Once Haunted, Twice Freed

By Pebbs



DISLCLAIMER: All recognizable characters belong to Marvel. Anything else - should there _be_ anything else? It's mine. Don't touch. I bite. >:*) PG rating here - fairly sappy, though… And maybe rated FF for 'Fluff Factor'. …Beware. Remember, though: all is meant in fun. No offense, should any be taken, is meant.

DEDICATIONS: To Alicia, whom I sorta, kinda wrote this for, my home-girl Sparks, whom provided a welcome distraction - Geeyeah! - Amanda Sichter, whom I read recently and got my inspiration up enough to just about finish this in less than two days, and Lynx, who asked what I was writing, and somehow…let me get away without answering… o.O …and later gave me some much appreciated assistance and advice.

And on to the ficcage...

The sea was beautiful - of course it was, here on their private stretch of beach on an as-yet-unrevealed location in wonderfully in-season Hawaii - but it couldn't really compare…

Not to the lovely creature that lay beside him, even if she were covered up in an airy crème blouse and drawstring khaki pants due to the hint of breeze that had kicked up, signaling the approach of sunset, and a big floppy hat just to make him smile.

His partner.

His lover.

His wife.

"What are you grinning at?"

She looked at him as if he were a little boy that had a secret he was anxious to tell, but would still have her guess until she got it right.

"Nothin'. Just like seeing you smile."

"That all?"

He pretended to look hurt, which looked more than half-feigned than genuine. "You don't believe me?"

"Oh, no - I do. I'm just wondering if that's all you're smiling about. No surprises that'll sneak up on me later?"

"Would _I_ do a thing like that?"

She snickered at him. "And then some, mister. We _both_ know this." She turned away from him and closed her eyes, taking in the rest of the fading sun that was nearly kissing the horizon and reflecting off the darkening sea like watercolors spilled over saran wrap.

He remained as he was, half turned over on his side on his beach lounger and staring at her. Even as clothed as she was, he could see her every line as if she were decked out in the bikini that'd nearly had his jaw on the carpeted floor of their bedroom in the villa just behind them. Whether it was just the way the wind pressed the fabric lovingly against her or if it were supplied by his own memory… He could see it.

"Would you stop that?"

"Stop what?"


"That, what?"

"You're staring, Mr. Summers."

"I know I am, _Mrs._ Summers."

She groaned. "Don't remind me."

"What?" he asked, continuing in his little game, pretending to be even more unaware of the source of her skepticism than before.

"The next time I make a bet with G.W., remind me to be sober, okay?"

He snorted. "Best bet you ever made."

"I _lost_," she informed him.

"No, you didn't."

Grinning again, she opened those beautiful violet eyes and turned them on him, and he swore that they sparkled more than the shimmering water that lie out for miles upon miles before them, past the sand. "Smug this evening, aren't we?"

"Haven't I earned it?"

"Not till I say you have."

"…Oh. Well, when I _have_ earned the right to be smug - and frankly, I don't know what I could ever do to do that, short of destroying Apocalypse - which I've done," he added matter-of-factly, "you be sure to let me know, okay?"

"I'll do that."

"Somehow, I get the feeling you won't."

"You know, there are days you're the biggest knucklehead I know, but other days? Days like this _one_? You are _such_ a smartass."

"Ha, ha."

She chuckled, clear and easy. "Yeah, I liked that one, too."

He just watched, remaining quiet… Let her have the last word. She could have a hundred, a thousand - hell, a _million_ of 'em if that was what she wanted. Male as he was, he'd give her that. And anything else, of course…

And then she just lay there, relaxing, not a spot of unease about her. There used to be times when there was, when she tried to pretend that she was totally comfortable with him this close, especially when he looked in her direction.

That time had passed, even if it'd tickled him sometimes - rare times when he could tolerate being tickled - most of which times usually involved the woman not more than two feet away from him, resting on her own lounger. And being that that time was gone, he could do, say, well, _this_:

"What are you doing?" she asked as her eyes came open and she looked down to find his leg stretched toward her and his giant, oversized boat of a foot brushing up against her own, much smaller, and, hell, even _petite_ one.


