Coming Home: Chapter One
by Kerrin Watter
Let your love cover me
Like a pair of angel's wings
You are my family
You are my family.
"Well, thats it. Were officially on holidays."
The announcement was met with a cheer from those sitting in the back of the Pacrat, and a weary smile from those at the control panel.
"Its about time too," Meltdown added loudly, trying vainly
to get a reaction from the team leaders. "Yknow, Im sure this isnt
legal. Working for so long without a break - we need a union."
"Just being paid would be enough for me," Jimmy added, mentally calculating how much his vacation was actually going to cost.
"And thats another thing! ."
Nathan Summers just stretched as his comrade in arms guided the Pacrat to a perfect landing.
"So wherere you off to, Terry?" Warpath asked as he began
to unload the ammunition from the vehicle, passing the weapons to the others
who were slowly walking off the plane.
"Massechussetts. Ill visit me Da. Sure you dont want to come?"
"With Frost still there? Thanks but no thanks, Terry. Im heading out west for a few weeks, anyway. Sure you dont want to come?" He raised his eyebrows suggestively, managing to turn the invitation into a proposition. Terry laughed, rolling her eyes as she took a case of shells from him.
"I dinnae think so, Jimmy. Maybe later though." With an impish smile, she walked away, adding an extra swing to her hips which managed to get James attention fully.
"Hey, drool-boy! Stop gawking and load up." The wad of gum cracked near his face, and he blinked, focussing suddenly on Tabitha, who stood impatiently in front of him.
"What would you like, Tab? Med supplies or ammo?"
"Whatever wont break a nail, Jimmy."
"So whatre you doing for the break?"
The idle chatter faded out as Domino and Nathan left the unpacking to
the rest of the team. Their two weeks vacation was looking more real as
the minutes ticked by, and no sudden crisis sprang up. Nathan and Domino
parted at the door, not bothering to ask where they were going. Domino
knew that Nathan was going to spend his two weeks with Ororo. And Nathan
assumed Domino would do as she had done for years - weapons training, a
few excursions to keep her skills up.
Three am the next morning, and Domino quietly drove her car out of the drive. Three years. Two weeks. No matter how hard she tried to rationalise it, she couldnt make the two numbers fit.
A day later, and the dark sports car pulled up at a mid-western garage. The woman who filled up the tank was dressed in jeans and a shirt, and would have blended in with the rest of the crowd if it werent for her alabaster white skin and raven dark hair. She paid for the petrol, quietly wishing the man a good day before driving off.
The neighbourhood was quiet, with families barbecuing and children playing on the freshly cut lawns. Domino shook her head as her car slowly cruised through it. Shed always thought this didnt exist - that people couldnt be this contented with everything else that was going on in the world. But as she looked at the faces as she drove by, she wasnt sure whether it was ignorance, or a sheer determination to keep everything right in their little world. Either way, she envied them.
She slowed the car as she matched up the house number with the address scrawled on the paper she was grasping, and slowly pulled off the street. Domino sighed, running her hands through her hair, before getting out of the car and slinging her duffle bag over her shoulder. She had to admit it - she was nervous. Shit Dom, youve lived through wars, coups and more prisons than you can remember. But the idea of walking into that house scares the hell out of you. Coward. Domino snorted at the thought, her eyes rolling in disgust. Cmon, sweetheart. Lets get this over with. Slowly, she made her way through the gate and to the front door, collecting the mail on her way in. There she paused, one hand tracing the worn wood of the door as her eyes filled with memories of an easier time. She pushed on the door, knowing that it wouldnt be locked, and slowly walked inside.
"Jean, have you seen Domino?" Cable looked at the red headed
woman expectantly, his eyebrows furrowed. "Ive been looking for her
all day, but I cant find her anywhere."
"Sorry, Nate. Havent seen her."
Logan was rummaging for food in the fridge, and his hand froze. He knew, partly, where Dom was. Because hed asked her. He also knew that Nate just assumed shed be there when he needed. His eyes narrowed, and he stopped the growl that rose in his throat. Instead, he straightened and turned to face Nathan.
"I hear youre lookin for Dom," Wolverine asked Nathan across
"Yeah. Know where she is?"
"Whatcha want her for?"
"My plans fell through for tonight so. . . whats it to you?"
Wolverines eyes narrowed as he regarded the man before him. That was the trouble with the Summers men - they didnt know how to treat the women in their lives. Sure, Ororo was a friend of his and he was happy for her and Nathan, but not at the expense of Domino. Logan also wasnt impressed with the way it had been handled, or hadnt been handled as the case was.
"Shes gone," he said suddenly, turning on his heel.
"On holidays. I was talking to her about it the other night."
"But she didnt tell me anything."
"As I recall, you werent around at the time. She said shed be back in a week or two. See ya round."
Logan walked off, smirking to himself as he left Nathan standing bewildered in the kitchen.
"Susan?" The woman walked slowly into the house, following the sounds of the voices.
