Losing Myself In You
by Alicia McKenzie
The world ended.
A second later, everything returned to normal.
Cable blinked. The first thought that registered was that his knees felt a little weak for some reason, as if they weren't quite up to holding his weight.
All right, he thought dazedly, staring around in shock at the desert and the people that had been shining crystal only a moment before, transformed by the out-of-control M'Kraan Crystal. Alive. That's--good. If unexpected--he had FELT himself change, a wave of numbness sweeping across his body in a flash. He had accepted what was going to happen, tried to reach some sense of peace with everything he'd done and left undone--
He watched Scott and Jean rush into each other's arms. Hank was slapping Warren on the back, shouting cheerfully. Gabrielle Haller was kneeling beside Xavier's wheelchair. The Shi'ar techs were already celebrating. Farther away, Rogue, her hand clasped over her mouth and a look of utter horror on her face, was standing over a still form--Gambit--sprawled on the sand. Cable's mind, still trying to process whatever the hell had just happened, noted that there was something wrong there.
By then, though, he was already turning to look at her. Domino. The woman for whom he'd just confessed feelings that went dangerously beyond the deep friendship and comfortable partnership they'd shared for so long. Faced with the end of everything, he'd thrown years of restraint to the wind and acted on instinct.
He'd kissed her. Kissed her, and put every bit of tenderness, longing and regret he could muster into that moment, trying to say all the things he'd never said, without wasting words for which they had no time. He'd never dreamed he might find himself in the position of having to ACT on what he'd revealed. Just the thought made his heart skip a beat. Several beats. On the other hand, maybe it would just stop entirely. That would certainly simplify things, he thought wildly.
Domino stared back at him for a long moment, her violet eyes wide. She finally opened her mouth, as if to say something, but then flushed and lowered her gun, looking away.
He didn't need his telepathy to know what she was thinking. He suspected it was very close to the thought that was running through his mind in an endless, panicked loop.
Oh, shit. What do we do now?
Hours later, the PACRAT soared through the darkening sky, headed home.
With a sigh, Domino took off her headset. There was no one responding at Murderworld. I don't think I like this, she thought, worry gnawing at her. Last thing they'd heard from Sam, X-Force had picked up Sunspot's power signature and were going to try and find some other way, since she and Nate had the PACRAT, to get to him. Maybe they wouldn't have gotten back yet, but they should have tried to get in touch with us, if everything was all right. Then again, she might be fretting over nothing. It occurred to her that the kids would probably be amused if they knew how much time she did spend worrying about them. You're turning into a mother hen, Dom--
She went back up to the cockpit, and sat down in the copilot's seat, watching Cable at the controls. He hadn't said a word since they'd taken off. Hell, he hadn't said a word to her since 'Shut up and kiss me.' Since before the world ended. Throughout everything that had happened afterwards--dealing with a comatose Gambit and a hysterical Rogue, greeting the four time-lost X-Men when they suddenly popped back into this era (and discovering that they had no real idea what had happened to stop Legion)--Nathan Summers had been as quiet as the dead. And she thought she had a pretty good idea why.
"No word from the kids."
She tried a different tack. "You're feeling okay, right? I mean, going time-traveling without your body's a little weird, even for you--"
He's decided to limit himself to monosyllabic grunts. How charming, she thought acidly.
#I heard that.#
"Fine, you don't want to talk?" Domino growled, getting up from her seat and glaring at him. "We can pretend it didn't happen, if you like--"
"I didn't say that!" Nathan protested uneasily, not meeting her eyes. "I just think--I don't know if we should--"
"Should what, Nate?" she asked challengingly, standing over him. Her eyes narrowed as she thought of something. "You started it," she said accusingly.
He finally turned away from the control, exasperation blazing on his face as he looked up at her. Then, without warning, he started to laugh.
"What?" she demanded, but an unwilling smile tugged at her mouth despite her best efforts. "What's so funny, you lunatic?"
"'You started it'?" he chuckled helplessly. "Oath, Dom--"
"Well, you did," she pointed out, folding her arms across her chest and trying to hold back the laughter bubbling up inside her. It was probably a losing battle--as bad days went, this one ranked right up there, and a little tension relief was probably in order. Her cheeks flamed crimson as a wicked voice from the back of her mind suggested a form of tension relief that would be a great deal more fun.
