Just Lucky, I Guess: Part 55a
by DuAnn Cowart
Standard disclaimers apply. This chapter is for Siarade, who has been inspiration for quite some time.
Part B will be along soon enough. :)
Domino turned to Betsy and Nate to whisper a warning, but the words were swallowed by the glittering vortex of golden energy that cascaded from the device, immediately encircling the three in a maelstrom of dazzling luminescence, swirling through and around them as technology that wouldn't be invented for a thousand years bent time and space to discorporate and instantly reassemble three dazed forms just outside the cloaked walls of Tyler's Fortress.
It was not a gentle experience. Betsy staggered, doubling over in pain. Cable, already pushed far past the limits of normal human endurance, crumpled bonelessly to his knees. Beside him, Domino bent to try to help him up, her stomach lurching in protest from the rough travel.
Cable groaned aloud, left eye glowing brightly in the darkness. "Venai'ha?" he queried, the liquid Askani syllables contrasting sharply with his dry, cracked voice.
"Nate?" Domino grabbed his arm, struggling to hold him upright. "Nate, talk to me. . ."
"Shraghn al vhanhalin?" Still on his knees, he pressed an uninjured hand over against his temple as dark sparkles edged his vision, ebbing and flowing with each labored breath. Broken ribs punctuated each breath as fragmented bones throbbed with each heartbeat. He blinked rapidly, struggling for consciousness as he fought against the eddies of the abysmal blackness of oblivion.
Not knowing who he was or what he was doing, he clutched tightly to the arm that supported him as the world slowly went mad. He cried out as strange smells, strange colors assaulted his senses, and cursed aloud in words that he didn't recognize as what was left of his composure began to crumple.
Softly, as from a very long distance, he heard a woman's voice calling his name, but didn't recognize it, didn't know her. Instead, he focused on what was now his reality. He looked up, but glassy eyes had difficulty adjusting to the darkness and clouded thoughts scattered like ashes in the wind. Swallowing tightly, he pressed his palm against his forehead, groaning in pain, instinctively drawing deeper into himself, searching his mindscape for clues as to who or what he was, trying to make some sense of the madness that surrounded him.
He found nothing but scorched adobe emptiness. He was nothing *but* pain, broken and bleeding and empty in the aftermath of battle. It would be so easy to give up, to give in to the peace and the darkness, to not feel any more pain. . .
Closing his eyes, the man who was Nathan Summers stood poised on the precipice of death.
Elisabeth Braddock stood a bit apart, back turned to the others and eyes squeezed tightly shut, doubled over in pain. Thin arms locked tight against her chest, and her entire torso rocked slowly, back and forth, as she fought to contain the dank shadows the unexpected teleportation had jarred loose from her usual control.
Already exhausted from the battle with Tyler, Betsy cried out as the musty, suffocating iciness of the Crimson Dawn surged once more, face contorting as she struggled to lock the shadows back deep within her where they could do no harm.
Ribbons of black energy swirled around her face and hands, tendrils of darkness stretching Medusa-like into the night. She opened her eyes, and instead of the usual violet and white, they were black on black, swirling eddies and torrents of shadow warring against the light of her soul.
Crying out, she squared her slender shoulders against the siren call of the darkness, summoning up everything that she had, everything that she was to fight against it. Feet firmly planted apart, her entire body tensed with the battle as she fought for her very soul.
Raising her arms high above her head, palms open wide, she cried aloud, and a dark burst of writhing energy swirled around her. With a herculean effort, Betsy jerked once, twice, and with the strange combination of her mutant gifts and otherworldly genes she stretched out her mind to its fullest as she raged against the shadows.
In a shimmering swell, the last of her power emerged in a bright nimbus of energy that shone through her entire body, coursing out with a pure lavender light that burned through the shadows, sending them shrieking away in full retreat, leaving her exhausted and spent.
As the light slowly dimmed, she heaved for breath, lowering her arms, palms clenched tightly to her sides. After a few moments of uncertainty, she shuddered slightly, and with the absolute last of her energy she closed the final lock on the heart of darkness within her before her knees buckled and she collapsed, unconscious.
Oblivious to the battle being fought inside his broken soul, Domino crouched down beside her partner. She grabbed his arm and wrapping it around her bruised shoulder. Cable's eyelashes fluttered shut, and she felt his muscles grow slack. She cursed under her breath.
"Come on, Nate, you've been bodysliding longer than I've been alive," she murmured, ignoring the urge to flee from him, bracing herself against the lingering revulsion she still felt at his touch.
Drawing a ragged breath, she choked "You're a teleporter, this is what you friggin' *do*. Get up, now. We've got to get out of here, Nate, before this place blows, and we can't do that with your dead weight."
