|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.
Just Lucky, I Guess
Logan peeled back the plum silk jacquard comforter, careful not to wake Betsy. Slipping out of the bed, he padded soundlessly across the room, scooping up his tangled clothing off the floor where it had been hastily discarded the night before.
Buttoning up the now-torn flannel shirt, he smiled at the vivid memory of how it got that way. 'Ah, Betts,' he glanced affectionately at the figure still curled up on the bed. 'What th' hell are we gonna do now?' Their couplings had been primal, passionate, the illicit nature of the union heightening the already formidable chemistry between them into a fever pitch. He barely remembered pausing long enough beforehand to ask whether protection was necessary- though Hank's regular medical checkups (and his own healing factor) ensured that disease wasn't an issue for either of them, they still had to take precautions against any other unexpected result. She'd assured him it wasn't, that she had taken care of it, and the rest of the night spun through his memory in an erotic blur.
The analytical part of his mind couldn't help but consider after so many years of friendship why this had happened between them now. 'With all th' tension in th' air between Neena and Nate, with both of our senses so primed for battle, it's no wonder we reacted the way we did,' He shook his head tightly, eyes narrowed 'An' with what Betts is goin' through with Warren, it's just natural she'd turn to somebody else for a little bit of comfort. An me...' he brushed past his own suppressed longings, trying not to dwell too long on thoughts of the frustrated love he could never have, the woman who belonged to another. 'Let's just say I've been known to act on instinct sometimes, too,' he sighed, fighting against the familiar melancholy settling deep in his chest, feeling vaguely guilty he was still thinking of *her* after such an incredible night in Elisabeth's bed.
Tired of rationalizing his behavior, even to himself, he pushed those thoughts away. 'I don't know if this was the smartest thing I've ever done- 's gonna make things tricky when we get back t' the mansion- but I can't say I'm sorry. Betsy's a hell of a woman.'
In the huge bed, Betsy stirred, face hidden under a sheet of aubergine hair. Yawning, she sat up and favored him with a sleepy smile. "Good morning, Logan."
"G'mornin', darlin'. You have a good night?" He grinned, chestnut eyes twinkling merrily at her.
"I might ask you the same thing," she winced slightly as she sat up, her body stiff from the night's exertions. 'Healing factor indeed!'
He paused awkwardly, then asked with characteristic forthrightness "Uh...Betts, darlin'...What're we gonna do now?" Lifting a shaggy eyebrow in an inquiring cant, he waited for her answer.
She shook her head tightly, a small frown marring her perfect features. "I don't know, Logan. I truly do not know." She couldn't deny the attraction between them, couldn't deny the warmth she felt for this man, but at the same time knew that the love she felt for Warren still existed, battered and worn as it was.
He saw the dismay and indecision written all over her face, and his craggy features winced in sympathy. Walking to the bedside, he crouched beside her, taking her hand. Staring directly into her eyes, he asked quietly "No regrets?"
"None," she answered firmly, squeezing it in return. "None at all." She met his gaze, silently apologizing that she could promise nothing more than that right now, hoping he understood that this wasn't a rejection, she simply needed more time to consider her options.
He nodded in understanding. "Take all th' time y' need, darlin'." 'An' I will, too. Neither one of us needs t' rush into anything, an' we've both got lots t' think about.'
"Now then," he smiled warmly, standing up. "Now that we got that straight, I'm gonna go in there an' call Cable, tell him we went out for brunch, an' we'll meet 'em at two, just like we planned." She nodded at this subtle indication that he would keep their liaison discreet, relieved she could postpone this decision a bit longer.
Ororo closed the door to the suite behind her with a quick gust of wind, the force rattling the sturdy frame a bit more than it should have. Dropping a bag of souvenirs on one of the couches, she walked over to the other woman's door. Ororo has risen with the dawn, as was her custom, but she knew her friend enjoyed sleeping in. She hadn't woken her.
"'Elisabeth, I am back,'" she sent mildly, projecting the words telepathically into the other bedroom as well 'I have done about as much sight-seeing this morning as I care to do. Please get up.' She stood there several moments, waiting for an answer that did not come.
