DISCLAIMER: Marvel's, not mine, no money, don't sue.
FEEDBACK/ARCHIVE: Usual rules apply, please - no flames, ask first.
PERMISSIONS: Ok to pop up, but not to MST please.
DEDICATION: To Lynxie -- who was feeling depressed, and I offered to write her a story. Hope this makes you feel better, hon!
The basement door opened, permitting a tiny sliver of silver light to filter in from the hallway.
"SHUT THE BLOODY FUCKIN' DOOR!" Marrow yelled back up, flinging a handful of finger-bone shivs toward the top of the stairs to punctuate her command...~Just to make sure the stupid prettypretty upworlders *get* it!~
The door closed, and Marrow waited for the inevitable lecture from one of the mansion's resident yammering, feckless do-gooder upworlders. But there was none.
She sniffed the air furtively, seeking a whiff of the Old Man's foul cigar smoke, but she found none. She cocked her head, listening for the whisper of the windrider's presence...~Windrider bitch won't even let her pristine toes touch the floor now that I live under her roof with her precious X-Men...~
She pressed herself against the wall, waiting to feel her thoughts invaded by the one they might as well call the Bald Messiah. But that didn't happen either.
~They're gonna leave me the hell alone for once?~ She raised one magenta brow dubiously. ~It's too good to be true,~ she thought, shaking her head.
And, needless to say, it was.
Marrow didn't even have the chance to yelp in surprise as she was snatched off the stairs and into the shadows.
She twisted away, landing on her feet, though, and growled. "Oh, somebody who wants the wild ride, huh? Somebody with the balls to come down here and meet Marrow on her own turf, hmm? If you got such brass, let's see ya. Step up so I can see your pretty-pretty face, right before I slash it to ribbons with my bone daggers."
"Done." The voice was unfamiliar, female, and completely unintimidated by Marrow's threats. It was followed at a brief interval by a flickerflash of black on white...and then was gone again. "What was that you were saying about my face, little girl?"
Marrow listened; years of living in the Morlock tunnels, then fighting to survive on Mikhail's world had made her practically a predator. She could hear the footfalls of the intruder: light, sure-footed. She waited, learning the pace of the other's motions -- and leapt.
The intruder had anticipated her leap, and handsprung back, away from her.
Marrow gritted her teeth and screamed in frustration...though part of her secretly reveled at having an opponent who didn't seem to mind that Marrow fought for keeps.
"You realize I could keep this up all night," the unseen woman informed Marrow in a calm tone. "I've taken on Grizzly -- not that you'd know who he is -- and won. I've taken on Arcade."
"I'm so impressed, shadowslinker," Marrow seethed.
"You should be. I don't do favours like this for just anyone." And with that, Marrow had to throw up her arms to guard her face from the dazzle-burst of phosphorescent light that flared to life...
Marrow took her hands down, in favour of squinting. She forced herself from the defensive crouch to her feet. Thanks to the insistence of Bobby and the other X-Men, she'd become a bit more acclimated to the light. "Who the hell are you?"
"A friend of Sam's."
"Sam's?" Marrow's yellow eyes widened, then narrowed. She had been taking a perverse pleasure in making raunchy passes at the sweet-natured country boy...since she was altogether certain he'd never give her the time of day, let alone pay her attention, otherwise.
"Mm-hmm." The woman brushed plaster dust off the shoulders of her black novex and kevlar jacket. "That's right. You're not as stupid as Logan says you are."
Marrow growled. "You lookin' to lose an eye?"
Domino remained where she was, unconcerned. "You throated the man and goaded him into a berserker rage, girlie-girl. I'd say that was pretty stupid, even if you do think you have something to prove."
"I could throat you," Marrow retorted, trying for the same casual tone the other woman was using.
"You couldn't even lay a finger on me, Sarah," Domino replied. "Name's Domino. And you're queen for a day."
Marrow backstepped as Domino reached to take her by the hand. "Say *what*?"
"Look, here's the deal. You can't hide the fact that you have a crush on the boy in a house full of telepaths." Domino shrugged, smiling in an understanding manner. "They figure that you won't trust one of them -- so they had Sam ask me to come over. When I got here, Rogue, Betts, and even Cecilia said I'm to give you a makeover."
"Oh, right. Like any upworlder --" she sneered, "--beauty salon would let *me* in for a cut and style." Marrow leaned against the scarred wall. "Tell me another one."
