wanted me to tell them they
were going to be the exception, the miracle...." Her voice had
dropped to a whisper of tired horror. "But I knew they were going to
die, no matter what I did. You don't know what that's like."
Something faint and strange stirred in him for an uncomfortable
instant. "No. I don't," he agreed soberly. And if this was what it
did to you, he was just as glad to miss the experience. "Well, at
least that need no longer concern you. Perhaps Fate did you a favor
by leading you astray today." He knelt on the bed beside her.
"Over." She just looked confused. "Move. Over," he repeated, making
each word distinct.
She thinned her lips but obeyed. McCoy stretched himself close beside
her, confidingly intimate, acting as though nothing had happened.
"You may call me McCoy. And I think I shall call you...Deathwish."
The look she gave him at this might have been quelling to anyone else.
"No? How about...Persephone?"
"My name is Karen," she informed him with something like her former
Now that he saw how her hostility masked a vulnerability he could
exploit, he didn't mind it. "Your name is what I say it is, because
you are mine," McCoy assured her with confidence.
Her eyes flashed. "You wish!"
The old saying about being careful what you wish for crossed his mind,
but his smile could have almost been called tender, on any other face.
"Perhaps I did." He reached out and stroked her eyelids closed. "Now
go to sleep. I have a feeling...tomorrow may be an eventful day."
"When it was dark and silent late last night,
I think I might have heard the highway call....
Geese in flight and dogs that bite
and signs that might be omens say I'm goin', goin',
Goin' to Carolina in my mind." (James Taylor)