I Left My Heart on Seikosha IX
by Alicia McKenzie
DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story belong to Marvel, and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only. This is a follow-up piece to Losing Myself In You. Nothing graphic in here, folks, but certain implications that might not be suitable for younger or sensitive readers.
It was some sort of asteroid base. Alien, obviously; the technology was totally unfamiliar. Across one end of the domed chamber in which they stood stretched what appeared to be a huge, green, vaguely techno-organic spiderweb. It radiated outwards from a central base, some kind of a machine incorporating a chair--no, a throne, Cable thought bemusedly. It looked more like a throne. It was a bizarre setting, in any case.
Beside him, Domino shrugged. "Found it in the archives," she said carelessly. Cable frowned, wondering why she was being so casual about this all of a sudden. She'd been nagging him to set aside some time for a Danger Room session with her for over a week, but now she was acting as if it had been a passing fancy, nothing important. "It's from one of the X-Men's offworld adventures. There was a log attached, too. Interesting story. Apparently this base was used by a group of War-Skrulls--"
"Oath," he said wearily, cutting her off before she could say any more. "Do I really want to know the rest of this?" Since he'd moved X-Force into the mansion and agreed to a closer working relationship with the X-Men, Xavier and Scott had decided that he needed to familiarize himself not only with the current tactical situation, but with many of the X-Men's past missions, as well. Not that he disagreed--his own life was a perfect example of the truism that old enemies didn't die, they just went underground and then struck back at you at the most inopportune moment possible--but he'd done an unholy amount of slogging through computer records lately. Even the LEAST bizarre had been worth a head-shake or two.
"Let me finish," Domino scolded, her violet eyes gleaming with what looked very much like suppressed mirth. "This was back when Lilandra and Deathbird were still duking it out for control of the Imperium. These Skrulls had kidnapped Xavier, and replaced him with a duplicate. When the X-Men got involved, the same thing happened to some of them. This is where they kept the originals." She indicated the 'web'.
"Clones?" he asked dryly.
"No, Nate. Shapeshifters." She laughed suddenly. "But one of the X-Men they replaced was Logan, so I thought you might get a kick out of this."
"Tempting," he muttered, more for form's sake than anything else. She laughed again, that suspicious gleam still in her eyes, and he studied her warily, wondering what was going through that devious mind of hers. He started to reach down the psi-link to find out, but then stopped himself.
The link. Cable felt his jaw clench at the reminder. He hadn't intended to forge a permanent bond between them when he'd reached out to her mind in the midst of their--interlude on the PACRAT on the way back from Israel and the end-of-the-world-that-wasn't. But the flonqing thing didn't seem to be going away, no matter how much he tried to ignore it. He was almost sure Xavier and Jean had figured that out, too. Why else would they be nagging him continually to let them teach him the 'proper' use of his powers?
Oath, what was he going to tell Dom? he thought, depressed. She knew they were still psi-linked. HE knew she wasn't comfortable with it. With how much she valued her privacy, that didn't really surprise him. Cable was just surprised that she hadn't demanded an explanation before this; she was certainly exhibiting a remarkable amount of patience. To make things worse, he himself couldn't sort out his feelings on the matter. Part of him feel like the biggest fool in the world for letting this happen, but there was another part of him, a tiny, hidden, half-ashamed part that clung to the fragile bond between them as if it was a lifeline. All those years of emptiness, after Aliya had died--and then, suddenly, light where there'd been only darkness, warmth where there had been a cold so total that it had gradually, over time, begun to seep into his soul.
He supposed all of this was why he'd been keeping his distance for the last couple of weeks, since they'd moved into the mansion. Well, that, and the fact that he was so busy it was hard finding time to eat or sleep, let alone to have such a--delicate conversation. Face it, Dayspring. You're being a coward. A great big alpha-class mutant chicken--
"Nate? Earth to Cable?" Domino was waving her hand in front of his face. "You with me here?"
"Yeah," he growled. "Let's get this over with."
She raised an eyebrow. "Gotta love a man who's enthusiastic about his work," she said dryly. "Computer, engage program."
