"Domi—Neena," Cable called in a low voice as he went down the steps. Judging by the racket upstairs, Wade was being a lot less subtle, gleefully cutting down the mutant traffickers. There was a market for mutants - of course there was. They usually stuck to the just-manifested kids on the street that nobody missed, but the rumour of a mutant with preternaturally good luck had apparently been too tempting to resist, and they'd grabbed her during her early morning run.
How the hell they'd even gotten her was still a mystery. She was a formidable fighter even without luck on her side. He remembered how that first fight on the transport had taken him by surprise, how this new obstacle in his path had intrigued him despite the urgency of his mission pounding through his blood.
He remembered his reluctance to shoot her, needing to turn away for a moment to convince himself that it was necessary, even though by then he'd realised that these people had no idea who Russell Collins was, would be. They were just defending a 14 year old kid from an assassin.
His life since then had been one long stretch of relief that he'd taken that moment, long enough for Wade to get there and intercept the shot. He really couldn't imagine where his life would be not if he hadn't done that. He certainly wouldn't be - the thought still took him by surprise - sharing living space with the both of them if he hadn't taken that moment.
He also wouldn't have his heart in his throat with worry about what has happened to her.
It had taken him and Wade nearly two days of to find her, two days of increasingly impatient interrogations and wiping out a human traffic network while they were at it. Bringing in the X-men had been a consideration, just for the resources, but by the time a lead had come up they'd both been determined that 'bringing them to justice' wasn't going to be good enough. They'd sent a bunch of kids to the school, and the info they had found on those already sent onward in the trafficker network.
The address of the specially isolated house where Domino was kept they'd kept to themselves. Now they'd finally found where she was reported to be, he had hoped to find her doing her thing the moment she became aware of her rescuers, fighting her way free.
His enduring impression of her would always be the reckless grin she'd had as she introduced herself, confident of her survival even with his hand tightening around her neck.
Cable felt concern crawl up his throat about the complete silence in front of him. The basement was dark and quiet.
According to his scan there was one human down here, huddled in the shadows at the far corner, but they were sure as fuck not acting like Neena.
"Are you here?" he asked, more to get a reaction from the shape in the corner than because he couldn't see them. There was a collar with a red light. Power dampener. He had no idea how that would even work on Neena, since her power wasn't something under her conscious control. From what she had said her presence just messes with the probability matrix, skewing things in her favour without her control or even, most of the time, her knowledge.
There was a pained moan and he approached cautiously, still not completely sure it was her, still wary that this was a trap. It could be, if they wanted to bag him and Wade too, but their earlier estimate was 'probably not'. Wade was known to be a giant pain in the ass, and Cable didn't think anybody much knew what he himself was capable of yet. Not to the point where it would make him a target. No, the mutant with the amazing luck, now that would have been attractive to traffickers.
"Nate?" her voice sounded weak and exhausted, but yeah, that was her, that's their Neena. He was beside her in an instant.
She had her back to the brick wall, legs drawn up to her chest with her arms around them, chin resting on her hands. He took a knee beside her, gloved hand hovering for a moment, unsure where to land, since she seems to be hurting. He settled for offering it to her, wanting to help her to her feet.
After a moment one of her hands slid into his, clammy and without her usual sure touch. She didn't make a motion to get to her feet.
"Wade, I've got her, we're on our way up," he radioed. Then to her, "Can you stand? Don't have much time. We'll take the collar off later."
"They linked my—powers," she gasped, "—to a pain... something."
Fuck, of course. How do you stop a mutant with powers not under their own control? Make her hurt every time those powers manifest and she'll be paralysed into trying to avoid doing anything that could induce those powers.
"I'll carry you," he concluded, holstering his weapon and scooping her up. She tucked her face into the crook of his shoulder and hooked her fingers into the back of his vest, making herself compact and as easy to carry as possible. He grunted approvingly as he rose to his feet - he could still use his shield if he needed to.
Wade had already cleared the house with his typical bloody enthusiasm, but even without seeing his face, Cable could see him startle when he caught sight of Domino. He abruptly left off whatever he was doing.
"Fuck, Doms, you look like shit," he blurted. She murmured something against Cable's neck that he was sure wasn't complimentary.
Wade kept up the obnoxious commentary on the way to the taxi, only briefly pausing when Neena clutched at her head to ride out a spasm of pain, then immediately increasing the irritation factor again in an attempt to distract her.
Cable put her down next to him in the back seat, uneasily aware of how passive she was, as if she wasn't so much unable but afraid to move. He quietly cursed himself for not bringing along the gear used to disable the damn collar. It wouldn't be long until they were back to their base, but every minute seemed an eternity like this. She'd pulled up her knees again, leaning back against his shoulder for balance, face turned away from him.
She'd explained once that for the most part she wasn't aware when and how her mutation affected the world around her. It just sort of happened and it was impossible to tell what was normal probability and what wasn't. Except now apparently she got a pain spasm every time her mutation affected something and it... well, if it didn't involve agony it would probably be fascinating.
A car screeched to their right, narrowly avoiding a collision, and Neena groaned and pressed her palms to her eyes, losing her balance. Without thinking about it he wrapped his arm about her shoulders to pull her closer, his hand cupping her skull to hold her steady against his shoulder. It was the closest they'd ever touched and he only belatedly realised how controlling the hold was, with her upper arms pinned, but she sighed in something close to relaxation and only pressed her face against his bicep.
Like this, he was looking straight at the control panel of the collar. Maybe... it wasn't that her luck didn't work, it's that it hurt, right?
