It was a bar like any other. Filled with smoke, noise and the smell of cheap booze. A Friday night, which meant that it was standing room only. People packed in tighter than lemmings, each of them with the same handful of goals. Making deals, making connections, or trying to forget in a haze of alcohol. Or in one case, to remember. In the background, something that might have been rock or jazz music played. With the din of voices it was hard to pick out just what it was. Behind the bar, a long mirror reflected the room back at itself. Some with crystal clarity, others' no more than shadows and light.
Near the bar, a couple of college kids, probably too young to be in here legally. Over by the bathroom, a group of aggressively made up women flirted with a pack of men that could only be called one thing; Punks. Everywhere else, people packed three to four at a table, or in roving clusters.
Everywhere that is but a table tucked in the darkest corner of the bar. With room for at least a half dozen, all the chairs but one stood empty and untouched. One look at the man seated in the furthest chair and it was obvious why.
Even seated, it was easy to tell this guy would have been over six and a half foot tall. Broad shouldered enough to make most linebackers look like high school freshmen. His hair was white, almost silver in color, which matched well with the chiseled and scarred features of his face. What they didn't match with was the color and intensity of his eyes. Piercing blue-grey, the right one surrounded by a pattern of scars that looked almost star-shaped in the smoke filled light. The right half of his face was cast in shadows, but the expression visible on the left was more than enough to keep even the drunkest patron from pestering him. Or was it something other than the stay the hell way from me' expression on his face that gave him sole rights to the table.
The glass in his hand was now warm to the touch, which meant most likely so was the scotch inside it. A half empty bottle rested within reach, but Cable ignored it. Ignored the smoke, the noise, and the angry looks often shot in his direction. Ignored everything but the reason he'd come here tonight. Here to this bar, this table, this chair.
This was her bar, her table, and yes, her chair. He couldn't even remember when she first brought them here. No, that was a lie. He remembered it like it was yesterday. Like he remembered every detail since that first night, she all but dropped into his arms. That damned cocky, smile on her lips. Eyes that could bore into a man's soul. So dark yet so luminescent at the same time.
It had been a night much like tonight. Years ago when things had been so much simpler. Metaphorically speaking. The life of a Mercenary was anything but simple. Yet, somehow she made it seem like it. From that first night, everything seemed to go right in his life. The job offers flowed in. Each mission seems to go like clockwork. Sure they'd had some lean times, or job that had gone horridly wrong. Somehow everything always seemed to work out in the end.
Cable grimaced as his thoughts wandered off into left field again. Picking up the glass, he drained it in one shot. The grimace grew as the warm liquid burned down his throat. Reaching out for the bottle, he refilled it, and drained the glass again.
A night much like tonight...
They'd just come off a two-week mission. Two weeks spent, what had she said...
Skulking about like something from a bad horror movie...'
That was it. He could almost hear the words in his mind. Picture the look on her face. The one that dared them to say no, as she announced she was going to a bar, and they were all welcome to join her.
I've had enough, and tonight I want a drink, loud noise, and enough smoke to choke a mule.'
The others had been willing enough. He'd hung back at first. There were things he needed to do. An excuse she'd seen right through. Her eyes had flashed like gem stones as she taunted him, and promised to be gentle. That she wasn't going to let him get drunk so the others could pry out whatever little secret he was hiding. To this day he wasn't sure what made him agree. The look in her eyes, or Kane sniggering in the background.
Probably Kane. Snot nosed little punk. Never should have been on the team. What had Hammer been thinking letting that kid on the team?
Feeling a little guilty?' Her voice cut over his thoughts so clearly that his head snapped up expecting to see her sitting across from him. The chair was empty. No one was even near the table, though more than one person was giving him the evil eye for hogging the table. Time to put a stop to that. In the darkness, his left eye flared slightly with a soft yellow glow. One by one, all the disgruntled patrons forgot once more about the corner table. Leaving him free to go back to his drinking in peace. Free to go back to remembering.
In the end, they'd come here often. This place started out as hers, but soon became the one thing she'd openly share with them all. Any time they were in the States after a mission, they'd come here. To this bar, and this table. The first few times they'd argued over who got the prime spot. The corner chair. Wall on two sides, whole view of the bar, with shadows enough to hide the occupant. She soon got her way. Claiming first it since she'd been coming here the longest, it was hers by right. Then by threatening to take each one of them out and kick their collective butts.