People appeared in the web. He recognized a few--Psylocke, Xavier, Wolverine, Jubilee. Some were clearly Shi'ar, and unfamiliar. "Objective?" he asked, finding refuge in professionalism.
"Typical free-the-hostages," she said easily. "Nothing complicated."
"Them," she said, pointing as the Danger Room released a group of drones into the simulation. Wolverine, Jubilee, Psylocke, Gladiator, and a very malevolent-looking Xavier. Domino made a face. "They don't look like much of a challenge, do they? Maybe I should have programmed a few more."
"They'll do for a start," Cable said gruffly. "I get Logan."
"Oh, pardon me while I pick my jaw up off the floor," Domino quipped. He gave her a dirty look, and she responded with a thoroughly unnerving grin. "After you, Nate."
"Ladies first," he grated warily, his suspicions growing. She was acting FAR too pleased with herself. That inevitably meant trouble. Usually for him.
"Why, Nate, how chivalrous of you!"
Cable struggled back to his feet, unable to repress a grin as the wreckage of the Logan drone came crashing back to the floor. His head was already starting to ache from the size of the TK blast he'd just managed, but it was a fair trade for the sense of satisfaction he was currently enjoying.
#I'm almost certain that shouldn't have felt so good,# he projected gleefully at Domino. Maybe he had a few stray frustrations to work out, after all.
He sensed her amusement. Glad you're enjoying yourself. The thought came to him across the psi-link with crystal clarity. If you're free, come over here and give him a hand with Psylocke and the firecracker--watch it!
Her warning came a moment too late. Something slammed into him from behind with stunning force, knocking him to the ground. He forced himself into a roll and came back to his feet, trying to focus his shattered concentration enough to raise a TK shield. But the Gladiator-drone hadn't slowed in its approach for even a second. Before he could even form the image of the shield in his mind, it knocked him flying with one massive punch, right into the 'spider-web'.
Ouch-- Cable thought, his head spinning. Good thing my jaw doesn't break so easily-- Seeing the Gladiator-drone advancing on him, he tried to move--only to realize that this thing had more in common with a spider-web than just appearance.
He was, quite resoundingly, stuck.
Instinctively, he started to struggle, but the web only sprouted new tendrils that wound themselves around him sinuously. He tried to push them back telekinetically, with no effect. The web seemed to just--absorb the psionic energy, like a flonqing sponge or something. Panic surged into life somewhere deep inside him--trapped again! a voice gibbered in the back of his mind--but he stepped on the emotion firmly, and focused on his situation. No way was he getting himself out of this, he realized with a sigh.
#Dom?# he projected resignedly as the Gladiator-drone continued its approach, spouting dire threats with every step. #A little help here?# She was never going to let him live this one down. This was going to be fodder for her little 'remember-when' fests for the next decade, at least.
"Computer, halt program!" he heard her shout. The Gladiator-drone froze in mid-step.
"Hey!" Cable said in surprise, turning towards Domino as much as his bonds allowed and giving her a puzzled frown. "I didn't say shut it off."
Straightening, Domino stepped around the frozen Psylocke and Jubilee drones, and came over to stand in front of him. She'd barely broken a sweat, he noticed somewhat enviously. "We've got the safeties off, remember?" she reminded him in a level voice, looking from him to Gladiator and then back again. "And you looked like you were in trouble."
"Well, yeah, but I just needed a hand," he grumbled, pulling experimentally at the web again. It responded by wrapping more tendrils around his wrists, and he swore in frustration. "Oath! What is this thing?"
Domino chuckled, regarding him thoughtfully. "Got yourself good and caught, old man," she mused, smiling oddly. "You should have been watching your back."
"Dom, you didn't answer my question," he pointed out irritably. "What IS this?"
She gave him the very epitome of innocent looks. "What's what, Nathan?" she asked, blinking at him.
"What do you mean, 'what's what'?" he sputtered. "This! This--overly amorous thing that's presently groping me, that's 'what'!"
