|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.
I thank God for getting me through this semester so far, and many thanks again to Luba and Alicia for their assistance...
Just Lucky, I Guess
Nathan slowly disengaged her arm from his, left eye blazing against the dim glow of the street lights. Suspicious at this sudden turnabout in her behavior, the beer made his voice brusquer and much louder than he'd intended "Hold on just a minute. Who said I'm ready to go? Fifteen minutes ago you were sittin' in there havin' the time of your life at my expense, and now you're ready to leave, so I should too? I don't think so, Dom."
Domino blew an exasperated stream of air through her lips, her breath visible in the cold night air. Her first instinct was to just leave him there to stew, but her own stubborn nature wouldn't let things lie that easily. Staring at him intently, focusing through her own alcoholic haze, she really looked at him for the first time since she'd stepped outside to join him, and she was dismayed at what she saw.
He stood there glaring at her, his entire body rigid, his face awash in the guilt and self-recrimination she felt through their link. He looked like a condemned man about to face a firing squad. 'Shit, Nate. It's not as easy for you to put things out of your mind, is it?' Remembering Betsy's vision, her jaw set in grim determination. 'I'm sorry, but you're not the only one nervous about tomorrow. I don't know if I'll have the nerve to do this in the morning, and it damn sure needs doing.'
Stepping back a bit, giving him the space she knew was so precious to him, she repeated sincerely "Nate, come back with me. We need to talk."
Cable pulled his collar a little higher around his throat. "Dom, can't it wait until morning?" he asked, his voice tired, almost pleading. "If this has to do with the mission, I just don't think either one of us is in any condition to plan tactics or strategies right now."
Domino snorted dismissively. "Bullshit, Nathan. We've both been a hell of a lot drunker than this *during* some of our best work. But no," she jammed her hands in her pockets for warmth, "that's the last thing I want to think about right now. I want to talk about..." she paused, took a deep breath, then said it, averting her eyes from his. "Talk about us."
"What?" Cable blinked, surprised. "Thought you didn't want to get into all of that," he grunted, turning away from her to look back into window of the pub. The evening's libations had loosened his tongue as well as thickened it, and he felt removed, distant from his body, staring at her through the almost surreal mist of fog that had rolled in from the river. "Why now? I've been tryin' to talk to you for two weeks now, tell you I was sorry," he continued in a petulant voice "But you wouldn't listen."
Sighing, Domino took his arm again, partly for the tactile comfort, partly for the warmth. Feeling her temper rise, she cajoled "Well, I'm listening now. C'mon. Come back to the hotel with me- I'm serious, for once."
Without turning his head, he asked in a flat, dull tone "Why? Why are you even bothering?"
Before she could stop herself, frustrated at his pretend indifference, she cried out, choking on a small frustrated moan that died in her throat. "Dammit, Nate, because I don't want to be alone tonight!" Swallowing hard, realizing what she'd finally admitted, a look of naked vulnerability pierced through her reckless bravado. The drink and the lingering exhaustion had made her cross boundaries she'd long ago set for herself where he was concerned, and now, staring at him, recognizing her own fears mirrored in the depths of his eyes, she didn't care. 'It's past time.'
In her mind, she felt a fumbling, tentative 'Are you sure, Dom? Are you serious this time?' The thought was earnest, hesitant, and she could see that he was holding his breath, afraid this was another of her games.
Looking up at him, she pursed her lips wryly. 'Look, I'm not asking you to jump my bones, Nate. I just want to talk,' she joked, brushing past her momentary lapse in composure.
Recognizing her fears, sharing them, Nathan smiled. 'Ah, but the night is young, m'lady,' he teased, taking her arm as they began the short walk back to the hotel.
In unspoken accord, they restrained themselves to small talk at first, discussing the evening and the others on the trip, postponing more serious topics until they'd returned to their suite.
"Logan's got good instincts," Nathan acknowledged ruefully when she mentioned how surprised she was at how easily he'd accepted Pete. "Didn't take him long to peg me as a bad guy the first time we met and, back then, he was right."
Domino raised closed fists to her mouth, blowing on them for warmth. 'Phew,' she wrinkled her nose at the scent of the alcohol on her breath. 'Little strong, there.' "Ah, you two just got off to a bad start," she corrected him. "If I'd've introduced you, like I was *going* to," she said pointedly, and he looked away, a small smile playing on his lips "Then you'd've saved yourself some serious problems down the line. But no, the two of you have to go off and get into a dick-measuring contest right off the bat."
