All characters herein belong to Marvel. Done for entertainment purposes only, no profit being made. Done without permission.
This is actually the very first piece of Cable/Dom fanfic I ever wrote, culled from the dungeon and reworked. As such, it is terribly out of date with the canon stuff and should probably be considered a one-off that doesn't have much to do with anything. Continuity-wise, it takes place long enough after Domino's involuntary brain surgery-slash-departure from Cable and X-Force for it to be congruent with Nate in New York, hanging with Stacey. However, in this little world of mine, Stacey and Nate didn't date and are not dating. Any other inconsistencies are just good reasons to feedback me about it, right?
Minor warnings about language, which has some adult content and adult implications. Also, for some mild sexual language and situations.
Big thanks go to Lynxie on this one, and to Alicia McKenzie for the sun block idea that I stole from her "Between the Shore and the Deep Blue Sea" story. And very much to Kaylee, who's "And Miles to Go" inspired me to add something I wouldn't have without it.
Sitting on his side of the bed, feet on the soft carpet, Nathan rolled his shoulders slowly, a soft pop or two sounding as his back arched and retracted, chasing away the stiffness of sleep. For a little while he just sat there. Everything had that comfortable heaviness to it, from his hands to his knees, and he tried to remember the last time he'd slept so hard, but woken up so clear.
Grabbing his gun from the night stand, Nathan rose carefully and made his way to the bedroom door, footsteps silent on the fuzzy tan carpet. Rufus, the mastiff mix Dom introduced yesterday as a "worthless hunk of fur," eyed him as he went by, but didn't make a move. The doorknob made a tiny click as Nathan turned it, and he looked back toward the bed; Domino just nuzzled into the covers slightly, and sighed.
His lips tilted in a small, early-morning smile, and he closed the door behind him as he walked out.
Leaning his hip on the sink, Nate worked Dom's toothbrush in his mouth and fixed his eyes out the window, where the sun glanced its rays over the ground. Morning light, he had always thought, was the purest light. Everything it touched turned to gold, like Midas but better. Not just gold, but peaceful, perfect, in a way that made gold seem garish and yellow cheap. Nothing seemed to move under that light until around 8 am, when it faded back into ordinary sunshine. Then, the world started up and light was just light.
Spitting into the sink and running the taps, Nathan almost sneered at himself in the mirror; he was too happy to really sneer, so it came out half-smirk, half-snort. His imagination usually made poetic reflections after being up 94 hours, not pre-coffee at 6 a.m. and on a good night's sleep.
Dom'd laugh herself blue, he thought with a grin.
The house had that rare Sunday morning quiet he vaguely knew at the mansion, when the training sessions were put off till 10 and even Xavier slept in. It surprised him somewhat that Dom would choose a safe house so domestic, so, well, homey. Interior decorating had never been her thing before, but this place had it all, from matching towels and wallpaper in the bathroom to what looked like an authentic Diego Rivera painting in the living room. Although relatively simple, the little house had the quiet elegance and taste that really suited Domino, when he thought about it. All of her brash, mouthy aggressiveness had a perfect foil in this calm 2-bedroom hacienda about 50 miles southwest of Monterrey.
The quality of her kitchen made him stare. Not only did she have at least six different varieties of cereal, but also an organization of guns so thorough one could defend oneself from any miscellaneous Bad Guy offensive while baking a three-layer cake. He could just hear Tabitha now: "I _knew_ hell had to freeze over someday. Domino's gone Martha Stewart. Finally, a good recipe for how to bullet proof the house using leftover eggshells and Cream of Wheat. Doubles as potpourri!'"
Everything was immaculately clean. The shine off of her gun barrels combined with the shine off her cream-colored stove forced him to telekinetically yank down the window shade just to save his eyes. As he opened the refrigerator, a thought hit him with force.
*Just how _long_ have you been here, Dom?*
He swigged some orange juice from the carton, then ventured into the daunting task of finding a glass to bring Dom some. The cupboards were in fanatic order, stocked with every size of cup imaginable, all gleaming like chrome. The back of the bottom shelf, he noticed keenly, hid plastic ones, including one or two McDonalds' Mulan Super-Sized collectors cups. Reminding himself to tease her about this whole thing later, he poured her some juice and headed back for the bedroom, fully intent on waking her up. He'd brushed his teeth for a reason.
The door opened silently this time, and his mouth moved into a wide grin as he stepped inside, before he stopped dead.
