by Brooke Hembree
Domino stood outside Cables door for a long time, hoping he couldnt sense her thoughts. She didnt have anything to hide, exactly, she was just embarrassed that she was standing in the hall arguing with herself. She needed to talk to him, needed his help, but she wasnt sure if she wanted to ask for it, or if he would even give it. Finally, she took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
"Come in," was the absent reply. When she walked in, she found in sitting in his desk chair, staring out the window.
Shed seen Cable at some of his lowest points. But she couldnt remember him ever looking so tired. As though he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. In all fairness, though, he did. Domino could sometimes sense the weariness and frustration that he was feeling with his life. Domino wondered how he stood it. Not only was he trying to lead X-force, but also Blaquesmith was constantly yanking him around.
She crossed the room and placed a hand on his shoulder. "You okay, Nate?"
He turned away from the window and looked at her. What was happening with them? Why did she have to fight the urge to flinch under his scrutiny? Then, he smiled. "Of course I am, Dom. Why wouldnt I be?"
Domino relaxed. She had to admit, not for the first time, that Nathan Summers was a very handsome man. But the smile didnt meet his eyes. And though his words were perfectly normal, his voice was unusually sharp.
None of your business, she thought, None of your damn business. Its his life. His business. Let it go. She tried to fight the concern welling up inside of her. Her relationship with Nathan had always had, and probably always would have, boundaries. Their partnership and friendship hinged on the two of them respecting those boundaries. She realized this, so why was she unable to force back her concern?
She bit her lip, her mind racing. How could she let Nathan know that she was there for him, but not make him feel like she was prying? Their relationship was so intricate, so tangled. If she said too much, hed close up, but she had to offer She chose her words carefully. She couldnt flat out ask him if he what was wrong, but if he thought she was manipulating him thered be hell to pay. And if he thought she was hovering over him She frowned inwardly. It would get very ugly, very fast. Fortunately, Domino had years of experience in dealing with him. "No reason, Nate." She put her other hand on his shoulder and began kneading the tension out of them. She was even more worried. His muscles were practically in knots from all the stress.
It worked. He sighed and started to relax. She couldnt decide whether she should just jump into the conversation shed planned on having, or to voice her recent concerns about his recent lifestyle. In other words: Should she go on as his partner, on a strictly professional level, respecting his need for privacy, or should she be his friend, willing to play devils advocate if his welfare was at stake?
She remembered how in the old days, before Vanessa, before Negev, when they were just two mercenaries, she had been his friend, his confidant. She had known more about him then at least what he was thinking, what he felt. She wished with all her heart that they were still like that. And she decided that maybe it was time for them to go back to the good times.
Deep down, she knew how he would react to her interfering, but she had to at least try to let him know she cared that she was there for him.
"Nate?" she asked, almost hesitantly, "I was wondering if youd heard anything from Blaquesmith?"
"Dont go there, Domino. This doesnt concern you," he said, jerking away from her. Damn. When had he been so touchy? Her common sense told her to let it slide, to tell him about the earlier phone call. But she could only swallow back so much frustration. As hard as she tried to keep her anger under control, as much as she wanted to be patient with him, she couldnt. Shed taken about as much as she could.
"Doesnt *concern* me, Nathan? How can you say that, after all weve been through?" she said, glaring at him.
"Domino, listen to me. You dont *have* to get in this. Youre not involved and if you had a lick of sense youd take this chance Im giving you," he growled.
Oh, Domino knew that voice well. The "I know whats good for you" voice. Shed bristled at that voice when she was seventeen and now? Now she sure as hell wasnt going to tolerate it. Didnt he realize how concerned she was? Didnt he know how hard it was for her to reach out to him, to try to connect? How damn hard it was for her to care for someone? Of course he did. But he was so absorbed in his "mission", such a selfish
Damn. Why was she so angry? Why couldnt she just let this roll off? Her answer was that Nate wasnt the only one with problems.
"Dont tell me what to do," she hissed. Then, her eyes fell on a book that Storm had given him a couple of weeks ago. She smiled coldly. "I see, Nathan. You want me out of your life so you can go after Storm with a clear conscience."
"Storm? Domino, have you lost your mind? What the hell does Storm have to do with all of this?" he asked, running a hand though his hair.
"I dont know why dont you tell me? You keep pushing me away, but you seem to be getting pretty close to her," Domino snapped.
"Storm and I are just friends, not that its any of your concern," he said.
"Nathan, does *anything* you do concern me anymore?" He started to protest, but she cut him off. "*Just* for future reference, of course. I mean, youve gotten a different base besides the one we use for X-force one that youve made it clear that *Im* not welcome at. If I ask you about what happens with Blaquesmith, you tell me its none of my concern. And your relationship with Storm? Hell, Id better not touch that one. Shit, Nate, this is worse than back in the old days. I mean, sure you kept secrets then, but at least *I* knew where we stood how you felt about me--"
At the very best, Cable and Domino were very emotional people, with quick tempers. And they both could cut to the bone with a select few words. People who were generally unforgiving. And now? Cable was exhausted. To put succinctly, he was mad at the world. He hadnt gotten a decent nights sleep in the past two weeks whenever he tried to sleep at night the nightmares overwhelmed him. And his frustration at not being any closer to stopping Apocalypse didnt help, either.