"Hello? Whos there?" A dark haired woman emerged, an apron wrapped around her slim waist, her hair piled up loosely on her head. Her skin was lightly tanned, and currently covered with splotches of flour.
The two woman faced each other, Domino blinking at the name she hadnt heard for years, as Susan quickly crossed the distance between them, arms outstretched.
"Hey Suze. Howve you been?" Dominos voice was tinged with
tears as she embraced the other woman awkwardly.
"Not bad, sis. Its been a while, hasnt it."
"Yeah. Too long." Much too long, her mind told her quietly.
"Momma?" The voice came from the kitchen where a little boy
stood, his hands covered in flour, and his brown eyes staring from under
a shock of dark hair.
"Hi. Do you remember your Aunty Sarah?" The boy shook his head, and hid behind his mothers skirt. Domino smiled and crouched down to the ground, her head on an angle.
"Youre James? I didnt think youd be so big." She flashed him a grin, and faced Susan.
"Oh, yeah, James grows quickly all right," she told Dom, as he slowly crept forwards and tugged on her sleeve.
"No one calls me James. Unless Im in trouble."
"So what should I call you?"
"Nice to meet you Jo. Im your Aunty Sarah. I remember you when you were just a little baby." The image of a screaming wrinkled infant came into her mind, its tiny pink face taken up with a large pair of liquid brown eyes. And she remembered that feeling when his eyes had fixed on her, his tiny hand gripping her finger as she held him, her heart divided equally into part wonder, part terror. She shook the memory away, focussing again on the child in front of her as he spoke to her.
"Im a big boy now."
"I can see that. Have you been helping your mum cook?"
"Uh-huh. Were making bread. Come see."
Domino smiled as the little hands pulled her through the hall and into the kitchen. This was going to be the best vacation shed had in years.
Susan heard the music and groaned. Leo the Lion was blasting from the lounge, at the ungodly hour of five am. I hope he hasnt woken Sarah. Just what I need.
She slipped her robe on, and followed the music, which was now accompanied by roaring, into the lounge.
"Leo the lion is the king of the jungle and his jaws are big and wide . <Roar>"
Susan paused in the door, hearing the voices sing along to the tape.
Voices? She looked over the couch to see Domino and Jo prowling around
the floor, pretending to be lions. If only I had a camera, she thought
with a grin, as she watched her big sister pretend to be a cat. The song
finished, and Jo ran over to the stereo.
"Lets play again, Sarah."
"Okay." Domino sat up, stretching her cramped muscles, not trying to conceal the smile that was plastered over her face. The sound of low laughter startled her, and she turned suddenly, bringing her arms up into a defensive position. "Oh, its you, Susan." She relaxed her stance as her sister walked in and sat down, her laughter increasing.
"And here I was worried that Jo might wake you, not the other way around. I just wish I had a camera."
"Funny." Domino began to scowl, but stopped when Susan rolled her eyes. "Cant a woman pretend to be a lion every now and again?" she asked archly, brushing off the knees of her pants as stood up.
"Absolutely. Especially here. I didnt realised you liked kids, Sarah." Domino paused, a strange look passing over her face before she answered.
"Neither did I. You know, I envy you, Susan. What youve got here."
"Yeah, well, life isnt always so rosy, Sarah," Susan muttered, her voice fading as Jo ran back after rewinding the tape.
"Cmon, Sarah, lets play." He pulled her back onto the floor
as the music started up again, and Domino shot her sister a look.
"Go back to bed. Ill keep an eye on Jo."
"Thanks." Susan headed off back upstairs, shutting her door to the sounds below.
Later that afternoon, the two women sat on the front porch, each keeping a watchful eye on Jo, who was playing in the yard.
Domino played with her coffee, not sure how to ask the question that
burned in her mind. Susan watched the old familiar signs, and sighed, planting
her cup firmly on the table.
"Spill it, Sarah. Whats the problem?" Domino looked up guiltily, then took a breath, eyes narrowing.
"Okay then - wheres Robert?"
Susan stiffened, her eyes darting to the child playing in the front
yard. She then smiled, the gesture not meeting her eyes.
"Weve . . . separated. Im in the process of filing for divorce."
"Oh Suze. Im sorry. I really thought itd work out for you." Domino awkwardly covered Susans hand with her own, the small gesture the largest display of emotion shed shown her sister in years.
She was sincere though. Of all the people Domino knew, her sisters life seemed the most real. A kid, husband and a mortgage, living in the middle of suburbia. It was exactly the type of life she would never lead, one that didnt happen to her friends. She felt that with Susan, she at least lived the life partly through her, experiencing something she would never be able to have. And to see it torn down reinforced her belief that happiness was never really possible, no matter what your circumstances. For it to happen to someone as good a woman as her sister
" we separated on good terms, though. I get full custody of Jo, and he doesnt have to pay child support." Her sister was still speaking, saying the words with practiced ease, and Domino took a sip of her discarded coffee. She didnt listen to the words, but watched Susans face. There was something she wasnt saying, but Domino shook it off. How easy was it to talk about something like this anyway? She was here on holidays, not to pry.