Domino lay on her stomach, arms crossed on the pillow, cheek touching the white skin of her shoulder. Sunlight gleamed through the window to settle a brilliant glow over her, soaking her black hair to shine as if wet. The sheet, ruffled from sleep and sex, was shoved down a good two inches past her shoulderblades, a gentle green against her cloud-white skin. The muscles running along her back lay smooth and relaxed, prominent in a strong, strangely feminine way. In the valley of her spine lay the dip of a shadow, a thin line of dark that curved along the length of her back and disappeared under the bunched sheet. The light cotton material didn't dare hide the shape of her under that cloth, not her hips or legs or feet, or the backs of two small toes peeking out at the very end.
Rufus lay beside her, guarding over his mistress, but Nathan barely noticed him. He saw Domino before him, perfect and beautiful and possessing something he had never seen in her before, not in all the times he'd looked at her or spoken to her or fought with her or yelled at her or listened to her or laughed with her. The dog lifted its massive skull and set it delicately on the small of Domino's back, and watched impassively as Nathan battled indecision.
Why now? It didn't make sense, it shouldn't be this way. Why now? In all their years together, even the times he'd woken up at her side in the morning, he'd never seen her as a source of peace. Support, confirmation, consolation, even a few hours of contentment, but never all-encompassing peace. She hadn't been capable of it, not with so many demons inside her, and he wouldn't have been capable of seeing it in her, or seeking it. So why now? He never even wanted that.
Something, maybe the weight of Rufus' head, made her shift, and for a heart-stopping moment he thought she might wake up. Her mouth tipped in a tiny frown as she snuggled down into the pillow, but her eyes stayed shut. The peace in his chest wasn't all-encompassing, he realized. It stood side-by-side with fear, and he had to choose which one to believe in.
She's not perfect, he reminded himself. She's surly when hungry, she loves to beat you up and she makes the worst Denver omelet you've ever tasted. She has a vicious temper and she's taken it out on you a thousand times. Sure, she can kick anybody's ass and she's the best partner, merc and friend you have in this century, and she makes love like the world's on fire, but she's not perfect. Don't pretend she is, and don't pretend being here with her can erase everything you're afraid of. The future's still coming -- you still have to fight it.
But the impregnable cloud of doom that had hung over him for so long dissipated a little, enough for holes of sunlight to poke through. It was the horrible sense of conceding to an inevitable fate that had lured him here in the first place - why should it up and disappear now?
He stared at her again, as if the answer was written on her skin.
It had intensified over the last few weeks, that sense of doom. He'd called the mansion, checked on his parents, Sam, the rest of the X-Men. He'd ventured that awkward call to Theresa about the X-Force. Everybody was okay. But all of his regular channels to reach Domino came up empty, and all of his covert channels of finding people emptier. Nothing on the horizon looked too immediately ominous, and he thought he might just be getting antsy. Of course he could feel the future rising up to meet him - he felt that every day. But this felt different, stronger, hungry.
So he called the mansion again, and shocked the hell out of Scott by asking to talk to Wolverine. "Of course, Nathan," his father had said, reluctance oozing over the line.
After a few minutes, Logan came on, grumbling, "What're you after, Dayspring?"
"Have you talked to Domino?" Okay, so maybe it wasn't the smoothest of hellos or the most polite request, but it was better than explaining to the little ape-man that he was having phantom fits of worry over his ex-partner. Of course, he expected to meet resistance, and tried to have the patience for it.
"A merry fuckin' hello to you, too, Dayspring." The man rumbled, obviously in a mood. "Is there somethin' you wanna tell Neena, maybe? You know, there's prob'ly a buncha things you should tell her, like how you're sorry for being such a colossal dick all these years, and that you want her to kick the shit out of you for it. How bout you tell her that?"
"Sure, Wolverine. I'll tell her that. I'll throw myself on her doorstep, tell her I've been a colossal dick, and let her kick the shit out of me. I'll even give her a merry fucking hello from you."
Wolverine growled low in his throat, sounding like the audio to one of those nature shows on TV. It cut off sharply. "Christ, Summers, feeling tense these days or somethin'? Wind yourself any tighter and you're liable to start spinnin' like a top."
"If there's somethin' Neena needs help with, I'll help her. I'm giving you the chance to pass the buck here, bub. Pass it."
It hurt, having to ask this hairy irritation in his life where his partner was, and Wolverine didn't mind twisting the knife, but Nathan would burn off his fingers before he begged. Hell, he'd boil his knuckles before he said please.
