by DuAnn Cowart
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Domino's amethyst eyes darkened at her long-time partner's abrupt entrance. "Hey, Nate, glad you could make it. Ororo and I were just having a little talk about the trip." Arms crossed protectively against her chest, she inclined her head in Ororo's direction, daring him to interfere.
Ororo swung around to face him, a smug smile plastered across her face. "Hello, Nathan. Domino and I were discussing the mission particulars- would you care to join us?"
Taking a deep breath, he began walking over to them but took a quick detour to the cockpit and returned with the preflight check clipboard. Returning to where the two women stood, he pretended to examine it but refused to meet either of their stares. Ororo, nonplussed at his seeming indifference, turned back to face Domino. Are these questions really necessary? Nathan already said that I am going. What right does she have to question me? She consciously calmed herself. It does not matter. Whatever I have to do to get to Kitty, I will do. It is imperative that I warn her about this Wisdom as soon as possible.
His stalling gave Domino time to consider her options. I could show my ass and order her off the plane- Pete's message was for me, after all, but... the pragmatic soldier in her took over Whatever's important enough to make Pete this nervous must be pretty serious. I may not like her, but I'll admit that the Windrider here, she forcibly kept herself from rolling her eyes at the ostentatious nickname does pack some pretty serious firepower. And if I raise hell about her coming, everyone'll know how I feel about the whole situation. Remembering her team's surrepticious glances at her every time Storm's name was mentioned, she grimaced. It's bad enough they talk about it anyway...
Aloud, she said "Alright, Storm. Since you're obviously planning on tagging along for this little trip, let me lay down some ground rules." Ignoring Cable's stunned expression, she continued "First of all, this is not, I repeat not, an official mission. Nate and I are visiting an old friend in London, and the rest of you are just along for the ride. If things get ugly, you do things our way, period. No discussion. Your normal protocol does not apply. If you can't handle that, then you need to get off this plane right now."
Amazed at Domino's seemingly easy acceptance of Storm's prescence, Cable remained quiet. Not gonna push it, he decided They can handle this just fine without me. Betsy's amused voice sounded once more in his thoughts. *A wise realization, one you should have come to some time ago. It might have saved us all considerable trouble.* Images dredged up from both his and Domino's mind during their psychic surgeries the week before flashed unbidden through his mind. He turned to look at Betsy, who was feigning disinterest as she flipped back through her magazine. She didn't look up, but he could feel her mental laughter at his discomfort. He pointedly ignored her.
Ororo merely lifted her chin slightly at Domino's warning and replied in a frosty voice "I am sure that you are aware that I was the leader of the X-Men for several years, Domino. I also lived as a thief in Cairo for many years in my youth. I assure you that there is very little I cannot handle. I accept your terms."
Matching her haughty tone, Domino replied with a cold smile. "Good. That's settled, then. Second point- Pete's message is for me, and maybe Nate if Pete okays it. We've both known Wisdom a long time- we've saved each others' butts more times than I care to remember. He trusts us, and in this business trust like that doesn't come cheap- you have to earn it. I'm not gonna insult him by asking him to divulge whatever information he has to someone he doesn't know, X-Man or not. The rest of you come in separately, or not at all. Got it?"
The sky outside the mansion darkened in response to her anger, but Ororo's face remained impassive. Swallowing tightly, she agreed "Very well. If this information is so sensitive that Mr.Wisdom does not trust Excalibur with it, then I can certainly understand why he would not trust the X-Men. I agree to those terms." Inwardly, she fumed How dare she speak to me so? No doubt Wisdom trusts her so- they are cut from the same cloth! What do we really know about this woman, anyway? Remembering the horrible results of her inquiries into Pete Wisdom's past and Domino's claims of friendship with him, her eyes narrowed coldly. Perhaps I shall do a little research about her when we return. For now, though, I must concentrate on rescuing Kitty. That is my priority.
With a curt nod, Domino agreed. "Fine. Let's get this show on the road then." Stepping over to where Nate was pretending not to listen, she took the clipboard out of his hands and glanced over it.
"It's been done, Nate. Everything's checked out. Let's just get the hell out of here already. Pete's waiting on us."
Shaking his head in agreement, he turned and addressed the room. "Everyone ready to go?" At the nods that followed, he sighed and followed Domino into the cockpit. Ororo watched them step into the front of the plane and close the door. Eyebrow raised curiously, she nonetheless crossed the cabin in long strides and sat back down beside Logan on the wide bench that lined the interior of the PACRAT.
Logan, silent until now, turned to his teammate. Concern etched all across his grizzled features, he rasped "Hey, darlin', ya sure ya wanna do this? From what I hear bout Wisdom, this little trip might get real dirty. If ya just wanna see Kitty, you an' me'll fly up there next week an' visit for a while, just by ourselves."