Cable slumped again, and this time collapsed unto the ground, curling up in fetal position, murmuring an Askani litany over and over, body shivering with cold.
Domino stuck two clammy fingers to his jugular, and counted the erratic pulsebeat. Oh, shit, no,' she thought desperately, her own disgust forgotten as a nightmare straight out of her darkest dreams played itself out before her. She stared at the cold figure before her, watched as his eyes rolled back in his head, saw his lips turn blue. 'He's dying.'
"Dammit, Nate!" she railed, suddenly furious beyond reason. "You're not doing this to me again, you son of a bitch! No! Get *up*! Get *UP*!"She yelled, jerking him upright, genuine anger burning in her voice, the fury and the outrage momentarily overpowering the residual icy coldness left behind by Tyler's tampered memories. "Get your friggin' ass *up*, and let's get the hell out of here! He's not gonna win! I'm not dying here today, and neither are you! We're *not* gonna let him win, Nate. . ."
Nathan drew one last shuddering breath, then was still.
Domino's heart froze, and she inhaled sharply, then again began pounding on his chest as best she could with his injuries, trying CPR yet again on his battered chest. "Oh, fuck, you bastard, don't do this to me, you son of a bitch, you've already done it once today, don't do this, don't make me handle this all by myself, I can't do this, get up, get up, get up, get up. . ." She cried, leaning over his body, voice growing shrill with an emotion she didn't care to name. "Get *up*, you fucker! I can't do this, don't let him win, oh, shit, Nate, don't do this to us. . ."
There was no response.
Almost as an afterthought, Domino yelled frantically over her shoulder. "Betsy? I could use some fuckin' help over here!"
There was no reply. Domino didn't have time to pursue it, but instead slapped her hand down on her arm, activating the torn suit's radio transmitter.
"Logan? Is that you?" She yelled into the microphone, still continuing pushing Nate's chest, praying Tolliver's thugs hadn't altered the frequencies of her transmitters. Glancing down at the watch in her suit, she swore under her breath, eyes glittering angrily in frustration.
"Neena!" Logan's gruff voice came through the transmitter even deeper than usual with worry. "Where th' hell have you been, darlin'? We're waitin' on you-"
Not even Logan's familiar comforting voice could dilute the rampant terror running through her. "LOGAN! We need you, now!"
"What? Where you at? Are Betsy an' Nate with you?" Had she not been overcome with a gamut of emotions, Domino would have detected the thinly veiled tremor in Logan's own usually impassive tone.
The line was silent as Domino breathed for her partner.
"Neena! What's happenin'? Tell me, darlin', so I can help!"
"Logan. . .we're on the . . ." She managed to glace down at the compass on her suit, "Southwest corner of the Fortress. Get here, *now*!
"We're on our way. . .what happened? Are you under attack?"
Domino snarled, still pounding on Cable's chest. "NO! No time! Just. . .get here now!" With a snarl, she severed the radio link and continued breathing for Cable, manipulating his broken chest, pouring out energy from an exhausted well as she tried with all her might to stave off the cold hand of death.
It wasn't working. He had twitched a bit at first under her ministrations, but now thick muscles grew increasingly slack, until his body lay still. All she could do was watch impotently as the man who in the wake of Tyler's violation she hated and feared and oh, fuck, still loved, despite all the hurt and pain and suffering and desecration, all she could do was watch as he turned blue and cold beneath her.
"Fuck you, asshole!" She screamed aloud, voice trembling in fury, oblivious to anyone who might hear. "GET UP, NATHAN, get up right now, or I swear I'll follow you to the next world and rip your guts out myself! Damn you! Damn you, you cowardly bastard, damn you for doing this!" She gasped for air, iron bands squeezing her chest.
"Betsy!" Domino cried over her shoulder, frantic with fear her voice hoarse and cracked in the darkness. "If you don't get your fucking ass over here now I'll kill you myself! Please!"
There was no answer, and no change in Cable's condition. Domino felt what was left of her world tumble and fall away as the ember that was all that remained of their destroyed link slowly began to die out. Unwilling to give up, she continued working on him, checking his jugular again. She felt her soul turn to icy shards.
He had no pulse.
"Dammit! Damn, Nate, come *ON*!" She yelled, redoubling her efforts, pounding on his chest, pressing her lips tightly against his to create a seal as she desperately blew air in his mouth, trying to force life into the clammy shell beneath her. It was to no avail; as hard as she tried, there was no reponse. His body was still.
Realization descended, and she broke away, eyes wide with shock. Wrapping her arms around her chest against the frigid iciness that was already seeping into the tatters of her soul, with something very like a whimper her body bowed in defeat and, broken, she rested her forehead lightly against him.
"Damn you," she murmured into his broken chest, the words muffled by tears and agonized numbness. "How can you leave me alone again?"
