by DuAnn Cowart
Standard disclaimers apply, feedback is encouraged!
He was not having a good day. It was all he could do to maintain his composure when Siryn had given him the news, but from the look she gave him he knew she suspected something anyway. His head still throbbed mercilessly, and to top it all off, his team had performed like rank amateurs. The debriefing had seemed endless, and he knew from the expressions on their faces as they stormed out of the room that they now felt almost as miserable as he. He couldn't decide whether that made him feel better or worse, and finally just decided that he didn't care either way. To phrase it succintly, he was in a royal snit.
After the debriefing, the team retired to their wing to shower and change into civilian clothing. One by one, they drifted down to the kitchen for lunch. Though the mansion boasted a large kitchen with advanced culinary technology, the younger members of X-Force, as a rule used an older, smaller kitchen closer to their wing. They found that they prefered the privacy it offered, and had outfitted it with everything they needed. James was the first to arrive, and had his lunch almost ready by the time the others straggled in.
Theresa walked through the door a few minutes later, lost in thought. Now dressed in a tee shirt and jeans, she walked over to the table and pulled up a chair. She sat quietly for a few moments, considering her early morning conversation with Domino. Before he could speak, she turned her head, tilting it slightly. "Tabitha," she decided, and he nodded. One of the side effects of her mutation was extremely sensitive hearing, a gift he shared. She looked at him, really noticing him for the first time. She thought about what had happened this morning with Cable and Domino and its parallels with her relationship with this man. I don't want us to turn out like that.
"Jimmy- we need to talk." He opened the door of the stove and looked in, checking the progress ofhis meal.
"About what?" His voice was carefully neutral, and she winced at the lack of emotion in it.
"Ye know damn well about what. We've...I've...been putting it off long enough. We need to talk about what happened last month, with Risque" he grimaced, but she went on "About a lot of things."
He narrowed his eyes and stood, arms akimbo, staring at her. "Theresa- this has no impact on the team. I have no desire to rehash this thing again just so you can keep accurate logs."
She stood up slowly, face flushed. "Jimmy. That isn't why I want to talk to ye, and ye know it." He raised an eyebrow, and she whispered "Or ye ought to."
His face softened slightly, and he motioned towards the door. "Tabitha's coming," he quirked a small smile. "Let's talk about this later. Maybe over dinner?" He raised a warning hand "But no shopping this time." He looked at her. "But you're buying."
She grinned widely. "You've got a deal." She walked to one of the refrigerators, and continued in a much more conversational tone "And what do ye think about this mornin'?"
She heard a loud "POP" from the door way, and turned around. Tabitha leaned against the doorframe, vigorously chewing a wad of gum. "I'll tell ya what I think about it. It's total crap, is what I think about it."
Rictor and Sunspot walked in. "I agree completely. He treated us like idiots!" Bobby was literally steaming.
Rictor held up a hand "As much as I hate to give the man any credit at all, he was right about one thing. We did suck today, big time."
Bobby nodded. "Yeah, I know, but even so we didn't deserve all that! Even Domino wouldn't have reamed us out that bad!"
Tabitha crouched in front of another refrigerator, pawing through the crisper. Grabbing a head of lettuce, she asked in a seemingly casual manner. "Speaking of which, I wonder why she didn't come in today. The only time she misses is when she's out on a mission."
James shrugged. "Dunno. I don't blame her...I wish I hadn't come today, too." He removed a pan from the stove, and sat it down on a burner. "Good question, though, Tab. It must be something serious for her to not be here-"
Theresa took some cold cuts and began making a sandwich. "Ah, I'm sure she's fine. Everybody needs a day off every now and then- and ye gotta admit, she's been workin' too much lately, even for her."
Bobby sat down "Even an old warhorse like her needs a day off, I guess. From the way Cable's been acting today, though, I wish he'd been the one who played hooky- Hey!" His voice took on a curious note "I wonder where somebody like Domino would go to relax." He waggled his eyebrows in a light-hearted leer. "And who with."
The team's resident gossip-monger, Tabitha, jumped in. "Yeah, that's just what I was thinkin'. She loves all this cloak and dagger crap too much to just not come in, and you know she doesn't get sick. She's gotta be with somebody. Why else would she skip work? You know," Her voice turned conspiratorial "She left the mansion all dressed up last night, and she didn't come home- and now she's calling in? Something's up. She's got some going on the side. No wonder Cable's been so grumpy-" Her voice trailed off as she realized that her observation may have held a kernel of truth.
Bobby shook his head, protesting. "I was just joking, Tab. She's not doing anything like that- this is Domino we're talking about. She doesn't think about anything but guns and bossing us around."
Theresa looked up from her sandwich. "What a monumentally stupid thing to say, 'Berto. Of course she thinks about more than that- she just wants people to think that's all she's about. In fact-" She broke off sharply, the took another bite of her sandwich, still glowering at Bobby.
