The Shi'ar Coffee Story

by Alicia McKenzie



DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to Marvel, used for entertainment only. No money, don't sue.

The coast was clear.

That was to say, the kitchen was blessedly empty of his housemates, most of whom would undoubtedly be considering doing him grievous bodily harm if they were privy to his intentions. Which made it very fortunate that none of them were around to see what he was doing, didn't it? Grinning alarmingly, Hank McCoy checked the hallway behind him once more, and then walked into the kitchen, scanning the counter.

There. Right beside the refrigerator. Hank hesitated, his eyes gleaming with unholy excitement as they fixed on the elegant lines and pristine whiteness of his prize. "Marvelous," he whispered almost reverently. "Yes--yes. This will do just nicely."

He rubbed his hands together in relish, and then hesitated at the frightening giggle that escaped him. Very 'mad scientist', that laugh, Hank thought, raising an eyebrow. Well, it was perfectly true that he hadn't had nearly enough sleep for the last three days. His thought processes were perhaps slightly--impaired by fatigue. After all, the Beast reasoned to himself, why else would he be so enthralled by a simple household appliance? It was an ideal tool to further his current experiment, an examination of a certain Shi'ar plant that had been among the samples a thoughtful off-world colleague had sent to him along with the last delivery of equipment from Lilandra, but realistically, he shouldn't be getting QUITE so effervescently happy about it--

Still--it WAS perfect. Otherwise, he would have had to contrapt some sort of device to perform the same function, and why bother, when one had a perfectly acceptable alternative sitting right there on the counter before one's eyes? One would be a fool not to use all that was at one's disposal, wouldn't one?

Nevertheless, Hank hesitated, considering his course of action as clearly as he could. He truly was taking his life in his hands, he recognized soberly. This little machine was very--SPECIAL to his teammates. It played a vital role in the intricate morning routine in the mansion. Its absence could conceivably create a great deal of disruption, perhaps even open warfare across the breakfast table. And it would be ALL his fault--

No matter, Hank told himself firmly. He'd simply have it back in place BEFORE the earliest of the early risers could find it missing.

Whistling cheerfully, Hank McCoy unplugged the coffeemaker, tucked it under his arm, and bounded out of the kitchen.


Someone had stolen the coffeemaker.

Someone was going to die.

Bleary eyes narrowing, the man known as Cable turned away from the empty spot on the counter where that most precious of appliances normally rested, and glanced at the clock. Ten minutes to five. Five in the morning. Even Scott didn't get up this early.

Not that Scott would have stolen the coffeemaker. Scott knew better than that. Scott knew that, father or not, grand theft coffeemaker was punishable by death.

A slow death.

A slow, painful death.

A slow, excruciatingly painful--Nathan shook his head. The fog didn't go away. Growling under his breath, he decided to double back to his bedroom before he went hunting. There was a nice big gun underneath his pillow that he suddenly felt lonely for.

A gun would be a good thing to have. After all, whoever would steal a coffeemaker was more dangerous than Stryfe, Sinister and Apocalypse all put together. Someone like that should be shot on sight.

Shot on sight like a rabid canine.

Shot on sight like a rabid, ugly canine.

Shot on sight like a rabid, ugly canine that was giving your purebred toy poodle a lustful look and doing obscene things to your leg--

"I need my coffee," Cable muttered plainitively, and went to get his very biggest gun. Why did people always do these things to him? As if infecting him with a T-O virus and slaughtering his nearest and dearest wasn't bad enough, now someone was depriving him of the only substance in the multiverse that made getting up in the morning bearable.

Some people were just plain--mean.

On his way back down the stairs, he ran into Gambit, who was apparently just now getting in from a night of--whatever Gambit did when he went to town and didn't come back until dawn.

Gambit, who had actually spent a very pleasant evening with a very pleasant companion in a pleasantly disrepeutable establishment that most of the pleasant inhabitants of Salem Center would be distressed to know existed in their pleasant little town, gave the towering, shirtless time-traveler carrying the very big gun a wary look.

"Morning, homme," he said. Warily.

Cable's eyes actually crossed as he glared at Gambit. "Do you have the coffeemaker?" he demanded in his best gruff 'lie-to-me-and-I'll-kill-you' voice.