"I guess you're right," he said, shaking his head, and she nearly cringed, thinking that he'd heard her, but he continued ruefully. "I did start it. Happy?"
"How decent of you to admit it--whoa!" Domino yelped, losing her balance as the plane hit a patch of rough air. Nathan immediately reached for her. But instead of just supporting her, he pulled her down onto his lap.
Domino flushed, a little unsettled by his sudden proximity. She hadn't expected him to do THAT. That was not part of the usual 'program', the little dance they'd been doing with each other for so long. His expression had changed, too, grown oddly serious.
"Should I finish what I started, then?" Nathan asked softly, reaching up and smoothing an errant lock of hair away from her face. Domino shivered, but then frowned at the faint edge of doubt she heard in his voice. He half-shrugged, almost apologetically, at the questioning look she gave him. "We've been down this road before."
She felt a sudden surge of tenderness for him, remembering the handful of nights, scattered through her years with the Pack and afterwards, when they'd found themselves in each other's arms. Most of those times, it had simply happened, one or both of them needing comfort and naturally turning to the person each trusted more than anyone else in this world.
"You always let me run away afterwards," she whispered. Those rare times when her resolve had failed, when her past had caught up with her and she'd needed to find some sort of shelter, he'd been there, made her feel safe and protected. But he'd always left it at that--never tried to claim more than a night. He'd always respected her hatred of the very idea of being 'dependent' on anyone, never done anything that might have provoked her to act on it. And her feelings for him had only deepened as a result. She would never be coerced again, never compelled, but that didn't mean she would never choose to give her heart to someone who understood her need to be free. Someone who would--care for her without trying to cage her. Tentatively, she tried to 'push' those thoughts out where he could see them.
Nathan's features twisted with something very close to pain for a moment. "It meant as much to me. You made me feel--like I was part of the world--of this world." His voice sounded rougher than normal, as if that legendary self-control was beginning to crack. "I never--I don't think I ever thanked you for that."
Trembling slightly, Domino took his face between her hands. "You did," she said unsteadily. "Every time you laughed at one of my jokes. Every time you smiled at me." Every time you remembered you were human--
There were tears in his eyes. He'd heard that last thought, she supposed. Good; she'd intended that he should. "Dom--"
"Shut up, Summers. My turn," she murmured, and kissed him. He stiffened for a moment, but then his arms tightened around her, drawing her closer. This kiss had nothing of the desperation of the one they'd shared in the Negev waiting for the crystal wave to hit. No, this was much better, Domino thought distantly, spots beginning to dance on the insides of her eyelids from lack of oxygen. She never wanted this to end, she wanted to stay in his arms forever--
"Autopilot on?" she asked, her voice hoarse, when they finally separated.
"Good." She slid off his lap, pulling him along with her. There was a makeshift sleeping compartment at the back of the plane. That would do quite nicely, she thought judiciously--
At which point, the plane chose a nicely inopportune moment to hit some more turbulence. This time, they both ended up on the floor, her sprawled on top of him.
"Ouch," Nathan said, with a sort of offended dignity, and Domino started to laugh.
"You big baby."
He said something that sounded like a profanity in Askani, and then snorted. "It's a good thing I didn't decide to be gallant and carry you," he said. "What do you think our chances are of getting to the bed without one of us breaking something?"
"To hell with the bed," she said wickedly.
"Sounds like a plan." And then he was drawing her down towards him, kissing her again, and she melted against him without a moment's reservation. Whatever might happen later, whatever the consequences, she wanted this.
She wasn't quite sure how they managed to get out of their uniforms so fast. Maybe he'd rediscovered some of his bodysliding technology and teleported their clothes off. The thought made her giggle, but the giggle turned into a gasp as he suddenly flipped them over and she found their positions of a few moments before reversed.
"What is this hang-up of yours about always having to be on top?" she asked irrepressibly, partly to make him laugh, partly to retain control for just a moment longer, to try and distract herself from the surprising strength of the desire that ran through her body like an electric current, radiating outwards from every spot their skin was in contact.
Amusement flashed across his face for a moment, but was soon replaced by a tenderness she'd never seen there before. He traced the line of her jaw gently, his eyes fixed on her face, as if he was drinking in the very sight of her. "Have I told you lately how beautiful you are?" he asked softly.
