Disclaimer: Domino, Nathan Dayspring and any Marvel-types belong to the Marvel Universe, er, Marvel Enterprises. The Death of Rats belongs to Terry Pratchett. None of these characters are being used for profit, and none of them belong to me. If that wasn't already clear. Suing me is really silly, since a baglady with five kids on welfare has more cash and assets than I.

Author's note: Since it was flavouring my writing, I decided to give Pratchett's style an outlet where it would actually work. Not that there's really any point to this. Or much of Pratchett in it. *shrug*

Life Begins at Imagination
by Ana Lyssie Cotton

It was a pub like any other. Outside, the rain poured down, decorating the streets with ever slicker running water. The sidewalks began looking almost clean, while swirls of garbage waltzed through the gutter in their own peculiar rhythm. Inside, it was darkish, and fullish, with lots of people doing nothing more than contentedly sipping beer.

"...there's a rat in my beer."

"You're seeing things."

With an offended look, Nathan Daypsring shook his mug of beer at his partner. "Am not."

"SQUEAK!" The small rat announced in irritation, as the mug almost dumped it to the floor. It climbed out while the two stared at it.

"See?" He sounded triumphant, while his mind decided that it was not seeing what it was seeing.

Domino peered blearily at Cable's mug of beer, her mind trying not to process the image of a small rat skeleton fastidiously arranging its robes next to it. "Did it talk to you, Nate?"


"Uh-huh. That's a sign of not being drunk enough."


"Yup. Hey, bartender, another beer over here!"

The end of a small scythe tapped Nate's hand. "SQUEAK?"

He blinked, wondering how he could understand the request. "Bartender, make that two more beers."

"SQUEAK." The rat replied happily as the tall foamy mug was brought to it.

Nate raised his. "A toast. To rats."

"To idiots who have holes in their heads." Dom said.

"SQUEAK." said the rat. It adjusted its cowl, then leaned over the mug and began lapping at the foam.

Most of the people in the pub had been minding their own business. It had nothing to do with them if a large mercenary and his gun moll wanted to drink the night away. Best to stay out of the way, avoid trouble. But a rat was a different matter. Rats were unclean, dirty things that spread disease and caused phobias in some people.

So, really, what happened next wasn't much of a surprise to the resignedly skeletal rodent. It was just yet one more thing that got in its craw, and made its larger compatriot amused.

A patron glanced at the two mercenaries, just to make sure they hadn't, say, pulled guns and held up Lenny the bartender. And saw a rat. At least, that's what his mind informed he saw. Because if he'd really seen what he thought he saw, he might have gone insane.

Instead, he shrieked like a girl and ran for the door, startling the rest of the pub's occupants.




"That was a bad band in the 80's, wasn't it?"

"Dunno, but--ohmygod! There's a rat on the bar!"

"Unclean! Unclean!"

"SQUEAK!" said the already resigned, but rather offended skeletal rat.

"He's not hurtin' anybody."

"The hell, you say, he's a RAT!"

Nathan Dayspring drew himself up to his full height (slightly lowered since he was still sitting on the barstool), and levelled a calm gaze at the bartender. "He. Ain't. Hurtin'. Nobody."

"SQUEAK." The Rat replied in agreement, thocking the end of its scythe on the bar.

His companion was looking at him oddly, "Nate, you feeling OK?"

"Never better, Dom. However, since my new friend is apparently unwanted, I think we shall leave this ugly establishment."

She looked unconvinced as he stood and wobbled slightly before holding a hand out to the rat. "Uh-huh. Nate?"

"Yes?" The rat hopped onto the proffered hand and carefully took a grip on the long sleeve which covered the visisble portion of Nathan Dayspring's techno-organic virus.

"It's a rat."


She sighed and stood to follow his already retreating back. "And it's a rat. An animal."

Out in the rain, they stood for a moment, Nathan slowly remembering how to hold a telekinetic umbrella over them before they were completely soaked. The rat had crawled up under his sleeve while squeaking rather irritably at the rain.