"Non," Gambit said, very carefully. "Is it missing, mon ami?" It was crossing Gambit's mind that humoring the very angry-looking half-asleep man with the very big gun would be a very good idea.

"Someone took it. The coffeemaker."

"Oui, I got that part--"

Cable's eyes narrowed. "You have lipstick on your collar," he noted, squinting. He started to turn away and then hesitated. "Gambit?"

"Oui, Cable?" Gambit asked weakly from where he was trying to sneak up the stairs.

"If you see who has the coffeemaker, tell them they're dead." Cable's left eye blazed maniacally. "Dead, do you hear me? The walking dead. Pushing up the daisies. Dead as a doornail. Cashing in ALL his chips. Feeding the worms. Taking the big dirt nap. Living impaired." Cable gave Gambit a baleful look, the sort of look that could have melted the flesh off an unwary victim's bones. "There are just some things you DON'T do."

"Oui, Cable," Gambit squeaked, and beat a hasty retreat.

Nodding to himself, Cable continued down the hall. He checked in the kitchen again, just to make sure the coffeemaker hadn't magically appeared again. After all, it could have been a demonic prank. That was the sort of nasty thing Belasco or S'ym might have pulled--but the spot on the countertop was still empty.

So he started a room-to-room search. It wasn't in any of the rooms on this level, he discovered quickly. Maybe someone had it in their bedroom, he thought, his eyes narrowing again. Someone might have decided to keep all that wonderful coffee to themselves--his eye started to glow again in anger at the thought as he was in the midst of searching Betsy's room, and she sat up with a yelp.

"Nathan!" she gasped, clutching the sheet to herself. "What are you doing?"

"Looking for the coffeemaker," he muttered, rooting through her lingerie drawer. "Do you have it?" It would be just like a ninja, he thought suspiciously, to do something that underhanded.

#I beg your pardon?# her voice said indignantly in his mind. #Nathan, are you sleepwalking?#

"I want my coffee," he growled, shutting the drawer with perhaps a little more force that was neccessary. The sound was just loud enough to wake up the winged man sleeping beside Betsy.

"What the hell--Cable!" Warren Worthington exclaimed, his blue skin acquiring a distinctly purple hue in the facial area. "What are you doing in here? Get out!"

Turning to leave, Cable hesitated and looked back at Warren suspiciously. "You never liked me, did you? Was it YOU?" he demanded.

"Neither of us have the coffeemaker, Nathan!" Betsy said loudly, before Warren could say anything. "Why don't you check in the War Room or something? The Professor, Scott and Storm were up late last night--"

Cable's expression brightened. "You mean I might get to kill Scott after all?" He turned and left the room quickly, careful to shut the door behind him, incidentally cutting off a very unladylike profanity or two from Betsy.

But the coffeemaker wasn't in the War Room, either. Cable considered the situation. He could start shooting people at random until someone confessed--that might work. Or he could set the power core to overload and threaten to blow up the mansion if the coffeemaker wasn't returned--

Walking past the door of McCoy's lab, Cable froze at the faint, yet very distinctive sound that reached his sensitive hearing. A familiar, cheery bubbling sound that was unmistakably the noise of the coffeemaker, at busy percolating. His eyes widened, then narrowed again, and he flipped the safety off his gun.

Had to be careful, he thought, standing beside the door. McCoy was crafty. He might have set up booby-traps--this could be a trick.

As silent as the dead, he slipped into the lab. Hank McCoy was sound asleep, head down on the table in front of him, snoring loudly. And there, at his elbow--

Cable nearly tripped over his own two feet getting to the coffeemaker. He turned it off and pulled the pot out, sniffing at it suspiciously. A little odd--almost a minty edge to the smell, but maybe it was just one of those bizarre gourmet coffees. But it was the right color, smelled almost right, and it was MADE, most importantly.

Whatever it was, it would do.

Cable noticed McCoy's own empty coffee cup sitting on the table and grabbed it, glowering at the sleeping scientist. "You're going to pay for this," he muttered. "Later." Plenty of time to exact his revenge later.

