|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.
Thanks to everyone who helped me wrestle with some stylistic concerns here- I think I've settled them by blending my two versions into a more harmonious single chapter that still accomplishes pretty much what it needs to.
PG-13. Caution: Slightly naughty bits ahead. Youngsters, be warned!
Just Lucky, I Guess
"That's exactly what I wanted to hear." Domino heard herself whisper, stunned into truthfulness by this unexpected admission of his feelings for her. Staring at him stupidly, her jaw hung slightly agape, and for the first time in her life she was speechless. Walking back to the couch, she leaned against its arm, composing her thoughts, then stood to pace around the room, eventually finding herself back at his side.
Cable didn't move, didn't speak, barely dared to breathe. His eyes trained on hers, hope that he'd barely admitted to even himself shining brightly from their gray-blue depths. The vehemence of his outburst, the depth of feeling in the strained admission had triggered their psilink, which now flared brighter and stronger than ever before.
Unable to resist its pull, the drinks and the emotional high allowing him to ignore his fears, he took a deep breath and consciously reached out to her. Not pushing or invading the privacy he knew she cherished, he simply opened his mind completely, merging both his soul and his thoughts with hers in a gentle, intimate caress far deeper than a mere psilink, an intimate emotional bonding that demanded nothing and accepted all.
Surprised at the intensity of the bond, he exulted in it, amazed that he could still share so much of his soul with another person. He'd never dreamed he'd ever feel this way again. 'I thought this part of me died with Aliya, but no, it's just as strong as ever...' he breathed, perilously close to tears.
Eyes widening at the contact, he marvelled at the strength and complexity of this woman who'd been by his side for so long, this kindred spirit who'd shared so much of his life. 'You called, I came,' she'd told him so many times, and until now he'd never fully realized what that meant. 'I've been such a fool.'
Domino, eyes welling with unshed tears, gasped as the soft barrage of light coursed through her, suffusing her with a sparkling golden glow. The incandescence was tinged with his own doubts and failures, true, but it still seeped through her to her very core, spreading warmth and healing throughout her battered psyche. Walls she'd spent all of her adult life and longer building, mocking barriers that kept her innermost self locked tightly away from those who had hurt her slowly began to crumble, dissipate, and she felt the shadows hidden deep within her slink back from the presence of this unprecedented unconditional love and acceptance.
'All the things I've done- had to do to survive over the years- he'll see them,' she thought frantically, irrationally certain that he'd truly see for the first time the darkness within her and be repelled by it. 'He knows me better than anyone- he's been in my mind during the dark times- but what if he... He's been hurt so badly, too, and I don't know if I can risk...' She wrapped her arms defensively around her chest, tormented by self-doubts and recriminations that clouded her thoughts, blocked access to the luminous glow. 'Can I do it? Can I show him?' Panic-stricken, she turned her face away and closed her eyes tightly, completely and utterly torn between the safety of hiding behind her long-cultivated walls and the exhilarating redemption of the sharing he offered.
Misinterpreting her guesture as rejection, Cable's entire body slumped, and the shimmering light faded and flickered out as he quickly withdrew from their union, and the separation tore his heart out of his chest. 'Idiot,' he cursed himself flatly, instantly assuming a look of stony indifference to hide the cringing embarassment he felt at having displayed his feelings so openly only to be met with such a harsh denial. 'She's drunk, and worried about tomorrow, that's the only reason she said those things. She didn't mean them, she couldn't, you should have known better than to think she did...'
Domino took an involuntary step back, shocked at the abrupt severing of the link. As the light dimmed within her, the wounded shadows of her past rose again, Stygian tendrils of doubt and guilt snaking up and down the corners of her mind to hiss 'See? He saw what you are and it disgusted him. How could you let him in? You know better than that. It's better to be here, safe and alone, where no one can hurt you...' She shuddered at the familiar taunts of her own personal demons, so much louder now for the absence of the light.
Engulfed by the darkness, so black compared to the sparkling brightness of his touch, she was suddenly struck dumb by how very, very alone she was here in her private shell. Independent, yes, self-reliant, yes, she'd always prided herself on these qualities, but this- this aching emptiness that was devoid of any human touch or need- this tomb-like solitude she'd locked herself into absolutely terrified her. Not knowing whether it was to him or to the faded goodness in herself she was calling out to, she clutched blindly at the last vestiges of the fading light and cried "NO! DON'T GO!"
