As Time Goes By
by Alicia McKenzie
DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Marvel, and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only. Do not archive without permission.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is set six years into the Pantheon timeline. The reference to a bar in Toronto (I'm trying to avoid spoiling, bear with me ;) comes from my story 'First Dance.' Much mookiness ahead, so be warned. ;)
DEDICATION: To Duey, for passing the bar. <hug> I'm almost unbearably proud of you, my friend. :)
Domino pulled the keys out of the ignition and sagged back against the seat with a sigh, reflecting on the day. *Stop the world, I want to get off,* she thought wryly, gathering her things and getting out of the car. The next time Bishop needed someone to handle orientation for the new Academy grads, she was going to strangle him with his own intestines if he so much as LOOKED in her direction. That was fair, wasn't it?
Teaching was no problem. She LIKED teaching. But trying to familiarize them with the new headquarters building while the XSE was still in the middle of moving operations from Massachusetts to New York wasn't just frustrating, it was almost completely futile. Half the major departments still didn't know where their new offices were going to be. The 'kids' had looked even more bewildered at the end of the tour than they had at the beginning.
*Once I get upstairs, I'm closing ALL the curtains.* It wasn't that she didn't like the new apartment. She'd been the one to pick it, after all, when she and Nathan had decided they needed a place here in New York, closer to headquarters. And it was a nice apartment. It just happened to be on the corner of the fortieth floor, with a panoramic view of New York that just happened to include, at 'center stage', the massive glass and steel form of the new headquarters building. The 'Tower', to borrow the term she'd already heard the junior officers using. Frankly, she didn't care what they called it; XSE Headquarters, the Tower, 'that ugly-ass monument to bad taste'. She just didn't want to be staring at it while she ate dinner tonight.
*Wonder if I could convince Nate to teleport us back to Eastport.* Clare was in Jamestown at Logan and Sulven's for the weekend, so it would just be the two of them if they went back to Maine. The idea had some appeal to it, Domino thought with a subdued grin as she strode through the parking garage to the elevator and stepped in. As it headed upwards smoothly, she reflected that it had been ages since she and Nate had enjoyed a night to themselves. When they weren't on duty - generally in separate locations - they were home, riding herd on Clare and their share of the kids whose parents WERE on duty that night. Rotating munchkin-watch had been the usual arrangement for years now.
The elevator finally reached the fortieth floor, and Domino stepped out, not surprised that it was so quiet. The building was new, and only a few of the apartments on this floor were occupied at the moment. It wouldn't last, of course, but for now, especially tonight, the silence was wonderful. She wanted to wrap it around herself like a blanket and just bask in it.
At the door, she reached out with her keys, but hesitated as it swung open before she could touch it. "Honey, I'm home," she called softly, stepping through and blinking with some puzzlement at the darkened apartment, lit only by candles blazing merrily away on the table. "But you already knew that, didn't you?" she continued more hesitantly.
"Sensed you stewing across the link all the way from headquarters," Nathan's muffled voice came from the direction of the kitchen. "Bad day?"
"Not great." Domino took a step towards the kitchen, drawn by the very appealing scents emanating from that direction. "Are you making dinner?" She tried to keep the incredulity out of her voice, but couldn't.
She heard him laugh. "Why is that so hard to believe?"
"Because you can't COOK, Summers."
He hobbled out of the kitchen, some sort of platter floating along in his wake, and Domino reflected that the sheepish smile he was wearing was cute enough to border on the disgustingly adorable. Which usually meant he had something significant up his sleeve. "Spill it, old man," she scolded, giving him an appreciative once-over that probably ruined the severe expression. He wasn't wearing the business suit she'd watched him don with such a put-upon look early this morning, but had changed into jeans and a dark green sweater she'd given him last Christmas. He looked great. Really, the only thing that tickled her fancy more than a relaxed Nate in casual clothes was a grouchy Nate in a tuxedo--
#You have strange tastes.#
"Hello, pot?" she mocked quietly. "You were in the process of confessing something, no?"
He grinned at her. "I was out for a business lunch with some of the people from the UN. Nice restaurant, so I stopped by the kitchen and asked the chef if I could, um, take a 'peek'."
Domino's eyes widened slightly as the platter floated over and lowered itself gently to the coffee table, revealing what it held. *Appetizers? Hell, now I'm REALLY curious.* "So how long does this newfound culinary expertise of yours last?" she asked teasingly, going over and kissing him. "I mean, it's too good to be true if you're going to be able to boil water without burning it after all these years--"
"Be nice," he said, glaring down at her. "You never starved with me around, at least."