Right now, he had to commune with the coffee. He slung his gun over his shoulder, picked up the mug in one hand and the pot in the other, and left. After all, he really had to think of something suitably gory to do to McCoy. That took concentration, and this place had always made him uneasy.

It really was very good coffee, he noted with some surprise on his way back to the elevator. Maybe he should let Hank die quickly--?



#--pretty colors. Never thought the sky would look so nice, green.#

Domino cracked open one eye, suspiciously. What the hell had that been? Cursing under her breath, she sat up, making a futile attempt to smoothe her tangled dark hair and yawning so hugely that she half-expected to hear her jaw crack. Sunlight was pouring in through the window. She blinked at the clock. Just after six.

#Jog would be good. Maybe a swim around the lake, too.#

Her eyes widened, the last vestiges of sleep fleeing at that casual thought that flitted up her psi-link with Nathan. Swimming? NATHAN?

#Then a little session in the Danger Room. That'd be good. Get rid of some of this flonqing energy--#

There was something decidedly--off about what she was getting from the link, Domino thought warily. It felt--different. Bubbly. He sounded almost--chatty.

Nathan. Chatty.

Yes, there was definitely something wrong with this picture. Cursing under her breath, she got up and got dressed. "Green skies," she muttered darkly. "Swimming. I wish he'd have these little psychotic episodes on his own time--"

#--don't understand why everyone's still asleep, why would they be sleeping? Such a great morning, why waste it sleeping? Yeah, definitely a waste. They don't know what they're missing--#

Nate doing an impression of a morning person? Curiouser and curiouser. It wasn't that he didn't get up at unholy hours--hell, he wasn't much on sleep, period--but he was generally homicidal until mid-morning, at which point he mellowed to simply foul-tempered.

#It's time to get up, it's time to get up, it's time to get up in the MORRRNING!#

She froze in the midst of pulling a t-shirt over her head. Singing. Nate was singing in her head. Deliberately, she finished dressing, and then pinched herself. Nope. Wide awake, hard as that was to believe--

Domino went over, opened her bedroom door, and yelped. Nathan was standing there, clearly dressed for a run and grinning at her in a way that could only be described as maniacal.

"Morning, Dom!" he said cheerfully.

She gave him a long, measuring look. "Nate?" she asked slowly, tucking hair behind one ear. "Are you--all right? You look kinda flushed."

Flushed. Wide-eyed. Grinning unnervingly. Shifting from one foot to another like someone who had FAR too much energy for his own good--or like a kid who needed to go to the bathroom.

Oh, yeah. Something was up.

"All right?" he asked, eyes sparkling. Well, one was glowing, the other was sparkling, she corrected herself absently. "Why wouldn't I be all right? It's a beautiful morning, you're awake and dressed and ready to go for a run with me--" He gave her an imploring look. "You will come for a run with me, right?" he pleaded. "It's not any fun racing with yourself. Well, you could race with your shadow, but that's so predictable. You either always win or always lose, depending on which direction you're running in--Dom, why are you looking at me like that?"

She smoothed her expression hurriedly. "Sure, Nate," she said with a bright smile. "I'll come for a run with you." A Skrull. He could be a Skrull. Or maybe it was Vanessa playing a REALLY bad joke--oh, and how do you explain the psi-link, Dom? the Voice Of Reason asked her dryly.

Okay. So maybe it was Nate, and he was just in a really, REALLY weird mood. Or possessed. Yeah--that could explain it. Some sort of really cheerful demon--or Stryfe. Oh, blast it.

"A run sounds good," she said, enthusiastically, and winked at him. He grinned like an eager kid. "Just hold on a sec."

She needed to get the gun under her pillow. Just in case.


Hank yawned, stretching and then rubbing the back of his neck with a wince. Good gracious, had he fallen asleep in his lab again? He was making a bad habit of that. Labs were for working. Beds were for sleeping. One of these days Bobby was going to catch him doing this and do something typically Bobby-ish, probably involving incriminating photos of some sort--

He froze as his gaze touched the coffeemaker. The coffeemaker that was short one coffeepot half-full of his latest experiment. "Oh, dear," he breathed, his mind racing. He KNEW he hadn't moved it. The last thing he recalled clearly was thinking about how surprisingly high the percolation coefficient was. After that--he must have fallen asleep.

