by Adriana Scaletti
This story was actually intended for the What if Cable never formed X-Force challenge at the Alternate Timelines Archive. Guess I got carried away and kinda off-track here...this is more of a What if Cable and Domino had talked about all the post-Yucatan mess ...and thus -maybe- never formed X-Force. Lengthy, eh?...Am I making any sense? Oh well.
This is my first story! Yay me! Tons of thanks to Magna Alicia, just for being *her* (also for giving kind, much-needed encouragement and gennerally being writing-model-in-all-things-Cable), and to my grammar hero Jeff 'this-one-would-be-the-proper-verb' Augustus :)
(This it's supposed to take place two years or so after the Six Pack and Cable parted ways, just before Domino was captured by Tolliver).
The sign # indicates telepathy. The words between ~ ~ are thoughts. (Disclaimer? Sorry, can you say that again? --in Spanish this time?). Ok, so I don't own any of the characters, they're Marvel's...happy now?
-Back parking lot of Rome's Leonardo DaVinci Airport, around 3:00 am.-
The attacker had been fast, and surprisingly stealthy. Walking quietly, she hadn't been aware of anything until the first knife buzzed past her, breaking the silence and killing the street light. A blink later, the second one found her completely alert, and missed its target by at least five feet. When she turned around, cursing and reaching for her weapon at the sound of a sword unsheathing, a third knife took her right in the shoulder. Despite the sudden pain, she raised her gun and aimed at the moving dark shape. Fired, and hit the mark. Fired two more times. The shape didn't seem to take notice, and instead increased its speed, leaping with the sword, ready for a killer blow. She quickly ducked, recognizing both the fighting style and the man behind the mask.~Why is this lunatic after me?~. A metallic -something- crushed her ribs. Rolling on to her side, she fired again. This time, suddenly...--a burst of light?-- crashed the figure against the wall. ~What was...--a TK blow!~ she realized. ~Where did *that* come from...?~
Later, standing over one side of the lifeless body of Deadpool, Domino found herself debating whether to turn her attention from her wounded shoulder to the face of the man crouched down at the other side. A tall, silver-haired man checking with cold efficiency for vital signs, and whose left eye was glowing in the dim light of the parking lot, tracing changing shadows in the wall of the warehouse behind them.
Nathan Dayspring. Nate. ~--Cable.~ Domino firmly corrected the thought, trying to detach from it all the emotions she had for years associated with the more familiar nickname. She hadn't seen the man for more than a year now, and the last 'good-byes' hadn't been exactly pleasant. ~ This *should* be easy, girl. You're a Big Tough merc, after all.
The whole 'incident' was a long time ago, and in this business, a year *is* an eternity...get over it already.~ Her mouth set in a firm line, her brow furrowed while trying to take a look at the injured shoulder. It hurt. Just like the memory did.
It *was* over. It was the past. As dead as Hammer's lower half.
Dead along with almost a decade of working together...--living together through the rush of the adrenaline in the field, the excitement in plotting a daring new op, and the playful teasing afterwards in some dark, noisy bar. Through the fights. Through the disagreements. Through Grizzly's practical jokes.
In between, all the particulars that made each one of them individuals. A handful of things that made them comfortable with each other. Their rare smiles, laughs...--his laugh. His smile.
As their friendship. ~ --Was there one in the first place..?~ All in one terrible, lousy minute.
Not for the first time, Domino realized with painful clarity that good memories were as difficult to overcome as the bad ones. And time didn't really help.
It had happened a long time ago.
But it felt like yesterday.
~Don't look at him. Just don't look at him. DON'T...~ She closed her eyes, trying to regain her breath and repeating the thought like a mantra, hoping-- ~...hoping exactly WHAT, you idiot? He's not gonna disappear just by closing your eyes, and neither is this mess, you know...~ noted a distant, cynical part of her mind.
She sighed, grimacing ~-I can do this-~ and raised her head in time to catch a wry look from him. ~--smug bastard...~
"Is he alive?" she asked finally, in the most cold, 'just-business' tone she was able to manage. Not looking at him.
He seemed to hesitate for a moment--
"--No. Don't know much about healing factors or whatever this creep had, but I'm betting a severed spine qualifies as a Bad Thing even in his book" he finally said.
She let out a quiet sigh of relief. Then looked at him. ***
Raising to his feet, Nathan quickly performed a brief telepathic scan of the surroundings. ~Nothing...--good.~
Almost shyly, he focused his gaze on Domino, feeling an emptiness that wasn't obvious before spread within him, while recognizing all the familiar details.
Her dark, silky hair. Her pale ~...-soft-~ skin. Her unique birth-mark... A second later, his eyes met hers, and he found himself at a loss for words.
--Only for a moment.