"Jo! Hurry up - youre going to be late!"
Susans call travelled from the kitchen and up the stairs, where Jo was half under his bed, looking for his other shoe.
"Yes Mum!" he hollered back, his thin voice travelling to where Susan was juggling breakfast, coffee, and making lunches all at the same time.
Domino put her coffee down, and pushed her sister into a chair.
"Finish breakfast. Ill get Jo ready and take him to Kindergarten. Then Ill get the shopping on my way back." Domino stopped, a bemused look on her face. This will be a first, she thought silently, then chuckled. Shed handled worse.
"Are you sure?" Susans eyes were sceptical. "I know
you mean well, Sarah, but
"Look, you need to get to work. Ill walk Jo to Kindy, then get some groceries. How hard can that be?"
Susan opened her mouth to say something, then stopped herself. She smiled, and stood quickly.
"Thanks, Sarah. I appreciate it. Jos due anytime before nine, and the directions are on the fridge. I gotta run."
Domino checked her watch. 7:30 am. She poured herself another coffee, then settled down to read the paper. This would be a piece of cake.
"Now are you sure you cant find it?" Domino was using her
most reasonable voice, but Jos eyes were already red from crying.
"I I Im suh-suh-sorry," he blurted out, openly sobbing now, before throwing himself into her arms.
If there had been a camera present, the expression on Dominos face
would have been priceless. She slowly put her arms around the small body
that clung to her neck, and patted his back awkwardly.
"Jo, sweetheart, its alright. Aunty Sarahs not mad. Well find your other shoe. Itll be okay." She rocked him gently, hearing his sobs slowly quieten, and then turn into a sniffle.
"Youre not mad?" he asked, his lip quivering.
"No, honey, Im not. Now, why dont we play a game." Jo turned his head, looking at her through suspicious eyes. "What sort of game?"
"A remembering game. Were going to talk about everything your shoes might have done yesterday. Okay? Ill start. Lets see they were on your feet when you were playing in the yard. What did they do next?"
Ten minutes later, the missing shoe was unearthed in the box of lego. It had been utilised as a transport vehicle the night before, and put away before dinner. Domino quickly put his shoes on and tied them up, before either could be lost again.
"Okay, Jo. Now I need to finish making your lunch."
Domino quickly slapped a sandwich together, and put some fruit into the lunchbox that was half packed. She slapped the lid on, and turned to see Jo watching her from the kitchen table.
"You didnt cut it."
She raised one eyebrow, then fished a knife out of the draw.
"Not that way, Sarah." She paused, a sigh escaping her lips.
"Okay, Jo. Which way does Mummy cut your bread?"
"That way." His fingers traced a line along the bread, and Dom cut it quickly, once his fingers were removed.
"Okay, Jo. Are we done?"
"One last check - hat, shoes, lunch, backpack. Have we forgotten anything?" He shook his head, and as she turned to go, she glanced at the clock on the wall. "Holy sh " she stopped the words. 8:45. The leisurely walk shed planned to take would have to wait to tomorrow. She grabbed her keys, and ushered Jo out the door. A minute later, she ran back inside, grabbed the shopping list, and then headed out to the Kindergarten.
"Hi. Im Susan Ridges sister, Sarah. Im dropping off Jo today."
Domino wondered how she didnt choke as she said the words, the normality
of the situation almost frightening. She gave the Kindy teacher a small
smile, as Jo ran inside and put his bag into his cubby-shelf
"Hi Sarah. Im Katy, Jos teacher. Nice to meet you."
Domino chatted for a moment, as part of her brain detached itself, and viewed the occurrence with a type of surrealism. This cant be me, she thought, as she left the centre, Jos departing kiss still wet on her cheek. She shook her head, chuckling as she pulled her convertible out of the parking lot and headed to the grocery store
Susans tired smile flowed into the kitchen, accompanied by Jos constant chattering about his day. The two combined into an odd duet, a piercing excessive soprano counter set by periods of alto counterpoint.
"Hi. Have a good day?" Domino folded the newspaper she was
reading, and put more coffee on.
"Same as usual," Susan replied, as she unpacked Jos bag.
"Jo, why dont you tell me all about your day, and Ill help you unpack." Domino held out her hand, and Jo led her from the room, leaving Susan to collapse into a kitchen chair in exhaustion.
The pattern continued for several days, and Domino began to cherish the moments she spent with Jo. Theyd walk to Kindy everyday, and she delighted in his innocence, something shed considered long gone from the world. The way he could find delight in a patch of flowers that Domino only saw as a bunch of weeds; or the way he swung her hand, chatting incessantly, as if she was just his aunt, just like any other woman in the street. She shuddered to think of what her hands had done, the death that theyd inflicted, and how she could reconcile that with the innocent hands of a five year old child who held on tightly, who wouldnt understand even if she had told him.
It made her think that maybe, just maybe, this would be possible. That in another life this could have been her. And Domino would not have traded a minute of it, for anything in the world.
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