And someone had been in here. Someone had removed the coffeepot. The POT, not the coffeemaker itself.

The implications were--alarming.

"Oh, dear. Oh, my stars and garters." Hank winced, thinking about some of the tests he had run on the Shi'ar plant. Its chemical composition was as exotic as its origin, and there was no telling what sort of reaction it would provoke in a human who had ingested it. If some early riser had groggily mistaken it for real coffee--

This was not the sort of experimentation that won one accolades and the respect of one's peers, Hank thought wistfully as he headed for the door at a dead run. How was he going to explain this? Well, Charles, I really didn't MEAN to poison any of my teammates--


"--and he was there! Right in my bedroom!" Betsy said, scandalized. "Absolutely incoherent--I don't think he was quite sleepwalking, but he certainly wasn't all there."

Jean pursed her lips, trying not to smile at the disbelieving looks around the breakfast table. She really shouldn't find this so funny, she told herself sternly. She should be shocked, appalled at the invasion of privacy. But just the image of Nathan going through Betsy's lingerie drawer--it took every bit of self-control she had not to start giggling.

"Ah don't get it, sugar," Rogue said blankly. "What was Nate doing in your room?"

"Looking for the coffeemaker," Betsy sighed, stirring her Early Grey tea. "Why he thought I had it--"

"Where is the coffeemaker?" Ororo asked, sipping her camomile tea and looking around thoughtfully.

"Ah know I saw it last night," said Rogue, who had recently sworn off coffee.

"That is odd," Jean agreed, and got up to pour herself another glass of orange juice. "I don't know why anyone would move it--"

The kitchen door was flung open and Domino staggered in, her hair plastered to her face with sweat. She barely made it to a chair, collapsing forward onto the table. It was a long, long moment before she lifted her head.

"He's not human," she said very firmly. "He's a pod person. Invasion of the body-snatchers--"

Nathan came jogging into the kitchen, and kept jogging. Around and around and around the table, until Jean started to get dizzy just looking at him. "You're not giving up on me, are you, Dom?" he said, giving her that rarely-used but devastating puppy-dog look. "We've only done fifteen laps of the grounds--"

"Go--away," Domino groaned, letting her head fall forward onto the table. "Jean, would you scan him or something? Make sure it's really him?"

Jean was already eyeing her son with some concern. "Nathan, are you quite all right?" she asked as he continued to jog around the table. Rogue was following him with her eyes, her eyebrows lingering in the vicinity of her hairline, while Betsy was doing her best to ignore him totally and Ororo was absorbed in contemplating her tea. "You don't look well--"

"Why does everyone keep asking me that? I've never felt better! I feel like I could go ten rounds with Apocalypse and then kick Sinister's pasty ass for an encore--" He stopped in mid-circle, his eyes brightening. "Hey--there's an idea. Jean, can I borrow the Blackbird? I promise I'll bring it back in one piece--"

"No!" Jean said sharply. "No, Nathan, you may not borrow the Blackbird--" She shook her head and glanced sideways at Domino. "How long has he been like this?" she asked, appalled.

Domino groaned. "Since first thing this morning. He was SINGING, Jean--"

Nathan's eye glowed and his grin, displaced by a brief pout when Jean had refused to let him take the Blackbird out for a spin, returned in full force. "Singing!" he said enthusiastically. "Karaoke on the run! Now, that'd be good cardiovascular exercise! I could even do Sinatra!" He grinned happily and started jogging around the table again. "Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew! But through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out! I faced it all and I stood tall! And did it MYYYY WAY!!!!"

"Oh, dear lord," Betsy said with a groan, and looked up at Jean. "He's lost it, Jean. Mad as a hatter--"

"He seems to me to simply be in a good mood," Ororo said with a fond smile. "There is nothing wrong with that."

Domino gave her an incredulous look. "Nothing wrong with him? Ororo, he's SINGING! And he can't stand still for more than five seconds at a time!"