Nathan's breath caught in his throat, and hope flared against the hurt resignation. "What did you say?" he barked, sharp words coming out in a low, dangerous growl. "Don't play with me, Dom..."
'Oh, Nathan,' she cried out, instinctively responding to the loneliness and yearning inside herself by taking a half-step towards him, reaching up to gently push back an errant lock of silver hair that fell over his forehead. Not trusting herself to speak, she just placed shaking hands on his cheeks, staring up at him, a hunger in her haunted eyes that matched his own. 'I'm not playing. Please don't go.'
He took one hand in his, closing his eyes in relief and a strange nervous anticipation at her words. Feeling his body respond to her nearness, wanting nothing more than to engulf her in his arms, he opened his mouth to speak but she shook her head to halt him.
With her free hand, she held a single finger to his lips, hushing him with a soft "Shhhh...." The alcohol and the emotion, the unexpected communion of souls, had touched her so deeply it had actually begun to heal wounds so deeply ingrained that they'd almost become a part of her. She felt curiously free, and blinking back rare tears, squared her shoulder. 'Enough time wasted.'
Rising on her tiptoes, she murmured "Nathan. Just shut up and kiss me."
Flinging a slim arm around his neck, she pulled him down to meet her, and their lips met in a long, searching kiss, full of passion and resonating with a lifetime's worth of unspoken emotion. He draped an arm around her shoulders, dipping it to rest lightly in the curve of her back for just a moment before pulling her tightly to him. His body tensed in an involuntary shudder at the incredulous thrill of her body pressed tightly to his, and he shook his head in disbelief when she mirrored his movements.
The bond blossomed again, flooding their senses with shared need, magnifying long suppressed longings into an all-consuming, rapturous desire. Eyes closed tightly, they clung to each other, hungry lips desperately exploring the contours of the others mouth, face, and neck, oblivious to anything and everything except the comfort and release they'd finally found in each other's arms. Hesitant hands explored familiar bodies, seen and nursed through countless battles, now offered up together in a dance old as mankind. They moved slowly at first, then growing bolder, more urgent, all the frustration and pain they'd suffered together and the years of denying their feelings channelling themselves into this single achingly passionate moment.
'I can't believe this is happening, after all this time, this is finally happening...' he thought, revelling in this gloriously unexpected turn of events, but conscious thought was soon lost to the jolts of liquid sensation left in the wake of her touch. Burying his face in the crook of her pale neck, sensing gooseflesh rising underneath his mouth, he nuzzled the delicate flesh, trailing down to kiss the hollow of her throat, her shoulders, dizzy with desire as his lips slid down her smooth flesh to lightly graze the tops of her breasts. She arched her back in response, moaning low in her throat, and slowly lowered her hands to slide them easily under the tight waistband of his jeans. He sucked in his breath as her fingers skimmed the straining muscles underneath, groaning at the feel of warm fingers on his skin.
Breathing heavily, he reluctantly pulled himself away from her, his body screaming in protest. "Dom..." Voice husky with desire, he warned "I don't think I'll be able to stop if we don't quit now..."
"Who said anything about stopping?" She answered in a low, amused tone, her pale skin flushed with exertion, and their bond resonated with her arousal, easily echoed by his own. 'I want this as much as you do,' she caught his hand, squeezing it, her eyes never leaving his. His breath caught in his throat as he realized what she was saying.
'Are you sure?' he asked, and his voice in her mind was so soft, so uncertain that at first she thought she'd imagined it. 'There's no need to rush this...'
She halted, realizing the truth of what he said, knowing there was no turning back from the decision she had to make. Staring straight at the cage of forced isolation she'd locked herself into for so long, she swallowed tightly and made the hardest decision of her life- she turned to the light.
Feeling the shadows and fears uneasily subside within her, for the moment at least, she smiled a bit sadly. "Eighteen years together is hardly 'rushing' things, Nathan," she reminded him. 'And yes, I'm sure.'
Sensing his emotions, she shared the comingled sense of overwhelming relief and regret as he berated himself for all the time lost. 'If I hadn't been so damn stupid, holding myself back when I've known damn well for years just how much you mea-'
'Na-uh,' she cut him off with an admonishing look. 'Enough of that. You're not the only one who was too chicken shit, but we've got better things to do tonight.'