"I thought you knew Domino doesn't need anyone's help, old man. She takes care of herself better than anybody could try to take care of her. I don't want to flonqing coddle her I want to talk to her."
"You've become more of a prick lately, Dayspring, you know that?"
"Are the pre-requisite insults are over yet, Logan?"
Fuzzball the Over-Muscled Munchkin hung up on him, so Nathan took that as a yes. He swore through his teeth and considered ripping across the astral plane, tearing the link open as wide as it would go and screaming until she answered. But some leftover rationality inside him mentioned that doing so might be counter-productive, as in, might earn him the kind of punch that knocked out teeth.
The next morning someone left a plain envelope addressed "Cable" under the door at the diner in Hell's Kitchen. Inside, he found a picture of the sun setting in the desert. The inscription on the back read, "Logan, this is what the sun's like where I am, N."
It took too many hours in the New York Public Library, but he researched a flower in the foreground, and narrowed her territory down to Northern Mexico. Their link, as dusty and cobwebbed as it was, would have to do from there; he flew into Monterrey that night.
They met the way old friends who-used-to-be-much-closer-than-friends do; dim smiles of recognition that tried not to seem reluctant or eager, the awkward shoulder bump of a hug that seems too short by miles. At least for him; Domino shielded herself so tightly he barely caught the tiny mental "yay!" that lay deep and quiet in her psyche.
She said it was just luck that she went into a dingy restaurant on the outskirts of town, right next to the gas station where she was filling her jeep's almost-empty tank. Sure enough, he was sitting with his back against the far wall.
"Lookin' for a good time, cavrone?" She said, leaning against a chair. He had risen to his feet the moment she walked in. There was that awkward moment of assessment before they knew if they could hug each other or not, but finally she moved into his arms - briefly, before searching his eyes for a second, and sat down.
"You're not really going to eat here, are you?"
"You're not offering to cook, are you?"
She grinned at him, and for a second he just reveled in her smile, happy enough things weren't so bad between them they couldn't talk.
"Come on. I'll show you the best restaurant in this whole godforsaken city."
They got lunch, letting meaningless chatter flow between them. He didn't know how to explain his presence, but she didn't seem to want to ask. Yet. Afterward, they hopped in her jeep and drove home.
Watching the black landscape whip past, he finally started to relax a little. Like vacation, he thought. She wasn't in trouble - she looked, talked, sounded fine. The moon made the hills in the distance look like dark, slow waves rolling by, and the stars didn't move at all. They drove for hours.
Her hacienda looked lonely under moonlight; no trees, no yard, no fence, just a shed in the back for company. It didn't even have its own road - Domino just cut right off the main road, doubling back a few times, and went about 12 miles northeast. A set of foothills began to brace it about a mile west.
She parked inside the long shed, kicking up dust in the shadows. The garage-door stuck grumpily open, and, in an uncharacteristically graceless move, Domino gashed her upper arm open on the corner of the door as she tugged it down.
"Damn!" She shouted, clamping a hand over the bare skin; blood welled through her fingers. Turning to face him, she scowled through a smirk. "Just my luck."
He snorted and came around the car to look at it, moving closer to her than he'd done the whole trip except for the brief hug. "This needs stitches, Dom." She grimaced, nodded and moved off. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he followed and they headed to the house.
They went to the bathroom, where Domino pulled sutures out of the medicine cabinet, along with peroxide, and sat down on the toilet seat. He knew with absolute certainty that the only reason she let him stitch it for her was the impossible angle, although in the mirror he caught the secret smile she gave he worked, and secretly returned it. He made tiny, perfect stitches.
"Thanks," she muttered as he washed his hands.
"Any time." He turned to face her, but she was regarding his handiwork. "You got blood on your shirt."
Looking down, Dom sighed. A wide line of red had dribbled down her side, probably ruining the tan leather top. Sigh. "I liked this one."
The sleeveless thing laced in front, and he hadn't missed the fact that the tops of those laces were low enough to show off plenty. He barely kept "yeah, I like it too," from leaving his tongue, and even though the link didn't so much as glimmer from its open grave, she turned and gave him a look he could read without mistake.
*I bet you do, buddy.*
She brushed past him, casually peeled the top off, draped it over the sink and walked out of the room.
He waited about as long as he could -- ten minutes, fists clenched -- before following her into her bedroom. He was surprised he didn't stutter like a 16 year-old when he spoke.