He laughed aloud, a deep bass rumble that echoed in the quiet night air, protesting weakly "It wasn't quite that simple, Dom..."
She shook her head, a faintly superior look on her face. "Wasn't it? Stupid men. Fighting for ten years just to see who got to be alpha-wolf, even when I vouched for both of you with the other. Personally, I chalk it up to testosterone."
"Oh, don't even try that, Dom," he countered, pleased at the light banter. It'd been too long since they felt comfortable enough with each other to joke like this, to kid around without that sharper underbite of unspoken emotions clouding the picture. She'd suckered him in, he knew, tricked him out of his earlier melancholy with her rambling teasing, just as she'd done so often before. The only difference was that tonight, she'd actually admitted that she needed him. Tonight, she'd actually asked for his help. Not willing to think any farther along those lines, he waggled a shiny finger under her nose. "Testosterone, my ass. I can't *count* the number of times one of us has had to pull you off of somebody, man *or* woman, just because they looked at you the wrong way in a bar."
Domino mumbled good-naturedly under her breath "Yeah, well, I was young and stupid. What was *your* excuse?"
"I was younger and stupider," he informed her in an authoritative, no-nonsense voice, but she could see his full lips curve upwards in the dim light.
"Younger, maybe," she allowed, and grinned at his ribald reply.
Nodding politely to the very proper doorman as they approached the elegant apartment building, Betsy was quickly admitted into the richly appointed lobby after she'd verified her identity. Beside her, Logan was strangely quiet, allowing her to carry the conversation. It was her city, and she was in her element, effusively describing this building or that monument as the cab she'd called brought them to this point. It'd taken every ounce of self-control he possessed to pay attention to her words, he was so enraptured by the woman herself. 'We shoulda done this a long time ago.'
"I may not have inherited any of the estate," Logan caught the bitterness in her voice as she led him across the room towards the elevator "Or be allowed much of a say in the day to day dealings of the company, but my dear brother has graciously allowed me full access to all of the Braddock facilities when I'm in town visiting, including several very nice flats. I prefer these humble quarters."
Looking around the sumptuously decorated building, Logan shook his head wryly. "Yeah, you're really slummin' here, Betts."
Her lips curved in a wry semblance of a smile, but he could see the smoldering indignation burning behind her slanted eyes. "It's not that, Logan. My investments have left me quite well off, so the financial aspect of it doesn't bother me at all. I just find it...disturbing," she paused "That even in this day and time, I, as a woman, have to content myself with being the humble supplicant whenever I want to take part in the enterprise that is my birthright as well." She stepped into the elevator when it opened, pressing the button for the top floor. "It's a trait my brother and Warren share," she told him quietly, and he stiffened at the mention of her lover. "For all of their rhetoric, both are very much traditionalists, content to operate within their upbringing. Despite living with and fighting beside women, neither has ever completely accepted the notion that a female can be an equal in the business world. Warren just can't accept that I might be as able as he in the boardroom, so he's never given me that opportunity."
That was all it took. The fierce jealousy overpowering his control, he slid towards her in one liquid motion, muscles moving so quickly that even her telepathy gave her no inkling of what he was doing until it was already done. Snaking an arm around her waist, he pulled her to him, his body pressing tightly into hers. At her surprised gasp, he leaned forward until their faces were only inches apart. "I don't wanna talk about Warren tonight," he growled, dark eyes boring into hers, and she felt something that had been bound tightly inside her tear itself loose.
"Neither do I," she murmured, still meeting his gaze, heart pounding as her body instinctively responded to his primal need. The elevator beeped discreetly, and the doors slid open to her penthouse apartment. "So let's not waste any more time talking, then," she whispered, and took his hand to lead him into the privacy of her home.
Pete opened the door to their room quietly, not wanting to wake Kitty. Creeping into the room, he promptly tripped over one of a pair of her shoes left right in the middle of the floor, provoking a spate of drunken cursing.
"Pete?" She sat up, her small body dwarfed by the huge bed. Rubbing her eyes, she stumbled out of the thick covers and launched herself into his arms.
"Pryde? I'm sorry, I didn't mean t' wake you..." He held her close to him, wincing a bit at her uncomfortably tight hug. "You all right, love? How'd th' talk go?"
Tipping her head back, she smiled shakily, and he could see the lines of distress that sleep hadn't quelled. "Yeah, I'm fine, Pete. It went fine," she lied "I'm just glad you're back. Let's go to bed."
