Lost Art of Living
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are property of Marvel. Just for kicks, guys.
This is roughly set in current continuity but diverges after Soldier X #7 and New X-Men # 134
"He's ain't here, Bea."
Domino sighed, turning around to face Logan who had suddenly appeared. All that ninja training, no doubt. "I didn't really think he would be, Logan. I don't suppose you've heard anything."
"Nothin', 'cept where he's been, never where he's headed."
"He doesn't stay in contact with Scott and Jean?"
"Nah. You know better'n that, Bea. That's one goddamn stubborn man."
"You can say that again." Domino turned around and began to head back into the woods away from the mansion, but Logan's hand swiftly grasped her arm.
"Jean says you should come in and join the party."
"And you don't , Logan?" she said with a teasing sarcastic smile.
"I know ya won't."
Domino smiled bitterly. "You're right. I never belonged here. Especially now without the kids and Nate. It would just be too sad and pathetic, wouldn't it? Alone on Christmas. Lurking out here waiting for him to show up. Ask Jean not to mention I was here. It's kind of embarrassing."
"She won't," he told her. "You don't have to be alone. C'mon, darlin', let's go for a drink or two."
"No strings again?" She raised her eyebrow inquisitively. "Thanks, but you do belong in there. They're your family." She pulled away from his grasp. "Go back in to the party. Let me know if you hear anything, okay?"
"You got it, darlin'." He watched her turn to walk away and then called out to her. "Merry Christmas."
"Yeah, you too, old timer."
"G.W., tell me you got something," Domino said as she collapsed into the chair across the table from him.
"I wish I could, Dom. You want something?" he asked but she waved the menu he offered away.
"You're a big shot in SHIELD, Bridge, and you expect me to believe you don't have anything on him?"
"Only where he's been, never where he's going."
"Why does he have to be so fucking mysterious all the time?"
"Because he wouldn't be Nate."
"And damn him for that."
"Why the sudden interest, Dom?" Bridge asked studying her from behind his coffee mug . "I mean it's been a couple of years and you two really didn't part on the best of terms, did you?"
"There's something I need to give him."
"Who's mysterious now?" Bridge asked but got a glare in return. " Have you talked to that reporter he was hanging with- what was her name? Irene. Irene Merryweather?"
NEW YEAR'S EVE
"May I speak to Nathan?" Domino asked Irene.
"Nathan? He's not here. Is he coming here? Do you know? Oh, that would be just like his stupid mysterious self." The woman on the other end of the line began excitedly, but then stopped abruptly as she must have realized very few people knew of her association with the man once known as Cable. "Wait a minute. How do you know about him? Why would you call me? Who are you?"
"Just a long lost friend."
"Are you Domino?"
Domino didn't answer unsure of whether to reveal herself or not.
"Are you still there?"
"Yeah. I'm Domino. Do you know where Nate is?"
"No. I wish I did. I get letters every so often, but he never says where he's going only where he's been."
"That seems to be the theme."
"Is he in trouble?"
"Knowing Nate, more than likely."
"When you find him tell him- tell him-"
"Spit it out," Domino said getting impatient with this woman's emotional nature.
"Tell him I miss him."
NEW YEAR'S DAY
"He doesn't want to be found."
Domino turned to see tall red-headed woman standing behind her. "Yeah, I've gotten that impression. Rachel, I presume?"
She nodded. "Domino, I presume?"
"Just because he wants to lose himself does not necessarily mean he doesn't need to be found."
Nathan dropped his gear on the floor and sighed. His safe house here in Switzerland had always been his favorite, even if it had been destroyed several times over. He always felt at peace here. Maybe it was because it was situated in the middle of nowhere and he didn't have to worry about telepathic background noise from a bunch of neighbors. Or maybe it was the one that felt closest what he imagined a home should feel like. Damn, Nathan, just depress yourself further, he thought as he stretched and rubbed his the back of his neck trying to get the kinks out. He used to not hurt like this. Or perhaps he didn't realize he hurt like this. Most of his life he hadn't had time to think about what he felt like. There had been too much to do, but now he was having trouble filling the hours. He didn't know how to do anything but fight, so that's what he did. He traveled the world to various hotspots and tried to lose himself in other people's problems. It hadn't really helped . He had lost his focus, his mind drifted in battle, and he had made mistakes that he was ashamed to admit to. Face it, he said to himself, You're getting old. And old soldiers just fade away. He sighed heavily. A hot shower and a pot of coffee would certainly hit the spot at any rate. He walked into the kitchen to start the coffee and to his utter shock found a cheerily wrapped package beside the coffee maker. "What the hell?" He examined the package carefully, unsure of exactly what to do. He stared at the paper. Dalmatians in Santa hats? A Christmas present? Throwing caution to the wind, he ripped the paper off to reveal a book. "The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra And the Lost Art of Living" How strange, he thought and opened the cover to find familiar handwriting scrawled on the inside.