Not that she cared. He sure knew better than to expect so.
Hard, cold tone--"What are you doing here, Cable? Aren't you supposed to--"
"I could ask *you* the same thing" --colder even, he retorted.
~No way I'm letting it hit me again.~ he thought firmly, remembering almost involuntarily the first weeks after...that day. When he could barely stand the thought of *them*, left behind to die, no matter how many times he told himself that what he'd done had been only for the greater good...~Didn't work, anyway...~ he scolded himself sadly, shuddering.
He'd felt sick for days, unable to sleep or think straight. Soul-sick, to the point when it was almost a physical illness.
The minute he'd teleported away, he'd known it was a mistake. He'd knew that it had sealed the fate of people that were *special*...the very first group of persons he'd finally found himself comfortable with in this era.
People that had formed his new 'Clan'.
Only cruel irony that he'd finally left them behind, too.
He couldn't forget their faces, their eyes wide with shock at his hand raised the gun and he fired. Even when he'd learned they were alive; the images refused to leave. Every time he closed his eyes he could hear Hammer's cry, and see G.W.'s incredulous stare.
He could remember-- almost feel Dom's last thoughts.
She had felt disappointed, hurt beyond words. He could swear he'd felt her so, even when she had not 'projected' anything. He'd knew it just by the way her hands had clenched into fists around her weapon. The final image before he teleported away were those hands.
Her elegant hands.
He let his eyes wonder around them, looking at her again. ~Oath,...she's still beautiful...~
Then he saw the line of blood, slowly dripping through clenched fingers around her shoulder. ***
Domino noticed the change in his eyes, and the way he reached out almost automatically, extending a broad hand.
#You okay?# he asked, concern tingeing his 'voice'.
"Get the hell OUT of my head, Nate!" she growled, squirming away. "You *know* how much I hate it, damn it!" Biting back a moan, she tried to find anything that could be used to support her arm. The fact that a couple of ~...broken?~ ribs were aching like hell didn't help matters.
He frowned at the anger in her voice "I'm *not* doing it on purpose! You're just thinking *too* loud, as usual--!"
"Oh yeah? Then--" ~...think of Yucatan with me, will you?~ she thought, narrowing her eyes and 'throwing' images at him like darts.
"Oath--!" he cursed, shutting his eyes, the concern disappearing from his face, leaving for a moment only --was that a hint of sorrow?. After a second, left eye blazing, and a hard, stony expression on his clenched jaw, he just stared at her. Silent.
~Great,~ Domino thought ~ so 'soldier-mode' and 'stubborn-bastard' are out in full force...~
The last op of the Six Pack had ended badly. Actually, worst than that. It had been a disaster.
By the end of it, their field leader had shot one of his long-time-partners in the back, and left the rest of them to die in an about-to-explode base in Yucatan, Mexico. The odds hadn't been good, but they'd made it out. The injured man would never walk again. The others parted ways.
None of them had saw *him* since then.
About an hour ago, Domino had arrived at the airport and checked her small travel bag at the airline's lockers, not worried in the least about metal detectors or x-rays. ~Johan was right...carbon-fiber can be your friend.~ The latest "business trip" -as her former client so delicately put it- had been a complete success, and the paycheck reflected that. Life was good.
Or so it was until she noticed that her flight was behind schedule ~--by two hours?...shit. Well, I guess it's me and 'Soldier of Fortune' again...~ Nobody would be waiting for her in the 'Estates, anyway. Her thoughts drifted...~Have to remember return the car to the rental...~. ***
The man known as Cable had never been happy having to wait. Ever. In any century.~Damn Blaquesmith and damn all Professor's tests...I could use Graymalkin's teleportation system right now. Hate commercial flights...~ Pacing restless in the passenger's -waiting- room, he was feeling more and more like a caged animal. ~In a minute or so I'll be climbing the walls...~ he stopped himself, noticing for the first time the not-so-happy looks of the others occupants of the room. ~No wonder why I'm getting a headache...everybody around here is broadcasting curses and such... Maybe it's time for some fresh air.~ Putting on his leather jacket and taking his handbag, he decided a little walk was in order.
The moment he exited the airport, his mind open in a wide scan, he felt something --familiar. ~What was that?...~ The feeling wavered a little, and faded. The wind was cold and the weather miserable, so he was unlikely to find a lot of other people around. ~There it is again!--~ Definitely there. A brilliant group of thoughts in the back of his mind, with a strong, violet pattern that he couldn't help but follow. ~Dom? --could it be her? How--?~ Nathan wondered, walking faster, almost running, heading for the airport's parking lot, behind the north warehouses. A couple of feet later on, he sensed another group of thoughts -strange, untidy ones-. Turned the corner.
