|DISCLAIMER: Any character you recognize is the property of Marvel Comics and is used without permission for entertainment purposes only.
Warning: This story may deal with adult issues, so be forewarned.
Sorry, everyone....I had some problems wrapping this chapter. Maybe this reads a little easier- there are also a few *very* minor story changes, so this is the better one to read.
Archivers, o most wondrous people that you are...please use this version. Thanks so much....
Standard disclaimers apply....I am obviously disregarding some current X-Force continuity as well.
Real life interlude....
There is a story ahead, I assure you, and skip ahead if you like, but I've got to get this off my chest.
At church Sunday morning, I met a stranded family with no money and no way of getting to their home in a nearby state. We see all sorts of social injustices so much on television that we often become desensitized to the problems so many people face. Meeting these courageous people really had an impact on me- I'll spare you the ugly details, but suffice it to say I'd been rather bitchy lately, but when I was forced to compare my situation with theirs,face to face, I was utterly shocked at my own self-centeredness. These people had to depend on stangers (though our faith binds us all together as family, we were actual strangers) to provide a most basic need, getting home, and so very many do the same or worse every day. I was profoundly moved at the wealth of blessings I have.
I guess the point of this is, appreciate what you have, people. And say a prayer for the Knoxes to get home.
End of soapbox. We now return to your regularly scheduled fan fiction-
Just Lucky, I Guess
Domino stared at her drink, her thoughts as dark and clouded as the last of the scotch swirling around the bottom of the glass. She picked up the drink and quickly downed it. 'Damn Wisdom. Damn Tolliver.' Sighing, she raised the empty glass to get the bartender' attention. 'Damn Nate, too, for that matter.' She knew full well just how illogical blaming Pete and Nathan for her current situation was, but under the circumstances, she thought she was justified. 'Sonsabitches, every last one of them. Just what the hell am I supposed to do about all this?' The glass started shaking, very slightly, and she conciously steadied her hand.
Smoothing his features into an expression of perfect bartender innocence, Denis walked over to the bar where she sat.'I don't know who this is, but Pete don't spend his pub time chattin' with strangers. And I *know* he ain't thinking of runnin' around on Kitty...Or at least he better not be.' Leaning against the bar, he plastered a smile on his face and asked "Can I get y' something else, Miss?" Denis studied the woman carefully for the tell-tale signs of the profession.
In a perfectly normal London accent, the woman replied "Thank you- I surely would appreciate it." With a weary sigh, Domino fell back into character. A quick glance at the man's expression had confirmed her intial suspicions- he was intel. She didn't feel like going into a specific cover identity right now- after her exhausting week and Pete's horrible news all she wanted was a hot bath and a long night's sleep. 'Dammit.'
She sifted through the contingency stories she kept prepared for just such situations. After a scant few seconds consideration, her exhaustion and her warped sense of humor got the better of her. 'Herbert,' she decided wryly, smiling for the first time in several long minutes. Herbert always seemed to work- or at the very least discouraged further questions. Focusing her gaze at the 'bartender', she affected a pouty sigh. "It looks like I might have time to enjoy this one. I just called the office on my cellular, and it turns out my client rescheduled for next week. I don't have a lunch meeting after all."
Shaking his head sympathetically, Denis poured the drink."Sorry to hear that. Looks like Pete kept y' company, though." Keeping his voice smooth and a smile on his face, Denis calmly tried to pry her connection to Pete out of her.
Her expression fell, and supressing a grin, she told herself 'What the hell. May as well do this right, Dom...' "Oh, do you know Pete? He's an old pubmate of my ex-husband, you see..." Her voice held reams of meaning, none of it pleasant. "I shouldn't have been surprised to bump into Pete in a bar, after all," she sneered. "Good thing I did, though. Turns out he's the last person in London to hear about what that degenerate did." The iciness grew even more pronounced.
Denis coughed politely. "Er..um..excuse me?" he asked, his curiosity overcoming his more cautious nature. He'd had to supress a shudder at the bitterness in her voice, though. He had an ex of his own, and that cold tone was far too familiar for his liking. Whoever and whatever this woman was, she was far too open to be intelligence of any sort, and no one had come in since she'd been here for her to distract him from.
