by DuAnn Cowart
Standard disclaimers apply.
Law school sucks.
After double-checking the lock on the door, Cable looked across the room at his long time partner. The cold silence between them made him wish, not for the first time, that he possessed just a little bit of his sister's least used mutant gift so he could turn back the last few minutes of time and start this "conversation" over. He glanced at Domino imploringly, desperately wishing she'd make some smart-ass standard-issue Domino wisecrack and move past this little squabble. She didn't even look at him.
While Cable was stalling at the door, Domino had managed to situate herself more comfortably on the couch, kicking off her hated conservative pumps and curling her legs under her. Slipping out of the constricting linen blazer, she casually tossed it to the side, not even noticing when it draped itself perfectly across the arm of a nearby chair. Breathing a little easier, she leaned back into the warm cushions of the sofa, debating with herself whether or not to blurt out the news to Nathan or use a little more tact. Not that he deserves it, the bastard, she fumed.
When he finally turned to face her, she just stared at him, eyes narrowed and cold. It took great effort to refrain from verbalizing her thoughts. You sonuvabitch, you want to know what happened? I'll tell you what the hell happened. Your perverted son and his quack doctors are trying to give Sinsiter a run for his money, and they're using part of me to do it... She rubbed her upper arms, trying to warm herself against the chilling thought.
From where he still lingered by the door, Cable could feel their psilink actually tingling with her suppressed fury and fear. He briefly considered opening his mind to her, confronting her in the most intimate way he knew how, but the memories of last week's blistering headaches were still too strong for him to risk exposing his mind to her anger.
Eyes closed, he leaned against the cool door and took a moment to collect himself. He hadn't meant to interrogate her like that in front of everyone, but dammit, the few hints he'd gotten from Wisdom were so damn ominous, and he was so worried.... And then, when she walked in, looking so damn breezy, not saying a word about what they'd come here for, he hadn't been able to help himself. Fists still clenched in impotent anger, he very nearly snarled the still-unanswered question again and only the knowledge that too much was at stake for him to allow his emotions to overcome him again stopped him.
With an effort, he separated himself from the situation as the Askani philosophies of his youth taught, expanding his perceptions to achieve an objective center of calm. Analyzing the situation logically, he was shocked to realize that what he'd interpreted at indifference had actually been herculean efforts at self-control. Now, without his own emotions blinding him, even the slightest exercise of his telepathy detected the thick tendrils of anxious dread emanating from her. Embarrassed at his earlier outburst (and how close he'd been to repeating it) he offered a more apologetic smile in her direction. She ignored that one, too. He really didn't blame her.
At her stony silence, he sighed deeply and made his way slowly across the room, taking his time, choosing his words carefully. He'd already let his own frustration and worry get the better of him once, and given the volatile nature of both of their moods right now he knew he'd better take it slowly or risk even more pain for both of them.
Stepping closer to the plush couch where she sat, he crouched down, squatting in front of her. Domino, arms still wrapped tightly around her chest, met his gaze but didn't speak. Later on, when he thought about it, he would be forced to admit that it was her uncharacteristic silence that had frightened him most of all, but at the moment all he cared about was calming the both of them down and finding out just what the hell happened. Shifting closer to her, Cable reached out a hand, a man looking for reassurance, all traces of the arrogant general gone. "Dom...please talk to me." His deep baritone voice was strangely soft.
She exhaled sharply, part of her still wanting to lash out, to blame him for everything that had happened to her. Looking into his eyes, though, she knew that the actuality of their situation was far too horrible to play any more games. This little dance of emotions had gone on long enough.
"Sit down, Nathan," she said quietly, and though she didn't take his outstretched hand she didn't brush it away, either. Breathing a soft sigh of relief, he joined her on the couch, careful to leave enough room so she wouldn't feel crowded. He knew she had always needed privacy, space to work through things, and he cursed himself that he hadn't remembered that sooner.
They sat like that for a minute and, when she finally spoke, her voice was low and distracted, and sounded far older her years. "Are you sure you want to know what happened, Nathan? Everything?"
He nodded sharply, only his eyes betraying his fear.
"All right, then, Nate." Domino took a deep breath before she continued, a bit shakily. "I don't really know how to tell you this, so I'll just tell you. Tol...Tyler," she corrected herself, "Tyler is alive."
Cable blanched and, leaning forward, he gripped her arm tightly. "What?" he whispered, words so light they barely had substance. "Tyler's dead, Dom. Logan killed him..."
Domino, eyes closed against the memories, answered him tightly. "Yeah, well, that's not such a permanent thing in your family..." Swallowing hard, she wrenched her arm free. "Nathan- he left orders to have himself cloned if he died before he...hell, I'm sorry, Nate...before he killed you. I know you thought things had gotten better between the two of you, and maybe they had, and he just didn't have a chance to change his orders before the insanity struck." The explanation sounded weak even to her.