Tabitha smelled blood. She stuck a fork in her salad, then said in a wheedling tone "Alright, then, Irish, you tell us what the deal is. You're the one she called- tell us what she said."
Theresa sighed. "Tabitha- she didn't say anything- just to tell Cable she wasn't coming in and for us not to worry about her."
Tabitha snorted. "Uh-huh. What else?"
"That's all! She just said that she had plans and for us to go ahead with the session."
Rictor broke in, unable to contain his glee. "So Dom's got plans, huh? I just bet she's got plans. Who'd've thought she'd have it in her? 'Course, the way she dresses, you'd know she's got a wild streak, but I always thought she was a fighter, not a lover." He yelped as a spoon hit him from behind.
Theresa glared at him "I'll have ye know, ye insensitive prick, that how a woman dresses has absolutely no impact on what kind of person she is, and if she wants to spend time with an old friend that's her business!" Her eyes widened as she realized what she had said, but she resumed eating her sandwich, hoping that no one had caught it.
Tabitha's eyes gleamed with discovery. "An 'old friend', hmmm? Wonder if he's an old friend of Cable's, too. Bet fearless leader wouldn't like that, now...if he could even get his eyes off of Storm long enough to notice."
Theresa gave up on her sandwich, throwing her hands in the air. She stood up. "Who knows? But I bet with ye goin' on about it so, the world will know by Tuesday. I've never met a bigger bunch of gossipers in me life. I'll see ye later." She turned, disgusted, and walked out of the kitchen.
Tabitha shrugged, and returned her attention to her salad. "Can't fault a girl for trying," she smiled.
Across the mansion, Cable walked into the larger kitchen. He usually ate with the others, but he decided against it today. He'd seen enough of them for a while, and he knew they felt the same about him. The kitchen was usually empty for this time of day - only one other person sat at the large table. Psylocke, now free from the curse of the Crimson Dawn, had finished lunch and was silently reading at the table. Betsy Braddock looked up from her book, and couldn't repress a knowing smile. Every telepath within a hundred miles felt the psychic backlash of his... experience last night. She definately had, and she chuckled silently I know Warren certainly appreciated it. She liked Domino, she always had. Although she didn't know her well enough to call her a friend, she considered her a bit of a kindred spirit. Domino also often spurned conventions, and Betsy found that refreshing. She also considered Storm a close friend, and as much as she'd appreciated the irony of Cable's situation she did not especially enjoy the way he was treating the two women. Although it was completely none of her business, Betsy decided to speak to him. She laid her book down.
"The performance was wonderful last night. We really enjoyed it. You should've come." She looked across the room and saw his broad shoulders tense.
He turned around from where he was standing. "What?" His voice was thick and harsh.
She continued blithely. "The Vivaldi concerto. Smashing performance. Great fun." She smiled "We appreciated the gift. Sometimes the best things in life come when we least expect it, eh?" She looked perfectly innocent, but mentally shook with ribald laughter, carefully concealed by her psychic shielding. "And how was your evening?"
He looked at her with narrowed eyes, and said in measured tones "Absolutely uneventful." He took some meat from the refrigerator and walked to the table, sitting as far from her as possible. Though his body language discouraged conversation, she continued "What did you two do last night?"
He looked up from his meal. "We went to the theater."
She raised an eyebrow "Oh really? What did you see?"
He groaned inwardly. Psylocke was never this talkative. Why did she have to wait until now to get cute with him? "The Periodic Tables of Spam. Betsy, please...my head is killing me."
She almost choked. This is better than I thought. "Excuse me? I don't believe I've seen that one. The Periodic Tables of...what?"
He sighed. "You heard me. It was her idea."
Betsy, feigning ignorance, looked properly dubious. "You mean that Domino gave up tickets to Vivaldi to see...let me get this straight...The Periodic Tables of Spam? I really didn't think that her style at all." Betsy's eyes glittered in merriment.
He exhaled sharply "I didn't go with Domino, Psylocke. I went with Storm." His voice now had a sharp edge of irritation.
Betsy nodded, but then affected an expression of confusion. "But what about the purple flas...oh, never mind." She stood gracefully. "None of my business." His eyes narrowed, but before he could speak she 'apologized'. "I'm sorry. How crass of me to bring it up." She turned and walked away, mental barriers locked tight against the psionic barrage she felt sure would come. Nothing happened. As she deposited her dirty dishes into the washer, she glanced over her shoulder to see him sitting quietly, eyes closed. She could sense the pain from the headache radiating from him, and was almost sorry she'd antagonized him so. As she left the room, she passed Ororo, and smiled pleasantly at her. From the hall, she heard Ororo say in a slightly disgusted voice "Nathan- raw steak?" She shook her head in sympathy. He really was having a bad day.
To Be Continued...
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