"You play footsie under a table, Summers."

"You can play it under the sheets, too."

She chuckled, one part amusement, and all the right parts seductive. "Yeah… There, too." He could tell she was thinking back to the previous evening… He'd been thinking back to that on and off the entire day. Took her long enough…

"So, who says you can't play on the beach?"

"_I_ say. That crusty thing is gonna draw blood in a second - stop." She kicked his foot away, playfully, purple nail polish and the gold anklet I'd given her two anniversaries ago catching the weakened rays of the falling sun. "Put it back where it was."

He grinned obligingly even if he didn't think his feet were all that crusty. "Fine…"

"But?" She'd heard the way that syllable had drifted up at the end and she turned her head to look at him fully.

Without answering, his own gray and glowing eyes connected to her purple ones, he reached a hand over, and slipping them beneath hers that'd been crossed over her middle, rested it tenderly over her belly.

"What're you doing?" she found herself asking yet again, and this time, there was a little more in her expression than a slightly annoyed smile. She liked it when he did that - _really_ liked it.

"Nothin'," he answered yet again as he slowly began to move that hand in a slow circle.

She hesitated as though she still thought he had something up his sleeve before her eyes slipped closed, her head turning away from him once again as she shifted a bit under his touch before settling back. She let out a sigh that might've been a yawn on another day, long and slow and it ended in a half-hidden smirk. "That's good. I wouldn't want to have to smack you upside the head - _again_."

"When was the first time?"

"Earlier - you remember. You kicked over my sandcastle, then ran away. I had to catch you, of course, and when I caught you - which was inevitable - I did it then."

"I…don't remember that."

"Maybe you were concussed. Don't worry about it - just don't go to sleep for a bit."

"I don't plan on it," he said mischievously as he momentarily switched his slow massage of her stomach to a tickling grope of her side.

"Aah! Hey! Oaf!"

He was rewarded - "Ow!" - with a smack upside the head.

She wagged a pale, slender finger at him, but didn't push his hand away. "That's twice, mister. One more time and you're out, you get me?"

"Yeah," he said, flinching as if he actually thought she might hit him again. "Just like I got you last night and I will again tonight."

She shot up halfway up in her seat, propped up on her elbows, as she tried to stifle a laugh with the wrath of a woman who'd just gotten her beloved morals insulted. "You bastard!"

He blinked at her in perplexity. "I didn't kill Kenny."

She blinked back…snorted…made this low sound where she was just barely able to keep it in, then burst out laughing in spite of herself. He knew she'd remember that infamous cartoon show.

"However, _I_ shot de sheriff," he sang hoarsely and rather far from being anywhere near the right key.

"Oh, please, Nath'on. D'_not_ try t' get down wit' y' bad self - it jus' t'aint workeen'," she told him in a passable Jamaican accent with a mock disparaging shake of her head.

This time, Nate was the one that burst into laughter. "Where did you learn that?! I've _never_ heard that!"

"Just full of surprises, this lady be." She grinned a bright smile at him as she quirked her eyebrows suggestively.

"Hmm… Don't I know it." He quieted as he nestled back into the cushions of his lounger, felt his heart's beat slowing…and just watched her, his hand still at her belly.

She glanced at him as if she'd caught something out of the corner of her eye, then turned back again…paused. "What?"

He just shook his head softly.

"No 'nothin''?"


"And just why not?"

He shrugged. "'Cause."

"This where you try out your new articulation skills on me?"

"Ahown 'no."

She blinked at him. "What?"

He repeated himself.

She blinked again. "Say that again."

He did.

She didn't say anything else as she tried to remove that look of confusion from her features. Then, she lifted a finger into the air. "Something…something's telling me that that wasn't Askanii."

"It wasn't."

"Well, it wasn't English," she told him as if she were absolutely sure, something very wifey that he'd noticed very early on…_before_ they'd even been married.

"Yes it was. It's this urban dialect called 'slang'. It means 'I don't know'. I picked it up when I was -" He was cut off by a bark of laughter.

"No wonder! It just _doesn't_ sound right coming out of you."