They'd all laughed, but none of them had doubted she wouldn't do just what she said. Grizzly might have been the first and only one to have made that mistake. Back in the first few months after she'd joined the team. Pushed her too far over... what had it been... Cable's mouth turned down in a scowl as he tried to remember. Giving up after a few moments, he refilled his glass once more. The bottle was almost empty now. Good. Almost time then. In retrospect, it didn't really matter what Grizz had done. She's made him eat his words in a most painful way. The funny thing was. After that, the two of them had become close friends.
Oath how that had gnawed at him. Watching the two of them laughing and joking around on or before missions. Brushing off offer after offer to join them for a post mission beer, only to watch them take off together. He knew there wasn't anything serious between them. Knew it was just the close knit friendship of two people who risked their lives together daily. It had shocked him cold the day he realized just how jealous he'd been. How much he'd envied the other man's friendship with her.
A major wake up call that had been. A turning point for both their lives. One of the few times things had gone really wrong. Grizzly had been hurt badly, so bad that it was touch and go for almost three days. All of them had been gathered in the waiting room of some hospital somewhere. Try as he might to keep the memories distant, each detail supplied itself in Technicolor glory. It had been the only hospital for hundreds of miles, in some small backwater Central American town.
The florescent lights had washed away all the color from her face. Cable snorted, maybe he was getting drunk. With the exception of that eye spot, her skin had been the smoothest, winter white. But, that was how it was imprinted on his memory. Her usual flare and spark had been nowhere to be found. When she'd turned those dark eyes on him, he'd almost staggered at the pain reflected in them. The first time he'd ever seen her unsure of herself. Vulnerable. Childlike. Beautiful.
She'd taken off, muttering something about needing a drink then all but ran from the waiting room. He'd waited only a fraction of a second before following her without a word to the others. It had been easy to track her, back then he'd always seemed to know where she was. He found her in another bar. Much smaller, rundown, and dingy. Saying nothing, he'd joined her. Ordered a second bottle of Scotch then matched her drink for drink.
By the time they'd reached the third bottle, she started talking. Most likely unaware how much she was revealing. Her words had been soft, slightly slurred from too much Scotch. With them, she'd shared with him something she'd never share with any of the other Pack members.
Maybe not all of them, but the one she shared was more than enough. Even though he knew then, and now. If she'd been at all, sober, she'd never have breathed a word of it. It was a fear even he could understand and, yes, respect. Now years later, he still wondered, often, at the reasons behind it.
She was afraid of dying. Well, not of dying. She took more risks than any of them did on a mission. Always came out on top, or with the least serious injuries.
This damn luck of mine.' She'd said once, Bet it won't even let me die like a normal person.'
Sometimes he thought she'd pushed the envelope just to see how far her luck would take her. Other times, he'd worried she had a death wish. Worried, then, worried now.
Where was he? Gazing at the bottle he noticed it was empty. Good. A little telepathic push got him another one delivered to his table. He refilled and drained two more glasses. It no longer burned or even felt warm is it poured down his throat. Good. Where was he? Oh, right. Dying.
Not the actual dying scared her. But, dying, alone, forgotten, and unremembered. Even drunk as she was then. She realized she'd said too much. Closed up little a turtle hiding in its shell. Cable thought he'd heard her say Oh God, now I've done it.' Drunk as he was, it hadn't dawned on him till much later it was, his almost nonexistent at the time, psi powers picking up her thoughts.
He'd looked at her then, not feeling the least bit drunk. Seeing her for the second time since that first meeting with a clarity of his own soul that rocked him to the core. Like a precognitive flash. A thousand different lifetimes happening in that one instant.
Why he'd broken every rule he'd ever made since Jen had died in his arms, and he'd come back to this time. Every rule about not getting involved. Keeping his distance. Not allowing himself to get close to anyone. Even in friendship. Never making another promise he wasn't positive he could keep.
He'd reached out. Touched the back of her hand with his own. The Scotch induced haze gone from his eyes. Stared at her till she met his gaze, and made her a promise. That when the time came. She'd be neither, alone, nor forgotten.
They never mentioned it again. He often wondered if she even remembered it at all. He knew he'd never forget. It was seared on his soul like a brand.