Sighing, Ororo opened the door to find the room exactly as it had been yesterday- clothing and luggage strewn across a bed that had not been slept in, corner light still on. Ororo brought an elegant hand to her forehead, rubbing her temple against the slight headache already forming, hoping her suspicions about where Betsy was would prove unfounded. 'Ah, no... surely the both of you know better...'
Spinning on her heel, she left the suite, barely sparing a moment to grab her keys first. She strode down the corridor to Logan's suite, knuckles rapping a quick staccato beat on the door. "Logan!" Her voice rose slightly, though she knew his enhanced senses would hear her even at a whisper. "Let me in!" She waited for him, for either of them, but there was no answer. The thought occured to her then that the locks of the room, however enhanced they might be, would be no true obstacle to a thief of her calibre if she *really* wanted to get in. She weighed the idea, then decided against it with a rueful shake of her head. The last thing she needed, with this group of mercenaries and spies, was to be discovered practicing her former trade.
She paused, considering her alternatives. Sneering at the distasteful idea of going to either of the remaining suites, Ororo shrugged and walked toward the hotel's pleasant little courtyard, hoping to immerse herself in whatever bit of nature had somehow managed to survive in this polluted city while she waited for the appointed meeting time to come.
Domino walked through the steamy bathroom, feeling invigorated and relaxed by the lengthy hot shower. Wrapping herself in the robe provided by the hotel, she twisting the water out of her long dark hair and towelled it dry, performing other morning ablutions, flicking the light off when she was done. Turning to go back into the bedroom, she paused in the doorway, watching him sleep, a soft smile playing on her lips as she remembered the night before.
He lay sprawled across the bed, arm thrown across the pillow where she'd lain, holding it close to him. His lips were parted in a hoarse snore, but there was a peace about him, an easiness in sleep that made him appear almost a young man again. The hard-worn lines etched across his face by the years of more troubles and responsibilities than any one human should have to bear had softened, and now for the first time in her memory he looked completely at peace. Her heart broke at the idea of how short-lived it might be.
'Oh, Nate,' she thought, not quite knowing how to manage this unfamiliar tenderness, working through her still formidable doubts and self-loathing. 'Did *I* do this? After all you've gone through, how in the hell can I- can anybody- mean this much to you?' She stood silently in the doorway, unwilling to wake him and break this spell of peace. 'Oh, God, don't let me do anything to ruin this. Don't let me hurt him like I've hurt everyone else who's ever gotten close to me,' she prayed earnestly, seeking reassurance that this, her worst fear, wouldn't come to pass.
Drawing on her training, she moved soundlessly across the room to lie down beside him, and smiled under her breath when he grunted and rolled over on his side to hold her tight against him. Still uneasy at letting her guard so completely down, even for him, she fretted 'What if this was a mistake? What if this completely ruins our relationship?'
'Oh, quit that,' the bond between them glowed golden as even through the haze of sleep he sensed her prickly fears. 'Let's please not even play this awkward morning after game- you and I both know what last night meant. An' we've both waited long enough for it...'
"Old habits die hard, Nate," she reminded him softly, closing her eyes at the welcome warmth of his body along her back. "It feels funny." And indeed it did, the unfettered feeling of not having to guard her every thought and emotion from him was as unnerving as it was exhilarating. 'For us I'll try, Nate. I can't promise, but I'll try...'
He blinked sleepily, shifting to allow her to burrow back under the warmth of the covers with him. "Agh, you're wet," he mock-complained, whispering into her damp hair.
"Your powers of observation continue to amaze me," she answered wryly.
He lifted his hand to gently touch her face. "You're so beautiful," he whispered, amazed at this dream come to life, still unable to believe that after all these years this had become a reality for them.
She swallowed tightly, not knowing quite how to deal with this new intimacy. "If you like aging albino mercenaries, maybe," she joked, averting her eyes, still not wanting him to completely see the depth of emotion, the power his words had over her.
Noticing her reaction, knowing how skittish she still was, Nathan backed off. "Bet you used all the hot water," he groused, switching to a more neutral topic. "See what I get for letting you go first..."