"Playing the tease now, Dom?"
She shrugged, flipping her hair out of the loose purple t-shirt she'd put on. "You'd think I'd know I'm too old to even try."
Even her room seemed calm, an open window letting evening breezes and silver moonlight in. A quiet little nightstand lamp glowed behind her, casting shadows all over the room.
"What's going on, Nate?" She asked him finally, almost crossing her arms but stopping herself at the last second.
"Nothing. I just wanted to make sure you were all right."
Her skepticism was less sharp than he expected, but she seemed to be holding herself in tight check. "Any specific reason you thought I wouldn't be?"
He swallowed his sigh, watching the curtain flap lightly at the window. "No, actually. Just a feeling, the past few weeks. I've been checking on everyone, to make sure things are okay. You were just the hardest to get in touch with." His smile wasn't reciprocated, but it wasn't glared at either.
"I just needed to be separate from everything for a while. It wasn't professional of me, I suppose, to be that unavailable." Her apology was implied, and that was more than he expected. It was enough, especially in light of the insult also implied.
"It's not that, Dom," he tried to dismiss her casualness without breaking the atmosphere into tension. "It's not about work."
"Then what is it about? Gut feelings? How am I supposed to take you coming here, Nate?" This time, she did cross her arms. Frustration walked on his skin with cat claws.
"I'm not checking up on you, Dom, and I'm not keeping tabs either. I just wanted to see you, okay?" She glowered, and he bit off another sigh. "Look, maybe I wanted to be separate for a while too."
"Great. Now I'm Club Med. Welcome to Domino's hacienda, for the weary time-traveling X-Man crusader of the future. Tan under the glaring desert sun! Ball the albino hostess!"
"That's not what I came for," he swore harshly, taking an angry step towards her. "You're the one --"
"Being a tease? Yeah. I know. But I've seen you like this before, Summers. As irresistible as you think you are with that damn puppy dog look, I'm not going to give in, even if it wasn't what you came looking for. I'm not going to offer just so you can screw me with a clear conscience."
He swore at her, hard, in Askani, and grabbed her under the elbow of her cut arm. "Why don't you ever listen to me?" Suddenly he let go; unprepared, Domino staggered back, venom whipping out and turning her hands into fists. Just as suddenly, his whole body lurched. "Is this what you think of me?" He said, suddenly hoarse. "That I can't be worried about you, that all I want from you is what I can take?"
Her fists were still working, still knotted with the knuckles so sharp they could have popped her skin. Everything in the room seemed charged with the extra energy she was putting out in holding still. "What are we doing, Nate? Why did you come here?"
"I don't know. I needed to see you, Dom."
If he saw her rage - she didn't know how he couldn't - he didn't acknowledge it. Blindly, he lifted a hand to her shoulder, cautiously inspecting her arm to see if he'd caused damage. There was none; she didn't break his wrist outright, and it wouldn't have mattered if she had. "I just needed to make sure you were okay." His fingers moved up her skin, until he was cupping her face, and then he brought up his other hand.
She almost didn't answer him. But his hands were so warm, even his metal one. "I'm okay, Nate. I'm good."
Waiting. He was waiting, behind those white-blue eyes, watching her with an intensity like....like deep water, all that false serenity on the surface. He's looking for someone to save him, she realized, at least for a little while. It's not going to be me.
Her cut started to sting a little under the bandage; the little pinpricks of pain were enough to tell her - she knew she was lying, because she had also told herself that she wasn't going to try.
"Never was good at it," she whispered, and raised up on her tiptoes to kiss him.
The position of her arm hid her newest scar now, but he had memorized its place on her body, with all the others. There. She's not perfect at all -- she's scarred. Just like you.
Watching her sleep, a sturdiness came into his stance, like planting feet. It isn't like old times anymore, he thought. This is new.
The dog gave a muffled yelp as it found itself falling off the bed, then plonked on the ground with a floor-shaking thump. Domino woke instantly, pushing upright, her hair making a dark curtain across her neck.
"Nate?" Her voice had the confusion of interrupted sleep and the calm of fearlessness, making him smile at her. She turned on her side. Setting his gun back on the nightstand, he sat down on his side of the bed and plucked her wrist out of the covers, then wrapped her fingers around the cup of cold orange juice.
In spite of the sleep and contentment, she arched a defiant look at him, but she was thirsty enough not to cut off her nose to spite her face. She hadn't set the juice down on the end table before he caught her in a kiss, and it was pure luck she didn't drop the glass on the ground as she kissed him back.