"Just like I was sure a certain little high-pitched moan wouldn't come out of you?" He waggled his eyebrows.

She tossed her drink in his face.

He sputtered. "What was that for?!"

"For making me blush, you moron."

He just let the liquid drip off his face. "That was a perfectly good Mai Tai."

"And now it's a perfectly good point-maker."

"And just _what_ point would that be?"

"Never make Mommy angry!!" came his answer from a totally different direction than Domino was lying in and in a voice that she'd have outgrown thirty years prior.

They both turned - Dom grinning, and him a bit speechless - to see a blur in overalls and pigtails flying towards him, then leaping into the air right at him. Reflexively, he turned to catch her, hands outreaching just a hair too slow -

"That's my girl - "


She flew over Nate's legs and landed in his lap.

At the wrong angle.

"Daddy, Daddy!" she chorused, throwing her arms around his neck, even though his face was anything but dry, and _bounced_ up and down.

"Aie - ow, hey, kid - "

"I had fun!"

"Wait, a sec - watch it - "

"Did you honey?" her mother asked, anything but ignorant of her lover's current discomfort.

The girl turned dark violet eyes in her mother's direction. "Yeah! The sand goes on f'ever!"

"Move over," her father grunted, hunched awkwardly in his seat and hardly hugging her back at all. And he sounded rather husky. She looked up and found him an interesting shade of reddish purple.


Her mother, who was laughing rather loudly at this point, motioned towards herself. "C'mere, sweetie. Let's get up out of Daddy's lap."

She blinked at her father once more, then did as her mother said and slipped into older woman's hold -

While her father coughed and shifted stiffly, trying to sit up.

"What's a matter wif' Daddy, Mommy?" the puzzled child asked as she was pulled up to sit with her mother. She didn't even take her eyes from her wincing paternal parent as strong, yet feminine hands slipped under her arms and transported her over the gap between the two seats to straddle her mother on the other side.

"You, um… Well, you might've hit your Daddy in a sensitive place, baby."

"What place would make his face go like dat?" She was no less baffled than she had been moments ago.

"No…place you need to know of just yet. Why don't you tell me about how much fun you had?" she asked to forestall her child's infallible question of

'Why?', as she sent frequent glances her husband's way.

Nate let out a long sigh as he slid himself up in his seat with just his hands.

"Y'okay, Daddy?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Fine. Great…" It ended in a well-stifled wheeze.

His daughter grinned a smile as bright as her mothers, gleaming teeth contrasting with the light duskiness to her skin she had to have gotten from her mother's side. As Nate had once jokingly said as he flipped a bit of Dom's raven hair out of her face, 'There ain't no Indian in my family,' to which Dom replied, 'You go back far enough, _everyone_ has a bit of Indian in 'em - and it's Native American, you insensitive jerk.' Unlike earlier, he clearly remembered the assault composed shortly thereafter on his person.

The child's hair was a rich dark brown, long with wavy curls that began halfway down its shouldered length. At the moment, it was tied back where it could do the least harm. Her eyes were wide and curious - she had his nose, which her mother said was her one imperfection - and his chin, too, which she admitted she didn't mind all that much.

She would be tall and slender like her mother, most likely - maybe a bit taller for her father's contribution to her genes. Domino would be fine with that - she just wondered what else the girl would get from her father, namely a few intangibles… Psi-powers, anyone?

"You don't look all dat fine, Daddy. Maybe you shoul' take a nap. You was up late last night."

The red of his cheeks that had been rapidly dwindling after he'd gotten a handle on his predicament slowly returned in the form of badly hidden embarrassment. "What…do you mean, Kid?"

"You were up late," she said with all the innocence of the world in her eyes - far more than he'd ever known as a tyke. "Wrasslin' wif' Mommy."

He glanced up to see the pale creaminess that was his wife's skin flushed a delicate pink. "Wrestling?" she asked.

The girl nodded her head as she adjusted her position against her mother. "Wrasslin'. Woulda wrassled wif' you, but you didn't have no clothes on, and -" Dom's eyes went wide over her daughter's head that was now nestled under her chin - "and I didn't wanna get smashed 'tween you."

