Blackfish Bar: Chapter 3
by Kerrin Watter
Three days later, the PACRAT hovered over the buildings, almost perfectly steady under Theresas control. They disembarked in the usual manner, fliers first, then the rest. Defensive positions. S.O.P. Domino checked the items off in her mind as her body functioned automatically. Her gun was already charging, and the rifle strapped across her back felt reassuring between her shoulder blades. This was her first mission since that night at the bar, and she consciously fought to slow her breathing. This would be a standard recon mission, get in, get the information, get out. Exactly what she needed to get into the game again.
She was crouched at the roof-top entrance by this time, trying to shake
off a feeling of unease. This wasnt like her! Shed been in worse situations
before, with no side effects. What had happened didnt even deserve nightmares,
let alone apprehension. But she shivered slightly as they moved in.
Maybe its because Cable didnt tell me who his bloody source was, she thought darkly, moving through into the warehouse.
They went through the movements with the usual amount of resistance, knocking out the sentries, going undetected where possible. Twenty three minutes later, they were extracting, mission accomplished. Straight and by the numbers.
Domino came out first, her eyes squinting in the light, and cautiously made her way to the plane, when a chilling premonition ran up her spine. She dove, instincts alone protecting her from the laser burst that tore up the concrete. The cries behind her told her that her team had also been intercepted, and she snarled commands into her com-link as she tried to find out just *who* was attacking them.
"You have violated security of a Federal Building. Lower your weapons and surrender. You are surrounded."
A chorus of explosions rang out as Tabitha attacked the SHIELD officers that had appeared, her well-timed explosions forcing them from their higher ground. The other members of X-Force were spreading out over the roof, ready to attack the officers that they knew would come.
Eyes narrowing in comprehension, Domino focussed on the SHIELD agents as they appeared. If SHIELD was here, that would mean that Bridge wasnt far behind. Memories from the night at the bar flooded her mind - hed tried to kill, but it hadnt worked. This time, shed have the upper hand.
Cable turned to see Domino fall back behind the team, her eyes scanning their opponents, almost searching out someone in particular. She lowered herself into a crouch, her eyes freezing on a target as she positioned her gun, and changed the setting from stun to kill. Carefully she aimed, and to his horror, pulled the trigger.
His telekinetic shove sent the blast wide, sending a shower of debris over a startled G.W. Bridge. Cable was preparing to tear shreds off Domino until he saw the look that was exchanged between the two. He moved forwards, not understanding, until a voice sounded in his head.
*Uh, Cable? We like need your help.*
He turned to see Tabitha and Ricter facing an increasing group of hostiles and swore, leaving Domino and Bridge to see to the safety of his team.
Her eyes were murderous, as she slowly walked across the rooftop to meet him. Her gun raised again and she fired methodically, Bridge avoiding the blast with ease. He returned the shot, watching as she dropped and rolled, coming face to face with him.
They stood, as the battle raged around them, oblivious to the world. Identical expressions of hate and betrayal were on their faces, until he suddenly snarled and shot out with a punch.
She dodged, sending a kick to the stomach that was blocked. The usual taunts and banter that would have accompanied their sparring were absent, their silence telling the story. They were more evenly matched than she remembered, as his punch connected, sending her head snapping backwards. She lashed out, kicking what she could reach, feeling his knee cap give way under her heel.
They staggered to their feet, cut and bleeding, the betrayal still in their eyes. They lunged again, Bridge catching her hair and spinning her, pulling her neck back as his other arm crushed off her air supply. It was a dirty move, but he was past caring.
He felt her gasp, her body spasming, the cool control he was expecting giving way to panic. Doms fingers clawed at his wrist, her body bent far enough that her feet were useless to defend herself with. Her gaze locked with his, and for the first time he saw the fear. It was enough to make him loosen his grip, and send her tumbling to the ground.
She collapsed, one hand around her throat, her body heaving as she breathed.
He flipped her over, his eyes widening at the blood that trickled from
under her choker.
"What the hell?"
His fingers moved towards it, but she shoved him backwards.
"You bastard. Im surprised you didnt go for the throat earlier. Or send one of your men to do it." Her voice was harsh, ragged, her eyes expressing the rest.
"I didnt know. . ."
"Liar!" Her foot caught him off guard, cracking into his jaw. "You set me up! Or didnt they tell you how they planned to finish me? Funny, Bridge, I didnt think garrottes were your style. A bulletin the back, maybe. . ." she stopped, panting for breath, as the choker fell away. The deep red scars oozed with blood, which slowly crept down her neck.
"I dont know what youre talking about," Bridge said tersely, as he saw the bubbles that were forming around the wound. "*You* set *me* up. I thought, Dom, that after all wed been through. . ."
"Damn you! I got your damned message, your old communicator - and then you had them try and kill me. Well, Ill tell you, GW, I do not go easy."
"I you. . . you sent me to that old pub, and then someone tried to shoot me in the back. I dont know what your game is, Domino, but Im tired of playing."
"You set me up!" The snarl came from both their mouths, realisation starting to dawn. Bridges head rose suddenly, his eyes focussing behind her. Quicker than she could react, he pulled her sideways and out of the fire that had erupted behind her.
"What the sentinels? Oh shit," Domino muttered the words as the large figure rose up between the two buildings. She pulled her gun off her back, scanning the skies. Sentinels were like roaches - where theres one, theres always the promise of more.
She and Bridge worked back to back, their differences temporarily forgotten, as the sentinels attacked SHIELD and X-Force indiscriminately. They were making ground, until Bridge heard a cry behind him, and smelt the sickening odour of burnt flesh. Domino was down, her suit burned to her stomach, her arm wrapped protectively around the burn.