"Interesting choice of words, Nate," she said, that enigmatic smile returning as she took a step closer to him. She stretched out a hand, almost but not quite touching the web. "The Shi'ar call it a manacle."
"For--obvious reasons, I see--damn it!" He stopped struggling as the manacle's grip only continued to tighten. Oh, I've had just about enough of this, I think-- "Computer, shut down the program!" he called angrily, wondering why Dom was just standing there staring at him.
"Oh, did I forget to mention?" Domino asked, her eyes very wide and guileless. "I have the program keyed to my voice-print. I'm the only one who can shut it down."
He gave her an incredulous look. "You what?" he asked, bewildered. "Dom, why would you--"
She reached up, tracing the line of his jaw. "You look so cute, all covered in goo," she almost purred. "Reminds me of that time in Moscow, when Hydra blew our op and we had to make a break for it through the sewers--remember that?"
Somehow, she managed to get even closer, without getting caught in the manacle. She laid her hands on his shoulders, and he stiffened slightly as the proximity and the physical contact only heightened the psi-link. He could feel her heart beating as if it was his own, could feel the odd mixture of mirth and playfulness and simmering hunger dominating her thoughts. "Remember what we did to keep warm that night, after we got out?" she whispered, that gleam back in her eyes.
He swallowed. "Vividly," he admitted, the word coming out a little unsteadily. Her hands slid down from his shoulders to his chest, and he shivered as that mixture of emotions shifted, grew more intense. For all that he'd felt this before with Jenskot, this sense of being completely attuned to another person, it hadn't lost one bit of its wonder. He wanted to laugh, to cry--realizing that he was trembling slightly in the grip of the manacle, he struggled for self-control. "Dom," he started almost pleadingly, "this isn't really--"
"Fair?" She laughed softly, leaning her head against his chest for a moment. Only an act of sheer will let him bite back the groan that threatened to escape at that moment. Did she have any idea what she was doing to him? he thought dizzily. Was she feeling any of this? Or was it just him, since his mind already sensitized to this sort of connection? "Damn it, Nate," she continued, her voice subdued, almost wistful, "this is the only way I could be sure of getting your attention."
"You could have just asked," he protested, without any heat. It felt too good, being this close to her. What he wanted, more than anything, was to have his arms free, so that he could put them around her and hold on tight for the next century or two. Hold her and never let go, shut out the world and everything else except the two of them--
"Oh, really?" she said, looking up at him again. There wasn't any anger in her voice or along the psi-link, just a curious sort of resignation, edged with concern. "When, Nate? When you're not busy drilling the team and reworking strategy to make up for Sam not being there anymore, you're fending off X-Men--even the ones who don't like you!--treating you like the prodigal son and trying to show you the error of your ways. Or telepaths trying to sit you down and beat some ethics into your head--" She suddenly smirked. "Or your father trying to 'redeem' himself. Bet you didn't take THAT into account when you decided to move us here, did you?"
"You've got a point," he said heavily, the spell cast by her presence, her nearness, lifting slightly as her words brought the stresses and worries of the last few weeks back to the forefront. "Let me down, Dom, and we'll talk."
"Yeah, I could let you down, I guess," Domino said, starting to look distinctly amused. "We could have a long, drawn-out, tortuous discussion about all of this. Oh, yeah. That'd work. Like a charm." He blinked at her, confused, and she muttered something under her breath about 'puppy-dog eyes'. "I don't want to figure out the meaning of life, which would be a hell of a lot easier than sorting out our relationship--I want you to STOP thinking so damned much, Nate."
"That's a new one," he said with an attempt at a laugh.
Domino gave an eloquent shrug. "What can I say, Nate? Just call me the devil on your shoulder." She tilted her head, regarding him thoughtfully. "You really can't TK your way out of that?"
"Apparently not," he muttered.
Her smile was positively beatific. "Good. The manacle's supposed to be unaffected by the mutant powers of anyone it's programmed to keep 'contained'. It worked on Terry, but I wasn't sure it would be as effective with you."
"You tested it on Terry?" he demanded, beginning to feel a little indignant. "What is this, a conspiracy?"
