Chapter five: In which Domino is Bored.

***

"I'm bored again."

"Tired of tormenting me with colored paper?"

"Yes."

"Well, what do you want to do?"

"Three rounds in the danger room."

"Can't help you there."

"Can we have sex again?"

"Not for another half hour."

"Damn. Sucks to be old. Wait, would that help?"

"Not for another twenty minutes."

"Aww, poor baby. I need to *do* something."

"Made it through the data pad already?"

"Shut up. I do *not* just read romance novels."

"Riiiight."

"... I mock the spy novels too. What? Not everyone enjoys obtuse esoteric
treatises!"

"J.R. R. Tolkein is not esoteric."

"You're a fantasy dork!"

"... I am not even going to dignify that with a response."

"I bet you even read all those dragon and dungeon books."

"It's called Dungeons & Dragons, and they're very imaginiative!"

"Oh, my god! You're blushing!"

"Why are you making such a deal out of this?"

"I'm not! But, oh, my god! If you were actually twelve, you'd be one of those
pimple-faced, never leaves the computer-room, anime-loving fan boys!"

"Hey! Japanese animation is very advanced and enjoyable."

"Sad thing is, you probably like for more than the porn."

"It's not just for otaku's, you know."

"... This entire revelation is just too freakish for words. When do you even
have time to watch any of that stuff? Or read, for that matter?"

"I wasn't fighting people *all* the time."

"True... I just can't picture you settling in for an anime marathon. The
image just doesn't compile."

"Oath, I'm never going to hear the end of this, am I?"

"You are such a nerd!"

"I guess that means, no."

"And with all the shit you give me about reading romance novels!"

"That's it."

"Nate? Nate, what are you doing? Nate-!" *shreik*

"This is the only way I'm gonna ever get you to shut up, isn't it?"

"You - *moan* - bastard... Been twenty minutes already?"

***

"Wow."

"Tired now."

"Damn, Nate, how did you *do* that?"

"Tired now."

"I *never* thought you could fit into that position!"

"Tired now."

"*giggle* Tired?"

"Sleep?"

"I broke you, didn't I?"

"Water?"

"That I can do. Scoot that way."

*whimper*

"Okay, future note. Don't let you bend that way because afterwards, you sound
like a little girl."

"Mean."

"You say to the woman who's brushing off a good-sex induced haze to get you a
water bottle. Grattitude, Nathan, grattitude."

"Good to know you're feeling more relaxed."

"Yeah, well, you're better than three rounds in the danger room."

"Thank you?"

"Damn straight. Man. I miss food."

"Toss me one? And, those aren't *so* bad."

"Says the boy who grew up eating algae."

"It's nutritious!"

"It's tasteless. And, as much as I hate to say it, that's twelve steps up
from this crap."

"*munch* They aren't *that* bad."

"There's a reason their nick names are 'Meals rejected by Ethiopians'.
Remember?"

"Faintly. Oh, wait! This is what Storm got pelted with when they made that
food drop in Africa?"

"What?"

"Yeah! She was doing that big PR stunt right before everyone got killed the
first time. They dropped food and supplies in Ethiopia. Rogue was telling
me about how after they opened the first few boxes and were handing them out,
Storm got pelted because it was rancid or something."

"She did NOT!"

"Mmmhmmm."

*hysterical laughter*

"It makes more sense now. And yeah, these are kind of bad. And monotonous."

"Oh... god! *giggle* I still dislike the woman, but... now I can laugh at
her to her face with a real reason backing me up!"



***

"You know something?"

"Yeah."

"Ass. No, I'm curious about something. Promise not to get mad?"

"Well, I can't promise that, but I'll try not to. It's the best I can do."

"Okay. Geez, this is really stupid, you know?"

"No. But I'm sure it's not stupid. You don't exactly ask questions you don't
want answers to."

"No, I don't, do I? Shit. This was dumb."

"Dom, what?"

"Okay, I want to stick in a disclaimer here. I won't get mad at you. Well,
like you said, I'll try not to. It's just... Why are you still with me?"

"That's... sudden."

"Shit, I've gone and done it, haven't I?"

"Dom, no, it's a valid question. I just-"

"Have no idea why? Shit, never mind."

"Domino. Shut up."

"..."

"I'm with you because I want to be. And knowing my background, that says a
hell of a lot."

"...yeah. I'm sorry."

"Why? For asking a question?"

"No. For getting all defensive about the response."

"Neither of us have very much practice questioning each other, do we?"

"Not really. It's your turn now, you know."

"Hmm?"

"Well, I went and opened this can of worms. If we're going to have a fight,
we might as well get it all out in the open and clear everything up. We're
gonna be stuck in this boat for six weeks at the outside. It might be better
to have the fight now instead of later. It's your turn."

"Who says we're going to have a fight?"

"Nate."

"I know. The past is difficult for us, isn't it?"

"We have good reasons for not talking about a lot of stuff."

"I don't want to hurt you, Dom. I never did."

"I know. Same here. But we can't help it, can we? I love you. And I know you
love me. Love is pain, even if we don't mean it to be."

"That's rather fatalistic."

"Empirical research."

"Yeah."

"So. It's your turn."

"It's my turn."

"..."

