by DuAnn Cowart
Standard disclaimers apply...
As always, feedback is adored.
Nathan paced back and forth in his suite, eyes narrowed and fists clenched to his side. He didn't know what was going on- after Domino's abrupt exit he'd found Pete psionically, but despite his best efforts the bloody Brit had point-blank refused to answer any of his questions. Despite his tight-lipped attitude, though, Nathan knew that the younger man had some idea about what he was going through. About halfway through Nathan's spiel, Cable had caught a sudden glimpse of Kitty as seen through Pete's eyes and then a fierce empathy from the hardened agent when he put himself in Cable's position. Pete brusquely agreed to meet them a few hours earlier than originally planned, and then had told Cable to Get the bloody 'ell out of my mind before I change me mind.
After almost sprinting to the hotel, Cable had gone ahead and checked in the rooms Domino had reserved for them. After making agonized small talk with the elderly desk clerk (who looked vaguely familiar, something he'd worry about later) he was able to disengage himself from the conversation and rush upstairs to one of the three two-bedroom suites Dom had reserved for them.
Despite the St. Martin's reputation as a safe haven for people in "the business", he scanned the room for bugs. Finding none, he finally collapsed into one of the thick tapestried wingback chairs beside the thick bullet-proof window to wait for Betsy, Logan and Ororo. Heaven knows when Dom'll come in, he blew an annoyed stream of air through pursed lips as he considered his partner's recent actions, conveniently forgetting his own behavior. She seems to be working on her own agenda lately- doesn't matter what the rest of us think or feel. Twitching uncomfortably in the unreasonably small (for his bulk, anyway) chair, he leaned forward and slipped out of his constricting suit coat..
Tossing it haphazardly in the direction of the elegant sofa, he just shook his head when it missed and fell right on the floor. Why am I not surprised? he sighed. Leaning back in the chair, he closed his eyes and made a herculean effort to actually relax.
It didn't work. Truly alone, mentally and physically, for the first time in days, thoughts turned toward his companions, especially Domino. His impatience at having to wait and concerned irritation lent a dangerous cant to his thoughts. Where the hell are they? he growled, though he knew it had been only a scant few minutes since he'd "spoken" to Betsy.
Digging his strong fingers into the thick padding of the chair's arms, he sat alone, by himself, stewing. I don't have time for this amateur shit! And Dom- she knows better than to run off like that right in the damn middle of an op. She's been actin' so strange lately, even with everything that's going on. Ever since last week, when she... his face colored with embarrassed anger as he remembered the inadvertently sharing of Domino's liason with...
He tilted his head, eyes hooded with jealousy. "Who the hell was he?" He muttered aloud. She never really told me who he was, he realized. The only times he'd gotten up the nerve to ask her details they'd both either been far too drunk for civil discussion or their respective emotions were far too close to the surface after the painful psychic surgery of last week.
Underneath the disguising contact lens, his left eye flashed with fury. I've really been too busy to think much about it this week, but... I wonder just who the sonuvabitch was. Still-vivid images of Domino's release shared through their psilink seared through his thoughts, and he jumped out of the chair as if scalded.
"I can't flonquin' take it anymore!" Growling under his breath, he grabbed his coat and stormed out of the room.
"So, Elisabeth, what else did Nathan say about Kitty? Is she happy? Is she well?" Ororo didn't even try to suppress the excitement in her voice. She would see Kitty within a few hours, and hopefully they would have a chance to talk and catch up with each other. Oh, my Kitten, I have missed you so much.
Striding a few feet ahead of the other two, Psylocke kept her face forward, studiously avoiding eye contact with either her companions or the strangers passing on the street. "I told you all Cable said, Storm. I wish there was more to say." What she hadn't told the others was Cable's almost palpable fear when he related Domino's terse version of Pete's news. Whatever it was Domino wasn't telling him had literally terrified him, and she'd never known Nathan to be easily frightened. Insensitive, yes, but not a coward. Stupid, yes. Selfish, yes.
After all, he is a Summers, she thought bitterly, her pride still smarting from the memory of the backlash of her fling with Scott Summers a couple of years ago. She could now justify her own behavior- she had been under the influence of Kwannon's less than moralistic psyche and really hadn't wanted to do it-- but Scott had no excuse. As a result of their lackluster dalliance her relationship with Jean, the only other telepath on the team, was only now healing.
And Warren- even he'd thrown that up in her face when they'd argued the night before she left. "When will you be back? Who are you going with? Logan? Cable? Couldn't have the father, so you'll go after the son, eh?" At that last crass comment, Betsy had icily reminded Warren of his own indescretions and then turned her back to him, effectively freezing him out of her thoughts. Warren had immediately realized that he'd gone too far, and after many profoud apologies (which seemed to ring hollow to her exhausted ears) the argument ended as all of their arguments seemed to do- with heady, passionate, mind-numbing sex after which Warren told her over and over again just how sorry he was and how much he loved her and how he couldn't live without her. He'd sworn that he'd never let his jealousy come between them again, and they'd once more tumbled into each other's arms, each seeking to heal their hurt once more through physical release.