Not willing to spend another moment on the past, she smiled wickedly. Customary cockiness returning to her tone, she drawled "That is, if you think you're..."She arched an elegant eyebrow, eyes sweeping downward in a pointed glance. "Up to it."
A long, slow smile spread across his features, and he laughed, a low, delighted rumbling that echoed deep in his chest. Pulling her closer to him again, he cupped her chin in one hand and bent his head close to hers to whisper, eyes twinkling in the dim light "Ask me that again in the morning."
Much later, with both of them unclothed, she dozed fitfully in his arms. He lay awake, afraid to fall asleep, certain he'd wake to find this had been just another dream. Running his fingers through her tousled dark hair, now slightly matted with perspiration, he kissed the top of her head softly. Bare limbs intertwined in the twisted sheets, they lay together in peace, the bond between them humming contentedly in the aftermath of love.
She stirred, and he shifted slightly to allow her room to nestle closer to him. Watching her sleep, he felt a deep, protective surge of emotion, and was struck by a disturbing thought. 'What if this is a one-night thing for her? What if everything goes back to the way it's been before?' Horrified at the idea, unable to wait until she woke, he touched her arm gently. "Dom?"
"Hmmm?" She opened one eye sleepily, fingers tracing lazy circles on his chest, awash in post-coital bliss. "Yeah, Nate?"
He swallowed, running a silver hand along the curve of her shoulder, shards of ice lodged in his heart at the thought of losing this newfound intimacy. "Please don't leave me," he choked, his deep voice curiously shy.
"Oh, Nate," she murmured, propping herself up on one elbow, dark hair spilling onto his chest. Blinking the sleep out of her eyes, she stroked his cheek with the back of her hand, shocked at how easily the words came and even more so at how much she meant them. "I'm not going anywhere, you idiot. You ought to know better than that by now. This changes everything." Raising bare arms high above her head, she stretched luxuriously, and the easy sensuality of her movements made him swallow, hard. She noticed, and smiled.
She leaned back against the sea of pillows, pushing a handful of dark hair out of her face as she wondered how to let him know that this wouldn't- couldn't- affect their professional relationship, no matter how much it had touched them personally. Nathan grinned, immensely relieved by her reassurances and amused by the thought. "'Course, this doesn't mean the world has to know about it. If anyone knew a hard-hearted mercenary like you actually had feelings for anybody, it'd ruin your reputation, right?"
She nodded, feeling distinctly ill at ease discussing this, afraid he'd misunderstand her concerns. "Nate, that doesn't mean that I don't- hell, I do- you know, after tonight, how I've felt for so long, but- we can't behave like this in public, you know that, right?"
He actually laughed aloud, and she blew an exasperated stream of air through her lips. "Go on, act like it's funny, but I've worked damn hard to be considered a professional in my own right, and not just an extension of somebody else, even you. This can't change that."
He tensed, afraid that she *was* telling him that she didn't want this new aspect of their relationship after all. "Dom, what are you telling me here?" His voice was calm and steady, but underneath it the old insecurities poised, ready to rush back and reclaim this tenuous peace he'd found in her arms.
She lightly touched his arm, allieviating his fears. "No, you idiot, I'm not telling you I don't want this." She paused, and in her eyes he saw a glimpse of the same vulnerability he was trying his best to hide in his own. "I do," she whispered softly, and he relaxed. "I just need to make sure that you know- this, tonight-" She guestured at the bed "This is *ours*, Nate. This is *private*. I'm not ashamed of it, not in the least," her chin jutted out proudly "But this is a separate world from work. I wouldn't trade this for anything, anything at all," He felt his heart swell at the soft smile on her face, then blinked at her abrupt "But it doesn't change our professional relationship at all. If we're gonna be togther like this, you need to understand that I don't want you making any stupid chauvanistic bonehead moves to try to 'protect' me from anything. I'm still your partner and I can take care of myself on the field. I don't want you treating me differently from anybody else. Got it?" Her voice rose slightly, and she stared at him intently, anxious that he understand this.
