Disclaimer: Sam, Tabitha, Nathan, Domino, etc belong to Marvel. I merely borrow them. No money is being made from this work of fiction.

PG13ish for some startling imagery.

Good for the Soul

by Ana Lyssie Cotton

Sam doesn't remember when the dinners started. They were just a way to gather everyone together and make them feel vaguely social. Nathan would sit at the head of the table, Domino at the foot. Like a strange parody of father and mother.

And yet they were nice dinners. Laughter around the table, lewd jokes, stories of what everyone did that day. Casual conversation about life. Terry and Jimmy shooting little glances at each other while Bobby sulks about his lack of a girlfriend. And no one misses the not-so-subtle gazes of Rictor and Shatterstar. Of course, he and Tab are the obvious ones. And Nate and Dom. But there's still an underlying sense that they're all 'family'.

Not really what you'd expect from a mutant terrorist group.

People might expect them to be eating off the floor. Or leaning against walls while they suavely discuss politics. After all, they're dirty mutant terrorists who see nothing wrong in killing innocent people.

Which is wrong, but then, when is the media right?

But it feels different, this time. And Sam's really not sure why as he sits across from Tabitha at the table. It no longer disturbs him that Domino and Nathan are pseudo-mother and father to them all. Perhaps after having an evil mutant mastermind as a headmaster you get rather blase about things like that.

And it's not until the bomb goes off, and Tabitha's clinging to him while Nathan cradles Domino in his arms that he wonders if there really was something he sensed. It was Jimmy who exploded, bone and blood everywhere. But the brunt of it smashed into Domino. And he feels like crying. For both of them, for him. For Nathan, maybe. But Tab's sobbing into his shoulder.

His favorite teacher coughs up blood one last time, and then the lights go out in her amethyst eyes. And Nathan is just suddenly *gone*, the place where he knelt empty of everything except an overwhelming grief. Sam worries slightly, but Bobby is staggering out from under a pile of rubble, and Tabitha's still crying. No one can see Terry, but Shatterstar is standing guard at the door with Ric shakily backing him up.

Later, when the bombs have exploded in New York, Toronto, Moscow, London, Los Angeles, and countless other cities, does he begin to wonder if something could have been done to stop this.

To stop Nathan and his one-man swathe of destruction across seven continents.

But it's too late.

Far too late for everyone. Even Tabitha is lost, curled in a corner, her eyes vacant. Bobby has drool tracking down his cheek. They found Terry half-buried under the table, her eyes blossoming with mold. Ric and Shatterstar left ages ago to find Ric's family. But they won't be coming back.

Probably the radiation from the power plant exploding outside of San Francisco. Probably. It could just be the eternal loss of hope. But it hasn't touched Sam yet. His skin is as clear as ever, as if it's protected from the ravages of time. Tab would have called it baby-soft, run her hand over his cheek. There would have been that little look in her eyes that promised something that might have been pleasure. Now it's all pain.

He is protected, he realizes. And Sam's not grateful that he's an External. Because now he'll be the only one left in a world of death. And it is unbearably lonely.


Final notes: I dreamt this, actually. Over and over and over again. The image of Domino and Nathan as mother and father was utterly disturbing, and so I had to write it down.