"True, but I had to do a lot of holding my nose and telling myself 'Nourishment, Dom, remember you need the nourishment.'"
"Cynic," he accused merrily, flicking her short ponytail over her shoulder and jerking his chin at the coffee table. "Go nibble. You didn't eat lunch, and dinner's not quite ready."
"I think I'll get out of the uniform first," she said, tugging at the gold-trimmed black jacket with some distaste. The new uniforms were attractive enough from an aesthetic standpoint, she supposed - and surprisingly comfortable - but she still didn't like them.
"Go ahead," Nate said, turning around and limping back into the kitchen, leaning heavily on his cane. "I've got to check on the food, unless you want burnt fish."
Shaking her head, unable to help smiling at the oddly fussy determination seeping over from his end of the link, Domino went to the bedroom and changed out of the uniform. She toyed briefly with the idea of putting on something More Comfortable, just to play tit-for-tat in the surprise department. Then again, she didn't want to distract him too much. The possibility of getting an edible meal out of him was just such a novelty--
#I heard that.#
*I meant you to,* she chuckled, and settled on dark slacks and a loose silk shirt of a deep midnight blue that looked almost black in the candlelight as she came back out into the living room. Nathan was still in the kitchen, so she sat down on the couch and tried the appetizers, tiny little puff pastries stuffed with a variety of things. Really good, but not the sort of thing she'd ever imagined Nathan having the patience to make.
'You didn't eat lunch.' Domino grimaced, remembering how off-handedly he'd said that. How had he known? She certainly wasn't ravenous and projecting it, and they hadn't seen each other or spoken across the link all day. As for lunch, she'd simply forgotten, and hadn't even remembered that she'd forgotten until he'd pointed it out.
He was doing things like this in conversation a lot more lately, and not just with her. One of these days she was going to have to remind him that people generally found it unnerving.
"You know what this place needs?" she called out, deciding she liked the little cheese ones the best.
"A fireplace. You know, just one of the little fake ones." Domino grinned widely. The fireplace at their house back in Eastport was unquestionably her favorite spot for certain recreational activities.
"How did I know you were going to say that? You have an unhealthy fascination with fireplaces, woman."
Domino bit her lip to hold back a giggle. "Look, pal, you didn't seem to have a problem with it last Saturday night after we got Clare to bed--"
"You caught me at a weak moment," Nathan said teasingly as he came back out with a bottle of wine and two glasses trailing along behind him. He eased himself down onto the couch, and the glasses settled on the table as the wine began to pour itself. She shifted over and smiled as he put an arm around her shoulders.
"So what's the occasion?" she asked casually, leaning her head against his shoulder and reaching out a hand for her glass as it floated to her.
"Do I need an occasion to do something like this?"
Oh, yes, that was a typical Nathan-style evasive answer. "Oh, come on," she scoffed lightly, sipping at her wine and smiling up at him angelically. "I wasn't born yesterday, remember?"
"I know," he said with a perfectly straight face. "The gray hair gives it away."
"I beg your pardon?" she sputtered, and then laughed at the twinkle in his eyes. "Look who's talking, mister!"
"Doesn't count. I went gray prematurely, remember?" His mouth was quirking upwards at one corner as he tried not to smile. "Thanks to you."
"I thought it was thanks to the time travel."
"Well, that too," he admitted breezily, and then kissed the top of her head, his arm tightening around her shoulders. "You really don't remember what today is?" he asked in a voice that seemed deceptively casual.
Some sort of anniversary, clearly, given what he'd just said. Domino thought very hard, but couldn't associate any significant event with today. It wasn't his birthday, or hers, or Clare's, and the sixth anniversary of the battle at Akkaba was still a few months from now. "You've got me," she finally admitted.
Another chuckle rumbled through his chest, but when he spoke, his voice was curiously wistful, almost tender. "You were running late. You wanted to kill your taxi driver. And I 'heard' you right through the crowd."
Surprise jolted through her and she straightened, pulling away from him so that she could meet his suddenly intense gaze. "Oh," she said softly. "Now I remember."
And now that she thought about it - and made a correction for the year they'd spent in the future - she did remember.
Thirty years ago, she'd walked into a bar in Toronto to interview for a job with the Wild Pack.