I know this has shocked the hell out of you considering our lack of communication over the past couple of years, but isn't it about time you got around to the "lost art of living". Don't tell anyone I said this, but there's a rumor going around that there's more to life than blowing shit up. Can you believe it? We've been misled.
Nathan glanced over at the wrapping paper. Dalmatians. Dom. "Oath! Computer, how long since Domino left?"
"Ten minutes Forty eight seconds."
#Dom, come back.#
Domino swooshed down the slope more than a little discouraged that Nathan hadn't been there. Not that she really expected him to be there anyway. She figured it was a longshot at any rate. She hadn't even known if he had rebuilt the place. She decided to leave the package there. She supposed he would eventually come back at some point in time. This safe house had been his favorite. She had tried her best to find him, but with no success. The ball was in his court now.
#Dom, come back# Nathan's voice practically screamed in her mind .
She started the process of slowing down and suddenly he was there in front of her, She couldn't stop quickly enough and collided with him. They tumbled down a snow bank and came to a stop with Nathan on top of her. "You stupid fucking overweight bastard, get off of me! You're crushing me!"
Nathan scurried quickly to his feet. "Dom, are you okay?" he eyed her sprawled out in the snow. Her skis and gear scattered about her.
"No, I am not." She started to sit up but was struck by a sharp pain. "Ow! I think you broke a couple of ribs." She flopped back down. "You fucking irrational son of a bitch, I was coming back. Fuck, that hurt." She looked up at him for the first time. "What the fuck happened to your hair?"
Nathan, looked slightly embarrassed and ran a hand across his stubbly hair. " I shaved it."
"What the fuck for?"
"Do you have to use "fuck" in every sentence?" Nathan lifted an eyebrow. He knew she swore excessively when she was nervous.
"Fuck yes." Domino grinned up at him trying to hide her anxiety. "Your ears look huge."
"I don't have big ears."
"They kinda stick out."
"They do not."
"I wouldn't start with Disney thing, Dom. There is some wrapping paper full of dogs that look just like you in the house."
Nathan started to shiver and realized he was standing in sub-zero temperatures in nothing but his shirt sleeves and he was soaked from the tumble in the snow. "Would you mind moving the banter indoors?"
"What the hell's wrong with you anyway, you nut? I was coming back."
Suddenly they were in the safe house. Domino looked around, carefully not looking at Nathan. Now that the banter had stopped she didn't know what to say and again became aware of her nervousness.
"Look, Dom. This has been a hell of a day. Will you sneak out if I take a shower?"
"I might sneak out if you don't. You stink." she said once again sliding into her comfortable argumentative persona.
"Thanks," Nathan grunted as he walked into the bathroom. "Put some coffee on, will ya?"
Domino pealed off her snow gear and set about making coffee. She added a little Jack Daniels for good measure. She knew she'd need it to reinforce her nerve and she suspected Nathan would too. It had been so long since they had been together. There was so much she wanted to say to him, but didn't even know where to start. He didn't even seem like the same man. He seemed smaller somehow. From the day she met him he had always seemed larger than life. A huge shining warrior who demanded respect even from his worst enemies. What had happened to him? He'd won the war, but he seemed more like the defeated. Domino ground her teeth. It made her so damn angry to see him like this wallowing in his misery like this. She had her work cut out for her.
Domino picked up the two mugs and stopped at the door of the bathroom. "You decent?" she called.
Domino sighed heavily at his simple answer. She had hoped for at the very least a slightly lecherous joke. When he didn't open the door telekinetically for her, she kicked it open. Nathan was standing in front of the mirror shaving . He laid down his razor and she handed him a mug. He took a sip of his coffee. "Mmm. Your infamous Jack Daniels blend. I needed that." He looked up to see Domino staring at him. He looked down to make sure his towel was still secure.