Domino coughed loudly.

Nate slowly looked away. *Oath…*



"Who won?"

"Won, what?"

The little girl sighed. "Wrasslin'. Who won _wrasslin'_?"

Domino looked to her husband to see what she would find there. He was as dumbfounded as she was, which didn't really surprise her . He hadn't even sensed the girl awake, let alone that close to the bedroom, his not being of the mind to do so notwithstanding.

*I guess the telepathy should be along shortly, hmm?* Domino surmised humorlessly.

Nate could only shrug helplessly. ~You think she'll need therapy?~

*Coming from this family? Do you even have to ask?*

~I _meant_ from what she saw.~

*I know that. I don't think so… One day, she might actually suggest it herself, though…*

~When she remembers what it was she actually saw?~


"So?" the girl prodded.

"Um, well, um…sweetie… I, um - I think it was a tie, actually," Domino answered unevenly after clearing her throat, blushing more so as if the girl had heard the conversation going on over her head.

"You didn't try hard 'nough, Mommy." The girl sounded disappointed.

It was all Domino could do not to laugh, hiding the inappropriate chortle with another cough.

"Hey. Why couldn't I have won?" Nathan asked, despite the look his wife shot him, suddenly piqued with a familiar jealousy he ran up against every now and again with her instinctively taking her mother's side to everything.

"'Cause you're a boy, Daddy. Boy's are icky and should lose alla time."

He blinked at her. "I'm a man, honey."

"Boy, _big_ boy, man. Same thing."

His eyes then narrowed. "How much time have you been spending with your Aunt Rogue?"

She opened one eye much as her mother had done previously. "Lots. She's fun, Daddy."

Nathan Dayspring Summers sighed. Ever Since Rogue had come out, she had loads of man-hating advice to give. "We're going to have to have a little chat with Auntie Rogue when we get back."

"Oh, Nate, seriously."

"It's not your sex she's insulting!"

"I insult your sex everyday."

"That's different. You love me."

She snorted. "Keep telling yourself th - "

"What's a sex, Mommy?"

"Wait until you're older," both parents chimed in unison, using the same voice with the same level of panic in their eyes. Then they looked up at each other…paused… And began to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing, honey."

She lifted her head. "Yes, huh! You wouldn't be laughin' it there wasn't! Tell!"

"No, really - "

"It's nothing. Just grown-up humor -"

"You wouldn't like it at all -"

"That's not fair!" She began to pout.

"Oh, no…" her father muttered, only chuckling now. "Not the eyes."

Rather than put a halt to her pint-sized manipulations, she only turned up the heat, so to speak.

Domino had to turn away. *Jesus. She doesn't need telepathy - the eyes alone could get you to do what she wants. And it's _your_ fault.* She wasted no time in pointing that out.

~I can't help it if I'm cute.~


~Like I said, I didn't kill Ke -~

*Unless you want a sheriff's badge painted onto your chest and your ass kicked, I'd suggest you hold that thought. We have a pouting child to deal with.*

~Easy as pie.~ Now that he had his bearings back, it was child's play to think of something that would take that pitiful look off his one and only daughter's pixyish-cute and dimpled face.

He hopped up off his deck chair with a smile that he seemed to have taken right out of a catalogue. "Last one to the water's a putrid egg!"

"Yah!" Her daughter nearly literally tore off her mother like a wild thing at the challenge, her frowning gone and forgotten, moving so swiftly Domino almost fell over trying to keep the girl from running right into her father's chair and possibly hurting herself.

She needn't have worried. The little heathen was up and on her way back to the sea before Domino could say to her husband: "At least you got _half_ of the saying right."

He only shrugged those wide shoulders of his, then reaching over his vacated seat, he made a grab for her hand. "You, too," he said with a too-familiar look returning to his eyes and shaping the curve of his lips.

"Oh, no -"

"Oh, _yes_."

"Nathan," she said warningly.

"Domino," he taunted. Then his TK carried her right up into the air, over his chair, into a standing position, then put her down on her feet at his side, him already pulling her along.

"Hey, dammit -"

"You wanna let her beat us?"