Eyes narrowing, he almost probed her for more details, but with great effort forced himself to respect her privacy. 'She'll tell me when she's ready.' "Whatever you say," he reluctantly agreed, 'Fer now.' After quickly stripping down to his technicolor striped boxers, he joined her in the huge bed, holding her warm body close to him as they both drifted off to sleep.
"You're going to wear a hole in that carpet if you don't quit pacing." From where he sat on the largest couch, Nathan shifted his gaze to where she tread back and forth along the far wall, wishing not for the first time that they hadn't tacitly agreed to dampen their psilink for the duration of this conversation. The expression on her face was unreadable. He motioned hesitantly "C'mere. Come sit down- try to relax. You're making me nervous."
Domino turned away from the window, which was now rendered opaque by the condensation from the cold night air. 'What the hell was I thinking?' she wondered frantically. Now that she'd gotten him here, she didn't have the faintest idea of where to start, or even really what she wanted to say. 'I don't need to do this- neither one of us needs this kind of shit right now.' Nevertheless, she warily joined him, settling into the opposite corner of the couch. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it quickly, desperately wishing the butterflies in her stomach would go away. 'Coward,' she cursed herself, refusing to meet his now openly curious gaze.
The moments ticked on "Absolutely scintillating conversation we're having here, Nate- it's a regular Algonquin round table tonight," she said dryly, trying to mask her discomfiture.
"*You* were the one who wanted to talk, Dom," he reminded her gently. 'Don't push, Nathan,' he ordered himself, despite his eagerness to hear what she had to say. 'She'll just run if you do.'
"Yeah," she inclined her head at him, conceding "I guess I did." They sat there like that several long minutes more, the silence hanging heavily between them, awkward and almost tangible. Finally, she cursed under her breath and rose stiffly, still more than a little drunk. She stared at him a moment, an unreadable expression on her face, then muttered in a disgusted tone "Ah, the hell with it. This was a stupid idea, Nate. I'm goin' to bed."
"Dammit, Dom, don't do this!" he yelled at her retreating form, frustration finally bursting through his veneer of self-control. "Don't push me away again!"
"Me push you away, Nathan? You're a hell of a one to talk!" she snarled, almost relieved to be able to lapse back into their familiar pattern of fighting. Shocked at the revelation, she took an involuntary step back, shaking her head, taunting herself 'Are you so scared that you can't even bring yourself to talk about it?' Jaw tightening, she thought 'I saw what's going to happen- what do I have to lose?' Turning away from him, the earlier courage she'd felt flared back into existance, and she whispered in a small, determined voice "No. I'm not going to do this to us tonight."
Anger vanishing as quickly as it came, Cable, still woozy, hoisted himself out of the soft cushions of the sofa and walked over to where she stood. Facing her back, his hand hovered over her slumped shoulder for a second, then lowered to rest lightly on her neck. Slipping his hands underneath the thick sheet of raven black hair, he massaged her neck and shoulders lightly, fingers skillfully kneading tense muscles. "Do what, Dom? Don't worry about it. It's all right- whatever it is you wanted to talk to me about can wait." His deep voice was soothing, soft, and for a moment she closed her eyes and let herself be lulled by it, rolling her shoulders in unconcious response to his gentle touch, the alcohol still softening the edges of her perception. "Whatever this is, it doesn't really matter, anyway."
"You're wrong, Nate. It matters," Raising a hand to his arm, she clasped his wrist and reluctantly pulled it away from her neck. She sighed, a heavy, pained sound, then nodded, more to herself than to him. Leading him back to the sofa, they sat down side by side, Nathan granting her as much time as she needed to gather her thoughts. Hands clasped tightly in her lap, she sat there quietly a few moments more, then looked up to meet his confused gaze.
"This isn't easy for me, Nathan."
Wanting to pull her closer to him, to relieve whatever fears she was so obviously battling, Cable merely nodded. "I know," he whispered, not quite able to completely hide the puzzlement in his voice. 'Just what are you getting at? What's all this about?'
She swallowed 'This is it. Either you do it or you don't.' Suddenly consumed with contempt for both of them for letting it get this far, and feeling once more her earlier edge, she plunged on "We've danced around it for a while, but you never really explained to me what happened after Israel."
"Dom," he began slowly, stalling for time, not knowing quite what she was asking. "You know as well as I do how crazy things got after that- with the team not having a place to stay, with the news about Legacy leaking, with Blaquesmith back-"
She interrupted him tiredly "Let's please not talk about him, all right? What I've got to say is hard enough without gettin' alligator-boy into it. You know damn well how I feel about him." As usual, she felt a familiar, involuntary buzzing in the back of her mind at the thought of Nathan's former mentor. 'It's like- everytime I even think too hard about him, part of my mind skitters away. There's something hanging there, just there at the edge of my memories, and I can't get to it. Annoying as hell.'