"The kids are more perceptive than you give them credit for," Dom chuckled. "They're perfectly able to tell when you're running yourself into the ground."
"I am NOT--"
"Are too," she said sweetly. He muttered a curse in Askani, and she leaned closer to him, her eyes gleaming--well, fiendishly was the kindest description he could come up with. "Be nice," she whispered, and kissed him.
It was one hell of a kiss. One of those kisses that might make a man glad he was strung up like a trophy on a wall, to avoid the embarassing problem of going weak at the knees. Then, of course, there was oxygen deprivation to worrry about, which was beginning to be a more pressing problem as the moments flew past.
"Dom--" he managed as she finally let him up for air. The link was pulsing with light and warmth, swelling like a flower about to blossom. Stretching out new roots, reaching deeper into their minds.
"Mmm--shut up, Nate," she murmured, her fingers tangling in his hair as she drew his head back down to hers and kissed him again. All he could sense from her--besides the obvious--was perfect contentment at what was happening. No trepidation, no hesitation.
He really wished he had his hands free. It wasn't fair. Hers were, roaming over his body, lightly, experimentally, as she shared in what he was feeling, experiencing the sensations across the psi-link as if they were her own. He, in turn, felt her sheer, uncomplicated delight. Like a kid in a candy store-- he thought, and then gasped, shuddering almost convulsively as she loosened his belt and slid a hand beneath the thin, tough fabric of his uniform. The skin-to-skin contact was almost literally electrifying, and he bit back a moan as she hit a particularly sensitive spot.
#Not fair, Dom,# he thought at her, not trusting his voice. #Definitely not fair--#
Complaints, complaints, she sent back. Even her mind-voice sounded husky. She looked up at him with a sly smile, pressing against him as much as she could without getting caught by the manacle. "I could stop, if you like."
#Did I say that?# he riposted quickly, if a little wildly. #I just think it might be more practical to let me down, that's all.#
"Practical, maybe," she said with a snicker. "But not nearly as much fun."
Sipping at his coffee--and grimacing a little at how strong it was--Scott Summers stepped into the Danger Room's control booth. He sat down in front of the console, frowning slightly as he saw from the read-outs that there was a program running. Odd--I don't recall seeing anyone on the schedule for this early this morning. He'd been planning to use this time to run a few diagnostics, since the Room was supposed to be free.
"Computer, what program's running?" he asked. There was no answer, and he frowned. "Computer? Shut down the program."
/Unable to comply. Access to program coded to voice-imprint only,/ the computer said, almost regretfully.
Scott scowled. "Great," he grumbled. Putting a lock like this on a program was one of his few iron-clad no-nos for the Danger Room. Too many of his teammates liked running solo combat sequences at ridiculous levels of difficulty, and while he looked the other way, more often than not, when they turned off the safeties, he insisted that the person using the Room left the rest of them the option of shutting down the program, just in case. Scott leaned forward, hitting the control to raise the blast shield. This better be Logan. Anyone else, and he or she's going to wish they'd stayed in bed this morning. As the shield retracted to allow him a view of the Danger Room, Scott took another sip of his coffee--
Which he promptly spat all over the console as he saw what the Danger Room's two current occupants were occupied in doing. Flushing, desperately trying to shield the involuntary mental WHAT THE HELL??? that had escaped him, Scott averted his eyes and hit the control for the blast shield again.
Once it was safely back down, he leaned back in the chair, shaking his head incredulously. In the Danger Room, he thought, trying very hard not to laugh. Now, why did that seem so--appropriate?
#Scott?# Jean's sleepy voice asked in his mind, and he winced. She'd still been out like a light when he'd left the boathouse this morning. He hadn't wanted to wake her, but he supposed it was inevitable, that she'd have picked up on that first moment of shock. #What are you chuckling about, hon?#
He opened his mind to her, not trusting himself to explain. Surprise, and then delighted approval emanated from her end of the link.
That's all you can say? he sent back teasingly.
#Well, the phrase 'you go, girl', does spring to mind--#
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