Thirty years ago tonight, she and Nathan had first met.
"Bastard," she murmured, trying not to smile and wiping as surreptitiously as she could at her eyes. Thirty years. How had she forgotten? "Are you trying to make me feel old?"
Nathan laughed and drew her close again. "Just imagine how old it makes me feel."
Dinner was an unqualified success. If she hadn't known he'd made it, and had a perfectly good explanation as to how he'd pulled off this minor miracle, Domino wouldn't have believed the evidence of her own senses. A near-perfect caesar salad was followed by salmon in a sun-dried tomato and herb sauce, with wild rice on the side. Dessert was even better. Domino polished off the white chocolate mousse, licking the last of the raspberry sauce off her spoon and then grinning at him.
"You're in my good books for the rest of the year," she said firmly. "You realize that."
Nathan smiled and filled her wine glass. She'd been tickled to discover that the wine was from the first New Lands vintage, one of the few luxury items they exported. "I'm glad it turned out so well," he said, and he did sound relieved. "Practice and theory are two different things, after all." He set the bottle down and then lifted his own glass, taking a sip. He'd been nursing the same glass all night. The medication Cecilia had him on now was safe to combine to alcohol, but it was the first time in six years THAT could be said. He noticed her thoughtful look and smiled again, wryly. "I'm out of the habit," he said, tipping his glass to her.
"That's all right," she said, "I'm drinking enough for both of us." Something occurred to her, and she tilted her head, regarding him with amused suspicion. "Are you trying to get me tipsy?"
Nathan gave her an innocent look. "Why would I do that?" He turned his attention to the dishes, his eyes narrowing, and Domino giggled as they started to float up off the table and into the kitchen.
"Be our guest," she snickered.
He raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"'Beauty and the Beast'. You know, the Disney movie? All the dancing dishes?"
"Oh, right," he said, vaguely enough that she knew he didn't have any idea what she was talking about.
"Right," she said with a laugh. "I forgive you, though, since you've only seen it once." Clare hadn't liked that one; for some reason, she had a marked preference for 'Mulan'.
"Good of you," he said dryly, and smiled as she got up and took his hand, tugging him towards the couch. "Hold on, Dom, or I'm going to drop all the dishes on the floor--"
"Never mind the dishes," she scoffed, but waited, picking up her wine glass and shaking her head wonderingly as she listened to the sounds of water running, the gentle clinking of dishes, and then the soft hum of the dishwasher starting up. "You amaze me, you know," she said. "I still don't know how you do things like that without being able to see what you're doing."
He shrugged and got to his feet, letting her draw him over to the couch. "It's my photographic memory," he joked. "Easier than trying to carry the dishes out to the kitchen myself, anyway. Less dropping them on the floor that way." His smile turned a little pained, and Domino suppressed a wince. He so obviously hated the occasional clumsiness he still suffered from, even as he got more and more practiced in using his telekinesis to compensate.
"It was wonderful," she said softly, sinking down onto the couch and taking his hands in hers as he sat down beside her. "You're a hopeless romantic, you know."
"I'm just mellowing in my old age," he said.
"Hardly," she chuckled, and then shook her head, her smile turning a little wistful. "I can't believe I forgot."
"You've been busy."
"So have you, but you remembered." Domino tilted her head and gave him a deadpan look. "I thought it was the man's job to forget anniversaries."
"Very funny," Nate said dryly, leaning back into the deep cushions of the couch with a sigh. "It doesn't matter which of us remembered. We're here." He shifted position slightly, arranging his bad leg more comfortably. "That's what counts."
"Thirty years," Domino said, shaking her head again as she watched him. Her mouth quirked upwards in a sudden, mischievous smile. "You look a little different now than you did then."
His expression as he met her eyes was almost too serious. "You don't."
"Actually, you're right. You've gotten more beautiful since then."
"Oh, you are so full of it," she muttered, reflecting balefully on all the silver hair she'd seen in the mirror that morning.
"No," Nathan said softly, raising her hand to his lips for a moment and kissing it lightly. "You are. More beautiful, I mean. Not full of it."
"I know what you meant, and you DO have strange tastes," she said almost huskily, and shifted over so that she was close enough to hug him. His arms went around her, and she took a deep, slightly shaky breath as she relaxed against him. "Thirty years," she said again. "Most of my life. Not most of yours, though." The thought made her laugh. She'd known for nearly ten years now about how his chronovariant abilities and all the time-traveling had affected his lifespan, but she didn't generally think about it. So he had a couple of centuries worth of memories tucked away inside his mind--so what? That didn't make any difference to her--he was still Nate. Her Nate.