Curled into his side, Dom ran her toes up and down his calf, amusing herself with the tickle of his leg hair. His side of the psi-link buzzed with a warm blue-gold, and something else that made her chest feel tight. Rufus' head poked through the door, his big brown eyes imploring permission to enter.
"Come in, you stupid mutt," Dom called to him, but he still hesitated, ears flat and head low. "What are you waiting for?" She waved him toward her.
"Come on, boy," Cable called, and the dog bounded in, almost jumping on the bed but thinking better of it at the last minute. He came around to Nate's side of the bed and turned a few slow circles before laying down. Domino lifted her head to glance at Nate suspiciously.
"Apparently you've co-opted my dog, Summers."
He chuckled. "Think I scared him into liking me, dumping him on the floor like that?"
A shoulder shrugged negligently. "Maybe. Try it with Apocalypse some time, huh? You can get him to play fetch, buy him a doghouse for when he's bad. No! Bad antichrist! Don't destroy the time-space continuum! Don't pee on the carpet! Bad Apocalypse!'"
Laughing outright, he kissed the top of her head as she settled it back against his chest. "You haven't told me how you got him, you know."
"Not much to tell," she sighed. "He was a stray I saw in Monterrey. Probably bred for dogfighting, but he's such a lunka-lunk they had to know he'd be no good in a ring. Too timid, obviously. As a puppy he was so lanky and disproportionate it was impossible not to love him -- he was begging outside a grocery store, I gave him a candy bar and couldn't shake him."
"So, you didn't get a dog because you're lonely out here in your wilderness shack?"
"Wilderness shack!" She punched him in the side, no light little tap, either. "I'll have you know I worked my butt off to make this place livable. It's not as if your little urban abodes have anything on this place, and you know it."
His laughter sounded like a rumbling train under her ear, and in spite of herself she grinned.
"Okay, okay, this place is pretty nice."
"And I did not get the dog because I was lonely," she snapped.
"Sure, whatever." It was always fun to goad her if she had reason not to smack a few of your teeth out, and he'd given her, oh, probably at least two good ones. "So you got him as a home security system. You know, since this place seems to lack one."
Seriousness had crept into his tone, and Dom wasn't slow, but she wasn't going to give in, either.
"Yeah, yeah, it's no X-Men mansion of security, I'll give you that. All I've got is an army's worth of guns, a perimeter line Magneto couldn't breach and 140 miles to the nearest neighbor. Compared to say, Logan's cabin in the woods, or your place in Hell's Kitchen, this place mails out invites to all my enemies."
He snorted slightly. "Okay, but you don't have my telepathy, or Wolverine's nose."
"What, you have to have special mutant bad-guy detecting abilities to defend yourself? No telepathy and no enhanced senses equal helpless little mutant girl?" She sneered violently. "I can handle myself out here, Nate. I may not have yours or Logan's advantages, but I compensate pretty well goddamnit. Plus, unlike certain a jerk I know, I can keep a low profile."
Nate saw her point, and wasn't willing to shatter their magic by pushing it, or bringing up the point that _he_ had found her - well, almost found her. Sighing, he ran the tips of fingers along her arm, and yawned. He could feel her mouth smile on his chest as she pressed a kiss to his skin, and closed his eyes.
"Are you happy, Nate?"
The question made him open one eye, to see her looking up at him, her expression carefully guarded. "Right now, happy doesn't cover it."
Her fingers started to slide over his ribcage, moving over scars with careful pauses, as if identifying them, reacquainting herself. She pressed herself into him a bit harder, so he could feel her heartbeat through her skin, and he listened to it sound and pull him down inside her, where his dreams couldn't scare him and no one died.
There are more disturbing things than waking up and not knowing where you are. For example, knowing exactly where you are doesn't much compensate for the slight of slobbery jowls belonging to a 180-pound dog. Rufus didn't seem to mind, however, and used his tongue, which would have been a tight fit into a size-14 shoe, to kiss the human hello. Yawlping, Nate threw himself out of bed and scrubbed his face with the sheets while Rufus just panted amicably, spots of drool discoloring the bedsheets under him. The whole experience made Nate want a shower, and as he marched to the bathroom, he found himself thinking that only a kiss from Mojo could be worse. That, of course, just conjured up images of kissing Mojo, and then he _really_ wanted a shower.
