by DuAnn Cowart
Standard disclaimers apply.
"Why is my flonquing hand bleeding, Nate?" She looked up at him with her usual cockiness, and his heart skipped a beat in relief. Quirking his mouth in a grin, he replied in the same glib manner.
"Well, Dom, it's bleeding because you decided it was time we put put Hank out of his misery. You got a little overeager and cut your hand." He cocked his head at the Beast, who was gingerly plucking the still-suspended knife from the air. He held the blade to the light, gulped, and walked over to where they stood, making sure to keep Nathan's considerable bulk between himself and the dubious Domino.
He managed a slight grin. "My dear, I know that despite their cuddly furriness my phalanges can be quite chilly at times, and I understand that my bedside manner is considered by some overbearing, but is that really any reason to, as Nathan so delicately put it, put me out of my misery?" Nathan gratefully tried to explain what had just happened. *Thanks for playing along, Hank- I hope you know that she wasn't trying to hurt you. Her damage was much more severe than mine, that's why the procedure lasted so much longer and we had to call Betsy in. It shook up all kinds of traumatic memories, and... As unpredictable as I admit Dom can be I promise she would never conciously try to do anything like that to a friend.* Hank gently lay the knife on a countertop, buying time to compose his response. *I understand, Nathan- thank you for explaining it to me, but I am still a little shaken. It's not every day that a patient mistakes me for a voo-doo doll...*
Domino put a hand to her hip. "Hank, have you been writing prescriptions for yourself again? Why in the world would I try to...." She trailed off as memories long suppressed slowly returned. Her albino skin flushed and she grabbed a nearby chair for support.
"Oh shit...I remember...oh...." She looked up at Nathan with haunted eyes "I thought he was one of Tolliver's doctors...I remember now..." Cable groaned at the thought of what horrors his son had done to her during the year he held her captive. Apparantly she had even more reasons for hating doctors than he thought. Swallowing hard, he grabbed an arm to steady her but she shrugged him off and staggered over to the remaining table and leaned against it.
She looked at Hank sorrowfuly and chose her words carefully. Her speech was uncharacteristically formal. "I am very sorry for my behavior. It was unconscionable, and I apologize."
Embarrassed, Hank shook his head, the corners of his eyes wrinkling in sympathy. "Forget about it. It takes more than that to stop the bouncing Beast- now may I have your permission to bandage your hand without risking harm to my beautious blue bod?" He waggled his eyes at her. She agreed with a tight smile that didn't touch her eyes.
He worked quickly, and when he was done she stepped quickly away from him. Using the same stilted tone as before, she asked "May I have a moment to myself, please?" Despite her quiet words every telepath in the room had to raise their respective shields as protection against the increasingly intense barrage of tortured emotions emanating from her.
Betsy and Jean glanced at each other, communicating silently in a manner far more rapid and precise than conventional speech. *Think she'll be alright?* *Alright? With shit like that floating through her brain? You know better, Betsy.* A small sigh *I know better than most. I think, though, that that outburst was just an instinctive reaction to the trauma-* *I think so, too. I had no idea repairing the damage would have caused such a severe reaction or we'd have handled it very differently.* *I know- you did nothing wrong. Just be grateful that Nathan was there to keep the worst of it at bay.* *Thank God for that. If this had happened in the middle of the surgery...* They both shuddered. *I just scanned her, Jean- she's about to lose control, but that's probably a good thing. Her mind's a bloody untidy place right now-* Jean mentally agreed. *After all that, I'd say a catharsis is definately in order.* *Agreed.*
Jean linked her arm through Hank's and led him to the door. "Alright, Domino...Call us if you need anything." Hank opened his mouth to protest but closed it abruptly as Betsy gave him the mental equivalent of a kick in the rear. *We'll explain shortly, Hank, just come on! As the three left the room, through an increasingly dark haze of memory Domino heard a soft British mindvoice I know what you're going through- I've been there before and I know what it's like. Remember that you've already survived this- these are just memories, just shadows. Now come through it again...* She couldn't bring herself to answer- it took very ounce of energy she possessed just to maintain her composure until everyone had left the room. She refused to let them see her break- she'd already lost enough dignity today. No matter what it cost she wouldn't, couldn't betray anymore of herself than she already had.