There was no answer.
Even as Domino fought to keep him alive, Cable's consciousness withdrew from his body, rising upwards to hover just over the scene. Though he still couldn't remember who he was or why he was here, the pain was gone, and he felt only peace, clarity and an odd detachment.
He looked down on the people below him curiously. There were. . .three figures below, a woman apart and a man and woman together. The woman apart writhed with tension, warring with a barely contained darkness that disturbed him even in this ephemeral state. He turned his attention to the other two, and saw a large man lying curled on the ground and another woman leaning over him. Somehow, there was an odd sort of amusement coupled with the purest sense of freedom as he recognized the body as his own, and knew he was free of the pain it carried.
He sighed, sensing the call of the peaceful light that lay just beyond his senses. His spectre drifted upwards, preparing to leave, but for reasons he couldn't understand he stopped. He didn't know who he was, what he felt, but somehow. . .someway, he knew that this was wrong. It was. . .just wrong to leave just now. Something. . .wasn't finished.
He paused, trapped between the choices. He was tired, so tired, so exhausted with the struggle, but . . . something was missing. . . something he'd been put on this eart to do. . .
Frustrated with himself and the indecision he didn't understand, he refocused his attention back on the scene before him, studying the second woman. She was disheveled, and frantic, and she exuded stark terror. He watched as she pushed her hands against his chest in quick, precise movements, breathing for him even though he could tell she knew he was gone. He couldn't hear her, but he watched her lips move as she angrily yelled at him, cursing him even as she fought desperately to save his life.
For the first time since he'd lost himself, he felt a twist of genuine feeling, a hook of thick emotion buried deep in the chest he shouldn't be able to feel anymore. He stared at the woman more closely, studied the tears coursing down her cheeks, the dark hair, the pale skin, the beginnings of wrinkles around her purple eyes. She looked. . .familiar. . . somehow, and some spark of recognition flared within his breast.
He saw her stop her efforts, saw her realize that he was gone. Even here, poised between the worlds, he shivered as an almost tangible bleakness descended on her like a shroud, feeling a faint echo of it in the shattered, unrecognizable peices of his own spirit. The bead of despair and tremendous sense of loss grew ever stronger, burning through even the thick fog of his disconnection to this world and all it held.
He paused, puzzled. How? Why was it that he felt this woman's pain as if it were his own when he was so unbelievably glad to be free of this world and the pain it bore? What was it that made his death mean so much to her? The strained connection between his spirit and his body thrummed lightly, and a single burst of memory coursed unbidden through it through it.
Somehow his frayed mind managed a coherent thought, edged in a dim, faded gold. 'Dom?' he thought dully, then nodded to himself, blinking slowly. Yes. Dom. This was Dom, whoever Dom was.
Something flickered again, and he tilted his head curiously. Other memories began trickling through the fog that shrouded his mind, memories of this woman laughing beside him, fighting beside him, sleeping beside him.
With a jolt of realization that was so sharp it was almost pain, a flood of memories filled him, memories not of this woman at all, but of another woman, a chestnut haired woman and a tow headed toddler, and then of an ancient towering blue evil, then of a red haired woman and a tall man with red sunglasses and then of a very old woman with scars on her face and a small gnarled being who taught him and a large dark man who was his brother and a brightly dressed group of warriors and a slender blond man amongst another younger brightly dressed group of warriors and a man who looked just like him but wasn't him and armies, oh, so many armies and so many dead people and so many live people and such horror and such joy on and on and on and on until he was swollen with memory, so full of the legacy of his life that he felt he would almost burst.
The memories washed through him, filling him, igniting chain reactions of thoughts until his mind, once so barren and desolate, was once more alive and pulsing with the electric rhythm of life. He suddenly had all the component pieces to put together the puzzle that was his identity. Now that he had the tools to do so, he looked deep inside himself, pushing through the pain, peeling back layers and layers of charred thought to find the core of identity that made him who he was.
He breathed a sigh of relief at what he found. Though tattered and abused, frayed edges of consciousness held together by ephemeral wisps of memory and an inner will so strong that the inferno hadn't extinguished it all, *he* was still there, and he was still whole. The faded gold grew brighter, sharper, more intense, and with a silent cry of joy, he took hold of his identity, sliding back into his body, his spirit once more cloaked with all the memory and character that made him who he was.
He was Nathan Summers, the Askani'Son, and he was *not* *going* *to* *die* *today*.
Without warning, mismatched eyes fluttered open and the dead man drew in a great shuddering gasp of air, sucking the oxygen from the woman's lips, then breaking away to breath in deeply of the fresh night air.