Freshly showered, and teeth brushed twice, Nate came out into the living room to find Dom. She was on her knees, wearing a pair of cutoff shorts and a striped tank top. Her black hair was tied up in a little knot, exposing the smooth skin of her neck, and the cut of the shirt was as low in back as it was in front, exposing even more of her skin, reminded him of earlier and making him smile. The laceration on her arm glared red, laced with the black he had fixed on her, and it cut an angry contrast with the pure white of her skin, the cool dark of her clothes.
The floor gleamed metallic with the array of guns spread out around her, a careful "done" pile on the left and a "to do" on the right, heavier left than right. Her hands worked expertly, maneuvering a small pulse-laser weapon with a grace born of practice, using small square of cloth shine the outside to brilliance.
"So this is how you spend your days, eh?" He said, and she glanced over her shoulder at him, a dangerous smile playing on her mouth.
"Jealous of a girl and her guns, Nate?"
"Nah," he hunkered down beside her, curving a finger down her shoulderblade. "Jealous of the guns, maybe. They get played with more often by the girl."
"Oh," she sighed. "Well, if that's all, I suppose I can find enough oil to rub you with. Slick and greasy, like if Rogue ever polished up Gambit for an evening. C'mon." She landed a oil glob on his knee with a smirk, forcing him to grab her wrist and drag her to her feet before she could hit out anything higher. Domino spun on one heel, almost twisting out of his grasp, but he tightened his hold on her wrist and lifted her off the ground until they were eye to eye. Shifting the burden of her weight from a physical grip to a telekinetic one, he dangled her in the air with a triumphant grin.
She bared her teeth in response, then tapped the gun in her other hand to his temple. "We can keep playing, you know," she murmured, "but I had intended on feeding you."
Soon the carpet came under her feet, and she was looking up at him again. "Rematch later?" he teased, and she flowed up on her tiptoes to brush his lips with hers.
"I think I'll retire undefeated."
He followed her into the kitchen, saying, "oh, I bet I can find a way to lure you out of retirement. And I betcha fifty bucks I can make you make all those orangutan sounds again, too."
After lunch, Nate slathered the sunblock all over Dom, and they went outside to bury a payload of extra rations and supplies she wanted to keep as reserve. Digging that took till sundown could have been finished in half an hour with a little dose of TK, but for some reason he liked the manual labor, liked sweating alongside her, having casual conversation like lovers, teasing each other like lovers, slowly moving deeper into the earth. She wore a baseball cap on to protect her face and scalp, and it was incredibly cute on her, her short ponytail hanging out the back and bouncing.
"So," he said as the pink of sunset above gave way to dark, and they were moving the crates down, "you're planning on staying for a while, then."
She shrugged, looking down at him in the hole as he managed most of the weight of the metal box. "Yeah," came her murmur, and she climbed in after him to help him stack the box on top of another. "I haven't thought about it much."
"Yeah you have, if you're doing this sort of planning." He challenged casually. "This isn't something you do if you're not thinking about the future."
"I'm open to the possibility of staying here, Nate. But I'm not making anything definite, either." Her tone had that edge of being pushed, being ready to push back.
"I guess you're not planning on going back into business any time soon, then."
She set the box down and turned to regard him, crossing her arms. "No, I'm not." He nodded at her, and watched her climb the boxes to get out, instead of asking for a boost from him like she had before. Mimicking her, he emerged to see her manhandle another box, as big as the others, not waiting for his help.
"Can I ask why, or will that be crossing the invisible line?" He asked, somewhat acidly. Domino let go of the box and planted her hands on top of it, leaning away from him.
"I don't hear you spilling your future plans, Summers."
"You already know em, don't you? Save the world, save the future, eat dinner."
She turned, arching brows. "You've become real flip about it, you know."
He bit off a sigh. "This isn't changing anything, Dom. You're hiding out here. What is it accomplishing?"
"Throw a few stones from that glass house, Nate? You may be in New York or whatever, but you're still hiding."
Shrugging, he tried not to let that hurt. Now was not the time to get sidetracked into an argument. "If I am, the only thing I'm hiding from is you, you know."
She put her back into fighting the stainless steel crate, the muscles of her legs and arms trembling slightly as she battled a thing too heavy for her. A puff of breath echoed around her as she tried to shove it into place on top of another crate. The musty dirt and clay slipped soundlessly under her feet, and she almost stumbled, shifting the box into a precarious balance between herself and the other crate. He could feel her ignoring him.
