by DuAnn Cowart
Standard disclaimers...they are applyin'.
'Specially if...you recognize 'em.
In which case...they are not mine.
Feedback...would be just fine.
Stepping out of the restroom, Pete Wisdom stretched and glanced at the huge grandfather clock behind the varnished oak bar. Muttering an a mild imprecation about the hour, he walked over to the bar to pick up his drink. Denis stopped wiping the bar long enough to hand his glass of Scotch to him.
Pete sipped it and grimaced. "Denis, wot th' hell did you put in..." He broke off sharply as a disturbingly familiar scent assaulted his senses. Eyes round with fear, he sniffed the air delicately, and closed his eyes in dismay. The spicy perfume took him back in time, tripping circuits in his mind to bring back unwanted memories of another woman, years ago, who had worn that perfume.
He immediately began thinking the worst. Oh, bloody hell, no. I only know one person in th' whole friggin' world who wears that stinkin' shit, and she's th' last person me an' Pryde need to deal with right now. His pragmatic side tried to reason Wot's th' chances of her bein' in this bar right now? Zero, but the paranoia that years in the intelligence business had instilled insisted Still, though, with me luck an' those damn inbred X-types...
His eyes swept over the bar in one fluid motion. Mostly the same patrons as when he left for the restroom- about the only difference he could see was the top of a well-coifed dark head sticking over a booth in the back. Making a note to check the person out when he walked back to his seat, he sighed in relief. Nope, no white leather lingerie wearin' obscenely rich American tramps here. Downing the Scotch with one gulp, he motioned to Denis for another glass. The scent still lingered in the air, and his eyes narrowed. Just in case, he decided, and raised the natural mental defenses that the telepaths in Black Air had taught him years ago.
Denis noticed his expression and frowned. Pouring the drink in one smooth, practiced motion, he whispered to Pete "Everything alright, Pete?"
Wisdom replied in the same shushed tone. "I think so. Tell me, anybody come in here while I was in the loo?"
The bartender resumed wiping the bar. "Just one lady- that dark-headed looker in th' back. I've never seen her before- do me a favor and check her out for me."
Pete almost drooped in relief. Th' mind witch never uses disguises- I'm safe fer now. He snorted "She th' one wearin' this nasty perfume?"
Denis nodded "Yeah. Little strong, ain't it?"
Pete stifled a sneeze. "You could say that. Yeah, I'll see if I know 'er." Taking a newspaper on the bar under his arm, he picked up his drink and headed back to his table, taking a brief detour to check out the lady in the back with the wonderfully (considering the blonde peroxide alternative) dark, dark hair.
That lady, too, had taken a newspaper out of the elegant briefcase she was carrying and was pretending to look through it as she sipped her martini. She had taken a seat in a back booth with her back to the wall and a clear escape route through the small window nearby.
*Alright, Nate,* she sent via their psi-link. *He's not here yet, but I'm in position. All's clear and ready to go.*
Cable, comfortably situated in the restaurant across the street, answered *Good deal, Dom. Just keep looking...let me know if anything's out of the ordinary. I'll let the others know. He took a swallow of the excellent Guiness beer and actually smiled as he telepathically spoke to Psylocke, who was shopping with Ororo and Logan in a nearby clothing store. After the British telepath agreed to both keep a loose psi-link with him and to keep her companions informed in case of danger, he sipped the beer again and sighed in genuine pleasure. This beats the hell out of Old Milwaulkee.
She took the last swallow of her martini just as the lanky Englishman turned the corner of the restroom. She made no outward reaction, just continued reading the paper. *He's here, Nate.*
As Pete walked away from the bar, his steps were still light with relief. Damn, I'm glad that wadn't 'er. Alright, lady, let's see if I recognize you, then I can go sit back down and get back t' waitin' on Dom.
When he walked by her table and casually glanced at her, he almost missed it. At first glance, she looked like everyone else- a businessperson taking a midmorning break to read the paper and get a nice drink. Only the flirty wink of the demure lady in the beige business suit tipped him off- Domino was an expert in camoflauging herself in plain sight.