"Nathan, she's just a kid -"

"A kid who'll gloat all evening!"

Domino blinked. "True… But, even still - Hey!" She was cut short when she was yanked onto the sand off the patio by one hand, her other keeping her floppy hat perched on her head.

"Run, woman!"

She picked up speed. "Dammit, we're too old for this!"

"You're a mother - you don't have time to be old!"

"Say's _who_?"

"Say's _you_."

"Was I drunk?" she wondered as she leapt over a furrow that might've done a bit of damage to her ankle if she hadn't been so quick.

"No. Tyla's second birthday. Said it to Jean - I was in the doorway."


"Teach you to -" he jumped over a pothole of his own, "say things where they'll come back to haunt you."

She just glared at him, that stupid grin on his face, his terribly Hawaiian shirt - red on yellow - billowing in the breeze. Times when he could look like that had been so rare and in-between once upon a time… Now, they came rather freely…

And she never tired of it, never truly got used to it, for to do so, could possibly mean to lose it, if not only the feeling she got deep inside her chest at the sight of it… A thrilling bit of happiness she prayed would never leave her. He seemed so _light_ now… The glow of his left eye had never seemed more brilliant.

He looked free. Not haunted, the word he'd mentioned that brought back memories of his dreams; bits and pieces that traveled the length of their link every so often to remind her - just in case she might've managed to forget - how oppressed he used to be, how laden down with possibilities and what-ifs and the future of billions…

No longer. His mission had been completed and he lived to see another day, another week, another month, year - five more, and he had plenty more to go.

With her at his side.

After about twenty years together, hardships and patches of lights dappled amongst a seemingly endless stretch of darkness, alike, they got what they'd deserved: a life with one another. And then? With a child they both helped bring into the world, a child neither of them thought they'd ever have -

And, dammit, he was happy. He was playful and grinning - that was worth a jaunt down to the water, wasn't it? Even if she were resting - she'd been in far, _far_ worse situations before and she could be hell of a lot worse off right then.

And she couldn't forget their daughter, could she? Their darling little Tyla Marie Summers who was nearly to the water's edge and laughing and screaming, arms thrown out to her sides -

*What in the hell is the matter with you, woman?!* she scolded herself. *Run your ass down that beach and you do it again and again if either of them want! You would've give anything for this not too long ago, and now that you have it, you bitch and moan because you wanted a _nap_?*

Put that way, it seemed so…childish.

Shaking her head at herself, she let her glare melt away to a repentant smile and her hat go - let it fly away on whatever breeze caught it up - and she put on the speed.

She glanced up to see a not-so startled glanced from her husband as she came up beside him, and after pulling her hand out of his, was able to increase her stability over the unsteady sand…and pull ahead.

He watched her go, sailing past him with the form of an Olympic runner and gaining on their daughter - who would most likely win - which wasn't the issue. He wanted her to win, so that she could turn and grin smugly like her mother had taught her a thousand times, even if incidentally - so that she could throw up her arms and demand to be plucked up from the water for a victory hug from Dom, who would most definitely beat him there, speed demon that she was.

For now, though, he was more intent on watching her as he went… His wife at long last. She seemed…so free…

Not haunted…

The word he'd mentioned that brought back memories of her dreams…bits and pieces that traveled the length of their link into his brain more often than his flooded hers…

When the thought trailed off, he found himself witnessing his daughter's triumph, her splashing wildly at the low tide.

"I win!"

Dom came in right behind her, a rather close second. "You're a fast little thing, aren't you?"

"Yeah!" She ran-sloshed-waded to her mother and attempted to jump up into her arms.

Dom hoisted her up and twirled her around, laughing congratulatorily up at her little girl. She was on her second time around when Nate slowed to a stop. Sensing him close, Dom stopped just when the latest revolution would have her stop while facing him…

And for a moment, that laughing smile of hers dulled to something a touch more serious, something far more complex than just simple happiness at the look in his eyes. He looked so…grateful, was it?

Well, she was just as thankful as he was, if not more, and it was all there in her own eyes as she looked up at him, clutching the child they both made a bit more tightly. Then he was moving to wrap them both up in his large arms, holding them close, never breaking the look they were sharing.