Nathan made no movement to leave, just stared at her, jaw clenched tight as she half begged, half commanded "Nate..please go..." Her fists clenched "Dammit, I mean it! I really, really need a little 'me' time now, Nathan... Just go away."
He shook his head. "Na-huh. Sorry, Dom...If I didn't leave you in China, Genosha, hell...name a country- I'm not gonna leave you now." He slowly lowered his telepathic shields but had to turn away for a moment, buffetted by the sheer force of the images she was trying her best to keep in check. "Oh, Dom," he whispered, "Babe, I'm here. Please..." She shuddered once, spat out "Don't call me babe," then he felt the break. Everything she'd been holding back suddenly burst through the thin veneer of composure, dark horror bubbling to the surface of her mind in an almost tangible black film. She let out a keening wail, and he had to take a step back from the onslaught of pure tortured hatred. He ground his teeth against the pain but refused to raise his shields.
She stared at the wall, glassy-eyed. In halting tones she whispered "I remember now. Not just Tolliver, but everything- Nate, I thought I'd blocked it up, kept it out, but it's all here. Everything I did, everyone I killed, every life I...." She choked "Everything they did to...trapped, Tolliver, oh, damn, the hounds," Tears streaming down her face, she wrapped her arms around herself and began slowly rocking back and forth. Her voice broke "They all think I'm cold, Nate, so cold, such a heartless bitch, that I don't care, don't care, don't care, don't care," She gasped "Griz, Milo, they knew better but now they're dead, dead, dead...oh shit, I killed them they're dead," She kept on, a cracked litany of pain and guilt that built and built until he quite simply couldn't take it any more.
Crying out, he crushed her against his chest, holding her tight against the pain. She muffled a hoarse scream and pounded her fists against his hard chest, trying desperately to break loose. He winced in pain but held her close, refusing to let her go even though she snarled curses in a dozen languages and threatened to kill kill KILL herself, him, and especially them all in ways that startled even him. He held her tight as she released her frustration and fury in the only way she could. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the rage subsidided, leaving only exhaustion and a faint echo of fear in its wake. She shivered, and he breathed a genuine prayer of thanks to heaven- for if she'd really wanted to free herself or hurt either of them, he knew she could have done it. Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, he led her back to the table and helped her up. For once she didn't protest but simply followed, permitting his assistance.
Several minutes had passed when she stopped staring dully at the floor. She raised her eyes but couldn't meet his gaze. He was sitting beside her, their bodies close but not quite touching. She finally looked up at him and with her old irreverance mustered a slight grin "Your fly is open."
"Good," he replied, and turned his head to face her. "Helps air me out after that workout." She rolled her eyes and smiled, muttering "notenoughtoneedmuchofaworkout." Stifling a grin, he took her hand. "You gonna be alright, Dom?"
She nodded, but he could see the shadows in her eyes. "I'll be fine, Nate. Trust me."
He squeezed her hand and released it."That's my line." She looked away for a moment, then smiled slightly. "I hate it when you say that, too." He whispered "I know." They sat like that a few moments, then Domino broke the silence. "Thanks, Nate."
He tilted his head in surprise. "What for?" She growled "For this, dumb ass. For keeping me from actually killing Hank, for one thing. For getting me through this shit."
He snorted "Dom, we've both been way worse off than this. This ain't the first time, girl. We've done this for each other a thousand times, and you know it. We're just gettin' soft in our old age." He toyed with a tear on the sheet covering they sat on.
She raised an eyebrow. "Old, hell- speak for yourself. I'm in my prime, and you know it." She put a hand on his arm and continued "But I'm serious for once, Nate. This was a bad one- I think I'd have been better off keeping the headache instead of trading it in for this little jaunt down nightmare lane." She swore under her breath "Oh, hell. I hadn't thought of that- they're gonna start up again, aren't they?"
He blinked "Nightmares?" She nodded. He took a deep breath. It wasn't fair to lie to her about this. "Probably." She grimaced "Lovely. Just lovely. Oh well, you win some, you lose some..." He started to agree with her but was interrupted by a very familiar, very icy voice.
"Win some, lose some what? Oh, hello, Nathan. I hope I'm not interrupting anything. Have either of you seen Hank today?"
To Be Continued...
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. -John 14:27
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