Taking a deep swallow of the drink, Domino muttered a few coarse curses, the language totally incongruous with her polished appearance. At the startled look on the bartender's face, she had to carefully keep from laughing- she was actually taking a perverse pleasure in this. 'Been too long since I've been in the field,' she acknowledged, relishing even this performance. 'Face it, Dom,' she told herself. 'You've fallen into a rut. The kids have made you soft.'
Sipping the drink again, she continued in what she hoped would seem the time-honored confessional known to bartenders the world over."My *EX* husband, Herbert. Don't be sorry for *me*- the wrinkly octogenarian he left me for is obscenely rich, and I'm taking them both for everything they're worth. Bloody perverts." Remembering the circumstances of her present situation, the vituperation in her voice was not hard to muster.
Ignoring Denis' embarrassed expression, she continued in acid tones, putting every ounce of crediblity she could into the wonderfully ludicrous story "Little Timmy, our youngest- named after my father, he was- found him all dolled up and dressed up like a tart one mornin' after I left for work, wearing *my* jewelry and makeup, wearin' *my* underclothes!" She made her voice to slur a bit, allowing a bit of an under-class accent to creep through the careful crispness of her tone.
The bartender, trying his best not to meet her gaze, simply winced. Allowing even more vituperation to enter her tone, she continued "He was getting ready to leave to go visit his dodderin' old boyfriend." Denis coughed explosively, choking, and had to take a quick sip of the glass he kept under the counter to calm himself. Seemingly oblivious, Domino rushed on "Scared my baby so much he wet himself, bless his little heart- he's in therapy now- Tim screamed so loud the neighbors heard him, and called me on my way to work. I came home just in time to catch Herbert changin', but he'd already stretched my underclothes all out. And I thought I'd been gaining weight!"
Denis, shaking his head, just stared at her. Blithely continuing, Domino growled "He confessed it all. Turns out he always wanted to be a woman, an' now his friend's gonna pay t' get it done for him. Bastard," she finished, breathless "I'd like to save them both th' money and do the operation myself wit' a pair of hedge clippers. Mum always said there was somethin' strange about Herbert, but did I listen? Noooo."
'Not bad, Dom,' she grinned to herself as the bartender took a deep breath, his cheeks mottled crimson. 'Now he thinks I might be loony but I'm not dangerous- and *definitely* not a threat.'
At Denis' sympathetic sputterings, she stood up and placed a few bills on the counter. "Thank you so much for the drinks. Now if you'll excuse me, I forgot to tell Pete a few more choice bits of news about his old friend..." As she walked back to the booth, Denis just stared in amazement, shaking his head sadly and watching her sway slightly as she left. 'Damn waste, that is. Wonder how Pete knows that man?'
Sliding back into the booth, Domino rolled her eyes at Pete. "Well, that was fun." Opening up her briefcase, she half-heartedly grumbled "You could have told me the bartender was intel." Though she still looked tired, her eyes weren't quite as bleak as they'd been a few moments ago, and Pete sighed in silent relief.
"Oh, bloody hell, Dom," he said through a mouthful of chips he'd nabbed from a nearby table. "Quit your whinin'. You knew what 'e was from the minute you walked in th' door. What'd y' tell him?"
She made a very rude guesture at him, and he responded in kind. "I used Herbert. Been a while since I dusted him off, and he goes with this scenario pretty well- since your bartender had already noticed me and was checking me out, this gives him something else to think about other than the fact I might be who I am. Anway, it was worth it- even if he does find out, I'm not too worried about you Brits- I haven't done anything to piss you off in a while. All this-" She made a dismissive guesture at her disguise "is just a precaution. Back me up, willya, when I leave, though. He'll ask, trust me. Make it good."
Pete chuckled under his breath "Herbert th' cross-dressin' homewrecker?" At her amused nod he clucked under his breath "Poor bastard. Maligned everywhere y' go- never gets t' defend 'imself- You scared that poor lady in Bogota half to death with that story..."