"Nate, your virus-"
"What do you mean it's "gone"? What happened to it?"
"The Legacy cure mutated it and I was able to remove it."
"Yeah, except now my powers are all out of wack. That's why I didn't open the door for you. I would have probably ripped it off it's hinges."
She didn't say anything else so he turned back around to continue shaving.
"Nate, your head. It's bleeding. You hardheaded idiot, didn't you feel someone bean you on the back of the head?"
"I guess I forgot about it," he said as he reached back to touch the wound. "But now that you mention it is kind of sore."
"Sit down. Let me look at it."
Nathan meekly complied and sat down on the edge of the tub. Domino found the first aid kit and set about treating the gash. Her touch was efficient yet gentle. No different then the hundreds of other times she had tended his injuries. He knew she would never admit but he knew she enjoyed taking care of him. He missed that. He missed someone looking after him and he missed having someone to look after. Someone he cared about. How did they come to this state of affairs? He sighed heavily. "Dom, do you hate me?"
Her hands froze for a minute, shocked by his question and the sad resignation in his voice as if he already believed that she did. She began working again. "Nate, I've followed your ass across half the third world only to find a bunch of kids and crazies spouting your Askani shit. And I tell you what , after about three months of that, I'm ready to ring your god-damned neck, especially if you start with that Zen rip-off crap yourself. You know me, Nate. Would I go through all that just to give you a stupid Christmas present if I hated you?"
"No. I guess not."
"But I'll tell you what, Nate. I did hate you for a while, for a good long while. Then one day I realized I didn't and maybe I never really did. Maybe I was just scared. I don't know. But I missed you more than anything. We've been through too much just to end up hating each other for no real reason at all."
Nathan didn't say anything and Domino completed her ministrations in silence. Then she asked the question she was afraid to ask, trying to make it sound casual almost conversational, but the crack in her voice spoiled it. "Do you hate me, Nathan?"
"No, Dom, I hate myself for not asking you to stay that day in Hell's Kitchen."
"You shouldn't, Nate. You had moved on. It was just too late for us."
"What do you mean 'moved on' ?"
"Well, you and that reporter chick, Irene."
"Dom, Irene is just a friend and my -umm- well- never mind."
"And? I know you were going to say something else."
"Of all the conceited , megalomaniacal things you've done, Nathan…"
"It's not conceit, damn it," he said more than a little angrily and jerking away from her. "For one thing, it's a tradition among the Askani, but frankly I really just wanted somebody to know that I am someone other than the Askani'son or Cable or, hell, a damned Summers. I wanted someone to know that I was a just a man, who despite the many facades, had hopes and dreams beyond the destiny everyone mapped out for me. Contrary to popular belief I don't enjoy being so damn mysterious all the time. I've just forgotten how to be any other way."
"I knew, Nathan," Domino said quietly. "I've always known."
"But you weren't there, " he told her bitterly.
"I wasn't accusing you, Dom. Oath, I know I've pushed you away. Maybe, in the long run, more than you have me. Despite everything you've always been there whenever I needed you most, no questions asked. And I - I've rarely been there for you. Dom, I want you to know how much I regret that."
"Nate, don't blame yourself. And don't say you haven't been there for me. You've always had my back. Even when I was alone and had no hope left, there you'd come like some damn knight with shining arm."
The image elicited a snort from him.
"And I have no doubt that if you knew about all that shit with Tsung and Junior you'd have been right there, but I didn't want you to know. I was looking for reasons to hate you. But I don't want to try to hate you anymore, Nathan, and I don't want you to hate yourself. So what do you say? Truce?" She held out her hand to him and grinned. "What is, is, and all that?"
Nathan grasped her hand, "Deal."
They stood hands still clasped, staring at each other for a few seconds, not really wanting to let go. But then their nervousness began to return and Domino dropped his hand and smiled sweetly at him, "And to celebrate our new pax why don't you cook us a nice dinner."
"Oh, come on, Nate. You know you're a much better cook than I am. Besides I want to take advantage of this bath tub."
"Couldn't you have soaked a little bit longer? Dinner's not quite cold yet," Nathan said without looking up from his book.