A not entirely unpleasant ache suddenly localized itself in her chest, and she blinked desperately as her vision blurred. "No," she said, putting on an imperious expression. "I'm afraid you've been terribly lax in that department, Mr. Summers--"
A wonderful, warm smile lit his face, so different from his occasional reluctant grin of amusement, his 'I-know-something-you-don't' smirk, or that bared-teeth 'smile' he wore whenever he was contemplating mayhem of some sort. "I ought to be taken out and shot, then."
"I'm in a forgiving mood today," she said generously.
"There's a first," he said slyly, and silenced her half-amused, half-outraged retort with another kiss, followed by another, and another, that trailed down across her face to her neck.
And then lower.
"You implying I carry grudges?" she asked, biting back a gasp of pure pleasure.
#Me?# his voice said innocently in her mind while his mouth and his hands were busy elsewhere. #Would I do that?#
She muttered a curse. "Not fair," she said breathlessly, and then gasped again, fingers tangling in his silver hair as he trailed a hand teasingly down the sensitive skin of her inner thigh. Definitely, definitely not fair--
#What? That I can carry on a conversation and do this at the same time?#
'This' drew a moan from her. Bastard, she threw back at him whole-heartedly, laughing inwardly in delight even as his hands moved across her body, seemingly leaving fire in their wake. Feeling light-headed, almost weightless, she held on to him tightly, as if anchoring herself.
#You know,# his voice said in her mind, a little less casually than before. #There's probably a very good psychological reason why we're doing this, after what just happened. Needing to make sure we're alive and all that--#
She reached down, pulling him upwards until they were face to face and giving him a level glare. "To answer the question you're dancing around, no, I'm not having second thoughts, Nate. And cut the psycho-babble before I slug you."
#Just checking,# he sent back, sounding almost chagrined at her vehemence.
She almost chuckled, but then something occurred to her, and a little spasm of anxiety clutched at her heart. "Are you?" she asked hesitantly. Keeping in mind that if he doesn't finish what he started, I'm going to kill him--
His mouth quirked. "Oath, no," he said, as if the answer were obvious. "What man would, looking at you?"
His presence still lingered in her mind, and she could feel the utter conviction behind the words, the unashamed yearning. Smiling, she shifted sinuously beneath him, delighted when he flushed, his breathing growing ragged. She reached up to pull him closer, and as she ran her hands over his shoulders, she marveled at the contrast between the cool techno-organic metal and the flesh that seemed as overheated as her own.
Nathan suddenly flinched and pulled away, abruptly. He turned over onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, his expression curiously blank. Domino let him go, baffled for a moment until she felt the slight, almost involuntary trembling in his body as he laid there next to her. She pushed herself up onto her elbows, and leaned over him, tossing her hair back over her shoulder.
This was the first time, she realized, that they'd been--in this position since she'd found out that what she'd once thought were bionics was really the T-O virus. Understanding tinged with exasperation flooded her, and she shook her head, caressing the side of his face lightly.
"You idiot," she said tenderly, and proceeded to demonstrate exactly how little it mattered to her. That she wanted him as a whole person, not just the half of him that was flesh and bone. At first, he stiffened at her touch, muscles clenching in reflexive resistance provoked by a combination of pride and the long-ago echo of a lonely boy more than half-convinced he was a freak. But she persisted, whispering reassuring words to him that she could never remember afterwards, soothing that tension away before she turned her attentions to restoring a tension of a different and far more desirable sort.
"Dom--" he whispered almost pleadingly, even as need won out over stubbornness and his body started to respond.
She didn't stop, didn't let up for a moment. Let go, she thought at him with all the passionate intensity she could, knowing that she was speaking as much to herself as to him. Let it all go, just be with me--don't think, just feel--
A stifled cry burst from him, full of such longing that it nearly brought tears to her eyes. As his arms went around her, pulling her upwards and drawing her closer to him, the embarassment and reluctance she had sensed through that still-present contact between their minds was swept away in an instant in a white-hot blaze that rocked her as if the release had been her own.
Time ceased to have any meaning as they moved together, their bodies and minds entwining. All she was aware of was him, and the brilliance of the fire that blazed in their linked minds, growing more intense with every touch, every caress.
He touched her as delicately as if she were made out of porcelain--or crystal, a distant part of her mind that was still able to think clearly pointed out with an ironic chuckle. Gentle, he had always been so gentle beneath the ice and the stone and the steel of the armor he wore to keep out the world. The most considerate lover she'd ever had, his care and devotion banishing the memories of violence and violation that made up so much of her past experience.