"Luck be a lady tonight! Luck let a gentleman see, just how nice a dame you can be! I know the way you've treated other guys you've been with--luck, be a lady with me!"

"Nate! Knock it off!" Domino sputtered.

"What the hell's going on?" Logan demanded gruffly, stepping into the kitchen.

Nathan switched songs without missing a beat. "He's bad, bad Leroy Brown--meanest man in the whole damned town! Badder than old King Kong--meaner than a junkyard dog!" He stopped beside Logan, grinning. "Uglier, too," he said happily.

Logan's eyes narrowed. "I haven't had my coffee yet, tin-man. Don't push your luck."

"Coffee!" Hank wheezed, coming tearing through the door and nearly knocking Logan over. "Don't drink the coffee, it's not coffee--"

"What coffee?" Betsy said sharply. "The coffeemaker's gone--"

"I was using it to test the percolation coefficient of a sample of a Shi'ar plant," Hank said swiftly. "It was a perfectly simple experiment, but unfortunately I seem to have dozed off and someone apparently liberated the coffeepot thinking it was coffee, and I'm really terribly afraid that the chemical composition of that particular brew would have most adverse affects on a human who ingested it, so you see I must really track down that coffeepot--" Hank paused for breath, finally, and only then seemed to notice the fact that everyone save himself was staring rather fixedly at Nathan. His jaw dropped for a moment as he turned to the other man. "Nathan?" he said, tentatively. "Umm--please tell me you didn't--"

Betsy smiled dryly. "Of course he did. Didn't you, Nathan? You got tired of looking for the coffeemaker in my lingerie drawer and checked Henry's laboratory, instead."

"Betsy, this is no laughing matter!" Hank said in agitation, studying Nathan concernedly.

"Do you see me laughing?" Betsy muttered.

Nathan was blinking rapidly. "I thought it tasted strange," he said thoughtfully, and then gave Hank what was undoubtedly meant to be a reassuring grin. It came out lopsided and rather unnerving. "But you don't need to worry, I feel just fine. Guess you should be more careful about where you leave your experiments, though--" He gave Hank what was probably supposed to be a friendly slap on the back, but ended up knocking him right off his feet.

"Nathan!" Jean said, appalled, leaping to Hank's aid.

"Whoops," Nathan said, blinking. "Are you okay, Hank? Didn't mean to do that."

A wheeze from the vicinity of the floor was his only answer.


"I have to do some blood tests, Jean," Hank protested. "Can't you get him to come down to the medlab? Or at least sit still?"

Jean gave him a harried look. "Damn it, Hank, I--no!" she said sharply, instinctively reaching out with her telekinesis and rescuing the dining room chairs. "No, Nathan!" she said firmly. "Those are NOT for juggling!"

"But I'm practicing. You're always telling me to practice, and now you're telling me not to? You're inconsistent, Jean. That's a really bad habit to get into--"

There was the sound of someone running in the hall outside. Jean looked up to see her husband come to an abrupt stop in the doorway. His jaw dropped as he took in the sight of his son, who was currently deeply absorbed in walking on the ceiling.

"Oh, lord," Scott muttered. "I should have stayed in bed."

"What?" Nathan asked innocently. "Not much difference between this and what I do when I meditate, and this is a lot more fun. Ever realized how different a room looks when you're upside down? I don't, usually, because I have my eyes closed when I meditate--I never even knew what I was missing!"

"If he says anything along the lines of 'this is SO cool'," Domino said with a deep sigh, "I'm going to start to cry. Dealing with the REAL teenagers around here is bad enough--"

"Nathan," Hank said entreatingly. "Would you please come down? Just for a minute. I just need to take a blood sample. Then you can keep--walking on the ceiling, if you like--"

"I'm bored of walking on the ceiling," Nathan sighed, and righted himself, floating back to the floor. "Seen one room upside down, you've seen them all. Where'd Logan go?"

"Why?" Scott said carefully.

"Because I'm bored, and I want to hit something. And he's fun to hit--he keeps getting back up and coming back for more."

"Oh, perfectly logical," Domino said faintly.

Nathan beamed at her. "I knew you'd see it my way." His grin grew. "You know, Dom, you're really cute when you're trying to humor me--" He started to float towards her, still a few inches off the ground, and she took a wary step back, violet eyes wide.

