|Thu, 3 Aug 2000
DuAnn Cowart firstname.lastname@example.org
Just Lucky, I Guess 56/??
All characters belong to Marvel Comics and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only. I am receiving no monetary gain from this or any other work of fan fiction. All standard disclaimers apply.
Many thanks to everyone who has sent such lovely support. Words cannot express how much it is appreciated.
This chapter is for Pebblin.
Just Lucky, I Guess
The plane cast an indistinct shadow as it hurtled over the gray Atlantic, carrying its passengers back towards Westchester and the dubious embrace of home.
Domino leaned back in the pilot's seat and stared out at the ocean, thoughts bleak and dim as the early morning sky. She brushed a lock of hair out of her face, considering the events of the last few days.
The mission would go down on the nonexistant spook books as a complete and unadulterated success. Somewhere in the midst of all Tyler's cruelty, they'd actually finished the job they'd been sent there to do. The monsters who'd gleefully performed illegal genetic experimentation were safely and legally in Jardine's custody and would never see the free light of day again.
The entire wrenching ordeal was over and done with- Tolliver's clone was dead and his predecessor's fortress was destroyed, the monstrous work performed there put to an end. Domino had seen to it herself. Proper explosives had been planted at the proper points, their metal seeds flowering in blossoms of red and orange fire, leaves of powder and dust and debris. The structure had imploded in on itself, shattered concrete and steel unable to support the weight of ancient stone.
She'd watched it all from the window of the rapidly departing Blackbird, watched it all and to her surprise had felt nothing. Instead of the stabbing ectasy of revenge she'd imagined or the heart pounding adrenaline rush that always accompanied successful completion of an op, her eyes had remained dry, her pulse steady.
At least she'd felt something when Tyler had impaled himself upon her knife. Whether it was hot fury that he'd stolen her revenge or sickening guilt that she'd killed Nathan's son, she didn't know, but at least she had felt *something* as her tormentor's blood pooled at her feet.
All she felt now was bleached bone dry and empty.
Her shoulders shifted in an imperceptible shrug. Strange as it sounded, she didn't really care. After the mental dance with Tyler, nothing really seemed to matter anymore. The walls of her prison may have fallen, but the iron bars around her soul were stronger than ever. It was far, far better not to feel anything at all than to endure the acid agony Tyler's games had put her through.
Domino blinked slowly, idly noting that the sun had finally risen over the watery horizon, slowly shading gray skies into blue. It was a symbol, of sorts, she supposed. The job was done, the mission complete. A new day was dawning, bringing with it a chance to begin anew. Now they could all go home.
She swallowed back her bitterness. Home-- to a mansion full of strangers with prying minds. Home, to the playful band of children whose hope burned entirely too brightly for her to now bear. Home, with a man who'd been the best and been made the worst of all she was, a man who wanted more than she could now give.
Domino closed her eyes and tried very hard not to think of anything at all.
"How ya doin', darlin'?" Logan perched on the edge of the padded bench lining the plane's curved walls, stocky body angled so as not to disturb the woman lying there.
Betsy Braddock shifted to rest her head on one of his muscled thighs. "My head is pounding and my mouth feels like a herd of incontinent elephants visited for the night, but I'll live," she groaned, eyelids squeezing tightly against all too-bright morning sunlight.
"Damn right ya will," Logan smiled, encouraged by her words. He almost bent down to kiss her lips, then thought better of it. 'Don't know how she wants to play this, so I'd best be careful.' He glanced around the main cabin of the plane, searching for prying eyes. They were alone save for Ororo, who was leaned back in one of the far chairs, lightly napping. Logan looked down at the woman beside him, hand poised above her face.
Dark violet hair pooled around her face, which was etched with tiny scratches and marred by a livid bruise mottling the skin over one perfect cheekbone, legacies of battle. Dark circles ringed tired lavender eyes, and there were lines on her forehead that hadn't been there before.
Even so, she was still one of the loveliest women he'd ever seen, inside and out. His nostrils flared, and he had to forcibly restrain his primal urge to kill whatever it was that had done such a thing to her. He smiled- no, she didn't need his protection. This woman was every bit as much the warrior as was he.
He gazed at her for another long minute and then damning the consequences lay a calloused palm protectively on her forehead, stroking strands of long purple hair out of her face somewhat defiantly. "It's good to see ya up and about."