Arching an eyebrow, she lifted her chin and rolled over to face him. "*Letting* me go first? I don't think so, buddy. You snooze, you lose, and you were certainly snoozin' when I woke up."
"You tired me out," he grinned, and was rewarded by a faint flush on her cheeks.
She recovered quickly. "Oh, I'm so sorry, I forgot that men your age need a little... extra," she dimpled sweetly, a playful light in her eyes.
"I'll show *you* old, woman," he growled good-naturedly, relishing the intimate banter, knowing that once they left this room they'd have to don their public facades, once more become the hardened soldiers the world thought them to be. For these few brief moments, though, he could forget that harsh reality and concentrate on simply holding her close, teasing and loving as the mid-morning sun covered them with a warm blanket of light.
Kitty sipped her juice slowly, trying not to look as Pete ravenously devoured a heaping plate of greasy pork chops and fries, motioning the server of the restaurant for more when his fork scraped the bottom of the plate. 'I'll never understand it,' she thought wryly, delicately nibbling a bite of salad. 'If I ate like that, I'd weigh 900 pounds.'
When she dabbed lightly at a spot of gravy on his skinny black tie, Pete grinned up at her. "Enjoyin' yer lunch, love?"
"Not half as much as you are," she smiled fondly at him, keeping an eye on her watch. "What time were we supposed to meet everyone?"
"Ah, we got a few more minutes." A few moments later, Pete glanced up at her and asked softly "You ready t' talk about last night yet?"
He'd known her long enough to read her body language, recognize the slight tensing of her shoulders, the subtle set of her jaw. 'I thought so,' his eyes narrowed. 'Somethin' *did* happen w' 'er an' th' weather witch.'
Kitty shook her head. "Pete- we hadn't seen each other in a long time, we had a lot to catch up on."
He took a long swallow of his tea. "Is that all?"
Rubbing the back of her hand across her eyes, Kitty answered tiredly "No. No, it's not." Knowing she expected complete honesty from him, knowing he deserved no less, she flatly told him of Ororo's concerns and her response to them, her eyes brimming with compassion as she saw how her words affected him.
When she finished, he was silent, his skin even paler than usual. "That all she said?" he rasped, resentment at Ororo's intrustion warring against his shame and embarassment as the darkness in his past. 'I don't give a shit what that bitch thinks, but if she's upset Kitty, I'll rip 'er throat out.'
Kitty nodded, swallowing tightly. "Pete, you've got to understand that she just thinks she's protecting me. She didn't mean anything by it- she's just looking out for what she thinks is my best interest."
"Yeah," Pete pushed away his plate, appetite suddenly vanished. "I figgered somethin' like that. What do *you* think?" He studied her intently, watching her expressive face for any sign of disgust or revulsion at this blunt reminder of his ugly past, not knowing what he'd do if he found it.
She met his gaze squarely. "What *I* think, Pete Wisdom, is that your past doesn't matter, just like mine doesn't. We're a team, bub, and that means we accept each other just like we are. Anytime that changes, I'll let you know."
Smiling shakily, he caught her hand under the table. "I love you, Pryde," he whispered, and she bit her lip at the rare public endearment.
"I know," she answered softly, and they finished their meal together in peace.
Ororo rose to greet Logan and Betsy as they entered the lobby to the hotel. "Where have you been?" she demanded, long legs taking her to them in several quick strides. "It is almost two." She smoothed the dark hair of her wig, giving them a baleful stare.
Her teammates exchanged a glance. Betsy, skimming the surface of Ororo's thoughts, gleaned enough information to sidestep the question. "We had brunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Ororo. I would have asked you to come along with us, but you weren't in your room. How did your evening with Kitty go?" Betsy smiled disarmingly, adroitly changing the subject, taking off her sunglasses inside but leaving on the patterned silk scarf that disguised her unusual hair.
Ororo raised a slanted eyebrow, not quite believing the pat explanation but willing to let it slide for now. She sighed "Well enough, I suppose." 'Despite what the child says, our discussion is far from over,' she thought darkly, still not completely convinced of the beneficence of Kitty's paramour. 'We shall see.'