"Whoa, Nate--"

"Whoa? Why whoa? You're not in one of your standoffish moods again, are you?"

"My WHAT--no, Nate. Just get your feet on the ground, would you?"

"Why? I'm always walking on cloud nine when I'm with you, Dom, you know that--" He gave her a look so pitiful that it would have melted the hardest heart on earth. "Why are you being so antisocial? Did I put my foot in my mouth and not realize it or something?" His eyes unfocused, and then narrowed thoughtfully. "I always thought that was a strange expression. I mean, who can really, comfortably put their foot in their mouth? Well, besides Reed Richards, maybe--"

"Nathan," Hank said, adroitly stepping between him and Domino, wearing his sincerest Sincere Face. "Please allow me to take a blood sample. I'd never forgive myself if you came to harm because I was careless--"

"Oh, you weren't careless," Nate said, drifting back to the floor and sticking out his arm. "I just thought you were hogging the coffeemaker. I was going to kill you for it, but I'm in too good a mood. So you get to live," he concluded generously as Hank hurriedly took the blood sample. "Can I go now?" he asked the wild-eyed Beast patiently.

"Nathan," Scott said awkwardly. "Are you sure that you wouldn't rather--lie down for a while? I mean--"

"Maybe later," Nathan said cheerfully. "I mean, I wouldn't want X-Force to think they'd gotten out of a practice session just because I've accidentally poisoned myself."


Much later, Domino stood outside the bathroom door, listening. "Nate?" she called softly. "Nate, you okay?" The distinct sound of someone being sick reached her sensitive hearing, and she winced. "All right, so maybe okay's stretching it here, but say something, all right? Nate? I can hear you, I know you're alive in there--"

A long, long pause. "Go away," he finally groaned. "Let me die in peace."

Domino smiled faintly. "You're not dying, remember? Hank's coffee's just working its way out of your system. Just like he SAID it would. Only you were too busy bouncing Logan off the walls to listen to him, weren't you?"

"I said go away." More retching, and Domino grimaced, leaning against the wall beside the resolutely closed door.

"Right," she said with a faint chuckle. "By the way--you'll be happy to know that Tabitha's ankle isn't broken. Sam's nose is, though, and your father wants to talk to you about--let me see if I can get this right--what the hell you thought you were doing putting Magneto, Apocalypse, Bastion and the Phalanx into one program and then running X-Force through it."

"It was good for them. No pain, no--urggh--"

"Gain," she completed for him. "Speaking of which, I've been told by a reliable source that Bobby made a videotape."

The door was suddenly thrown open. "Tape?" Nate demanded plainitively, standing there swaying on his feet, his face an unpleasant shade of green. "Of what?"

Domino blinked at him innocently. "You really don't remember?" She pursed her lips, trying very hard not to laugh. "How did it go--hmm. Something along the lines of 'I'm too sexy for this shirt--off with this shirt!' Then you went on to 'I'm too sexy for these pants--', at which point Sam and Berto tackled you for the greater good--"

"Oath," he moaned, slumping against the doorframe and rubbing his eyes.

"But Drake apparently stood there and taped it all. I gather the bidding starts at--"

"He's selling it?" Nathan bellowed. "I'll kill him!" Flushing, he took a step forward, and nearly fell on his face.

"Whoops," Domino said, steadying him. "Easy there, big guy. You aren't going anywhere but to bed. Besides, you go down there now, there're a number of X-Men ready to kill you--"

Nathan looked like he was going to cry. "Why?" he said in a lost, little-boy voice. "What else did I do?"

Domino patted his arm gently as she led him towards the bedroom. "Well, you really shouldn't have practiced your booby traps in the mansion, you know. Gambit's really pissed. Apparently he hung from the chandelier for a good half-hour before Rogue stopped laughing long enough to get him down."

"Flonq--" he moaned. "Booby-traps?"

"Yeah, that was when we noticed that you were getting a little on the flaky side. I mean, scary-flaky, rather than just cute-flaky. Terry says you told her that all the crazy cross-time versions of you were coming to kill us--"

"I don't remember any of this!"