"You get anything like the code?" he asked Wade.
He lightly stroked his thumb along Neena's sweaty temple to get her attention. "Half an hour until we get home," he said, "Or you can try to guess numbers now."
"You do it," she said, sounding exhausted. "Six digits."
He didn't let go of her, brought up his other hand to hover over the little keypad. If her luck worked, would it even matter if his fingers were too big to touch the keys individually?
"Don't think about it," she murmured, bracing herself.
He actually looked away, focused on one of her spirally little curls, as he touched the keypad. He wasn't surprised to feel the agony rock through her body when he touched the first key, drawing a gritted-teeth curse from her. Pulling her closer against him to hold her still, still randomly touching the little keys, he kept going until he'd heard six beeps. By the time there was a soft chime sound she was making low sounds if distress, gasping for air. The light changed, the collar coming undone.
He took it from her neck as if it was burning her, tossing it into the footwell.
She hid her face against his bicep - his skin was wet with her tears, not that he'd ever mention it - and her body felt shaky and wrung-out, slumped against him. He still had his flesh hand cupped around her head, keeping it from lolling as the car turned onto the motorway.
Wade called for pizza when they were approaching the loft, crowing that tonight was finally going to be the pizza party of his dreams.
They hadn't spent that much time together, considering they now lived in the same place. Or rather, considering that Cable and Wade had moved into one of Neena's properties, and that usually she slept there too. Cable had avoided the communal space since they got there, or at least when he heard the others were around. One afternoon of reluctant working together was not exactly enough to overcome the fact that he had made a considerable effort to kill every one of them. There's more to becoming a team than walking away from a single victory. And maybe he just wasn't ready to be a friend to anybody in this new world. He certainly wasn't ready for Wade's insistent and awkward attempted hugs.
He'd been wandering the city, or locked himself into the room he'd claimed. Mostly still working through the grief for his family. It was different now. He'd grieved them for... months? He wasn't really sure how long it had been. But it was new and different knowing that they lived, that he had rescued them, but that he still wouldn't ever see them again. He didn't regret saving Wade, but he also hated him for it. Mixed feelings didn't even begin to describe it.
The loft still looked exactly like it had two days ago when they discovered Neena had been taken - the half-prepared 'breakfast smoothie' Wade had been making still in the blender, the six boxes of different sugar-laden cereal still on the counter. They hadn't been back since that moment. Now that the urgency and adrenaline of tracking Neena down was over, he could feel exhaustion dragging at him.
He helped her to the couch and stopped himself from dropping down next to her, remembering just in time that he'd been in the same clothes for the past two days. Parts of it were stiff with dried blood. If not a shower - Wade had called dibs on it before they'd even gotten out of the car - then at least clean clothes.
By the time he got back. And—that was another thing—there was no need to go back to the living. He could just go to sleep in his bed. Except. He was pretty sure he'd be waking up with the urgent need to check on her, to check that she was really there and safe. If he even managed to sleep in the first place. So. Back to the living room. She looked a little more alert, eyes tracking him across the room. He stepped into the kitchen a moment to get them both water.
He hummed in acknowledgement and sat down next to her, unsettled by the absence of her usual liveliness. It was a strange realisation that all of their interaction so far in the nearly two months they'd shared a house, had been her and Wade acting friendly and him grudgingly going along with it. All the talk of family had put his back up, because they weren't his family, he could never see his family again and the thought that these people could come close to replacing them… By the time he'd realised they could be his friends, that he might want them to be, well. It wasn't that he was opposed to sitting on the couch with them and watch television, he just.. Didn't really know how to navigate it.
To his considerable surprise Neena let herself sink sideways until her cheek was pillowed on his thigh, as easy as that. He blinked down at her for a moment, and then shook himself to grab a pillow to make her more comfortable.
"Want to watch something?" he offered, eager for a distraction from this sudden closeness, not to mention the question of where he was supposed to put his right hand. It had been so much simpler in the car.
"Yes please," she murmured, and he used his telekinesis to bring over the remote, which made her chuckle.
"DON'T YOU DARE NETFLIX AND CHILL WITHOUT ME!" Wade shouted from the bathroom when the TV came on.
Neena huffed an amused "Gonna be Netflix and Nap, dude," and put on some kind of baking show, the volume low, just background noise.
Wade was out the shower just in time to open the door for the pizza delivery, which was a good thing because nothing short of an armed attack could have persuaded Cable to move at this point. He could feel every strain and punch from the last 48 hours, not to mention the lack of sleep, luring him deeper into this unfairly comfortable couch. He should have been getting up now the shower was free, but Neena clearly had no intention of moving, he wasn't about to make her, and he let go of the thought with very little resistance.
They ate pizza, he and Wade slowly but steadily plowing their way through their own and then the remaining half of Neena's. She seemed drowsily content to lay there, head on his thigh and the soles of her feet pressed against Wade's thigh, Wade's hand on her ankle as if he needed the contact as much as she did. At some point Cable's hand had ended up on the back of her neck, thumb rubbing soft little circles that made her press closer into him with a low hum.
He wasn't ready to think of the last time he'd taken comfort from physical contact, and even less so of when he'd given comfort. Had forgotten how sometimes they were one and the same. Just in this moment, on the couch with the warm weight of Neena anchoring him, with Wade giving a running critique on the cooking show - he had a lot of opinions for a guy who was talking through a mouthful of pizza - he felt a warm, steady something settle into his chest. Just for this moment, he wasn't in the wrong place. He could just… be here. With them. That would be okay.