Nodding a she's alright signal to the watching Denis, who flashed him an appreciative grin, he sat down across from her. She sat the paper down and greeted him as she always did, though in the crisp London accent she'd used since they landed. "Hey, Pete. How they hanging? I missed you, you bastard."
Scooting so his back was against the corner, he sat his glass down on the table and met her gaze warmly. "You too, girl. I'm doin' pretty damn good, lately, Dom. What's up with you?" Before she could answer, his nostrils flared and his eyes widened in surprise.
"You! It's you, woman! You're th' one wearin' that shit!" Sniffing the air again, he coughed "Where th' bloody 'ell did you get this from? Do all Americans wear this bloody overpriced ox musk now?"
Her eyes glittered in genuine merriment. Oho! In a sugary sweet voice, she smiled "Smell familiar? Remind you of anybody in particular?" She silently congratulated herself for wearing the stinking shit after all. She'd thought that applying it so liberally would help throw any possible tracking mutant off her trail- she'd forgotten Pete's history with the woman whose signature fragrance this was. All the better- it never hurt to tweak an old friend now and again, especially an old friend like Pete Wisdom.
All she made out from the slurred litany of obscenities spewing from his mouth was "soddin' American women" and "warped sense of humor." "I need another drink," he mumbled. When he'd calmed down and she'd stopped laughing, he looked up at her and managed a grin. "So, as I was sayin', how are ya, Dom?"
"I can't complain." Despite her jaunty tone and her lingering amusement at his reaction to her perfume, even through all the makeup he could see how exhausted she was. Ain't gettin' out of it that easy, Dom, he growled, We'll talk about this later.
"Fair enough, for now." Pete's rough voice was husked with concern, quickly masked. "You bring Muscle-boy with ya?"
She nodded "Sort of...He's across the street. We're psi-linked, so he hears everything we say unless I ask him not to."
Pete snorted "I fergit that 'e can do that now. I remember when all he could do other than bodyslide an' blow shit up with 'is huge funky guns was pull down yer zipper telekinetically when you wasn't lookin'."
Domino felt Nathan's amusement over their psilink, and she allowed herself a nostalgic smile at Pete's mention of the old days. As chaotic and harsh as things had been back then, sometimes she couldn't help but long for the simplicity of the mercenary life. At least then she knew she was fighting for the highest bidder and not some nebulous dream that despite her better judgement she was beginning to actually believe in.
Pete lifted his almost empty glass to his lips, hiding his own bemused grin. Damn, I wish we 'ad time to just sit 'ere an' get good an' drunk, maybe play cards an' talk about the old days. The warmth quickly faded, though, at his old friend's next words, pitched so softly that only he could hear them.
"So. What's so important that I had to commandeer X-Force's plane and fly all the way over here?" She folded the newspaper neatly and placed it back in her briefcase and now focused all her attention on Pete in her disconcerting stare.
He shook his head "Damn, Dom, this ain't easy. Give me just a minute." He wondered privately for the thousanth time How th' 'ell am I supposed ta ask one of my best friends in th' whole world somethin' like this, much less tell her why?
Her eyes narrowed. "Enough with the suspense, already, Wisdom. You got me here- tell me what it is I came for." She felt her pulse quicken and Nate's presence grow stronger in her mind as they silently agreed that whatever had Pete so rattled couldn't bode well.
He took a deep breath and continued. "You know that I know about Tolliver, an' about that whorin' Copycat who took yer place fer so long, right?"
At the mention of Tolliver, her expression changed from irritation at his obvious stalling to a stony emotionless mask. "Yes." Through their psilink, Cable gently reached out to sooth a tendril of fear that leaked from her battered mindscape and the year of agony his adopted son had put her through. He could see glimpses of dark memories of the year Tolliver held her captive flash through a mindscape still bruised from the traumatic psychic surgery of the week before, but she held them off. Cable growled to himself This better be good, Wisdom.
Pete looked just as uncomfortable as she did. "Well...I need you t' help me get into his castle. And I need t' show you somethin' when we get there."
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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