They slowly made their wobbly way down the stretch of road that served as a link to several major pubs in London. One was the Crown, a notorious hangout for the Intel set. They'd avoided that with precision, opting for the less attended Horse and Carriage. Now, however, they'd been turned out. Domino muttered something about fools and their messiah complexes.


Nathan looked back at her, "What did you say?"

"I said, 'Why didn't I go get bought rounds at the Crown instead of keeping your soggy head out of the drink?'"


She snorted at him, "If you're turning monosyllabic, I may just go do that."

"OK." Nathan wasn't even really paying attention to her anymore, his alcohol-hazed brain firmly lodged with fascination about the group of men coming down the streets towards them.



Domino paused in her saunter towards the Crown to glance back at the insistent sound. And swore.

The group of men had surrounded Nathan, and were beginning to flash various weapons in his face. Utterances of, "Give us all yer cash." and "Hey, big man, wanna have a good time?" echoed around the street as she started back.

Of course, the ludicrousness of a man of Nathan Dayspring Summers' stature being mugged, was not lost on Domino. It was, however, of no importance, since even the big ones fall in the end. There were about ten of them, and Nathan was drunk.

She cursed as two of them tackled him to the ground, knives held at his throat. Why wasn't he using his TK to remove them? The rain was still sloping away gently. Hell, he could have even used brute force.

And then Nate began to sing.

"The hiiiilllls are aliiive, with the sound of mussiiiiiic!" He bellowed, low baritone absolutely mind-numbingly tone-deafingly destroying a normally pretty song. "With songs they have sung, for a thou-ssand Yyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeearrsss!"


"I go to the hiiiiillls, when my heart is looonely."

"Oh, gods, Nate, not the high--"

"My heart wants to sing every song, it hears--every song it hears!" he finished in a false baritone.

Several shop windows rattled in anticipation of a merciful shattering.

The muggers stared at their prey and began backing off, unsure of what to do. They normally didn't sing. Especially not badly.

"Myyyyyyyyyy heart wants to beat like the wings of the bird--"


"--that flies from the lakes to the treeeeeeeeeeeeeees!"

The men left, muttering amongst themselves about lunatics being allowed on decent law-abiding London streets.



"--heart wants to sigh like a--"



Domino withdrew the foot that had just nudged into his side, and glared, "Stop singing."

"Oh. They're gone." He smiled cheerfully up at her, "How'd the rounds at the Crown go?"

"They haven't. Yet."

"Oh. Well, then, we mustn't keep Wisdom waiting." He began struggling to his feet.


Domino blinked at the rat. It had hopped onto her boot at some point, and was now glaring at Nathan. "Um. Look, rat. Um..."

It looked up at her, and gave a sigh. "SQUEAK."

"Yeah. Sorry."

What might have been a resigned smile touched its whiskers, then it gave a cheery wave with the scythe, and was gone. She blinked, "Nate?"

He was standing now, swaying slightly. She slid an arm around his waist. "Yes?"

"Why was there a rat skeleton walking around with a little scythe and a cowl?"

"Didn't you notice until now?"


He giggled. "It was the Death of Rats."

She looked at him, perturbed by the giggling, "Nate, you're so not right in the head."

"I'm drunk." He explained cheerfully, "Now, let's go to the Crown."

"Where did the Rat come from?"

"Oh, here, there," He waved an arm and nearly sent the both of them to the sidewalk. "And a little bit of imagination."

"Uh-huh. Maybe you don't need to drink anymore."

"No, no, must drink. Wisdom expects us."

"Expects me."

He sniffed, "You would go without me?"


Nathan Dayspring paused in the wobble up the street and looked at the woman at his side. "I guess I could let you go alone..."

It occurred to her that the muggers might still be out there. And maybe this time the sweet sound of Rogers and Hammerstein wouldn't put them off. "All right. C'mon. You can probably play poker in the back, or something."