"That's all there is," the older woman said, quirking her lips into a smile that brought a kindness into her blanched features that wasn't visible before. "So, you like the Guthrie boy, or what?" Domino leaned forward as she finished the question, and her eyes were intense.
Sarah was surprised to find that there was genuine concern for the shy, gentlemanly Guthrie in those eyes. ~She's afraid I'm gonna hurt him!~ She wasn't sure how to reply to that. ~Of course I like him. He's beautiful and golden and sweet and gentle...and...~ She shook her head, instead, spitting, "Don't be stupid. What would I want with a weakling like him?"
"Oh, I dunno," Domino replied in a tone that indicated she'd had this conversation at least a few times before. "He's kind to you, and doesn't treat you like a dangerous, uncivilized animal -- though you kind of encourage him and the rest of the X-Men to do just that?"
"How do you know so much about me?" Sarah asked, one hand having fallen already to her side. The other was still in its death-grip around the hilt of a bone-dagger she'd pulled from a shoulderblade.
"It's what I do," Domino replied. "A little intelligence, a little recon. Then move in, gauge the enemy, and engage the enemy."
"I'm the enemy?" Sarah had to laugh at that.
"Right this minute, all you are is a skinny, dirty-faced waif with no manners," Domino corrected. "But if you break Sam Guthrie's heart, you better believe you're the enemy. That one has managed to stay innocent and sweet through all this world can throw at him, and no thanks to his last girlfriend."
Sarah felt her anger rising at the mention of Tabitha Smith. Sam had come home in a terrible funk, and would only say that he and Tabitha had broken up. Sarah had so very much *wanted* to comfort him, to take him in her arms and show him what a woman was supposed to do with him...a woman with any sense. But she hadn't been able to find the courage buried under years and years of belligerent, hostile attitude.
~Or,~ Marrow reflected reluctantly, ~You were just too scared he'd say you were too ugly and broken for him, and that he'd cast you off.~
"If I meet said stupid upworlder," Marrow growled, "I'd happily cut her heart out and give it to Sam on a stick." She pulled free a legbone and twirled it like a baton. "Cardiac dumb bitch shish kebab."
Domino chuckled. "You've got moxie, I'll give you that. If I didn't think that a stable home was *good* for you just now, I'd tell you and Sam both to pack your things and come to X-Force. We could use someone like you. But for now, here's where you need to be." Domino's expression said she wasn't exactly happy with the decision, but that she had weighed the possibilities and come to terms with it. "So -- you want to clean up real good and ask the boy out, or would you rather just continue trying to hit me and failing?"
"Tempting," Sarah smirked, and leapt for Domino's throat.
"Later, dear, promise." Domino chuckled, and in a series of moves too quick for Sarah to follow -- had Sarah down on her chest, with a knee in the small of her back. "For now, come with me."
Sarah attempted to struggle, then realized it was mainly futile. "What are you going to do with me?" There was an anger in her tone, even through the resignation -- and she hoped the other woman didn't hear the fear in her voice. Only two other women had ever fought Marrow to a standstill. Callisto, she thought of as a mother, and Ororo had stabbed her in the heart. Needless to say, Domino had earned Marrow's respect at the least.
"Well, first we're gonna teach you a few things." Domino pointed to the spot on her eye. "This is not makeup. It's not war-paint. It's not a tattoo. It's all natural. And I hold my head up in public. Any plain old vanilla human who gives me shit about it will learn the hard way. Aside from which -- my power tends to mean things go my way."
Marrow blinked and poked a finger at Domino's face. The other woman stood without flinching as Sarah dragged a finger down Domino's cheek, assuring herself that the woman was indeed not wearing some arcane manner of face paint. "You look like that, and you walk around amongst the upworlders. You *do* have brass!" Marrow flashed a smile, before she realized it and lifted a hand to cover her mouth.
"You're a pretty girl," Domino observed. "You'd be a lot prettier if you smiled once in a while." She smiled in return. "You're also quick on the uptake. That's right. I don't walk around with an image inducer, or makeup. The world can take me like I am, or the world can kiss my snowy white ass."
Marrow laughed. "I can tell you and I are going to get along *really* well, Domino."
Domino grinned and shook the younger woman's hand hard. The ice was broken...it would be all downhill from here.
* * * * *
Rogue and Cecilia shared a surprised, but pleased look as Domino emerged -- unscathed, yet! -- from the basement, followed by a Marrow who held the bone-dagger more as an afterthought than a first reaction.