"Up, maybe," she allowed wryly, neck arching slightly in appreciation of his surprisingly gentle touch. "About is another matter altogether." She opened her eyes wider and her vision swam in concert with the deafening drums beating a fiery tattoo in her skull. She tried unsuccessfully to sit up, but the churning in her stomach and pain in her head forced her to lie back down again.
"Be a dear and get my medicine, will you, love?" she groaned, nauseated to the core. "The elephants are on the move again."
Careful not to disturb her any more than necessary, Logan reached into his pocket and opened a prescription bottle of a thick, viscous purplish substance. Her fingers lingered on his as she took the bottle from his hands. Heedless of the recomended dosage, Betsy took a long swallow of the vile liquid then wiped the back of her mouth with a shaky hand. Grimacing at the taste, she handed it back to him.
Logan read the label, and shaggy eyebrows shot up almost to his hairline as he recognized the substance. "You gonna be ok, Betts? I didn't think you were roughed up that bad," his voice deepened in worry. "Why did those docs give you this kind of shit?"
"Not much physical damage," she admitted, voice already starting to slur slightly as she linked her arms over her stomach, cradling herself against the pain. "'m more concerned about any lingering psychic harm." She closed her eyes, already feeling the effects of the wonderful narcotic beginning to course through her system, dulling the pain, silencing the outside voices in her blistered mind.
She'd poured every ounce of her mental reserves into rescuing Cable's consciousness from Tyler's last psychic snare and then gone beyond to keep the last vestiges of the otherwordly darkness of the Crimson Dawn at bay. She still didn't know where she had found the energy to leap out after Cable that last time and save him from his misbegotten mockery of his son's clutches.
She shouldn't have been able to do it. She'd tapped far beyond the source of her power, and there would be a price to pay for it. A telepath had to work for her sanity every day, and that work came at a cost. There was a balance for the shields that kept others' thoughts at bay, a toll for the walls that kept one's own identity apart from the great merge of Others that populated the Astral plane. What she had done in Spain had stretched the known limits of telepathic endurance, and by all rights she should be dead or insane by now. She groaned and flung an arm over her face to shade her eyes from the burning sunlight and the intense pain it brought.
Yes, there'd be a price to pay.
"What happened back there, Betsy?" Logan asked quietly, voice pitched low enough for her ears only. "Everything happened before we got there, and the rest of us are just lost. Neena ain't talkin', and Nate's in no shape to say."
She struggled to stay awake. "Tyler. . . his mind was so- it was filthy, Logan. Like wallowing in an open sewer," she enunciated with some effort, fighting the drug induced stupor to answer "Tell you . . . all 'bout it. . . later."
Logan's fingers clenched in her hair but he quickly calmed himself and resumed combing the smooth strands with his rough fingers. He remembered very well the depths of Genesis' depravity. "It's over, darlin'. You rest now," he continued his soothing ministrations, forcing himself to relax so she could, too. He ran through some quick meditations, forcing his body into peace so that she wouldn't be troubled by any stray negative emotions emanating from him. "You just rest. I'm here."
Her eyes fluttered shut, and she tried to reply, but his voice was too soothing and her pain was too great. She drifted off to sleep with his words laying soft in her ears.
He sat there beside her the rest of the way home.
Pete Wisdom reentered the back of the plane, nose wrinkling at the lingering odor of their now departed captives. "Damn, Pryde, it smells like the Wolf's Head in here."
"I barely noticed," his lover murmured absently. Arms crossed over her chest, Kitty Pryde studyed the massive figure lying prone on a thick metallic cot jutting out of the plane's wall. Cable was asleep, drugged into a dull stupor by the same mind numbing narcotic that silenced Psylocke's thoughts, though he still tossed and turned on the cot as if caught in the midst of a horrible dream.
"How's the Tin Man doing?" Pete questioned softly, voice pitched so as not to wake the older man. He moved to stand beside her at the foot of the bed, glancing anxiously at his old colleague. "He gettin' on all right?"
"Hard to say." Kitty leaned against him, resting her head on his thin shoulder. He snaked an arm around her thin waist, and they were silent for a while, each drawing strength from the other. "He pretty well got the shit beat out of him, but I'm not worried about that. Your London doctors took care of most of the physical injuries. They should heal fairly rapidly."
"What's the problem, then?" Pete asked, recognizing the undertone of worry in her voice. "There's gotta be something else or y' wouldn't be sittin' here lookin' like y've lost yer best friend."