"Most of my life, too," he said firmly, hugging her back. "I stopped living after--things went bad in the future. After Anikia," he amended, almost stubbornly. It was the first time he'd mentioned the last battle of the first Clan Chosen/Canaanite war to her since the year they'd spent in the future. The anguish that had lurked just beyond the link for so long had faded, muted into a dull ache that had withdrawn into the distance where it belonged, but she knew the memory would never fade. He'd spent too long carrying it around inside, a secret holocaust that had shaped the man he was in ways she still didn't entirely understand. "I don't think I started again until I met you."
She pulled away a little and stared up into his eyes. It might have sounded so--hackneyed, coming from someone else, but he met her gaze steadily, almost challengingly, and she gave him a brilliant smile before she leaned up and kissed him soundly.
"Mm--wait," he said as she was about to forget about little inconveniences like the lack of a handy fireplace. It had really been TOO long since they'd had a night to themselves--"Dom, hold on--"
She made a mock-petulant face at him. "What?"
"I have something for you." He actually reached under the cushion and pulled out what looked like a small, dark wooden box. The candlelight made the room dim enough that she didn't see how exquisite it was until she had it in her hands.
"Nate," she said wonderingly, running a hand over the delicate box. Every bit of the box was carved in an intricate design of leavers and flowers, clearly by hand. "Did you--" She looked up, intercepted the half-pleased, half-embarassed look he was directed at her, and grinned. "You did. It's gorgeous, Nate."
"One of my neglected talents." He grinned suddenly. "Scott wanted to know why I wanted my old ion knife. Had to go back to the mansion to get it."
"Well, artists get to be picky about their tools, I suppose--" She could remember how amazed she'd been the first time she'd found out he could do this. This wasn't a talent he'd 'borrowed', she knew that much. Jean had told her once that it was something Nate had learned to do as a child, from someone they'd met while they were living in Crestcoast. A fellow resistance member, or something like that.
The first time she'd even seen him carve something had been early in her days with the Pack. They'd been on a helicopter, coming back from somewhere just south of Nowhere, Russia. He'd started off with a stick the length of his forearm, and wound up with a delicate wooden chain by the time they'd landed. All from one piece of wood. It had been incredible to watch, but she'd felt almost like she'd been eavesdropping. Destruction, in all its various forms, had been something they'd shared right from the beginning, but that had been the first time she'd ever seen him--create, and there had been something very private about it.
"It turned out well, but I had to use a little telekinesis for the fine details," he muttered, looking almost disgusted with himself. "I never used to have to do that. My coordination--isn't what it used to be, I suppose."
Back at Eastport, carefully tucked away in a drawer, there was a tiny figurine of herself that he'd carved on Greymalkin, while he and Logan and Bishop had been waiting there to go and face Stryfe on the moon, all those years ago. Bishop, of all people, had picked it up that day, and given it to her long afterwards, during the few months that X-Force had been staying at the mansion.
She knew why he'd kept it to give to her, even though the two of them had been complete strangers at the time. It said something very telling about Nate's state of mind at the time. It had meant a lot to know that he'd been thinking about her, not about Stryfe. It had given her hope for the future.
"Don't fuss," she said. "It's beautiful." She jumped as he laid his hands over hers, stopping her when she would have opened the box. "What?"
"Thank you," he said, very softly.
"For what?" she asked, as lightly as she could.
"For everything. For loving me. For staying with me." He finally smiled, a strange little unsteady smile. "For second chances." He pulled his hands back. "Open it."
She did. And even in the candlelight, what was inside sparkled. She managed not to do anything cliched like gasp, but her vision blurred with tears and she bit her lip as she lifted out the delicate silver bracelet. Green-blue sapphires glowed darkly in the candlelight, but what caught her eye was the design of the bracelet itself.
Broken spirals. She remembered standing in the ruins of the Askani cloisters, seeing this same design on the remnants of a wall and asking Nathan what it meant.
*That there's no such thing as eternity,* he'd said. *Everything ends, but it's the journey that matters.*
"Oh, Nate," she murmured unsteadily, her hand closing gently around the bracelet. "You--I love you, you know."