"What the hell are you lookin' at?!" Marrow demanded of the two of them.
Rogue and Cecilia grinned sheepishly, and fled for the kitchen.
Marrow followed Domino out to the foyer, and out the front door, trying to ignore the curious heads of the other X-Men as they popped out to watch the two of them make their way out of the house.
The Humvee was parked outside, and Domino walked up to it like it was a small, affectionate kitten, patting the matte black finish. "This is my baby. Scratch it, I'll kick your ass."
Marrow nodded. "Got it." ~You know, I like her!~
"Okay, facts on men," Domino explained to Marrow as they drove down Greymalkin Lane.
"One: Even if the man is a telepath -- he will not have the first fuckin' *clue* what is going on inside your mind unless you tell him."
Marrow peered out at the world from the safety of the humvee. Domino already knew that Sarah was a real person under Marrow's lack of social graces; there was no reason to hide her curiosity now. "They're all boneheads," Marrow said, to show she understood the lesson.
"Very *good*!" Domino laughed. "Two: never ask a man 'do I look fat in this?' unless you are particularly feeling like a workout. They don't have the sense to give you the answer you wanna hear -- so only ask if you need an excuse to beat the livin' shit out of him."
Sarah blinked in bewilderment. ~Look fat in *what*? Half those damn pretty-pretty upworlder girls wear practically nothing. The other half wear skin-tight stuff that doesn't leave anything to the imagination!~ She looked down at her own tank top and workout pants and wrinkled her nose. "Uh, Domino -- what about other women?"
"Among the X-Men? No worries, kid. Rogue's too busy angsting over her powers to steer you wrong. Ororo's too afraid to let herself be a real person. Betsy and Jean are spoken for, so you're in good company there for the most part. Nobody to compete with; nobody you have to worry about stabbing you in the back over a man."
Marrow chuckled. "That isn't any different even in the downbelow," she snorted.
"Okay, next lesson -- unless it's combat, when it comes to women, the men are gonna think with the small head, not the big one, dig me?" Domino glanced over to make sure Marrow was paying strict attention. "If you're up for a little fun and games, cool. If not, say no. No *means* no, and feel free to enforce that by cracking a rib or busting a kneecap if you must."
"Sam would never--" Marrow began.
"True, hon, Sam wouldn't...but even if you and him don't work out, or if you decide you'd rather go after some unsuspecting human boy ... it's good to know.
"Last but not least, your opinion of yourself matters most. Do *not* compromise who *you* are just to please the one with the balls, do I make myself clear? You will hate yourself for it when all is said and done, and no man in the *world* is worth debasing yourself for." Domino had apparently reached her chosen destination; she pulled the humvee over and clasped Sarah's shoulder *tightly* as she made this point. "If he wants to make you into something you're not, you deserve better."
Marrow nodded, following Domino toward Bloomingdale's. The older woman walked with her head held high, and her shoulders straight -- there was no shame in her stride; it was almost like she was daring someone to give her a hard time.
"Miss..." an anorexic, overly made-up salesgirl began hesitantly, "Are you lost?" She looked afraid, as if she were expecting to be gutted for daring to speak to the dangerous women.
Marrow rounded on the girl, ready to snarl at her, but Domino simply shook her head. "No, darling, I'm *not* lost. I'm looking for a Versace in a --" She paused and gave Marrow a quick once-over. "Size two. In a deep magenta, or black. Something decadent. We're trying to stop a heart, here, hm?" She pulled a platinum American Express card from the pocket of her jacket and held it between the first and second finger of her right hand. "Do hurry, will you, dear? And you might want to close your mouth. All the perfume you girls have been spritzing has probably attracted *flies.*"
The salesgirl blinked twice, looked like she was about to burst into tears, then scurried off. Sarah blinked twice, watched the salesgirl scamper off like a rabbit scenting an owl, then doubled over laughing.
~This is gonna be a *fun* afternoon!~
The rest of the afternoon went by in a whirlwind, and before it was done, Marrow found herself eating her words about being able to get in an upworlder salon. On 59th Street, Domino's favourite New York stylist, Eugene, did a quick cut and style. "Oh, baby," he cooed at Marrow. "Such a unique color you've got! And you say it's *natural*? To *die* for! And that bone-thing? Don't you worry. I'm gonna give you *such* a cut -- to draw attention to your true beauty!"
"Eugene's a mutant too," Domino confided in a whisper while Marrow got her manicure. "Not that you can tell from looking, but he needs to eat hair. Perfect job for him, what with the clippings and all."