"No, maybe just her brother," Kitty muttered sotto voce, still staring worriedly at Cable. Ignoring Pete's worried frown, she continued in a clinical tone "Physically he's O.K.- or he will be as soon as he can be still long enough for that metabolism of his to take over and heal. That's not what's worrying me. Physically, he'll be fine."
"Good ol' Nate, strong like bull," Pete chuckled, unsurprised. "What else is new?"
"For starters," Kitty's eyes narrowed, and she looked up at her lover disapprovingly. "How about the fact that whatever kind of psychic battle he and Betsy got into down there very nearly left him brain dead. They won, obviously, but the extent of the psychic damage remains to be seen. From what little I understand, he and Betsy both damn near got their minds cored like apples, and they're two of the strongest psis on the planet. Who knows what that did to Domino? Damn, that must have been a hell of a fight."
"Fer all of 'em, I gather. Shit." Pete rubbed his temple, lips pursed in contemplation. After a long moment he squeezed her hand. "Thanks for coming with me, Pryde," he mumbled gruffly. "I know y' had shit to do and I know we coulda gone on back to Muir after we left London, but I thought-"
"Hey. I don't leave a mission half-done either, bub," She glanced away from Cable long enough to favor him with a small smile. "We're seeing this through, Pete. I wouldn't leave them like this anymore than you would."
He exhaled, bony shoulders slouching again in his customary fashion. "I didn't think y' would, Pryde, just thought I'd ask. Manners an' all, y' know." He moved away from the cot to pace around the small room, deliberately changing the subject. "So what's gonna happen when we land at Westchester? Yer Professor X gonna wave a magic spandex wand and make 'em all better or some such shit?"
Kitty laughed wryly. "Something like that. Cable had me contact the mansion before he took some of that syrup Jardine's docs sent with us. He didn't want to speak to any of them himself, but told me to make sure Xavier and Jean contacted Emma Frost and have the three of them prepare for intense psychic surgery on three patients, two psis, one non-psi."
Pete's whole body stiffened. He repeated the last name incredulously. "*Frost*?"
Kitty nodded absently and returned her attention to Cable, who was barely beginning to stir. "Yeah. Emma Frost- former White Queen? I'm sure I've told you about her. She's working with us now, apparently," Kitty snorted, thin shoulders rising and falling in a shrug. "I personally don't trust her any farther than I can throw her, but from all reports she's doing well so far. Moira doesn't like her worth a damn, but I don't think that has anything to do with her work. She seems to be doing all right there. People change, I suppose, and she *is* one of the best psis in the world. I guess we need her right now."
"Yeah," Pete repeated slowly, choosing his words with care. "People change. I'm evidence o' that meself, now, ain't I? If I can join up with y' spandex do-gooders and fight on the side of angels, I reckon Frost can, too."
The tone of his voice was dubious, though, and the way he clipped past Emma's name gave her pause. "You know Emma?" she asked conversationally, but perceptive brown eyes met blue ones and he knew her casual words were layered with a deeper meaning.
Pete flushed, but he met her gaze and nodded, wordlessly answering her unspoken question, adding a nuance to the answer she hadn't expected, one he knew would hurt her deeply. He'd sworn a long time ago that there'd be no lies between them, no matter how devastating the truth was, and Kitty deserved to know this part of the past he'd tried to forget. "Yeah, it was a long time ago, but I . . . knew Frost."
"And you didn't tell me?" Kitty demanded, fists clenched to her side. Chestnut eyes blazed with an emotion neither cared to name.
"I'm tellin' y' now," he answered quietly, standing his ground. "And I'll tell y' all about the whole nasty thing later, but right now we've got more important things to deal with."
"I guess you're right," Kitty murmured, and looked away slowly. It was all she could think of to say.
Pete Wisdom stared at the floor and for once in his life said nothing at all.
Ororo Munroe paused outside the entrance to the cockpit, curved knuckles poised to knock on the door. She rapped a few times insistently, but there was no response. After a moment's time she sighed deeply and gave up, manually pressing a side panel to open the door.
The cockpit was empty save for a slight figure in the pilot's seat. Domino, still clad in the dull blue British jumpsuit, tilted her head at Ororo's entrance but made no other acknowledgement of her presence.
"Domino." Ororo greeted her coolly, gracefully descending into the copilot's seat. "May I join you?"
"What the fuck do *you* want?" Domino asked wearily, but the words were dull and emotionless, the insult almost perfunctory.