Cable stared blankly at the wall, feeling his world shatter around him. "No," he whispered. "No. He's not back here. He's finally at peace, in a better place, with Aliya." Domino's expression softened in sympathy at the mention of Cable's beloved dead wife. She more than anyone knew of the pain that loss had caused him, and she closed her eyes against the inevitable barrage of memories shared through their psilink. Damn Tolliver, she thought bitterly, careful to keep her expression calm.
He reached out blindly, grabbing her hands again. Oblivious to her grimace of pain, he squeezed them tightly, clinging to the reality of her actual, physical presence beside him as his mind instinctively tried to open up their psilink. "That can't be right, Dom, dammit, I saw them, when I almost died after Onslaught. I talked to them!" Voice twisting to a sob, he choked "Domino... He forgave me! Finally...after all these years, after everything that happened between us, he forgave me for leaving him to Stryfe so long ago..." She knew the pain that decision had caused him through the years. It had been such a vivid repetition of what he considered his own abandonment by his father, and only in recent years had he learned the truth about that. Just another way he thinks he's failed the world, Domino sighed, and opened her mind to him.
Allowing the link, Domino carefully hid her own feelings behind the strongest mental shields she had. If he'd been more coherent, more in control, she knew she wouldn't have had a chance at hiding such intense emotions, but as it was he was barely able to speak, much less pry into her thoughts, which were gleefully rejoicing at the image of the real Tolliver dead.
Holding her own very different emotions at bay, Domino comforted him as gently as she could, squeezing his hands reassuringly. "I know, Nathan. I'm sorry..." I'm sorry I wasn't the one to kill him the first time, she thought viciously, but left those thoughts unvoiced, careful to keep her voice soft and reassuring. This is what we do, she thought somewhat sourly, as Nathan held onto her, much as she had to him earlier We hold each other together when we fall apart and push each other away when we feel strong enough...
"I'm sorry, babe, but he's back," She used the rare endearment, hoping it would calm him, beginning to get worried at the depth of Cable's pain. In truth, she had anticipated anger from Nathan, or at the very least guilt, but she'd not expected this vast sorrow that poured into her through their psilink. Marshalling her strength, she gently ended their link, unwilling for his pain to soften her own rage. He barely noticed.
Cable looked up at her hopefully, eyes gleaming with unshed tears. "Maybe...maybe we can get to him now, stop the cloning process before it starts..."
She took a deep breath. "I am truly sorry, Nate," she answered, this time really meaning it. "But it's already been done- and the clone's been given a full memory implant, too, so he knows everything the old Tyler did." His hands still clasped over hers, she ran her thumb reassuringly over his, trying desperately to soothe him, to get him to pull himself together. I don't have the energy for this, she thought wildly, close to tears of rage and sympathy herself. Not for Tyler, no, never for him, but for the pain he'd inflicted from beyond the grave on this man who'd borne far more than his share already.
Her next words, hateful to her own ears but necessary for him to hear, came from some hidden reservoir of strength she hadn't known she possessed. "Nate... listen to me!" She ordered sharply, and some part of her registered approval when he dully looked up at her. "This is not the Tyler you raised. This is a clone- just like Stryfe wasn't you, nor you him, this isn't Tyler. If you made peace with him, then you did. This doesn't change any of that..." Not wanting to push Cable past his limit, Domino held off telling Cable the other parts of Pete's news. When he heard what she had to tell him, his feelings would almost certainly change, and she wanted to give him a chance to work through whatever residual feelings of pain he still had about leaving his adopted son behind and the warped man that act had created.
As she spoke soothingly to him, not meaning a damn word she said, something clicked inside her. Calming Nathan had somehow freed her from her own paralyzing fear. Thinking about the pain Tolliver had caused them both, considering the evil the man had brought into their already chaotic lives, the anger condensed into a familiar cold, calm fury that she welcomed, embraced. This, she could understand and deal with, and the black melancholy that had enveloped her since the meeting with Pete lifted slightly. Tolliver may have trapped her once, but damn if he'd do it again. She was ready for him this time, and when Nathan heard Pete's news, he would be, too.
Releasing her hand, he muttered "I know that, Dom...it's just...." Shuddering, he turned away from her for a moment, closing his eyes tightly. When he opened them again, she was still sitting beside him, almost preternaturally calm. He took her hand again, infinitely more gently than before, running his fingers lightly over the bright red marks his thick fingers had left on her pale skin. "Sorry," he whispered lightly, his voice surprisingly light and clear. "'Preciate it, Dom."
"No problemo," she smiled warmly at him, remembering for the first time in a while just why it was she'd stayed with this man all these years. "Now...are we gonna sit here holding hands all afternoon or am I gonna tell you the rest of the story?"
At his amused reply, she steeled herself again and described to him in crisp clinical tones just exactly what Pete had told her. Then, when he asked in a strangled whisper, she proceeded to tell him the things she'd hidden from him for so long. She told him just exactly what all had happened to her during her year as Tolliver's toy, and nodded in grim satisfaction as the sorrow in his expression turned slowly to rage.
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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