Domino's lips twitched. "Poor bastard, my ass. That was a *long* time ago, and that's the only other time I've ever used him. Anyway, look at the bright side- at least he's not married to a harpy like me anymore."
Readjusting her bulging packages for a better grip, Kitty Pryde pushed the heavy oak doors open, her eyes automatically squinting as they adjusted to the much dimmer light inside the pub. Stepping over to the bar, she dropped her packages at her feet as she looked around the room for Pete. Her expression softened when she saw the rumpled head sticking over the back of a corner booth, but before she could pick her packages up to join him a beautiful dark haired businesswoman she didn't recognize gracefully slid into the seat across from him and the two immediately began arguing. Neither had seen her come in.
An unrecognizable expression flitted across Kitty's face. Frowning at herself, she dismissed such thoughts as unworthy. 'Stupid, Kitty. Trust the man.'
Before she could cross the room to meet Pete, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Dropping instinctively into a ninja stance she'd learned from Ogun what seemed like an eternity ago, she whirled around to face whoever had touched her, hands positioned defensively near her chest.
Grinning broadly, Denis' eyes widened in surprise "Kitty, it's just me! Calm down there, girl...." He'd heard stories that Pete's girlfriend was good, but he hadn't expected reflexes like those. 'Very impressive,' he thought.
Kitty grinned sheepishly and her body, lowering her arms to her side. "Sorry, Denis. Things have been so crazy lately, I guess my guard's just up, you know? I didn't mean to do that...How've you been doing, anyway? How're the boys?"
Denis seated himelf on one of the empty barstools and looked up at the young American. One afternoon when he'd been missing his two small sons, who were living with his ex-wife since their bitter divorce, especially badly, he and Kitty had had a long talk about them while Pete was doing some work for Jardine. It'd helped him a good bit, and he'd been particularly fond of Pete's young girlfriend ever since. Other than just doing his job, his affection for Kitty was just another reason he'd been suspicious of the crazy dark haired woman who'd been sitting with Pete.
In a proud voice, he answered Kitty "Oh, they're just fine... I'm seein' them about every weekend now. You lookin' for Pete?"
She grinned "Yeah, he's had the whole morning to himself. Time I came and graced him with my presence again."
Denis inclined his head in the direction of the booth. "He'll be glad to see you, Kitty, trust me. See that woman sittin' over there with him?" At Kitty's slow nod, he continued "Pete'll appreciate the rescue, I think. I asked him t' check her out for me, but it seems they already knew each other. She came up here to get another drink, an' told me her life story in th' process- not that I asked, of course."
"Of course," Kitty murmured, mischief glinting in her eyes. 'Crazy woman- Pete-.....this might be fun....' Pete had taken *entirely* too much pleasure mocking *her* old friends. She returned the favor every chance she could get, and from what she understood it might be all day before Domino got there and they got down to business. 'Might as well occupy myself,' she grinned.
"Thanks for the warning, Denis."
As Pete's mouth opened to deliver a snappy retort to Domino's last gibe, his peripheral vision caught a glimpse of familiar chestnut brown hair. Twisting his head around, his thin features lit up with pure delight. "Pryde!" he mock-growled at his approaching lover "Y' bought th' bloody stores out, y' did. 'ow're we gonna get all that junk 'ome?" Rising from his seat, he slipped his arms tightly around her in greeting, the warm embrace betraying his pleasure at her presence.
Still struggling with the bags, Kitty returned the as best she could. When he finally loosened his grip, she mock commanded "Here, you stupid git, take some of these, and don't worry your pretty little head about it." At his vulgar reply, Kitty threw her head back and laughed loudly. The two stood like that for a few moments, a bit away from the table, just talking to each other.
Domino felt oddly like a voyeur. Watching their reunion, she had to squelch her own feelings of jealousy at the unabashed intimacy between the two. 'Since when have I been able to be that open with anyone, to hug someone in public?' she wondered, while a darker voice whispered 'or even admit you want to, eh? What would Nate do if you walked up to him and grabbed him like that? In public, or even at all, hmmmm?'