Ororo's chin rose slightly, but her response as crisp and polite as she could make it. "Simply to inquire about how much longer until we land. I need to know when to rouse the others."
"Twenty minutes or so," Domino answered curtly, then raised a scraped hand to rub her temples, trying to soothe the hollow ache that coursed through her entire body. She glanced longingly at the unopened bottle of pain pills in her front pocket.
One pale hand reached unsteadily for the bottle, then she yanked it away to forcibly rest her palm on the control panel. She closed her eyes. 'No. If I take the meds, I can't fly the plane, and this is the only place on board I can get some bloody privacy.'
She narrowed her eyes at the woman who was invading that privacy. "Listen, Storm, if you don't mind I'd really prefer to be alone right now, OK?"
Storm thought for a moment before answering. "I do mind, really." Clear blue eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Of course, there are a great many things I mind as of late, but now is not the time to address them."
"That's for damn sure," Domino muttered, wishing she had the energy to dredge up any small bit of anger. She shifted in her seat to face the other woman, lips thinned in annoyance. It was the most she could make herself feel. "So. What do you want?"
Ororo blinked. "In short form? To sit here in relative peace and quiet until we get home, and then commune with the winds until this exhaustion passes."
The dark haired woman rubbed grainy eyes with a fist. She laughed bitterly. "Peace and quiet? You've damn sure come to the wrong person for that, Storm."
Ororo just inclined her head, smiling humorlessly. "I'm sure." She leaned back in her seat, hands folded neatly in her lap. "Honestly, I would appreciate the opportunity to sit down with you and be more fully briefed on what went on back there. I confess I do not fully understand what happened-"
"Does it matter?" Domino interrupted brusquely, spine stiffening at the first of what promised to be innumerable interrogations regarding the particulars of the trip. She swallowed back the bile that rose in her throat. "The mission was a success. Be satisfied with that."
Ororo arched a knowing silvered brow. "Are you?" she asked shrewdly, levying a cool gaze at her. "Are you satisfied?"
Domino's chin met her chest, and her eyebrows shot up in surprise. "I don't think you want to be asking me that question right now, Wind-Rider," she warned, voice curiously flat.
"Whyever not?" Ororo's lilting voice was all innocence, but Domino caught a glimpse of something deeper behind the words. Ororo continued mildly "It was a simple question. It deserves a simple answer. Are you satisfied with how this mission was resolved?"
A sliver of emotion flickered behind bloodshot violet eyes and died, smothered by the heavy blanket of emptiness that covered her like a shroud. Domino shrugged dismissively, batting the feeling away like a fly. "I don't see how that's any of your concern."
Ororo leaned forward, and her demeanor changed. Her shoulders straightened and she dropped all evidence of pretense, addressing the former mercenary in a completely businesslike tone. "My friends were injured back there, Domino. That makes it my concern."
Domino stared at her a long time, desperately wishing she could pull some flicker of feeling from the rock-hard ball buried deep in her chest. She leaned forward to adjust the control panel, buying time to compose an answer.
There wasn't one. If she had all the time in the world she still couldn't satisfactorily explain what had happened back there, and no amount of trying could change what had been done. Domino swallowed tightly and almost- almost- dipped below the blanket of emptiness into the pain buried deep underneath her scorched and empty mindscape. She was quiet for a long moment, dealing with the emotions- or the lack thereof- Storm's words had provoked.
"Whatever, Storm," she finally sighed, voice completely devoid of feeling. She waved her hand at the former weather goddess, motioning her away. "This isn't the time or the place to deal with it, and I'm not getting into this with you right now. Go make yourself useful and get the others ready for transport. We're almost in U.S. airspace, and I've got a plane to fly." She pointedly didn't look at the other woman, only turned her back, effectively dismissing her.
There was a long moment of silence, then Storm took her cue and rose slowly, moving with liquid grace to stand behind the copilot's seat, hands resting lightly on the leather headrest. She stared down at Domino, and both women's hair began to rise from the tingling static electricity that began to fill the cabin.
When she spoke, her lilting voice was as cold and pure as a winter stream. "Very well. One day you will remember what I have said here today. Until then, I leave you to your . . . flight, Domino." With a swish of silver hair, she was gone.
Domino didn't answer, but her ivory hands were clenched so tightly that her knuckles stood out even against the paleness of her skin. She stared out the window at the choppy ocean waves, biting her lip until she drew blood.
'I can't do this,' she thought tiredly, then sighed and took control of the plane, guiding it back towards the place her passengers called home.