Things changed after that. He found himself spending more time with the team between missions. Or, well, more time with her between missions. The others just happened to be there as well. Would find reasons to make sure they were partnered for most missions. Then found out just how good she really was. How much life there was in her. Oath, how she loved life. Grabbing onto ever moment with both hands, and not letting go till she'd squeezed every last ounce free. At the same time, she never clung to the past. Never talked about it, other than vague comments now and then.
How many nights had they spent in this bar, or places like it? Talking about the last job. Movies, music and books. How often had he found himself the brunt of her sarcastic teasing?
Everyone needs a Straight Man' , She'd told him once after he had gotten mad over being the butt of another of her and Grizzly's jokes. Then she'd smiled at him in a way that sent chills down his spine.
Cable went to pour himself another drink, only to realize he'd finished yet another bottle off. Glaring at the empty glass, he considered just leaving. Why was he tormenting himself by sitting here? If he had any sense at all, he'd get up. Right now. Leave, and never come back here again.
A woman walked by then, with long dark hair. Almost the same color and length hers had been the last time he'd talked with her. Over... Oath. Had it been three years? No, it couldn't have been. He'd kept in better touch with her than that. Once he was sure she'd... not forgiven, but at least understood what happened in the Yucatan, and why. Cable knew she'd never forgive him for that, none of the Pack would. So why didn't he just leave. Get up, march out that door and...
Who was he fooling? Not himself, if she'd been here, he wouldn't have been fooling her either. From the start, he never could fool her. Drove him insane! He knew she wasn't a Psi. Didn't have the smallest hint of Telepathy, but she could read him like an open book. In LARGE PRINT!
Another signal to the bartender, another bottle of Scotch, another telepathic leave me alone' to ward off unwelcome guests. Filling the glass, he lifted it then paused. Just staring in the glass. Without touching it, he set it down again.
Three years. Since they last talked. He'd seen her since then. Watched her from a distance one night. She'd been in Madripoor. At the Princess Bar. Her home away from home, she'd called it once. Laughing and joking around with some red haired Irishman, Logan and a Canadian midget. Laughing and joking around, like she'd once done with him and the Pack. And like an idiot, he'd walked away. Rather than going up and asking if he could join them. Finding out how things were for her. Asking if she enjoyed being a solo agent again. If perhaps, maybe, just maybe she'd be interested in...
Idiot,' He could hear her words as clearly as if she was sitting across from him. That annoying, smirking, blood pressure rasing, wonderful, heart stopping smile on her lips. All you had to do was ask. Would that have been too hard for your ego to deal with? Scared I'd turn you down?' Laughter spilling from her lips, the one sound that could cut through his darkest mood and ground him in the light. You big idiot... all you had to do was ask. I'd have gone with you.'
Cable closed his eyes and fought the urge to groan. He's had too much to drink. It was as simple as that. That's why she was here haunting him. Reminding him of the past and choices, he made. Making him doubt those choices. Wonder if he did the right thing. Wondering why he did them.
For his sake, or hers? She'd looked so happy then, at peace, at home. A world he had no right to, or part of. Who the hell was he, to take that from her. To drag her back into the sordid mess that was his Destiny.
God, Nate. You know how I hate that word'. Her voice whispered in his thoughts. Like the warmth of a fire, or the illusion of warmth from too much Scotch. Destiny. What a load of crap. When'd you start falling for that line again? Weren't you always the one so big on: "Men choose their own Fate." What the hell happened to you?'
"I've lost my luck..." He muttered, reaching for the glass again as he did.
A small white hand reached out and picked up the glass before he could. Below the thick clouds of smoke that filled the room, another scent fought its way to the surface. A subtle mixture of Lilacs and gun oil... ?! His eyes flew open once more, only to drown in the darkest pair of violet eyes he'd ever seen.
"Idiot." Domino said again, with the smile still on her lips, "Where'd you lose it? Maybe if we hurried. We can find it again."
This story serves as a
nonprofit fan homage which promotes, and documents the elements
of "Domino", "Cable", "X-Force",
and "The X-Men" in comic books and media during the 20th
century. All ideas in this story are expressed as a continuation
of thought covering the pop culture associated with Domino and
Cable. These thoughts are not necessarily the ideas of Marvel
Comics. Some words are the creation of others that have appeared
in other publications. Their inclusion in this story is not
intended as an infringement of their copyright in any way, but
rather is done in the interest of documenting and reviewing
pieces of pop culture "comic book" history.
Domino, Cable, X-Force, The X-Men and other related properties are © 1999 by Marvel Comics.
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