Another Old Lang Syne: Part 1
Disclaimer: Cable, Domino, and the other assorted X-Types are not mine. They belong to Marvel, sadly. I'm not profiting from this story in any way (though the moths in my billfold make me wish I were) so please don't sue (unless you like to be paid in small winged insects, that is). Pg-13 for innuendo, language, and other sundry things.
Notes: Much thanks to Threnody, DeadEye, Lyss, Lynxie, and Kaleko, all of whom looked over this thing at some point and/ or offered pillows as I slammed my head against the wall in frustration. Dedicated to Cosmic for her birthday.
"Tell me why we’re doing this again?” Domino asked, trying to stuff her bag into the overhead compartment. The plane was already filling with a myriad of travelers heading home for the holiday season.
“Because Jean asked us to. Besides, you haven’t come to a family gathering in what- almost five years?”
“There’s a reason for that. When those people gather in large numbers, things tend to explode.” She sat down, letting Nathan have the window seat because she knew he hated sitting on the aisle. A few minutes later the plane lurched into motion and took off into the sky.
JFK was crowded as they collected their baggage and worked their way outside. There was a slight wind blowing snowflakes to and fro in the night sky. They flagged down a cab, stowed their luggage and settled back for the ride into Westchester.
Domino was leaning against the door on her side of the car, eyes on the dark landscape flying by beyond the window.
“I shouldn’t have made you come,” Nathan spoke up finally.
“I’m not mad at you,” she replied, getting down to what she knew was really on his mind. “I’m not going to pretend to be overly fond of your family, Nate, you know I’m not. But if it’s that important to you...” She trailed off and glanced over at him. “Though I admit I’m curious what’s sparked this sudden interest in family togetherness. I don’t remember you being this... enthusiastic before.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that with more time on my hands now,” he paused, a slightly perplexed look on his face. “I’m starting to realize that this is the sort of thing that really matters, Dom. Life isn’t about battles and destiny for me now. It’s about appreciating what I’ve been given, not what’s been taken from me.”
She raised an eyebrow skeptically. “Interesting... but what does that have to do with dragging me off to New York to spend a week with your dysfunctional relatives?”
“Well,” he replied slowly, “They were asking about you when I came to see Rachel this spring...”
“So you brought me to keep them from hassling you. Thanks so much,” she snapped in irritation. “Very thoughtful.”
“No! I- did you want me to leave you alone for Christmas?” He growled. “Do you want me to chose between you and them?”
She sighed softly and turned to look out the window again. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s not your fault I can’t be a group player. Just do me a favor and promise me we’ll spend some time away from them? Because if I have to spend an entire week in close contact with your family, I’m going to end up shooting someone, and they’ll never invite us back again.”
He laughed quietly and she grudgingly let him pull her over to lean on his shoulder. “I promise.”
The mansion was lit brightly against the dark spread of woods beyond when they pulled up and disembarked. The snow was falling heavier now, swirling on the cold December wind. Jean greeted them at the door and ushered them into the foyer.
“I’m so glad you made it.” She gave Nathan a quick hug and nodded to Domino. “You must be tired. Your room is second from the end on the left-hand side of the west wing, and supper should be done fairly soon.”
“Are you sure this is the right way?”
“Pretty sure... though things have been rearranged a little since the last time I was in this part of the house.”
“Probably because they keep having to rebuild every time the place gets blown up.”
He sighed and looked at her askance. “Can we please not start this again?”
“I was kidding, Nate,” she replied. “Wait, is this it?” She walked toward the end of the hall until she came to the one that had their names tacked on the front of it. “Here we go.”
She opened the door and went inside, dumping her bags on the bed. "Gee.... You sure your mother is going to let you share a room with a girl?"
He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind. “You don’t think we ever actually fooled them, do you?”
“Hell no. We weren’t even fooling ourselves.” She’d always rationalized the distance they kept between them in public as simple common sense. An enemy always looks to exploit weaknesses and emotional attachments were like neon welcome signs. The problem was, that distance never had fooled anyone. So what was it they were really hiding from? A fear of being hurt, perhaps? They shared a history of painful relationships...was it a matter of reluctance to place themselves in such a vulnerable position again? Was all the mystery and crypticness merely cover to keep from having their hearts broken again? She frowned, then disengaged herself from his arms. “You go downstairs...I’ll unpack and join you in a little bit.”
“You sure?” He asked hesitantly. He could feel her turmoil and put a hand on her shoulder. “The unpacking can wait.”
She sighed. “You’re right. Let’s get this over with.”
“It’ll be fine.” He smiled and took her hand in his own, squeezing it reassuringly.