As they climbed the staircase, Ororo's lips thinned humorlessly. "Have we be given any more details about this... outing?" She couched her meaning in innocent terms, nodding politely at a passing elderly gentleman.
Logan nodded in approval. "I think th' tour guide's gonna give us all the information we need next."
"Very well," she acknowledged, and lapsed into silence as they turned down the hall and back towards their rooms to pack and change.
Cable's enhanced hearing caught the sound of footsteps outside the door first. "They're here," he informed her softly, watching her expression instantly harden.
She pulled her hand away from his regretfully, allowing her fingertips to linger for a second before she slipped her hand back into her pocket of the loose pantsuit she wore over her customary black and purple body-armor, minus her customary armament, of course. "Then you'd better let them in," she whispered, the look in her eyes reassuring him even as her features settled into an impassive, inpenetrable mask. 'This doesn't change us, Nate. You know that.'
'I know,' he spared her a last soft mental caress before he dimmed their link, consciously slipping back into a colder, more professional mode. Stepping around the luggage he and Dom had piled by the wall, he opened the door to greet the first arrivals roughly. "Glad to see you could make it."
"Damn glad to be here," Pete riposted sharply, holding the door open for Kitty. "We've already checked out, so whenever you're ready..." With a loud thud, he dropped their bulging bags beside the others. "Damn, Pryde. Think y'd packed th' whole friggin' island with y'," he grumbled under his breath. Kitty cheerfully grinned at him.
"Where's everyone else?" she asked, joining him on the long sofa, glancing at Domino curiously. The older woman had sat down cross-legged on the floor in front of the large television, the remote control balanced lightly on one knee. She was gazing at the picture on the screen, a smug smile on her face at the undulating patterns on the screen.
Cable shrugged. "On their way, I suppose. It's not two yet." Walking over to sit in the corner chair, he'd barely had time to sit when he heard the knock at the door. This time, he didn't bother to stand, merely twisted the knob with a flicker of his telekinesis and opened the door.
Still wearing her disguise, Ororo walked in, a pinched look on her face as she surveyed the room's inhabitants. Kitty looked up at her sharply, then forcibly reminded herself to smile and greet the other woman, remembering her decision to leave the night's discussion behind. "Hey, Ororo."
"Hello, Kitten, all," her eyes swept the room cautiously. Pete, sitting by Kitty, glared at her, and Cable wouldn't meet her eyes. Domino, completely absorbed by the shifting blue screen and the quiet babble of the announcer's words, ignored her.
Logan dropped their bags onto the rapidly rising pile, nostrils flaring as he walked across the room. His eyes shifted quickly from the closed door of the bedroom to Cable to Domino and back to the door- and his face split in a broad grin. 'Well, well, well.'
"What's so damn funny?" Cable muttered, looking away, and it took every single ounce of Logan's self-control not to embarrass Neena by telling him exactly what he found so amusing. 'She'd kill me, but it'd be *almost* worth it t' watch Summers squirm...'
"Oh, nothin'," he pursed his lips, shaking his head quickly. "Nothin' at all." Joining Betsy and Ororo on the other sofa, he ran a hand through his unruly hair and urged with a faint smile "We're all here. Let's get started- ain't none of us gettin' any younger."
Domino looked away from the screen to greet them, wearing a cocky smile. "Looks like we have a nice head start," she scooted back so they could see the screen, pressed a button on the remote to turn the volume up. "There's a nice little thunderstorm warning over the coast of northern Spain this evening, with expected hail and lightening all over the place. With a little help," she inclined her head cautiously towards Ororo "This could be exactly what we need to get through his external security. All that ionization in the air will help scramble some of their readings, and since I know where the main sensors are a few judiously placed lightening bolts ought to do the trick. We can slip right in through the other traps, and if we're careful, they won't suspect a thing."
She grinned broadly, extending her legs to cross them at the ankles, leaning back on her elbows, pleased at this omen. "Things are falling into place very nicely."
A murmur of approval rose over the room, but Ororo held up a hand, her eyes hard. "Tell me, Domino," she began mildly "If this had not come up, how would we have gotten in? A sudden storm of such ferocity as I could conjour would certainly have made them suspicious."