"Why are you with me? Don't give me that look. I mean it. And I want your
honest answer."

"My honest answer?"

"It's only fair."

"Yeah. I- I think I'm with you because I wasn't for a long time. We weren't
together for almost two years, Nate. And that was enough time to let go of
some of my shit. It was enough time to stop thinking about you as a lover,
and to start missing you as a friend. We lost that right before the end
there, Nate."

"Yeah, we did."

"And I think I needed that more than the sex."

"But we're lovers now."

"Obviously. But that's because I finally figured out that the two aren't
mutually exclusive. You can be Nate, the asshole I drink under the table, but
you can also be Nate, the sweet guy who gives me foot rubs and fucks me until
I pass out."

"Is that all?"

"No, it's not. I can do this, be *here*, because you're done."

"I thought that might be it."

"I couldn't be what you wanted me to be before, Nate. You were marching off
to *die*. And I knew it. What's more, you wanted that ending. Or, you seemed
to want it."

"I did."

"Yeah. I couldn't watch that."

"I know. I'm glad you didn't let me."

"But you somehow made it, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did. Spent two years wandering around in an insane haze, but I made
it."

"Remind me to find the bug's grave when we get home and dance on it."

"Want company?"

"My, we're feeling bitter."

"Yeah, well. He deserved to die like that."

"God, I'm sorry, Nate..."

"It's not your fault. It's mine. And his. And Rachel's. Although, not really
HERS."

"Your family is fucked up."

"Amen to that."

"You used the phrase right!"

"It's a red letter day all around. It's just. Oath. I can't believe how wrong
everything went."

"You're remembering more then?"

"I almost wish I weren't. Dom... There's something-"

"He messed with my head, didn't he?"

"Yes."

"Do I want to know?"

"Yes. And no."

"Does it have to do with something you did?"

"Yes."

"Will it change things?"

"Yes."

"Then I don't want to know."

"Yes, you do."

"Yeah, I do."

"He was the one that made you forget Tyler was Tolliver."

"..."

"He didn't tell me until later. Until he'd already done it. And when he
did... Flonq. It was like he didn't see what was wrong there. I didn't know
what to say. Or what to do. What could I have done? Taken you aside and said,
"Oh, by the way..." God, you'd been on that wall a *year*."

"I know."

"I know you know. Dammit, a *year*. I should have flonqing well *known*. And
you should have called me on it. More than once. But you didn't. Why didn't
you?"

"Because it was over."

"Yes. It was over. But was it? Is it? Can you honestly look at me and not
hate me for that? And then for turning around and asking you to step into the
spot she'd vacated?"

"Yes. I can honestly look at you and not hate you for that. You know that.
And we're not done talking about the bug yet. But this needs to be dealt with
now. Look at me, Nathan. Look at me nice and hard. I wouldn't be here if I
hated you for that. And, yes, I did hate you for coming to me like that after
Vanessa. I hated you a lot. But as stupid as it sounds, I don't anymore. I
haven't for a long, long time."

"But *why*?"

"Because Vanessa told me something once. Right after our little adventure in
the Microverse. Right before she and Gar ran off to look for some new place
to play happy-homemaker, she looked me in the eye and told me that she didn't
just shapeshift. She became other people. Right on down to the scars. She
couldn't have made you love her without you loving me. It was that simple."

"Simple?"

"Yep. It's insane, but we have too much baggage between, around and in us for
me to have made a big deal out of that. You loved her-me. Maybe she was
better at being that me, but it was still a me. And that made no fucking
sense. Look, she *was* me. Yes, she was more stable, but that's hardly her
fault. You loved her as me. The me I could have been if I'd stopped being a
moron and taken the fucking happy drugs. But then you turned around and loved
me anyway. Because I was the one you wanted."

"You still are."

"Asshole. You're making me cry."

"No, you made yourself cry. But if it makes you feel any better, I'm about
there myself."

"You do realize that if any of the kids found us right now, they'd cash in
the pool and go dancing."

"No, they wouldn't."

"Oh?"

"They cashed in the pool as soon as our shuttle left orbit. Sam told me the
last time he called."

"He did?"

"Well, he looked more stupidly happy than normal. It was bugging me, so I
asked him why. Apparently he and that coed he's been dating met up after he
dropped Terry off. When I asked him where he got the money, he stammered a
lot, turned red, mentioned something about a ceramic pig and hung up."

"So, Sam won the pool then?"

"Apparently so."

"Good for him. And 'that coed', as you call him, has a name."

"And I've forgotten it."

"It's Jeffery. And for a man of the future, you really are a stick-in-the-
mud."

"It's a phase."

"Tell that to Jeffery."

"It'd better be a phase. His mother is going to kill me."

"Then it's a good thing you're trillions of miles away, locked in an escape
pod with a naked women, then, isn't it?"

"She'll still find me."

"Probably. But I wouldn't worry about it over-much. She really didn't like
Tabitha."

"Strangely, you have a point."

"Of course I do. I know everything."

"And I'm not stupid enough to disagree with you on that."

"Good boy. You get a cookie."

"You're hording cookies?"

"Nope. Just this."

"Ahhh. Well, in that case-"

"Hmm? Ohhh... Shit, you're good at that- Oh, god...!"

***