"Bastard. I'll have you know that's the first decent bath I've had since I decided to find you. War zones aren't exactly known for their plumbing."
"I guess not." Nathan said looking up at her standing in front of him wrapped in a blue towel. He raised an eyebrow speculatively.
"You left my bag outside when we teleported."
"That wasn't part of some elaborate plot to get me in a state of undress was it, Nate?" she asked teasingly with a grin.
"Like I need an elaborate plot for that," he countered though without the leering grin that would usually accompanied such a response. "Not that there's much of a selection, you can help yourself to my closet." He stood up and headed to the kitchen.
Domino returned shortly dressed in a plaid flannel shirt. It came past her knees so she hadn't bothered to put on any pants, not that any of his would fit her anyhow. Nathan was still sitting at the dinner table, reading his Sinatra book and humming. He seemed almost content. He always seemed content when he was reading. She smiled inwardly at the particular Sinatra song he was humming. "Oh, come on, Nate, you know you like it much better when I'm not a lady."
Nathan smiled guiltily and almost shyly at her. "Was I humming 'Luck be a Lady'?"
"Yep. Wonder what's on your mind."
He cleared his throat nervously and changed the subject. "I'm afraid we don't have any wine with dinner."
"What are our alternatives?" She asked sitting down across from him.
"Water, Killians, or Jack Daniels."
"Jack, please. I don't know how you drink that thick beer."
"I like beer with substance." he said as he poured the Jack into her glass. He sensed her amusement and looked up at her trying to hide an amused smile. "What's so funny?"
"You and your glasses. You used to be so vain about them I haven't seen you use them in years. Well," she amended a little sadly. " I haven't seen you in years anyway, I guess."
Nathan was unsure of what to say so he opted for a piece of trivia. "Did you know that Sinatra drank a bottle of Jack Daniels a day?"
"He must have been a mutant."
They began to eat in silence. Neither one could really think of what exactly to say to the other. There was so much that needed to be said, but they were never very good at expressing themselves. Nathan kept stealing glances at Domino and for the first time realized how tired she seemed. She was a little thinner than she probably should have been and her eyes seemed a little unfocused and it wasn't from the whiskey. She didn't even notice when he began to openly watch her. "Dom, are you okay? You look exhausted."
"No, I am not okay and I am exhausted. Thanks," she sighed heavily and pushed her plate away. "You're a tough man to find."
"When was the last time you got some sleep?"
"About two days ago. I think. Time zones always confuse me."
"Go to bed then. Before you fall face first in your rice," he said with a small gentle smile.
"I guess I will." She rose from her chair. "You- uh- coming?"
"Not just yet. I- uh- I'll clean this up first," he said gesturing to the table.
Domino nodded and walked off to the bedroom. "Goodnight, Nathan."
" 'Night, Dom." Nathan watched her walk into the bedroom and then poured himself another glass of whiskey. He finished it off quickly and then poured another. Then he cleared the table and washed the dishes. After he was through, Nathan sat down at the table again with the bottle and just stared at the closed door of the bedroom because he didn't have the courage to face Domino in his bed. It was a big bed but not so big that they wouldn't accidentally touch. What would happen when Domino's icy feet automatically sought out the warmth of his body or he in his sleep sensing her warm presence pulled her to him? He just didn't know if he could deal with that right now. Not that he didn't want her. Oath, I do, he thought. In everyway possible. Seeing her reminded him of the aching loneliness in his mind where their link used to be. His arms ached to hold her again, but this was too sudden. Her appearance out of nowhere had thrown him even more off balance than he was already. He was more unsure than he had ever been before. He wanted it to be right this time. He sighed and flipped open the Sinatra book. Nathan stared at the inscription. "Yours ever." Had she really meant that? He hoped so. Help me, Frank, he thought, pouring another glass, and began reading, praying for an answer.
Domino lay in Nathan's huge bed hoping both that he would soon join her and that he would not. She so desperately want to feel his strong arms around her, his warm breath on her neck, and his fingers absently combing through her hair. She was afraid too. She was afraid that they wouldn't feel the same as they once had long ago. She was afraid that she wasn't strong enough to pull Nathan out of his depression and she was afraid the he wasn't strong enough to hold onto her. Please let this work, she prayed to whatever deity was listening.