Pete opened his mouth to protest, but Domino beat him to it. 'There's no room for this today,' she fumed. 'This is too important to let personal agendas into it.' Nevertheless, she tilted her head and answered sweetly "Oh, that's easy. We would have gone in through the sewage system, and waded through waist-high shit until we got to the grate." Pasting on a saccharine smile, she continued pleasantly "Then, where hopefully my signature's still programmed into the system, I could have slipped in without being fried and reprogramed it to let the rest of you in. Not much has changed, actually," she fixed the other woman with a hard stare. "Except the shit."
Ororo's eyes narrowed, and she nodded curtly. "Very well."
"Now then," Domino surveyed the room calmly, standing up to lean casually against the wall. "We'll outline the rest of the plan, pass out equipment en route. I've called a couple of cabs to pick us up in about ten minutes to take us to Braddock Enterprises to pick up the plane. Betsy, you left instructions with Brian's people to fuel up the PACRAT, right?"
The British telepath nodded sharply, and Domino moved on to other matters. Betsy paused, feeling a faint buzzing in the back of her mind. Focusing her senses, she soon discovered what it was. When she looked hard enough, Betsy could see the new psilink between Cable and his partner, far stronger and more vibrant than before. Hiding a knowing smile behind a cough, Betsy chuckled. They could pretend to the others all they wanted to nothing had changed, but she knew better.
'Good try dampening it, Nathan,' she sent the cool thought privately, listening with half an ear as Domino continued debriefing the group. She merely nodded at his wide-eyed stare of surprise. 'But you really do need to tighten your shielding a bit. I doubt anyone other than an alpha-class could detect it, but one can never be too careful. It's been a while for you, hasn't it?'
Cable's eyes narrowed in irritation at her impertinence, and the return thought he sent her was blistering in its intensity. 'Dammit, why is it that every psi on this whole friggin' planet wants to tell me how to use my power?' he glowered, annoyed at this less than subtle reminder that he still had much to learn about his abilities.
Despite the force of his reply, and her natural inclination to fling up her mental shielding against power of such magnitude, she stared him down coolly. 'Perhaps because, despite how paranoid and arrogant you are, some of us actually want to help? Nathan, using these abilities isn't easy- as powerful as you are, it takes time to learn technique.'
His face tightened, and though he didn't answer she did see the shimmering connection between he and Domino dim visibly, and the buzzing in her mind stopped.
'That's better,' she told him, refocusing her attention on Domino, relieved it was over.
'I'm so damn glad you approve,' he snapped, then looked away, annoyed at his slip in control, glancing around the room to see if anyone had been watching to see their reactions. No one had, though he couldn't help but notice that Logan was still wearing the same faint smirk he'd worn earlier.
Oblivious to their discussion, Domino finished "Everybody wearing uniforms under your civvies?"
Everyone else nodded, but Pete's eyes narrowed and he jutted his chin out beligerantly. "Y' know damn well I don't wear bloody cake-boy outfits, an' I ain't about t' start now."
Domino's lips curved in a wicked smile as one of her favorite memories flashed to mind. "Are you *sure*, runt? It wouldn't take long at all to fix you up if you want me to. I think I still remember how Grizzly did it that time-"
Remembering the incident very well, the Englishman cut loose with a stream of annoyed invective that was long and surprisingly inventive, effectively breaking the tension in the room. Ignoring the bewildered looks on some of his companion's faces, and the amused looks on the others, he paused for breath and finished "So you just sod off, Dom, or I'll tell 'em what *you* were doin' in there in th' first place."
Cable's grim and foreboding exterior cracked for a moment, and something that sounded peculiarly like a whoop of laughter slipped from his lips. Domino glared at them both, then had to chuckle. "Some other time," she allowed with a grin that was quickly sobered by harsh reality. "But right now we've got work to do." Glancing at the assembled others, she took a deep breath. "Anything to add, boys and girls, any questions?"
There were none. "Everything sounds good to me, Dom," Cable seconded her, and though the expression on his face didn't change the determined look in his eyes reassured her beyond all words.
She nodded sharply. "Then let's do it."