Sometimes I think that's all we even have anymore, Betsy thought sadly, and briskly rubbed her hands up and down her upper arms for comfort. She had known that Warren's assurances were in vain, no matter how much he thought he meant them. She'd known for some time that despite his close friendship with the X-Men's leader, Warren was still carrying some resentment over Jean choosing Scott over him so long ago, and was horribly insecure about Betsy and Scott's brief affair. And Logan? Remembering the warm butterflies- she chuckled- she'd felt in the department store, Betsy gingerly considered her feelings about her long time friend. Not coming to a satisfactory conclusion, she shook her head and kept walking. She didn't want to think that Warren may have actually been right about Logan.
At Betsy's obvious unwillingness to talk, Storm turned to Logan, who was conspiciously silent beside her. She almost tried to engage him in conversation, but she recognized the preoccupied expression on his face and wisely decided against it. We'll be there soon enough, Ororo decided. Only one block, now, according to Betsy's map. While still in the plane, and after some discussion, it had been decided that the British telepath would imprint a temporary telepathic map of London into all of their short-term memories, with key points and escape routes highlighted. Nathan, she recalled, had been especially approving of what she considered a paranoid gesture. In any case, I shall see Kitty soon enough, and we can get to work on setting things right.
Beside her, Logan was trying to sort through his own feelings of hesitant desire for Betsy. Surrepticiously watching her lithe figure lead them through the crowded streets, Logan growled silently in frustration. Just what th' hell am I supposed ta do about this? Unwilling to voice his concerns or devote even more attention to worrying about Domino, Logan decided to focus on the happier prospect of seeing Kitty and meeting Pete, whom he knew by reputation if not personally. He wasn't at all convinced that he'd approve of the man- he had very high standards for Kitty, and some of the things he'd heard about the man were iffy at best- but he was determined to give him a fair shake. Heaven knows he'd done some things he wasn't proud of. Kitty's a big girl- we raised her right. I trust her judgement. Unless I'm bad surprised, I think the boy'll be alright, he reassured himself, but couldn't help a feral grin anyway, imagining the examination which, despite Logan's best intentions Wisdom would still get from himself and- oooohhh..., Logan winced sympathetically- from Ororo. I wouldn't want ta be in his shoes tonight.
Lost in thought, he almost didn't hear Betsy's quiet "Here we are." Only Ororo's hand on his arm, gripped tight in excitement, made him slow down. Looking around the elegant front of the old hotel, he nodded "Yep. Ain't changed much..." and opened the door for the ladies.
Walking into the spacious, classically decorated lobby of the hotel, Betsy smiled pleasantly at a passing businessman. "I'll get our room," Betsy nodded to the others. Before she could turn to the desk clerk, however, a familiar figure stormed down a staircase into the lobby.
Ororo smiled brilliantly, pleased beyond words at the evening's prospects. "Nathan!" She stepped over to him, and he favored her with a perfunctory smile.
"Come on. I've got the rooms," he barked at the group, and spun around to fly back up the staircase, taking them three at a time.
Ororo's pleased expression hardened into an emotionless mask, and she turned calmly to the others. "You heard him," she ordered, and turned back to follow Cable up the stairs.
Betsy and Logan shared a glance, and her voice sounded in his mind *Bodes very ill, indeed, wouldn't you agree?* He nodded gruffly, but grinned at her anyway. *Maybe so, Betts, but he can't help it. He's just a Summers, after all.* She stifled her own answering smile, and they followed Ororo up the stairs to their rooms.
She walked down the street slowly, briefcase still clutched tightly under one taut arm. She'd been walking aimlessly around the historic streets of old London for the last hour, doing her best to blend in with the horde of tourists and businesspeople all going about their merry ways while she turned the news over and over in her mind, desperately searching for some way to pierce a hole in Pete's theory that Tolliver was back and his ideas of what that meant. It was a difficult task- Pete's revelation of Jardine's intelligence reports and Pico's confession combined with her own all too vivid memories of that hellish year as Tolliver's captive really left no other possibilities other than the ones Pete had suggested. After two hours of pounding her brain for another explanation, she had come to the ragged conclusion that Pete was right.
With this realization, her gray mood turned obsidian and her face wore an ugly snarl as she turned down the street towards the hotel. The bustle of the afternoon streets had only heightened the restlessness she'd felt ever since she'd received Pete's first message. Clenching her fists tightly, she could literally feel the tension building within her. For the first time in her life she actually wished they were back at the mansion. Whatever else I might think about Xavier and the X-Men, she thought almost wistfully They've got a hell of a gym- what I wouldn't give for a nice quiet evening alone in the Danger Room...
With that blissful image in mind, she turned the corner and walked across the street to the entrance of the St. Martin's, her features hardened against the weariness she felt. Her years in the mercenary business had taught her to never ever show weakness. Feeling vulnerability was fine, but to show it- especially to be a woman and show it- was a good way to get yourself killed or worse.
Assuming character again, she sauntered into the lobby and over to the check-in desk where she got the room numbers of their reserved suites. Smiling politely at the seemingly doddering desk clerk (she knew better), she went to the elevator and ascended to the top floor.
Knocking on the first two suites proved futile, so she took a deep breath as she raised her knuckles to rap the third door. Damn, Nate, go easy, please... No sooner had the first rap sounded than the door telekinetically opened, and she stood staring at a room full of waiting X-Men, looking for all the world like a family of hyenas about to pounce on their kill.
"Miss me?" She smiled half-heartedly, then stepped into the room and closed the door.
To Be Continued...
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto
you. Not as the world gives, give I unto you. Do not let your
hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
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