He grabbed her under the arms, dragging her out of the way.
"You idiot. Why did you take that blast?" Bridges growl hid
his concern, as he moved her hands to look at the laser burn. The patch
of blackened skin was bleeding, the wound not fully cauterised, and the
surrounding suit material had seared to her skin.
"Youd be dead if I hadnt, and I didnt want you shot in the back. Thats not my style." She gasped in pain, the gasp turning to a cough as her throat constricted.
"Cmon, weve gotta get you to a hospital."
"Why, Bridge? So you can try and kill me another day?" She stopped, coughing into her hand, a light spray of blood coving her fingers.
"I didnt set you up, Dom." His brown eyes connected with hers, telling the truth as effectively as his words. "And I dont think you set me up either. Someones trying to destroy us, Dom, so youd better keep your eyes open."
"Ha. A lot you care," she grumbled, her face tightening with pain as he picked her up.
"Youd be surprised. Youre still my friend, Dom, like it or not."
He skirted the edges of the buildings, avoiding the fight, as he carried Domino back to the Pacrat. Nathan met them there, his eyes burning with unanswered questions.
"What the hells going on?" Cable demanded, steadying Domino
as Bridge helped her down.
"Keep your pants on, Nate. He didnt do this." Dominos voice was rough, and she touched his chest lightly, the movement stopping Nathan from launching himself at G.W.
"Remember what I said, Dom. Watch your back." She nodded to GW, who took off at a run, gathering his team on the way. Within five minutes the last of the sentinels were destroyed, and the Pacrat was on its way home.
Domino leant back on the bed, trying to calm her breathing before opening
the com-link to the Mansion.
"McCoy? Its me. Its opened up again."
"Can you breathe?"
"How do you think Im talking to you?"
"Point taken. Set yourself up on 100% O2 sats, and Ill deal with it when you get in. Any other injuries?"
His eyes narrowed, clearly telling her he wasnt going to play."What?"
She was on the verge of fighting, but stopped herself with a weary sigh.
"Laser burn. Third degree, probably."
"You know the drill. Ice wash until you get back."
"Yep." She ended the transmission as Hank opened his mouth to speak again, the screen light flickering then dying.
In the sudden dark the violet eyes shut briefly, a soundless sigh escaping from between the bloodstained lips. Nathan watched from the shadows, allowing her the moment, before the situation demanded that she put her mask back on again. He watched it settle over her face, wiping away all traces of fear and pain, leaving only the attitude and strength she tried so hard to project.
She felt the movement by her bed, and the straps of the oxygen mask
slip over the back of her head.
"Once your breathings steady, Ill start the ice bath."
She nodded, the small movement almost triggering another coughing spasm. The silence grew heavy around her, and Domino shifted uncomfortably. She was expecting a lecture at least. To be yelled at would be better than the silence, for which she had no defence.
Her violet eyes fixed on him, and he looked up from the screen he was watching.
The blue eyes gave nothing away, before turning back to the monitor.
"What, no lecture?"
This was getting weird. By now theyd normally be yelling, irrespective of either of their conditions. The sudden change in his manner frightened her, and she bit her lip as she waited for his response.
His body was tense, but he kept watching the screen, hitting the occasional button, or issuing a command, before returning to the bed with the ice bath.
"Let me guess - this is some kind of reverse psycho-therapy."
"Im not going to fight with you, Dom. Not anymore."
"Jesus Christ, Nathan! What the fuck is going on?"
"Dont you think I should be the one asking that particular question?" he replied, before clinically cutting off the sections of her combat outfit around the burn. "This is going to hurt."
She caught her breath as the iced water hit the burn, her body arching in pain. Her nerve fibres were screaming, the searing pain somehow worse than the initial burn. The slow stream of water continued, the pain gradually settling down to a dull throb.
Slowly she re-opened her eyes, which had shut involuntarily to he pain.
They moved from their fixed position on the roof, to where Nathan was leaning
The flatness of his tone caught her attention. There was no trace of warmth or care, which he usually managed to project when he spoke to her. Instead, his voice was clinically detached, with less empathy than youd give a stranger. Her eyes caught his, and Domino cringed at what she saw.
There was nothing. Any emotion he was feeling was hidden away from her. She imagined she could see the walls being built as he stood there, locking himself in, and as a consequence, everyone else out.
He turned his head away, and she spoke, not liking walking on unfamiliar territory.
"Yeah, Nate, Im fine." Her violet eyes showed a flash of hurt, before she gathered all her courage and reached out to him.
"Nate? Whats wrong?" Her touch was light, her fingers grazing his forearm, and she cringed when he flinched. She opened her mouth to say something biting, but stopped it in a rare display of self control.
"Not now, Dom. Ill talk with you later."
He gave a brief smile, the type given to acquaintances whose names you couldnt remember, yet didnt care, a perfunctory movement of his lips which didnt even go near his eyes.
He turned back to the monitor screens, and began to quietly make arrangements for their landing at the Mansion. Domino watched, her mind detachedly going over what he had said. Not well talk. But Ill talk. She sensed another barrier had inserted itself in between them, seemingly as insurmountable as the others that had built over the years. The dull ache that filled her heart was back, having made its way out of its usual barricaded door, pushed to the front with his words. She forced it back in, her mind instead turning to the pain that was here and now, the fire that spread across her stomach, and wrapped around her throat. She focussed on the pain, going deeper into it, safe in the knowledge that for this, at least, there would be an ending. Soon it would settle to a dull ache, then a memory, then to a nightmare if she was unlucky.
Her violet eyes were closed as she was wheeled from the ship, and trolleyed to the med lab, where Henry McCoy waited, not so patiently.
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