Ororo smiled softly, resting a long-fingered hand gently on her old friend's arm. "Thank you, my friend, but no. This is something I must do now."
Logan nodded sadly. "I was afraid ya were gonna say somethin' like that." Tipping his hat even further over his face, he sighed in resignation and scooted over to lay down on the long bench, arms pillowing his head and his feet crossed. Within moments, his loud snores filled the cabin.
Unable to disguise her interest any longer, Betsy lay her book down to study Ororo. She's using the shielding techinques the Professor taught all the X-men, Psylocke noted. I wonder what that's all about...
Storm was rummaging through her bag in search of the gardening catalogues that had come the same day as Kitty's letter. Where can they be? I packed so hastily, perhaps I left them in my room... Betsy's crisp upper-class British voice cut through Logan's snoring and interrupted her musing. "Well, Ororo, are you ready for London?"
She flashed a brilliant smile at her friend. "Of course." The search for the catalogue forgotten, she leaned conspiratorially towards Psylocke. "Elisabeth...can this information be as dangerous as Domino seems to think it is?"
"I don't know, Ororo. I had one of my visions about this trip, but unfortunately it was very vague..."
Ororo nodded "So Nathan said. What do you know about Wisdom himself? Is this trip likely to be productive?"
Betsy tilted her head, considering. "I think so. I don't know much about Wisdom himself- most of my information comes from Brian and Meggan, and my conversations with Brian usually just consist of my bitching about Warren and whatever improvements he's made on the Midnight Runner lately. I have, though, learned that my brother doesn't seem to care for Pete at all, but then Brian doesn't care for too much of anybody unless they're from the right family or have...other assets." Her lips twitched in wry amusement, but noticing Ororo's intense interest she continued "Meggan, on the other hand, adores Pete. She's always telling me about how sweet he and Kitty are together." Ororo winced imperceptibly, but even through her shielding Betsy caught her distaste at the mention of Kitty and Pete together. Hmmm...how very interesting, Betsy noted. Continuing in that vein, the telepath smiled "And Kitty obvious finds him fascinating."
Ororo's expression was pained, and Betsy nodded clinically. That's what I thought. Feeling the plane shudder slightly as the thrusters engaged, she looked across the plane at Ororo. One thing's certain- this trip just got a whole lot more interesting.
The door to the cockpit safely closed behind them, Cable turned to face Domino, hands clasped tightly behind his back. "Well, Dom, go ahead. I know it's coming."
"Whatever do you mean, Nate?" She muttered caustically, sliding the clipboard back into its slot on the cockpit wall. Adjusting her skirt, she motioned toward the back of the plane and looked up at him, her face flushing pink underneath the pale latex makeup. Giving in to the frustration that had hounded her since Ororo first stepped into the plane, she growled "What the hell is this all about? This meeting is dangerous enough as it is, Nate, without introducing unbriefed, untrained people into the equation! What the hell were you thinking?"
Against his better judgment, he defended Ororo "Dom, she's been an X-man for almost a decade. You can hardly call her untrained." Avoiding her gaze, he sat down in the pilot's seat and began pushing various buttons and switches, grunting in distracted satisfaction as they lit up one by one. "Anyway, I didn't ask her. She cornered me," he grudgingly admitted.
Domino's arched brows shot up. "Did she now? Maybe so, Nate- I know she's good, and that's the only reason I'm lettin' her go in the first place," she conceded. "But forgive me if I have some reservations about her motivations."
Yeah, you and me both, Cable continued powering up the plane.
Ignoring his expression, Domino took the copilot's seat and began pressing buttons of her own. "I just don't think Xavier's dream would go over too well on most of the merc missions we've been on. Or have you forgotten?"
He flinched. "Dom, that's not fair," he mumbled. "You know I haven't..."
"Save it, Nate," she interrupted. "I just don't want to hear it right now."
He shrugged and continued the sequence, knowing her anger would burn itself out eventually. Fastening her safety belt, she engaged the navigational computer and entered their coordinates into it. They'd flown this plane together so many times that they completed the sequence automatically, and for a while the silence was only interrupted by the necessary question or two regarding the flight.
When the plane had finally left the hangar bay and reached cruising altitude, she stood up. In a much calmer voice, she asked him "Think you can handle it from here?"
He nodded absentmindly. "Sure, Dom..." Tearing his gaze away from the sea of clouds, he really looked at her unusual appearance for the first time. He'd been too worried about her and Ororo to notice in the cabin, but now he saw her in one of her least favorite disguises. "Nice outfit, Dom," he ventured a grin.
Eyes twinkling at his peace overture, she pivoted and walked out of the cockpit, adding a little extra swish to her step for his benefit. His eyes widened in surprise when a very familiar, long absent voice sounded hesitantly in his mind.
*Glad you like it.*
To Be Continued...Next chapter, London!
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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