He sighed, knowing how much respect meant to her, knowing she was absolutely right- he couldn't allow his personal feelings to change the way he viewed their professional relationship, and he sure as hell couldn't treat her differently in front of others. Neither could she. Their privacy meant to much to the both of them for that. "Understood," he nodded a bit too sharply, hoping he could live up to the promise.
They lapsed into a comfortable silence, broken a few moments later by her quiet voice, hesitant but surprisingly strong. "Now that that's settled, are *you* going to leave me?"
His eyes narrowed. "Oath, no! I may still have to keep things private from you, but there's no way I could *leave* you, woman!" He sounded shocked, and immensely disturbed at the prospect. 'Now, there's still things I was sent here to do that I can't tell anyone about, things I don't have any choice in...' he mused, and was surprised at the vehemence of her response through their link as she heard what he had considered to be a private thought.
"The hell you say!" She sat up straighter, pulling the sheet around her indignantly. "That's bullshit! I understand having to do things on your own, and I'm not asking you to tell me all your secrets, but you *always* have a choice!" Expression softening, she struggled to find the words to express her anger at the helplessness she sensed emanating from him. "Dammit, Nathan, you're not just the 'Chosen One', you're not just somebody's tool. You're a man, too, and you have free will. I wish you'd use it sometimes,' she finished, an affectionate, worried smile taking the sting out of her harsh words.
Defusing the potential argument before it had the chance to really get started, he chuckled, running a silver finger lightly down her side. "Nagging already?" he teased, and she shivered at the pleasurable sensation of cool metal against her warm skin.
Noticing her reaction, he stopped, jerking his hand away self-consciously. "I'm sorry, Dom," he stammered "It happened so fast before, I didn't think how strange my arm must feel to you-" Blushing furiously, he began shifting his techno-organics, pulling peach-colored synth-skin over his metallic arm. Here, in this most intimate of settings, he'd actually allowed himself to forget that he wasn't just any other man and she any other woman, alone in the night. He looked away from her, embarrassed by this reminder that no matter how hard he fought against it, part of him was still metal, not blood, and always would be.
A dark look clouded her face, and she cursed under her breath, grabbing the thick wrist angrily with one hand. "If you don't stop that right now, I'm gonna shove this somewhere *very* unpleasant," she warned, letting his arm drop to the bed. 'I want you as *yourself*, Nate, just as you are,' she chided, and her voice in his thoughts sounded slightly hurt that he'd thought he still had to hide himself from her after all they'd shared that night.
He didn't trust himself to speak, but he slowly shifted his arm back to its normal state. Nodding in satisfaction, she drew closer to him again. Settling herself in the crook of his arm, she turned on her side, his arm draped around her, palm lying flat against her stomach as he turned with her, the argument forgotten in the quiet of the night.
A few moments passed, and she started, remembering something she'd meant to tell him. Through the impending haze of dreams, she asked "Do you remember what I told you when I left the last time, after that Gryaznova bitch got ahold of me?'
"You mean, when I asked you why *you* were pushing *me* away?" He smiled wryly through a jaw-cracking yawn, and turning her head slightly, she stuck her tongue out at him.
"Yes, you impudent bastard, then," she returned his yawn. "I told you that I wished we were two ordinary people with ordinary problems-"
"Good luck," he muttered sotto voce, holding her close to him, savoring the feel of her body pressed tightly against his.
Her eyebrows rose to her hairline "Funny you should phrase it that way," she murmured softly. "Anyway, that's kinda what I wanted t' tell you," she managed, words growing progressively softer and less distinct.
He tilted his head curiously, noticing the first ray of sunrise through the foggy window. "Tell me what?" he asked, running his hands reverently along her bare back as sleep struggled to reclaim them both.
"You an' me. Being ordinary people," her eyes closed, and she switched to psi-speak. 'I know we're forced into extraordinary circumstances, but Nathan, tonight here with you, I don't feel like a soldier, or a mercenary, or even a mutant,' she closed her eyes, 'Tomorrow I'll be all of those things, and more, but tonight, I just feel like a woman.' With the last of her energy, she whispered "Just wanted you to know that."
He swallowed tightly, knowing how much such honesty had cost her, and promised himself they would never regret the decision they'd made tonight in this London room. Thanking God that He'd given him another chance at such happiness, he held Domino close to him in the dawn of that new day and promptly fell asleep, untroubled by dreams or fears of what the future would hold.