Love, adoration, awe and need flowed into her and flowed right back out at him.

~God, I - ~

*Yeah, I know - *

~I know, but still - ~

*You don't have to - I can feel it - *

~We're husband wife, Dom. Of course I should,~ he said, even though he knew it was more for her own sake than his that she was so hesitant for him to say what he wanted to, and silenced those rebelling thoughts of hers with a simple look.

*As if I could forget.*

~Don't start that again - ~

She reached up and pressed two fingertips to his lips even though he was speaking mind to mind with her. *That's not even what I meant.* She glanced to the wriggling child in her arms and his, too. *Not even close.*

He said nothing more - only stared into her eyes - slowly began to smile once again -

Then, the instant of mental communion was cut sharply by: "I won! I won!"

"That you did, baby," her mother told her, voice a bit hoarse. "That you did." She was rewarded with yet another satisfied smirk.

"No," Nate said quietly. "We _all_ did."

"Nuh-uh! _I_ did! Smoked you!"

Nate suddenly laughed, remembering not for the first time that rarely had he laughed so often in a single day as he did nowadays. And the co-signer of his soul joined in his laughter, the both of them together the only sound that came close to even daring to protest their daughter's proud clamoring of prevalence.

"Well, I _did_!" the girl huffed, amazed that they'd failed to acknowledge her stunning defeat.

"Yeah, yeah - we heard," her father told her as he pressed a kiss to her hair. "C'mere, Kid." He backed up enough to ease the child out of Dom's arms and into his. "For winning, you know what you get?"

Her eyes lit up. "What?!"

"A banana-less split from town!"

She threw her arms up in the air. "YAY!!"

"Well, let's blow this sand dune." He sat the victory girl up on his shoulder and wrapped his other around Dom. She intertwined their fingers.

"And do I get any?" she asked.

"Oh, you'll get plenty."

She smirked. "I think I'm in the mood for Rocky Road."

"I wasn't talking about ice cream."

She arched an eyebrow up at him, trying not to let the corners of her mouth curl up.

"What does she get, then, Daddy?" his daughter asked with highly curious eyes, wondering if what her mother was getting was going to be better than her prize, and if so, how that could be.

Dom had to give him credit - he smiled innocently enough when he answered: "Wrestling."

Tyla snorted. "Ice cream's much better."

"I'm sure that's what I used to think," the pale, eye-patched woman muttered as they strode away from the water.

Nate craned his head down to look her in the face without her having to look up at him. ~I'm much better than Rocky Road, aren't I?~

*I hope you're not looking for an ice cream analogy. You won't be getting one.*

~That's not it.~

*I'm not going to tell you you're better than Rocky Road, either.*

~Why not?~

*'Cause it's not true!*

He psi-gasped. ~I'm insulted.~

*And I sleep with you anyway. You should be flattered.*

He laughed. ~I guess I deserved that.~

She looked up at him, allowing him to relax to a more straightened gait. "No," she said aloud, but not very loudly. "You didn't. You're even better than Caramel Crème," she divulged secretly.

His brows perked up. "Am I, now?"

She grinned. "Yeah -- but don't you tell a soul. Rogue wouldn't let me hear the end of it and your daughter would probably faint right off your shoulder."

"I'll be sure to keep it to myself."

"You'd better - or no more wrestling for you."

"You always go right for the - " he glanced briefly up at his little girl - "juevos."

Dom snickered.

"That means eggs, Daddy," his intelligent little four year-old informed him, smiling ahead - then looked down at him, blinking, brow furrowed. "Or balls. You didn't mean balls, did you Daddy?"

Nate nearly sputtered. "Who told you that?!"

"I heard Aunt - "

"Cecelia," Nate and Dom deduced together. "And don't you repeat that again, young lady," then went on to say together, this time holding back any semblance of amusement.

Looking a bit miffed, she asked, "How'd you know?"

"Lucky guess?" Dom answered.

Tyla grinned suddenly. "Lucky Mommy."

"That's me," Dom said as she smiled lovingly up at her own flesh and blood, then to the man that'd fathered her. "Lucky."


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