Better Than Jewelry
The characters herein belong to Marvel, and are used for entertainment purposes only. No money is being made.
This is my belated (very belated) birthday present to Alicia McK. Sorry it took so long, hon! A very happy birthday to you!
Continuity-wise, it's after the whole de-aging of Domino and Nathan, probably six months off and in some magical universe where they're back together in a nice sense. Some of the facts may not be true, but I don't really care and I hope you don't mind.
"I'm sick of waiting." She said, distinguishably mellow despite her words. Nathan rested his chin on his knuckles and watched walk to the bar. She glowered at the bartender as she spoke; he started working faster.
A tick in his mind warned him of the presence reaching out towards Dom, and he watched a man stroll across the room to stand right next to her at the bar. A knuckle popped as he leaned harder on his hand.
The man -- boy, really -- said something, and Dom turned her head; the link dampened. Even so, he could feel the boy's interest as it rippled through the air, and Dom smiled at him. Nathan sat up and rubbed a hand along his jaw.
She smiled again, like you would at a puppy. Nathan lowered his eyes and laughed under his breath.
"Gonna trade me in?" He asked as she slid back into her seat, setting his beer before him and taking a drink of her own.
"You know. For a younger model. Gonna trade me in?" Domino's eyes glittered as she grinned back at him. She slid her hand through her hair, wiping away the rainwater on her napkin.
"Maybe. Although," her voice rolled into a shudder, "if I'm going for the same model, just younger, that leaves me Nate Grey."
"You could always trade up. Get a different model."
"Mmm. Have someone in mind for me?" She slathered her chip with salsa and popped in her mouth, chewing as she eyed him.
"That one over there seemed to like you."
Together, they cast their glance back at the man she'd left at the bar. He didn't look much older than a college student. "Yeah, well, he was too busy checking out my tits to look at my face and realize how old I am."
After a slow swig of her beer, Domino turned her eyes back to Nathan and said, "was." Another drink. "How old I was."
Nathan's hand began reaching for her across the table, but she shook herself straighter, and clasped all of her fingers around the bottle. He pulled himself back and leaned against the seat.
"It's bugging you pretty bad, isn't it?"
She shrugged, tipping her head before looking at him. "Probably more than it should be. I'm not appreciating the benefits like I should. I should relish the fact that I no longer have that early morning shoulder stiffness. But I still feel...unsettled somehow." She took a breath. "Could be worse. So much worse. I timed my last workout -- I managed to shave off 20 minutes and added a good two miles to my run. Not bad. What about you?"
"Like you said, could be worse. It's strange, though. How it happened to both of us, separately, without connection." He finished off his beer and waved down the waitress. "Nice to have someone who understands, though."
After the waitress took their order, Dom turned to him. "I have to disagree, Nate. About understanding."
"What do you mean?"
"I've discovered something. I don't believe in understanding."
"As in you can't understand what someone went through unless you went through the exact same thing yourself?"
She shook her head; her hair glistened under the dim lights. "I'm starting to believe that understanding doesn't exist. Nobody can understand the things that happen to you; not the people around you, and certainly not yourself. The more I think about it, the more I realize I have yet to truly understand anything that's happened to me. I don't think anyone can understand. All you can do is...sympathize, I guess, with someone else's position, because you've been through something like it."
The waitress approached with their tequila and disintegrated back into her job, and before Nathan replied to Domino, he poured them both a shot. "That's an interesting theory. I think I can believe that." He tossed his drink down his throat and poured another, but not before Dom had already finished her own.
"Yeah, I though you might be able to."
"You know what I believe, huh?"
Her teeth showed as she smiled. "I'd like to think so." She held up her rim-full shotglass and fired her eyes with a challenge.
"Tell me, then. Tell me what I believe." They downed their shots in unison, ringing the wood hard as they slammed the glasses down. Then Domino did one on her own before answering.
"It's like Bull Durham, in reverse." She paused, then shrugged. "Never mind. Okay." She leaned forward and put her elbows on the table.
"You believe that there is good and evil in this world. You believe that, unlike Logan, you're not the best at what you do, but, unlike Logan, you're the only one who can do it.
"You believe that will power is your best asset, but sometimes you believe it's all you have. In coffee first thing in the morning. That sleep can always be done later, that there are a million places to have sex in that are better than a bed."
"You believe that a man's best calling in life is to be a good father to his kids, to his son. At the same time, you believe that no father can ever be good enough. That there is nothing worse than failure. That it'll never, ever be over, no matter what you do. That you can't die until it's done.
"That Frank Sinatra is the best thing to come out of the 20th century. That Braveheart was ridiculously unrealistic, but you didn't cry at the end, no matter what anybody says. That brunettes are better than blondes. That Egypt is too hot, Minsk is too cold, and that watching the Northern Lights makes you wish you weren't who you are.
"You believe in true love. In God, or the Bright Lady or whoever. That making love in the dark is only acceptable if you're outside and it's nighttime. In tequila, single-malt whisky and rum. In boxers, not briefs. That nose piercings are ugly, that blue is the best color, and in buying me ice cream when I'm pissed at you."
She leaned back, and Nathan rolled his shoulders back so they leaned heavy on the booth seat. They watched each other for a few minutes, and Dom squirmed first, just a little, and with a grin. Then, the waitress returned and broke the spell; Domino ate a few bites of her enchilada and Nathan put away half of his pollo tocatlan before they spoke again.