He kept that grip on her hand as they entered the living room. It was decorated for the holiday, though with such a diverse group of people, the holiday itself was a mere technicality. A large pine tree graced one corner of the room, decked with white lights and brightly colored blown glass balls. Red and white poinsettias were arranged on the mantel and several tables. An attempt was being made to start a fire in the fireplace with quite a bit of commotion and not much result.
Most of the women where drifting between the kitchen and the dinning room, getting things ready for dinner. Jean appeared moments after they entered the room, balancing eight month old Rachel on her hip as she tried to direct the progress of the meal.
“I was afraid you’d gotten lost,” she laughed, freeing a lock of her hair from her daughter’s grasp. “Anyway, it seems all the men are in a competition to see who can get that fire going... maybe you can go show them how it’s done? You can show up your father.”
“I’m sure he’ll love that,” Cable replied, then glanced at Dom. “Can I trust you to not get into trouble?”
She rolled her eyes. “I’m sure I can manage. Go play with the rest of the boys,” she smirked.
“He certainly seems to be in a good mood,” Jean commented after he was gone.
“He’s... been that way lately,” Domino replied, watching as the men at the other end of the room erupted into another minor argument.
“I noticed when he came this spring that he seemed more... at peace. It’s so nice to see him actually smile. I’m sure you had no small hand in that.”
Dom shrugged. “I don’t really have much to do with it.”
“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” she countered, smiling. “I should really get back to the kitchen and see how things are going. You’re welcome to come with... goodness knows we could use the help.”
“Uh...sure,” she replied hesitantly. She wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about the idea, but it was better then standing around like an idiot.
“Domino. It is... a pleasure to see you again. It has been a long time.”
Domino sighed and turned to face the owner of the voice, stepping out of the way as Rogue walked past with a casserole dish. “It has, hasn’t it?” She narrowed her eyes slightly at Storm. “Life’s been busy.”
“Indeed,” the other woman replied, giving her a subtle once-over. “It is a shame you and Nathan do not visit us more often.”
Domino bit back her annoyance with Storm’s condescending tone. ‘You promised Nate you would behave... just play nice with the weather witch,’ she told herself sternly. “I’ll keep it in mind,” she replied as civilly as she could. Storm opened her mouth to make another comment when Jean appeared.
“Dom, could you do me a favor?”
“Sure,” she replied, shooting Ororo a look before turning to Jean. “Though I’ll warn you, I’m not much use in a kitchen.”
“Actually, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind looking after Rachel for a little while? I’ve got my hands full in here, and she’s fussing.”
“Jean, I do not know that-”
“It’ll be no problem,” She interrupted quickly before Storm could finish her protest. She took the child, who smiled up at her.
“Thanks so much.” As she turned away, Dom caught the sly smile on Jean’s face.
‘Thanks,’ she thought, certain the telepath would hear her.
#You’re welcome. I know Ororo can be... aggravating at times.#
‘That’s an understatement.’ The thought was met with the telepathic equivalent of laughter as she exited the kitchen with Rachel in her arms. “Well, kido, what do we do now?” She asked, glancing down at the child. Rachel’s only response was to grin and grab a fistful of Domino’s hair. “Ow. Hey, that’s not a toy, y’know.” She freed her hair and made a quick glance around the room. The men were still at the other end of the room, now engaged in a debate she couldn’t quite make out, a fire blazing in the fireplace.
“Looks like it’s just you and me,” she commented, shifting Rachel into a more comfortable position. The infant scrunched her face up and began to cry. “Great,” Dom muttered under her breath. “Guess I don’t blame you... I wouldn’t want to be stuck with me either.” Lacking a better idea, she exited the room and began making a circuit of the mansion, bouncing Rachel gently on her hip as she roamed in hopes of calming the baby. As she passed the doors to the library, she stopped to look at the array of photographs hung on the wall. They ranged from the earliest day of the academy- and the first team of X-Men- to snapshots taken at Rachel’s birth.
“There’s your dad and mom,” she commented, pointing to the photo of the school’s five original students. “Hard to believe they were ever that... innocent. Hard to believe any of us were,” she sighed. “And here’s Nate,” she said pointing to another. “Before all the time travel. Though we should probably avoid getting into that right now. I’d hate to get blamed when you need therapy. Always was a cute little bastard though.” She muttered. “Great...now they’ll blame me if you develop a foul mouth.”
Her eyes trailed over one of the newest pictures on the wall, depicting Cable holding his then new born sister. “Look at that, grinning like an idiot. Why doesn’t he smile like that for me? Wait... don’t answer that. I’m not sure I want to know the answer. Let me tell you something about that brother of yours. He’s stubborn as h- all get out, but once you get past that, he’s got a heart of gold. He just doesn’t know it, most of the time. But he’s never going to let you down, I know that much. So no matter how ill tempered he gets, just remember that he really does care.” She paused. “And maybe I should take my own advice more often, huh?”