The slight shakiness was gone from his smile, and the link was almost glowing with warmth. "I love you too, Dom."
She put the bracelet on, ignoring the way her hands were shaking as she did up the clasp. "It's beautiful," she said softly, and set the box down carefully, lovingly, on the coffee table, before she looked up to meet his eyes once more. More words--just weren't there.
Nathan took her hand, brought it to his lips again, and then drew her to him.
The phone was ringing. Domino grumbled, raising her head from the pillow and grabbing the handheld off the bedside table. "Hello?" she said groggily.
"Hello, Commander Cavanaugh?" a far too cheerful voice said brightly. "This is Lieutenant Adams at the CIC. A recall's been issued for all operational command officers. Artemis is heating up."
Domino reminded herself that this line wasn't completely secure, which justified Adams' vagueness, however irritating it was. But he'd gotten the important information across, in any case. "I'll be in ASAP," she muttered, and hung up the phone. She happened to see the clock as she did so, and groaned. *Five fucking fifteen. Lovely.*
She sat up, running a hand through her hair with a sigh. "Shit."
"My thoughts exactly," Nathan murmured from beside her.
Domino blinked down at him. He looked half-asleep, but the amusement sparkling up the link was all too alert. "Don't tell me the phone woke you up," she said regretfully. It didn't usually, and she liked that, liked the chance it gave her to watch him sleep as she got dressed to go.
He opened his eyes a little wider and smiled at her. "Not really. I just didn't want you to slip out while I was still asleep. Not this morning."
She leaned over and kissed him. "Does it bother you?" she asked a bit hesitantly as she straightened, brushing unruly silver hair back away from his eyes with a gentle hand. "I've never asked." Ridiculously early mornings had become a way of life for her lately; it went with the job. Nathan tended to get a more reasonable start to the day. Personally, she wouldn't have it any other way. The man had earned an extra hour or two of sleep a night, as far as she was concerned.
"Not really, I suppose," he said easily, and sat up, leaning back against the headboard of the bed as he watched her get dressed. "If I hadn't mentioned it, Dom, you look really good in the uniform."
Domino shot him a suspicious look. He managed a credible leer. "Be serious," she grumbled amiably. "I'd say flattery would get you everywhere, but there wasn't much of anywhere you didn't get last night, so I'm not sure what you want--"
"Getting a head start on the next time," he said sagely, and tossed a pillow at her. She caught it with a laugh, and threw it back. "So is this Sam's latest brainchild?" he asked placidly as the pillow froze in mid-air, about a foot away from his face, and then moved away and dropped back to the bed. "What you're rushing in to check on, I mean? He really should get out of the habit of needing you looking over his shoulder--"
"Be nice," she scoffed, doing up the last few buttons on her jacket as she went over to sit down beside him on the bed. There'd been a bit of edge to his words, she thought, regarding him a little concernedly. "Nate?"
He sighed. "I know," he said dryly. "But do you think it's easy to sit on the sidelines and watch the rest of you go on with business? I hate being a desk jockey."
She raised an eyebrow at him, but wisely stifled the comment she wanted to make. He didn't need to hear that she was perfectly happy with things as they were. It had been nearly six years, but she remembered, all too clearly, what it had felt like sitting at his bedside after Akkaba, wondering if the baby growing inside her was going to get the chance to know her father.
"I know," she said instead, gently. "But there's a happy medium, Nate. There's got to be." She leaned forward and hugged him tightly. "I want you with me for a long time to come, you stubborn old man."
"I'm not going anywhere," he said, and kissed the top of her head. "I'm just bored."
The plaintive note in his voice made her giggle. "Well, we'll have to see what we can do about that. Cecilia's always telling me I need to make sure you get your exercise--"
"Hah," he said, and grinned at her as she slid off the bed, looking regretfully at the clock. "Go hold the boy's hand and remind him that Murphy's Law doesn't ALWAYS apply."
"He spent too much time around you. You turned him into a cynic," Domino accused merrily.
"Guilty as charged. I'll see you tonight." He laid back down with a yawn, and pulled her pillow over to his side of the bed, almost hugging it.
Domino covered her mouth with a hand, trying to stifle another giggle. "Have a good day, babe," she said softly.
#You too, light of my life.#
His voice in her mind was teasing. What she felt across the link wasn't.
Smiling to herself, Domino walked out of the bedroom and closed the door carefully behind her.
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