The Purple Toothbrush

by Diamonde



DISCLAIMER: None of the people mentioned here belong to me. They belong to Marvel, and I'm not making any money off 'em.

What is it with the plot-weasel and housework? This time he got me while I was cleaning the _bathroom_. Cheeky little bugger.

The safehouse was cold and dark, but familiar. Cable pulled that feeling around himself like a blanket, or maybe a shell. He could picture himself as a turtle, pulling back into his shell when the world got too hard... Rubbing his left shoulder with his other hand, he shivered and found the central heating controls. For all it's accuracy, he didn't like that image much.

The silence was nice though. It sat softly in the corners, telling him that he was alone again by the soft whisper of his own footsteps. The X-Men were very different from X-Force, more than he might have thought... or maybe it was just that he fit in differently. If he tried to say 'my way or the highway' to LeBeau, he just got a flat red glare and a reminder not to let the door hit him in the butt on the way out.

The really irritating part was that sometimes Gambit had the nerve to be right.

Nathan wasn't used to having to convince someone to follow his idea of priorities. Normally he said what he wanted done and explained later, if ever. There might be grumbling and whining and Domino might twist his arm over it later, but it always happened with X-Force. They... well, they trusted him. Gambit trusted Cable about as much as Cable trusted Gambit, which was approximately as far as he could throw the silent-minded little thief. Perhaps ten feet with good wind and the advantage of surprise, physically at any rate.

Leadership was turning out to be as hard to give up as it was to live with. If something went wrong while you were in charge, it was your fault. But at the same time, it was your fault. You knew that you'd done what you could, and you dealt with the repercussions. Letting someone else do that was... hard. He knew that Remy LeBeau had perfectly good leadership skills, he'd been raised on the assumption that he'd be leading the Theives Guild against the assassins. That didn't mean that Nathan could just sit back and follow the orders of someone a fraction of his age, especially someone who didn't do things the same way _he_ did.

After all these years, he didn't know how to give up the responsibility of failure to someone else.

But at least for now he was alone, with nobody to worry about and nobody watching him. It was quiet and calm and _his_. Sighing with relief, Cable stripped off the top half of his costume and dropped it on the floor behind him. It stunk. _He_ stunk. Wrinkling his nose tiredly, Nathan padded towards the bathroom. He wasn't quite so tired that he didn't mind smelling himself.

He'd been out for days, now all he wanted was to go to bed clean. Cable pondered that in the shower as he ruthlessly scrubbed off the accumulation of sweat and dirt and blood, ignoring the stinging of fresh scratches and grazes. Clean body, clean hair, clean sheets... clean teeth. His mouth felt gunky, and certainly not like somewhere he'd put his tongue if he had a choice.

Once the rest of him was clean, it was only a few steps to the basin. He was still rubbing water out of his eyes as he fumbled for his toothbrush, standing naked on the mat. His hand found two.

Heart sinking, Nathan opened his eyes and looked through the steam. There were two toothbrushes, of course. The same cheap brand, one blue and one purple. The purple one somehow ended up in his hand, although he never would have used it.

There was a line, she'd said. The way they lived there was often no privacy of any sort, let alone normal facilities, but when they were in a place with a bathroom there would always be two toothbrushes. She'd laughed when she explained it, feet crossed across his lap. That there needed to be a line, and she was making it toothbrushes. She wasn't going to share, because everybody needed to keep at least one bodily function private. He'd teased her, asking if he could watch. She'd winked at that, saying that he was more than welcome to watch her brush her teeth as long as he didn't sneak in and use her brush while she was out.

He hadn't been back to this safehouse for some time. The last time he'd been in it he hadn't been alone. So there he was, holding a purple toothbrush so gently it might have been made of glass. It wasn't, it was slightly scratched plastic. The edge of the brush was worn, the bristles a little bent. It was starting to get old, at the point where one starts to mention vaguely that there needs to be a new toothbrush soon but before anybody really considers buying one.

He told himself that he should throw it out. It was old, and she was never coming back for it. He even looked down at the wastebasket, at the tissue smudged with lipstick lying on the bottom. The tissue remained alone as Nathan put the purple toothbrush back into the holder and picked up the blue one.

Perhaps it wasn't much of a symbol of hope, but on the offchance that she ever used that bathroom again... well, she'd need a toothbrush. That one could wait for her.


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