"Dom-" Coming forward to help her, he put his hand out.
"Fuck you, Nate. I can do this on my goddamned own!"
Her breathing was loud in their hole; dimly, he wondered if he would ever be able to pin down the depth of all that was bothering her, and he winced at his own cowardice for being afraid to know. She held tight to the crate.
"Never doubted you could, Dom. It's not about anything like that, you know. Can't I just help you because I want to?"
"Bullshit. You _want_ to help me? Then why did you come here? It wasn't about me, you coming here - it was about you. Tell me a time it _hasn't_ been about you. It's about you every time the sun fucking sets."
"Oh fuck off, Nate. You think any of last night changes the way things are? The way you're going to go back - whenever, and the way I'm going to stay?"
"Why, damnit? Oath, I don't believe that kind of crap!" His hands were sweating as he watched her struggle, the crate once tipping back on her like it could take her down in a simple slip of gravity, as if something like that could beat Dom.
"Sanctimonious prick," she snarled, half-tossing the crate upwards to get better leverage. "Who in the hell said what you believe has anything to do with this? Who in the hell said it _isn't_ a fucking choice?! No matter what happens, I'm not using you as an excuse to go back. I'm not going back!"
"Why the flonq not? What could possibly be keeping you here?"
"And who the hell are you to ask? I don't owe you shit, and vice the fuck versa. For eighteen years you and I have worked together, and this _never_ came up, not once, not in all the times we could have actually used each other for whatever reason. You think I didn't wish for you on some of the solo jobs you did? I don't know _where_ the hell this is all coming from, Nate - you used to give me as much space as I gave you. I don't ask you for explanations, and I certainly don't owe you any."
Every syllable was deafening between them, like a storm of thunderbolts. "I haven't actually _asked_ you to come back. I just want to know why!"
"Well that's just tough," she growled, throaty and dangerous, "because you're shit out of luck there."
The crate gave a loud groan and slipped out of her hands.
His telekinesis lightninged out, throwing the thing into place and forcibly spinning Dom around to face him.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!!" She snarled, red with fury. He never, ever shoved her around with this TK, but even as she attempted to step towards him, his invisible grip held her in place.
"It would have broken your foot! Oath, you'd rather have broken bones...than let me help you?" He'd started out with a yell, but as the heaviness of what he'd just realized set in, his words trailed to a choke.
"You may be out to save the world, Nate, but you don't have to save me. I don't need it."
"What are you so scared of?" He whispered fiercely, and something like murder came back into her violet eyes.
"Jesus, Nate, what do you want? For me to come back with you? To go stay with you in Hell's Kitchen, help you fight your crusade, keep silent while you do things I can't know about and play the good little woman to your roving hero? At least when I'm here I don't have to pretend I can be useful to anybody but myself - I don't have to worry about the day my reflexes give out, the day my luck runs out. You're asking me to consider going back to a life that I can't live any more, Nate. I'm scared of exactly what you're asking me to do - I'm scared of wanting it, of giving in and letting you take me back there, where I'll be as superfluous to you as I was when Copycat was me and you never noticed. I'm not what I was! Some damn bitch put a drill into my head! She went into my head and whatever she put in there took out a lot more than my powers. I can't be what I was, Nate!"
He let go, and she sagged visibly, letting herself lean back on the crate.
"So you're giving up, then?" Came his angry whisper, the darkness surrounding them so thick it was as if the words came out of the earth, not him.
"Fuck no." She smiled bitterly. "But I'm not going to pretend to be something I'm not. And I'm not going to risk the lives of people that are important to me because I'm on injured reserve. Who knows? Maybe I will come back, someday...but not now."
At least there was comfort in that.
He stepped towards her, coming out of the shadows to touch her face. His lips parted as if to say something, but he stopped, clearing her cheeks with his thumbs and leaning into her a little, forcing her back straight. Bending his head down, he traced her jaw with his mouth, feeling her arms reach for him and move under his damp shirt.
When he kissed her, he heard her words - "I'm not what I was!" in his head. All he could thing was, *but you taste the same.*
Laying in the an earthy cavern and staring at the stars, Domino and Nate listened to their breathing echo around them. The sweat was beginning to dry from their skin, the dirt starting to flake off. "I'm going back tomorrow," he said, without inflection.
The stars blinked overhead, and some desert animal whistled in the distance.