Domino's eyes opened wide, and she jumped back, heart pounding in her chest, grabbing for a weapon, any weapon, anything she could use to defend herself. 'Oh shit oh fuck I'm dreaming I've lost it I've totally cracked he's dead he's dead he's not alive I've gone crazy he's dead oh shit. . .'
Cable breathed in deeply, each breath jarring pain, pain that was familiar and his and something to bind him to the present. Looking up, he stared at the woman who had brought him back, and managed to stretch out his hand to her. "Dom?" he whispered gently, "'s that you?". His voice was very small, very hoarse, but it was undoubtedly his. Nathan's, who had been dead.
She didn't even try to stop the tangled expression that twisted her face. Edging over to him, she raised a hand to touch his face, fingers splayed over the raw features. "Nate?" She whispered softly, not even willing to begin addressing the maestrom of emotions welling inside her. "Is. . that you?"
"Who. . .else. . .would it be?" He asked, coughing between breaths, struggling for words, closing his eyes as her fingers lightly traced his features. "Wanna. . .help. . .me. . .up?"
Domino swallowed once, then nodded, taking his good hand in her own. Bending down, she looped his arm around her shoulders again, ducking her head against his broad chest and biting her lip to fight the tears as she helped him to his feet. "Nate. . .I. . ." With a mammoth effort, she steeled herself against the storm inside and, as she always did in times of turmoil, finally was able to assume what she thought was a mask of neutrality. So great was her relief that she didn't notice the dim hum that began to fill the air.
Voice husky with repressed emotion, she bit her lip, fighting back the tears. She glanced down at her watch almost as an afterthought, and bloodshot eyes widened in suprise, and sudden realization dawned. There was no time for the feelings, no time to rejoice in what she thought lost.
No time for anything, really.
"What?" Cable gasped, barely able to breath, mind still clouded with the trauma of all he'd gone through.
"Three fucking minutes!" She swore, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "The explosives are gonna go off in three fucking minutes! Where the hell is Logan?"
Still dazed, Cable's head lolled slightly. "Don't. . . know. . . Where're we? Where's . . . Betsy?"
Domino froze, then swore venomously. "Oh, fuck. Betsy." When the other woman hadn't responded to her calls for help, she'd completely blocked her out of her mind.
Turning around, she shouted "Betsy! Where the hell are you?" There was no answer, and Domino cursed under her breath. Still bearing most of Cable's weight, she began edging around in a circle, searching for the missing telepath- and halted about half way around. "Ah, shit," she muttered, spying her teammate's crumpled body. 'I guess that'd explain not answering me now, wouldn't it?'
"Can you stand by yourself?" She asked Cable, who nodded warily. She swallowed, then slipped out from Cable's arm to go to Betsy, stooping to examine her prone form. He staggered, but managed to hold himself upright.
"There's . . . the . . . PACRAT," he hissed, motioning sharply behind them as the air shimmered lightly to solidify into the comforting form of their plane, the air humming with the deep sound of the aircraft's engines engaging as it began to taxi towards them. "How. . .is. . . she?" he wheezed, holding his good arm around his ribs, leaning on one leg gingerly as Domino checked out their fallen teammate.
Domino looked up, eyes wide with adrenaline and exhaustion. "She seems fine. . . But time's running out! We need to leave here, now!"
"No. . .argument. . .from. . .me. . . there. . ."
Domino nodded, shifting her shoulders to get a better grasp on Cable. Pete and Logan came running out of the open hatch to meet them, the former helping her with her partner, the latter making a bee-line to Betsy, stooping to pick her up in his arms with feral grace.
"Careful, Pete, his ribs are-" Her warning was cut short by a burst of Askani vulgarity, and she finished softly. "Broken."
"Thanks f'r pointin' that out, Dom," the former spy snorted dryly. "How much time do we have, anyway?"
Domino glanced down, grunting as Cable tripped on the rocky soil. "About two minutes, Pete. . . "
"All the . . . time in th' world," Cable murmured, wincing as Pete jostled him towards the waiting hatch of the plane.
"Let's get the hell out of here," Pete muttered, guiding her partner towards their aircraft and into the plane. Domino didn't answer, just pushed tangled hair out of her face as she followed behind them, helping Pete hurriedly strap Nathan into the plane and taking her own seat behind him.
Logan and Betsy were right behind them, the shorter man holding the tall woman close to him, her chin lolling limply against her chest as he cradled her gently in his arms.
Domino leaned her forehead against a transparent window, competely and utterly exhausted, and barely had time to strap herself in before the hatch rose and Kitty's anxious voice sounded over the intercom.
"Buckle up, folks, it's gonna be a bumpy ride. . ."
The PACRAT took off, carrying its cargo towards London and freedom. . . and captivity.
Its passengers didn't look back.
To be cont'd
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. -John 14:27
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