It was her, all right.
And she wasn't happy. Actually, really angry...but at least it wasn't directed at him. Yet.
He focused on the one stupid enough to attack her.
Then that same moron hurt her.
He didn't stopped to think. Just struck out.
Nathan pulled out a white handkerchief from his travel bag ~ --the same one he used to carry around...back *then*~ Domino noted, almost distractedly. Tearing it in two pieces, he managed to make a rudimentary bandage for her shoulder, effectively cutting the flow of blood. She stayed as still as possible the whole time, acknowledging the squeeze of the tourniquet with a small grunt.
He gave her one last quick look ~Shouldn't be here,~ he thought, and then turned around, starting to leave.
~Oh sure, run away--~ she thought bitterly, biting her lip. Then called, not raising her voice "Nathan --stop. We need to talk about-- I have to know what happened...*then*."
He stopped suddenly, and muttered a couple of words in a musical, strange language that she was sure he had used a number of times before. Profanities, by the sound of it. Then sighed "I--guess this moment is as good as any..." and turned around. Cleared his throat.
"I--I'm glad you're okay." He said in a soft, hoarse voice. Then the image of Hammer's broken body flickered in front of him. ~Damn...wrong choice of words, there...~ he thought, wincing.
"That's the whole issue, isn't it? We're *all* alive, but not thanks to you, obviously." She raised a hand to stop his retort "And just in case you're wondering about it...I'm pretty sure Hammer will prefer being dead, anyway."
"Hell, I didn't want THAT to happen!" he almost growled, losing all control for a moment, before allowing years of Askani philosophy and training to kick in. ~Stop it. There's no need to explain your actions. The whole thing already happened, and it's not going to change. What is, is. ~ He let go a breath he hadn't noticed he was holding, shaking ruefully his head and realizing he still wanted -needed- desperately to justify himself, if only to her. ~Just this one time.~ he said to himself before speaking out loud, a scowl in his face but trying his most convincing tone of voice: "He was about to give the disk--"
"To who he was supposed to!" she was yelling now, unaware of his trail of thoughts and utterly angry at his apparent coolness.
"You --don't understand! That disk was too flonqing important! Stryfe--"
"Even IF it was, tell me: was it worth Hammer's life? Was THAT what you wanted?" Her glare spoke of stabbing and slicing. It wasn't nice.
Domino leaned closer, growling. "Then WHY the *fuck* you did it?!?"
"I--It was just --NECESSARY." Nathan couldn't beard look at her ~Keep telling yourself that, Dayspring...~
"Oh, don't give me that shit, Nate! We trusted you! --*I* trusted you!" Domino felt her cheeks burning with renewed anger. "You failed us, and you're not giving ANY explanation at all?!? You're not even sorry!?"
"Sorry has no meaning--" he heard himself say automatically, like from a long distance.
"Then tell me something that has! I'm sick of the half-truths and the cryptic comments! I was sick of them way back! I *NEED* TO KNOW *WHY*, damn it!" she hissed bitterly, eyes like small violet fires. Then snorted "Hell, don't know why I even waste my time with you...I'm outta here." Fasting the belt of her black coat, she headed for the airport entrance, biting her lip in frustration.
He turned around, facing the wall. Didn't answer. ~...alone. It always ends this way, right?~ Almost wildly, Nathan searched his mind for a way to make her stay.
Something shriveled deep inside him at the sound of her fast, determined footsteps moving further off. ~Why can't I just *tell* her? ...I can trust her, right?. She'd saved my ass more times than I can remember. --Of course I trust her! Besides, she can take care of herself...I just don't want Dom, of all people...~ He sighed, suddenly making a decision, not caring if it was the right one. Not wanting to think about it any more. ~HAVE to tell her at least the basics, Dayspring. She deserves that much...~ He felt tired. And lonely.
~...Nate?~ His "voice" caught her while retrieving her travel bag.~...I thought I told you--!~
# --don't go.#
Surprise, amid a faint trace of anger-- ~What..---?~
Firmer-- #Just don't--#
~No way, 'pal'! It's--~ --the mental equivalent of a snort.
Anxious-- #Look, could you at least wait 'till I make it inside? ...I-- I'll like to talk about this whole thing... I meant it, this time. Maybe over a cup of coffee?#
Mild annoyance-- ~So NOW you want to talk, eh? Really talk? Or just add one more mystery to your list? I ask, you back off...That stunt got old a while back, you know...~
#This time will be different...It'll even be my treat.#
Four or five seconds of silence -he counted-. Then a faint violet amusement that she couldn't quite hide behind the grim mask of her thoughts-- ~'Please'? You sure that guy back there didn't hit you on the head?~
He allowed himself a small grin, still facing the wall.
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