Domino grinned sympathetically at him. "Jean finally had to knock you out," she said. "Call it a group decision--we figured it was much better if you did the sleeping beauty act until the worst of the effects had passed. You were starting to get violent with the furniture and kept mistaking Betsy for me."


"Don't worry. She was actually kind of flattered. You were serenading her with Askani love poetry, according to Jean. 'Course, it was all gibberish to me--"

"Oath--" he whimpered.

"Worthington wants to kill you, though."

Nathan groaned pitifully as they reached his bedroom. He stared at his rumpled bed almost desperately. "I'm going to go to sleep," he said. "I'm going to go to sleep again, and wake up and find out it's ALL a bad dream--"

She snickered as he collapsed, face-down, onto the bed. "Good luck," she chuckled, sitting down beside him. "They'll be talking about this one for YEARS to come. You might be interested to know that the common consensus is that you have the world's worst singing voice. Too bad you also seem to have the world's biggest repetoire. I've never heard of HALF the songs you treated us to--"

"Go away," he whimpered, putting a pillow over his head. "I want to smother myself."

She really had to stop laughing at him. It wasn't his fault, after all. "Well, you can take heart in the fact that you didn't terrify or annoy EVERYONE," she said brightly. "I've never seen Logan laugh so hard--"


"Oh--" a nervous voice came from the door. Hank McCoy stood there, medkit in hand, shifting from foot to foot in obvious anxiety. "Am I interrupting something?"

Nathan tossed the pillow aside and lifted his head, glaring at Hank. "You," he almost hissed.

"I--just need to take a little more blood."

"Only if I get to take some of yours, too."

Hank gave a nervous laugh, sidling towards the bed. "Your pound of flesh, perhaps?"

"There's a plan." Nathan glared at him for a moment longer, and then sat up, sticking out his arm. "Do it and then go away," he said petulantly.

"Nate, be nice," Domino murmured.

"Flonq nice. This is all his fault."

"Yes, yes it is," Hank said with a deep sigh as he drew another blood sample. "I am so terribly sorry, Nathan--"

"Sorry has no meaning," Nathan muttered evilly. "No meaning AT ALL."

Hank bit his lip. "Ah, yes," he said with a faint smile. "Your Askani philosophy. Charming, really. Such an interesting case study in stoicism and utilitarianism--"

Nathan slumped back against the bed, and put the pillow over his face again. Hank gave Domino a questioning look, and she smiled briefly.

"He's trying to smother himself," she explained.

"I am not," Nathan's muffled voice said. "I'm counting to ten. Ten, nine, eight--I still sense you there, McCoy--seven, six--"

"I'll check back on you later!" Hank yelped as he dashed for the door.

"Not if you know what's good for you, you won't--Wait!" Nathan suddenly barked, sitting up. There was something very malevolent about his expression as he stared at the frozen Hank.

Then, alarmingly, he smiled. "Henry," he said in a far too reasonable voice. "Exercise would help to metabolize the last traces of your 'coffee', yes?"

"Umm--yes, it would," Hank squeaked, still not turning around. "That would be a very good idea."

"So," Nathan said, his smile growing slightly into the most demonic grin she'd ever seen on his face in all the years she'd know him. "A session in the Danger Room might be worthwhile. Tomorrow morning, I mean."

Hank sighed deeply and turned, smiling ruefully. "Would you like a partner?" he said with a sort of amused resignation.

"How kind of you to offer," Nathan said maliciously.

"I'll see you in the morning then, Nathan," Hank said, that rueful smile lingering. "For now, I think I'll go and put my last will and testament in order--"

"That's what I like about you, McCoy. Always thinking ahead--" Nathan paled and then laid back, swallowing. "Maybe tomorrow afternoon," he said weakly. "I don't feel so good--"

Domino made a sympathetic noise, patting his shoulder. "Go to sleep," she said soothingly. "You'll feel much better when you wake up. And I promise, I'll have a nice, fresh pot of coffee waiting for you--"

His eyes widened, and he swallowed again. "I really, really hate you."

"I know," she said fondly, and slid out of the way as he shot to his feet and bolted for the bathroom.


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