Her eyes lingered a moment longer over the pictures. “This is some family you’ve got,” she commented. “Look at everything they’ve been through, and they just keep bouncing back. Sure wish someone’d let me in on their secret.” She smiled wryly. “Just ignore me, Rachel. You’re a captive audience, and I’m running on at the mouth. I’m sure you don’t want to listen to a bunch of rantings out of a bitter old merc. Anyway, I should probably get you back to your mother before everyone starts worrying.”
“Hey guys. Dinner’s almost set, if you want to go get places at the table,” Jean announced, interrupting the conversation. Scott waked over and wrapped his arms around his wife’s waist.
“Smells great,” he murmured. “Where’s Rachel?”
“I asked Domino to look after her for awhile while the rest of us got things ready.”
“You asked Dom to look after her? And she agreed?” Nathan asked, looking both mildly surprised and amused.
“I attempted to tell her it was not a good idea,” Storm commented, approaching the group from the adjoining dining room. “I do not know where she-”
“I’m right here, Storm. And look, I didn’t drop her on her head or anything.” Domino strode in and passed the baby to Jean. “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” she said tersely, “I’m going upstairs. The flight wore me out.” She turned and strode back out the door.
Cable sighed and Jean shot Storm an angry look. “Nathan...”
“I’ll go talk to her,” he said, scowling.
#I’m sorry, Nathan. I’ll talk to Ororo.#
#Don’t worry about it, Jean. Dom...isn’t in the best of moods. She was probably just venting steam.# He broke off the conversation as he headed up the stairs.
“What do you want?” She scowled.
He sighed and sank down next to her on the bed. “I know you don’t get jet lag, Dom.” Her frown deepened, but she said nothing. “Fine.” He stood up again. “Don’t tell me what’s bothering you. It’s my fault for dragging you here in the first place. I should have let you stay alone in San Francisco.”
“Bastard,” she muttered under her breath. “No fair making me feel guilty.”
“I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, Dom. I want to know why you feel like you have to hide.”
“Fine, okay, you want to know? They’re all staring at me like it’s the Second Coming or something.”
“Because you never show up! Oath, Jean nearly had a heart attack when I told her you were flying in with me.”
“I also don’t need people insinuating that I can’t watch over your sister without dropping her on her head,” she continued bitterly.
Cable closed his eyes and ran a hand back through his hair. “Ororo means well, Dom...”
“But she doesn’t think I can be trusted outside of a battlefield. None of them do. Am I really that inept, Nate?” She flopped back on the pillows and stared up at the ceiling. “I can’t tell. Maybe I am. To tell you the truth Nate, it just scares the shit out of me. That these people- your family- manage to carry on with the semblance of a normal life when everything could crash down around them at any moment. And even then, they’d pick up the pieces and try again. I don’t know how to do that. I’ve never even had the chance to try.” She turned away from him, entirely too aware of the tears that were pricking the corners of her eyes.
“I’ve been busy fighting to keep myself alive for-” the yawning gulf of her early memories rose up to greet her, “-for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
His hand was gentle on her shoulder. “Not true. You had-”
“What?” She sat up, eyes flashing angrily. “Milo?” She let out a strangled laugh that was closer to a sob. “That sure worked out well, didn’t it?”
He cursed at himself under his breath and griped her shoulders in his hands. “If what you want to know,” he said softly but firmly, “is if there is a ‘you’ outside of the guns and the fighting, then the answer is yes. She’s been there every time I’ve needed her. Never gave up on me.”
“I did give up on you.”
“You showed me what an inconsiderate bastard I’d been. It just took me awhile to figure it out.”
She jerked herself out of his grasp. “Shouldn’t we be getting back downstairs?”
#You could at least pretend you’re enjoying yourself.#
‘I’m trying Nate,’ she sent back, stabbing her fork at the food on her plate. ‘But frankly, I couldn’t care less who the Hellfire Club’s recruited now, or what Magneto’s next big move might be.’
‘I’m allowed. You did it for long enough. If I suddenly started acting as cheery as you’ve been lately, someone would cry ‘pod person’ on us.’
#Look, we’ll skip the group breakfast tomorrow, okay? There’s a nice restaurant in Salem Center.#
‘Storm’s glaring at me. You see that?’
#Now you’re being petty. Just ignore it.#
‘Yeah...okay.’ She went back to eating her dinner, admitting to herself that she could put more effort into this thing. After all, it wasn’t as if they could help her natural dislike of ‘family’ events.
When the conversation turned into a debate on training techniques, she actually found herself getting caught up in it, defending the methods she and Nate had used with X-Force against the accusation that they were too ‘harsh.’