Her shoulderblade shrugged against his collarbone. "I expected it, really." Calm, and he had a vague idea that he was a little disappointed that she wasn't at least a little upset, didn't have an inkling to talk him out of it. "Maybe it's even the way it's supposed to be."
"Since when did you ever believe in fate?" Something about the way he said it wasn't even bitter, or disapproving.
"Ever since I needed to. I guess...since I met you."
Somehow, that statement curled around his heart like a cold hand. All of a sudden he could feel how damp and icy the ground was beneath them, and her breath moved like smoke over his chest as she said, "I don't know if you're alive or dead."
"What is that supposed to mean?" He riled defensively, the muscles in his abdomen clenching painfully. The skin of her torso started to pull away, gently attempting to stay stuck to him before peeling free. She lay down beside him, letting her arm touch his, not holding his hand, unruffled by his anger.
"Nothing. Just a poem I read. I've got a lot of time to do stuff like that lately."
He'd never thought she'd like poetry, especially not the modern stuff - she was too down to earth for that kind of thing. The nature of their work required as little daydreaming as possible, even if putting your head in the clouds was possible for a number of X-Men. Not that he considered himself an X-Man, of course.
The dirt around them made the air smell sweet. "So, are you going to tell me how the rest of it goes or not?" He tried to keep his voice at that almost whisper that worked so well in quiet spaces like this. Sometimes his voice felt too big for everything, like it would leave no room for anyone or anything else, like it would squeeze out every other sound.
She took a breath, the sound of her lungs filling echoing around them softly. "What do I look like, a library? I don't know. I may have time lately, but not that much time. I have guns to clean and holes to dig.
"Sometimes, when I'm in a dumbass self-pitying mood, I'll think it's true. That poem. And then when I'm pissed as hell at you - which is much more often - I'll remind myself that it's not true at all."
He smiled at her in the dark, closing his eyes and feeling the strain on his mouth. Cautiously, he reached his hand over, closing it soft around her fingers, wishing he could feel more of her skin that his metal allowed. Wishing she were on his right side, wishing he had a flesh and bone left hand to hold her fingers with.
"I probably would've been scared to hear you recite poetry anyway."
Silence breathed around them, heavy with musty earth.
Finally, "Aw, c'mon, I think I can do that 'Road Less Taken' one. 'Two paths diverged in a narrow wood....blah blah blah trees leaves forest...I took the one less traveled by normal people and more traveled by aliens, world domination-obsessed psychopaths, fucked up brain surgeons, shapeshifters, mutants in spandex, and Deadpool. And it's made all the difference.'"
This time, the smile didn't hurt, and his laugh filled the desert and left plenty of room for hers, too. He noticed later, as he drifted towards the sleep she'd already claimed, the cold was receding again, and where Domino lay pressed against his side, he wasn't cold at all.
The peach pie tasted good enough, but he chewed without much savoring and swallowed the last bite without any regret. Stacey refilled his coffee and gave him a small frown. "What, I put in too much sugar?"
"No, of course not. It was fine." He replied instantly, stiffly.
"Then what's the problem? Did Mexico ruin your taste buds or something? Oops," she cringed, turning sideways. Nate tried to soften his expression. "Just forget I stuck my big nose in where it doesn't belong, 'kay?"
He tried to smile. "You didn't, Stacey. Okay? Don't worry about it. I...I just -"
"I guess I just miss the warm weather."
Stacey eyed him behind her coffeepot, lip curled half-way in a dubious smirk. "At least you got a tan to remind you, right?"
"Yeah." He sighed, putting down his fork. "I guess it'll have to do."
The bells on the door jingled as a delivery boy in navy shoved his way in, waving a wide white envelope. Stacey signed for it, shooting a curious look at Cable, as the boy left. "For you," she said, handing it to him. As soon as it left her hand she turned away and headed for the kitchen.
It had no return address and no name under "sender." Ripping open the seal, he looked inside and saw a single sheet of paper, which dropped out as soon as he upended the envelope. Cut against the white sheet were black words in Domino's unmistakable hand.
I don't know if you're alive or dead
Can you on earth be sought?
Or only when the sunsets fade
Be mourned serenely in my thought?
All is for you: the daily prayer,
the sleepless heat at night.
And of my verses, the white
Flock, and of my eyes, the blue fire.
No one was more cherished, no one tortured
Me more, not
Even the one who betrayed me to torture,
Not even the one who caressed me and forgot
Then, at the very bottom, in small letters,
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