Pushing aside those thoughts, surprised he wasn't even making an effort to defend his old teacher, she continued "Anyway, you're not answering my question. What happened to you after Israel?" Her voice was very calm, and she marvelled a bit at the measure of control she exercised over it.
"What do you mean?" 'Oh, shit,' he thought wildly 'here we go.'
"I mean," her voice rose slightly "I mean, just what the hell happened with us?" Knowing if she weren't still drunk, if she hadn't had the impetus of seeing through Betsy's vision what tomorrow would bring, she'd never have the courage to ask him this, she demanded "What made you change your mind about us?"
"What?" His brow furrowed, and he sat up straighter. "Just what are you talking about?"
"Dammit, Nate, quit the ignoramus routine! It doesn't suit you!" Biting her lip, she continued haltingly "I thought- after Israel, when you finally told me, I thought that we- that you and I- that-" She paused, feeling her face color. "Anyway," she didn't finish, glancing quickly at him to gauge his response "I'd just like to know why."
"Why now?" he swallowed, feeling his heart catch in his throat at her words. "Why is it so important that we talk about this now?"
Holding her tongue against the torrent of outrage she felt at his seemingly blase response, she stood, eyes snapping purple fire. "I just thought that since we know how tomorrow's gonna end, if this is the last chance I have to talk about this, I'd like to throw caution to the wind and talk about this, but if you don't want to do that, then, Nate, just don't you friggin' worry about it. Sorry I inconvenienced you."
Nathan's face darkened and, furious, he rose from the couch in one fluid motion to loom over her. "Don't you *ever* say that!" he hissed, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her much smaller frame. "Tomorrow is *not* our last chance- I don't want to hear that defeatist shit from you, not ever!"
Looking up at him, eyes narrowed, she saluted sharply "Yes, Sir, Mister Cable Sir, I wouldn't want to disrupt your plans. If you don't want to discuss it, it's a matter of supreme indifference to me." Raising her chin in a haughty expression, she stared coldly at him, and jerked her arms to free herself.
Not releasing his grip on her, Cable leaned forward, pulling her closer to him, asking impatiently "Just go ahead and ask me, Domino! Quit playing around and just ask, and I'll tell you what I know!"
"Oh, yeah, you have all the answers, don't you?" she spat, angry enough now to finally speak the truth "Well, tell me this- why did you stop caring for me, assuming you ever did in the first place, or was all that just a by-product of my imagination? I think I deserve to know that much, at least."
His face jerked back as if she'd slapped him. Releasing her slowly, he stepped away and, when she glared up at him, he looked stunned. "Oath, woman, why in the world would you think I stopped caring about you?"
Rubbing her shoulders, she stared at him cooly, but he could see the edge of hurt still in her eyes. "If you didn't, you have a hell of a way of showing it. One day, everything's fine, the next, you're back as distant as you were during the Bad Time, without five minutes to spare for me or the team." Ignoring his shudder at her mention of that particularly painful time in his life, she crossed her arms defensively over her chest and continued blasting him. "You weren't training with the kids as much. You weren't asking me to go on missions with you anymore- you found other company for that, and for other things, too, or need I remind you that the evidence of that is just down the hall?" She jerked her head in the direction of Storm's suite.
Unable to deny anything she'd said, he sputtered "I.. don't know what you mean."
"Bullshit, Nate!" She flung her hand out at him, thumping him hard in the chest. "Don't try that with me! *What happened*? Just what happened to make you do such an about-face?"
Her violet gaze piercing into his soul, he was unable to hide it anymore, and the anguished words spewed out before he could reign them in. "What do you want me to tell you, Dom?" His hands jerked convulsively, and he spun so she couldn't see the naked pain on his face. "Do you want me to say that I finally realized what you meant to me? Do you want me to tell you that seeing Jenskot again made me realize just how much it hurt to lose someone like that, and that I just didn't think I could bear it if the same thing happened with you? That I thought I could handle it, but the more things went on, the more you wouldn't let me protect you, the more I found myself wanting to, knowing the whole time you'd never put up with that? Do you want to know how much it scared the shit out of me? Is that what you want?" Breathing heavily, he turned to face her, feeling completely exposed.
She stopped short, and a slim hand fluttered to her throat. "Nathan, you chauvinistic, egotistical, completely self-centered idiot," she whispered softly, eyes wide with emotion "That's exactly what I wanted to hear."