Pushing those uncomfortable thoughts away, she studied Pete's girlfriend. She'd met the girl before, at Scott and Jean's wedding, but they hadn't spoken at length. Domino had only stayed for the ceremony and long enough to record a gruff congratulations on Kitty's video album, but feeling uncomfortable being around so many people who knew each other so well, she'd left soon afterwards. In the few times any of their teams had met since then, she and Kitty had rarely spoken. She barely knew the girl.
She examined Kitty critically, feeling strangely protective of Pete, though she'd never admit it. 'I've got few enough friends left, dammit,' she told herself. 'And with Logan and Storm here Pete's sure as hell gonna get looked over with a fine-tooth comb. Kitty may as well have her turn.' Listening to the two banter back and forth, seemingly oblivious to anyone else in the room, Domino smiled. Pete was giving her time to compose herself.
Domino chuckled silently as Kitty scored a particularly good zinger. The girl could handle herself with Pete, that much was certain anyway. 'That's unusual enough in itself, but...Hmmmm...she's attractive enough, I guess- not quite as flashy as Pete's accustomed to, but that's probably a good thing...nice natural agility... She looks older than nineteen, though I guess I did at her age, too.' Domino closed her eyes at the memories. At nineteen she'd already been working with the government, and at twenty she'd hooked up with Cable and the Six Pack. With a grim smile, she realized that the age difference between Pete and Kitty was very similar to the one between herself and Nathan when they'd first met. 'Funny,' she thought, but she was more saddened than amused.
Turning her attention back to the present, she thought 'I guess she's been through a lot, too, though...' Domino had, of course, read Kitty's file, as she had with everyone associated with the X-teams. Even *she'd* been surprised at some of the places the X-men had taken the thirteen year old Sprite.
Coughing loudly, Domino broke into their conversation. "Excuse me...I hate to interrupt, but people are starting to stare."
Breaking off her retort to Pete's last joke, Kitty looked around the room. The very few other patrons in the pub were too immersed in their beers or their newspapers to even notice the two. Remembering Denis' warning, Kitty grinned. This *was* gonna be fun. "Oh, I'm sorry, *hello*," she gushed, walking closer to the booth and extending her hand. "Doesn't look like this rude git" she motioned at Pete, who stood behind her, a bemused expression on his face "Is going to introduce us. I'm Kitty Pryde." Her voice was extremely bright and cheery, much more so than normal, and Pete looked at her askance.
Domino merely inclined her head politely and shook the younger woman's hand, pleased to find a grip almost as firm as her own. "Nice to see you again, Kitty."
Years of training and her natural intuition enabled Kitty to conceal her surprised reaction. 'See you again? Have I met this woman before? Who is this?' At the woman's unexpectedly coherent tone, Kitty's manner changed instantly. She glanced at the smirking Pete, frowned, then looked back at the woman. "I'm sorry...I don't think we've met before."
Pete, now burdened with several large shopping bags, motioned for Kitty to sit down. "Sure you 'ave, luv," he answered as she slipped into the booth. Dropping the bags beside the table in a less than careful way, he pointedly ignored her muttered rebuke. Pushing the bags partially under the table with a little more care, he sat down next to her, their shoulders touching, as he continued. "Y' told me y' met each other at that weddin' last year." Kitty's eyes widened in dawning comprehension as Pete continued "But y' probably wouldn't recognize 'er dressed like this. 'ell, I barely did. Kitty, this is Domino. Dom, Kitty."
To her credit, Kitty recovered very quickly. "Sorry about that, Domino," she grinned. "Denis warned me there was a crazy woman over here with Pete."
Pete glanced between the two women, parted his lips, then shook his head. "Nah. Too easy."
Ignoring Pete, Domino smiled "I've heard a lot about you, Kitty, both from the Brit here and from the rest of the X-Men- at least the ones I'm on speaking terms with, anyway." Domino snorted, and Kitty's lips twitched in amused understanding. "In any case, it's nice to finally meet you face to face." Domino grinned wickedly "I've got *lots* of good stories to tell you- maybe when we get a chance the two of us could sit down and talk." At the obvious delight in Kitty's face, Pete's expression fell and he took another, longer sip of his drink.