Never before, though, had she been so attuned to him at this most vulnerable of moments. The mind-link finally revealed the whole truth of why he always treated her as if she was something infinitely precious. Part of it was consideration for her, yes, but now she saw his side of it as well--how he cherished her so deeply that he didn't dare hold too tight, afraid she might disappear like the ghost of a dream if he did.
She would have wept for him then, if she could, seeing how much all his losses still haunted him, the elemental terror of further pain that lurked beneath the gruff self-confidence of his demeanor. She would have wept, if she hadn't been at the mercy of her body's response to him.
She gasped his name, arching against him, her nails digging into his back, and clung to him fiercely, needing him to leave that pain behind, to forget it, to forget everything, and just be with her. She would have reached into him and shattered that last, lingering bit of self-control if she could. She wanted all of him, damn it!
"Nate," she breathed, tracing a thick, jagged scar along the hard muscles of his abdomen, remembering the day he'd gotten it, all those years ago. Remembering how close she'd come to losing him, how she'd held him in her arms, sobbing, screaming at G.W. over her headset to 'get over here now, damn it!'
She might have lost him again today, they might have lost each other, and all those years would have been wasted--
It came to her, then, what to say. She whispered it to him, those three irrevocable words that neither of them had ever said.
His whole body seemed to spasm, as if she'd just driven a knife into his heart, but then he was saying her name, over and over again, in a voice choked with emotion, and what had been a link between their minds turned into something else, something deeper, until there was no way to tell where she stopped and he began.
Their hearts beat in time, and as their bodies joined, almost in an afterthought, she heard herself cry out, echoed by him at the same moment, in the same breath.
And in the end, they soared together, free from memory and pain and regret, one in mind and
heart as they had never been before.
Slowly, Domino became aware of herself as a separate being again, lying on the floor of the plane as Nathan withdrew from her. She could feel his reluctance as if it were her own--maybe it was her own, she couldn't tell. She still felt--tangled in him, part of her lost and content to be so. It was a delicious sensation.
"And where do you think you're going?" she asked huskily, amazed that her voice actually worked.
"Not far," he said, his voice definitely unsteady as he shifted around so that his weight wasn't resting on her. She chuckled faintly at yet another example of his thoughtfulness as she turned on her side to face him, but then frowned as she felt how violently he was shaking. He seemed chilled, too, she thought with a trace of worry, smoothing sweat-damp silver hair back away from his forehead. He laid there as if he didn't have the strength to move, and gave her a weary but content smile. She had no doubt that he had sensed her concern as easily as she had his exhaustion. "It's been a while since I did that," he said, as if by way of an explanation.
"I wouldn't have noticed," she said seriously, misunderstanding. "You could hardly be described as out of practice, Nate."
His smile grew abruptly. "Well, that too, but I was talking about the link," he murmured.
To her amusement, she felt herself flush. "Ah," she said helplessly. "Well--that was--um, interesting."
"Interesting," he said, sounding half-amused, half-offended. "I knock myself out for the woman and she calls it 'interesting'."
"Okay," she said firmly, pulling him into her arms. He relaxed against her with a deep sigh, his trembling slowly easing. "How about beautiful?" she asked softly. "And I mean that in every sense of the word."
"'S better," he said, his voice faintly slurred with fatigue, and she reminded herself that, above and beyond the whole end-of-the-world-that-wasn't, he'd been through quite a bit today. She wasn't an expert on the subject, but she imagined that having his astral essence ripped out of his body and sent back over twenty years wouldn't have been an entirely pleasant experience. "At least when it--comes t'soothing my--fragile male ego--"
Shaking with suppressed laughter, she held him as he drifted off into a light doze. It was more testimony to how much he trusted her, that he'd sleep in her arms without worrying about having a weapon close at hand in case someone came crashing through the door in the middle of the night. Well, they were on a plane, true, but the analogy was still good, she thought defensively. As for herself, she couldn't even remember where she'd left her gun, and didn't particularly care. As a matter of fact, she was feeling a little on the fatigued side herself. Maybe if she just rested her eyes--
The PACRAT sped on in silence towards its destination while the two soldiers it was bringing home from their latest battlefield slept in each other's arms, dreaming the same dream.
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