"Am I right?" She said, her mouth half-cocked in a grin.
"Occasionally. But today, maybe more so than usual." She speared a piece of chicken from his plate and ate it unrepentantly.
"Of course I'm right." They went on to finish their food, and as they were waiting for their sopapillas,
"My turn, now." He said, levering his arms out along the top of the booth so he was spread wide. Domino crossed her arms and waited, smug.
"You believe in the right gun for the right moment. That wearing leather is appropriate for almost all settings; that too much stuff just slows you down.
"That big dogs are better than little dogs, and all dogs are better than cats, which is ironic, because, with a few notable exceptions, you put keeping your options open above loyalty. You believe in God, but mostly because you need someone to swear at. You believe that involuntary brain surgery is a bad idea. That all involuntary surgery is a bad idea.
"You believe that there's probably a reason you don't have kids of your own, and that it's probably a good reason. You believe that it's more complicated than just good and evil. In trusting your instincts.
"You believe that someday, your luck will finally run out for good. You believe in the risk instead of the consequence, except when you believe the consequence is something besides your own death. You believe in luck, but you don't worship it.
"In wearing socks to bed, in sleeping with one arm outside the blanket, just in case. In keeping a gun under your pillow and on your nightstand. That sex is best when you're still half-dressed, because it doesn't need to wait for nakedness unless you're already naked. In never waiting for the count of three.
"That when you find something that makes you happy, you hold on tight, but only for a little while, and then you let go before you lose it. You believe in moments, not true love.
"You believe in chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven, that holiday cards are for shmucks, that low-cut is good, in tequila, vodka, and brandy only if you're feeling nostalgic, and in popping your knuckles when you're pissed at me."
Domino nodded her head. "That about covers it," she said, puncturing the recently arrived sopapilla so she could inject the inside with honey.
"Like I said, though," he added, a sly look slipping into his eyes. "You believe in the right gun for the right moment." He set a small, velvet box in front of her.
"What the hell is this?"
"A birthday present."
"What?" Her voice carried enough to make heads turn, but Nathan shoved their minds aside, and Domino lowered her voice and her head, to give a proper glare. "It's not my birthday."
"You don't know that," he said smoothly, taking a piece of sopapilla. "And I have never, in all the years I've known you, given you a birthday present."
"I've been having problems with this whole idea of...being younger. I've got my own age issues, just from, well, you know. But I figured it was bugging you, too, so I wanted to make a point of remembering just how old and decrepit we are."
"Speak for yourself, buddy."
"Dom, I don't know how old you are, and I don't know when your birthday is. And," he paused, awkwardly, as if he had to gather his will to keep going, "I don't think you do, either. So I wanted to do something for you." His mouth pulled into a grimace, just waiting for the blow. He even closed his eyes.
"So let me get this straight. You want to give an aging woman a birthday and force her to celebrate it? Do you know _anything_ about women?"
Warily, he opened one eye, and saw her picking up the box. And sighed, tremendously but quietly, with relief. It hadn't really occurred to him that this might be a bad idea, but it damn well should have.
"Nate, what in the hell is this?" She pulled from its little cushion a silver, full metal jacket bullet. "You know I haven't fired a 9 millimeter since I lost my Glock."
Almost magically, a walnut case appeared on the table. Dom looked too puzzled to speak.
"Just open it."
"Christ!" Her voice trilled, and this time the entire restaurant stopped to look at her. Nathan was forced to shove their minds again, just a little bit harder.
"Nate, where the fuck did you get this? This isn't a replacement! This is the real fucking thing!" She pulled out the black gun and rubbed it against her cheek. "Oh, baby, I thought I'd never see you again!" After a few minutes of cooing, and while Nate finished her dessert for her, Domino turned her attention back to the man across from her.
"How did you do this? The last time I checked, this baby was somewhere at the bottom of the Irrawaddy. That was seven years ago, Nate. Seven years! How on earth did you find it?"
"God, yes. You can't believe how much. I really thought, I mean, how could I ever get it back? I dropped it in a river!"
"Dropped is one way to put it..."
"Oh, fuck off, Nate," she said with a complete adoring smile on her face. He grinned, even though he knew the adoration wasn't for him.
"It still fires, you know."
"Of course it does. You drop a Glock in a bucket of horseshit and all you have to do is clean it. God!"
"Happy birthday, Dom."
"It stopped raining," he said as they walked through the parking lot. Domino was still dancing on air, the gun carefully tucked in her waistband and her hand clasped in his.
"Mmm." She agreed, and when she let her cheek rest on his bicep as they walked, he stopped, startled.
"So, uh, did you like your birthday?"
"Yes, very much."
"Enough to do it again next year?"
"Oh, I'm not saying that," she put in, but almost mildly. "But you're definitely gonna get lucky tonight."
For a split-second, he froze; then he disentangled himself and made a pretend jump shot. "He shoots! He scores!"
When he turned back around, Domino was bent-double laughing. She half staggered over to him and put both arms around his neck, up on her tiptoes so the mouths were almost touching.
"There was one thing you missed, though."
"That I believe in long, wet kisses that last for three days."
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