Maybe if hed gotten some extra sleep last night, maybe if he wasnt so frustrated with the way his life was going, then he might have heard the quiet desperation in her voice, the concern for him. But he didnt he only knew that she was violating boundaries that they had both set years ago. And he snapped.
"Thats all that matters to you, isnt it? I mean, screw the fact that Im trying to save billions of people from suffering in the future by stopping Apocalypse. All *you* care about is yourself. I used to think you were better than that, Domino."
"You insensitive bastard," she snarled.
"Get out, Domino," he said, suddenly sounding very tired. She started to protest and he said again, "Get the hell out of my bedroom."
She stormed out of the room, slamming the door with all her might. She stalked around, cursing and then punched the wall. Then, she realized that she still hadnt gotten a chance to talk to him about that damn phone call.
What now? She didnt feel comfortable going alone, but she couldnt ask Cable. Not now. She could ask Logan, or even Pete Wisdom. Theyd gladly help her out, both of them often complained to her that she was too damn stubborn for her own good. But no. She had been too dependent on Cable lately, and she didnt plan on falling into that habit with someone else. She could do it alone. It might even build her confidence. Yeah she really believed that.
After he had thought about the conversation, Nathan regretted what hed said. Hed overreacted, and said some unforgivable things. Shed only been trying to help him. And hed sensed that she had wanted to talk to him about something. Hed go down to the kitchen and grab something to eat, then hed talk to her.
He had just settled down to eat a sandwich when Scott cleared his throat.
"Anything I can help you with?" Cable asked. He hoped that Scott didnt have anything to chew him out about. He couldnt take another argument.
"I was wondering if you were going on this mission with Domino," Scott asked.
"Mission?" he growled, slamming his sandwich on the table.
Scott looked taken aback. "I assumed it was a mission. She was in a commroom, doing some research earlier. And Bishop mentioned that shed checked out some of the new weapons that Forge sent over," Scott said.
"Im terribly sorry," Cable said, stiffly, "I promise Ill keep her out of your precious toys next time."
"Dont be ridiculous, Nate. I dont have a problem with it. Granted, I wish shed share some details of her exploits on occasion, but she *is* an X-man, pretty much, so of course shes welcome to what she needs. And is something wrong?"
"None of your damn business. Youre worse than Jean at least shes subtle when she probes around in your head."
Scott looked like Nathan had slapped him. "Jean has never violated your privacy, Nathan. And shed never do that. She values her ethics. Just because someone expresses concern for you doesnt give you an excuse to lash out at them."
Cable growled something like "excuse me" and went upstairs to talk to his "partner".
Domino had just finished packing her gear into her bag when she heard the knock on the door. "Come in."
Cable walked in and looked at her.
"Dom, taking off anywhere?" he asked sarcastically.
She looked up at him. "You got your secrets, Nate, Im entitled to mine. Isnt that part of our arrangement? Dont ask, dont tell?"
He frowned at her, ignoring her barbs. "Dom, if youre going on a mission, let me know. Ill help you."
She glared at him, eyes blazing. "Nathan, listen very carefully: I. Dont. Need. You. Im more than capable of watching my own back in a mission, and, it seems like thats all that we have left. Maybe youre satisfied with the way things are, but Im not. Im not saying that I know what I want .what Im looking for, but I dont think there a chance in hell that Im going to find it here."
"Domino, I-" he reached out, to take her arm and she pulled it away.
"You what?" Cable hesitated and Domino smiled grimly, turning back to her bag. "See, Nate? You dont know what you want, but you expect me to just go along with it. Im not sure if I trust you anymore, Nate. I dont know if I can rely on you and if we dont have that then we dont have anything at all left. So maybe both of us should just forget it stop worrying over it."
That hurt, deeply. She was saying the most painful words hed ever heard and saying them in a voice completely devoid of emotion. He should have told her how much those words hurt him, he should have apologized for his earlier words, but he couldnt. He acted instinctively, hurting her back.
"Fine, go! See if I care, Domino." She tried to push past him, but he caught her arm. "And dont hurry back on my account." She shook her arm loose. "In fact, see if I give a damn if you come back at all."
She stopped at that and turned to look at him. For a moment, he could have sworn that he saw hurt in those gorgeous amethyst eyes. But all he could see in them now was contempt disdain. She walked down the hall regally, not sparing a backward glance at him.
Cable couldnt help but feeling like hed made an enormous mistake. He almost told her to stop, he wanted to apologize for the words he said. But before he could think of anything else, a psionic projection of Blaquesmith appeared.
"Let her go, Dayspring. She is secondary to your mission. You are needed now," he said.
And, like so many times in the past, Cable turned his back on someone he cared for to follow his destiny. He honestly didnt think he had the strength to do otherwise anymore.
To Be Continued...
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