“You have to face the fact that it’s not a pretty world out there. Coddling the kids is only going to get them hurt in the long run. They realize getting their asses kicked by Nate or I was a lot better than having it happen at the hands of an enemy who’s not going to hesitate to finish them off.”
“But the sort of mentality that creates doesn’t promote a sense of responsibility for their actions,” Scott countered from across the table. “We’re fighting for equality here. How are we supposed to expect the public to accept us, to no longer fear mutants if we continue to create situations that fuel those feelings of mistrust?”
“Sometimes public relations have to take a back seat,” Nathan interjected. “When you’re fighting for a larger goal, you can’t quibble over minor details.”
“There are some things that take precedent over the larger goal, Nathan,” Scott continued. “If you alienate those you’re trying to persuade, you’re not going to get a very good result.”
“And sometimes dreams can be unrealistic,” Domino spoke up. “You can’t please everyone all the time. And honestly, there is very little that any of you could do to change people’s minds. They’re going to think whatever the hell they want, no matter how hard you try to fight for a ‘better understanding.’ All Nate and I are doing is making sure that when it gets down to the dirty job of surviving, these kids don’t get run down.”
#Play nice, Dom,# Nate warned, though she could feel his amusement as the reactions she was getting out of the assembled X-Men.
‘I am,’ she sent back. ‘I didn’t tell them Xavier’s little crusade was bullshit, did I?’ She was trying not to laugh. “Think of it as an outside perspective. You can’t try to change the world if you don’t know what it’s like.”
“We do not try to reform killers,” Storm spoke up. “We attempt to inform those who have been misguided into seeing the mutant population as something to be resented, and which must be repressed.”
“That’s your choice to make,” Domino replied, coolly, forcing herself to ignore the accusation in Storm’s voice. “But I don’t see the harm in being prepared for any eventuality.”
“Dom’s right,” Cable spoke again. “It’s not as if we’ve been trying to turn X-Force away from Xavier’s dream. Their choices are their own. But we’ve been entrusted with their well being, and I don’t see the harm in ensuring that they’ll be able to handle themselves in *any* situation.”
“I think we’re going to have to settle this as a difference in philosophies,” Jean said. “After all, we’ve all had very different experiences, and that can have a big impact on the way things are viewed. Now, who wants to help with the dishes?”
“Y’r gettin’ sloppy, Neena.” She turned and watched the shadow that emerged from between the trees. “Never used to be able to sneak up on ya like that.”
“I was distracted.”
“Distracted’ll get you killed.”
She sighed and stuffed her cold hands deeper into her pockets, beginning to think that taking a walk had been a bad idea. “Don’t you have someone else to pester, old man?”
“You’re it,” he replied, coming along side her. “What're you doin’ out here this late anyway?”
“Walking,” she replied sarcastically, both annoyed and secretly touched by his gruff brand of concern.
“At one in the morning in the middle of December. You and Summers have a fight of somethin’?”
“No,” she glanced over at him. “Nate and I are good,” she replied hesitantly. “Well as good as we ever are anyway.”
“What’s on your mind, then?”
She frowned and stuffed her hands deeper into her pockets. “To tell you the truth, I don’t really know,” she sighed. “Nate asked me to come, so I came. But the longer I’m here, the more I realize I don’t belong here. Makes me wonder if I’m doing the right thing.”
“Everything else aside, darlin’,” he said, “are you happy?”
She paused, looking up through the trees to the cold winter sky, stars shining bright and sharp like a thousand pinholes in the curtain of the night. “I think so,” she said. “Maybe that’s the thing. After all this time, it doesn’t seem possible.”
He lay with his eyes closed, listening as she came into the room, ‘seeing’ her mind like a violet light behind his closed lids. She probably knew he wasn’t asleep. Drawers opened and shut, water ran in the bathroom as she started up the shower. He relaxed against the pillows while he waited for her.
The bathroom door opened again, a sliver of light playing across his eyelids. Sheets rustled as she climbed in next to him. “Enjoy your walk?” He asked quietly.
“It’s cold as hell out there,” she responded evasively, and slid closer to him. Her still-damp hair was cool on his skin as she lay her head on his chest.
He drew an arm around her shoulders. “It is December,” he replied.
“Mmm. Warm me up?”
He chuckled slightly. “Hard to resist an offer like that.”
“We should get up.”
Domino cracked one eye open and looked at him, but made no move to detangle herself from her position half-sprawled across him. Not that he was protesting, exactly. But the bedside clock was showing quarter after eleven and he knew that someone was bound to come looking for them if they didn’t get moving soon. He brushed her hair back from her face. “Come on, we’ll go get breakfast.”
After a moment more, she sat up, stretching languidly. “Breakfast sounds good.” She leaned over and gave him a bruising kiss (which made him strongly consider taking back his words) then climbed out of bed to get dressed.
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