Marrow blinked, and found herself smiling...the day had gone so perfectly, she was almost afraid for it to end. "I don't know what to say...you did all this for me..."
"You do too know what to say," Domino gently punched Marrow's shoulder.
"There you go."
Marrow rushed forward and grasped the other woman in a fierce, tight hug. "No one has ever showed me this kind of kindness," she murmured, squeezing her eyes shut against the threat of tears. "Not without wanting something in return."
"Anybody who wants something in return, kid, is *not* really being kind." Domino's eyes were soft, but her voice was hard -- snapping Marrow back to reality. "It was my pleasure to give you this day, but the truth is that days like this are *rare* and *precious* to people like us, and that's all the reason more to treasure moments like this while we can. You never know what tomorrow will bring."
Marrow nodded. "I understand." And to her surprise, she had, in just this short afternoon, developed a new insight. ~I had such anger for the world ... but now I can see why the X-Men protect it. Why they endure the hatred. This world *can* be a decent place if I am willing to try.~
"Good," Domino grinned. "Now I'll take ya home and you can knock Guthrie on his ass."
* * * * *
That evening, Domino perched in a tree with long-range binoculars, smiling to herself as Marrow returned to the mansion. She could very well imagine the words going with the astonished-pleased looks Marrow was getting as she passed her housemates.
Cecilia: "You go, girl!"
Marrow blushed hotly, but smiled broadly.
Remy: "Whoa. Who de lucky man, chere? Does Remy got a prayer?"
Scott: (mildly) "Well, there, Sarah. If I wasn't a married man..."
Logan: "Whoa. Who the hell're you and what the hell'd you do with the real Marrow? And how long 'til you go back and the real one returns?"
Marrow: "Fuck you, old man." But there was a smile on her face as she said it.
Ororo: "You look lovely."
Domino could see *that* reaction actually threw Sarah for the biggest loop yet. She hadn't expected the windrider to give her a genuine compliment.
Bobby had stopped in his tracks and his ice cream cone had slid to its demise on the kitchen floor.
Hank had simply scratched his chin and murmured, "Fascinating," with a bemused expression.
Rogue had given the young Morlock a thumbs-up and a grin.
Domino leaned back against the trunk of the tree, tracking Sarah's progress to the upstairs. ~Go on, girl. It's not living if there's no risk.~
Sarah smoothed down her blouse, and checked the lines of her new skirt. It fell nicely, despite the large, barbed kneecaps her power produced. The tailor Domino had taken her to had been nothing short of impeccable.
She brushed self-consciously at her expensively coiffed, but casually tousled mop of hair.
Domino concentrated. ~Maybe just this once, I can make things go someone else's way.~
Sarah tapped hesitantly at the door of Sam's bedroom.
The door opened slowly, and Marrow stood there with her back ramrod straight.
Domino nearly fell out of the tree laughing at Sam's slack-jawed expression, and the way his eyes lit up.
~Like we rehearsed it,~ Domino silently encouraged her young charge.
"You wanna go out for a cup of coffee?" Sarah asked Sam, once he had sufficiently composed himself again.
"Ah'd like that," Sam nodded. "An' Sarah? You look fantastic. Ah mean, you were cute before, but..." Sam blushed. "Ah'm gonna shut mah mouth before ah put mah size thirteen in it."
"Smart," Sarah pronounced, and took his arm. She passed the window and glanced toward the copse of trees in front of the mansion. 'Thank you' she mouthed, knowing who was still watching.
Domino waited until they were out of sight, then slipped back inside, unnoticed by any -- except Logan -- who she expected.
"Hey, sometimes it takes a woman's touch."
"Oh, come on. You know that's not all you did."
"No, but it worked. Think the kid'll be a little less of a hardcase now." With that, she laid a flat box on the simple pallet Marrow used for a bed, and laid a note atop it:
Congratulations on your very first date. Don't kiss and tell! Here's a little something soft and silky to spoil yourself with afterward.
It'll be our little secret, "tough cookie."
Your mutie godmother,
"C'mon, runt," Domino grinned. "Let's go to Harry's. I'll buy you a beer and kick your ass at pool." She followed Logan up out of the basement, and headed out for the front door.
"Oh, you think you're all that, eh?"
"I know I'm all that."
"Yeah, yeah, we'll see how well you do, Miss 'things just go my way'..."
"I hope you like humble pie..."
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