Characters: X-Force -- Shatterstar, Siryn, Sunspot, Rictor, Cannonball, Domino, Warpath, Cable, Boomer, Moonstar, Feral, Magma, and Deadpool.
Pairings: Rictor/Shatterstar, Domino/Cable, Sunspot/Magma. Minor Warpath/Siryn/Deadpool and Cannonball/Boomer.
Genre: Alternate Universe, Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Romance
Rated: NC-17 for extreme violence, language, dark themes, sexual situations (het and slash), and character death.
Disclaimer: I don’t own a damn thing; I’m just playing for awhile.
Summary: A well known terrorist organization has made its move, and its dictatorship starts with the fall of the country’s greatest heroes. A few make it out alive, but they are on the run and in for the fight of their lives. Who lives and who dies? And where do you go when there’s no where left to hide?
Chapter Summary: The team says good-bye to a fallen friend.
Part: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen,
A/N: Oh, before I forget...the next two chapters are going to have some references to the team's past. A lot are canon ties, but there is SOME stuff that I had to make fanon because of the AU and people who are obviously not really supposed to be on the team. So this is where that AU stuff kicks in.
It was just a few hours before when Domino had finally gone outside. The team had arrived back at the hotel shortly before , and the entire time they had been back had been spent treating injuries. Some of the team had walked away practically unscratched, but others were not as nearly as lucky. Rictor had a broken nose, Nate’s powers were still out of control, Terry got an armful of good gashes in the explosion, and Tabitha had hardly allowed them to stick a band-aid on her. Dom knew that whatever had happened to her had severely messed with her head, and it would probably be a very long time – if ever – before they found out what exactly had gone on between HYDRA walls.
Although the physical injuries were easy to treat, the mental ones would not be as simple. Everyone was dealing with the situation in their own way, but the kids had seen enough in their short lives already. The HYDRA experience was like a nuclear bomb falling on top of their already unstable psychological states, and Domino knew it was going to be a long road back to normalcy. Nearly half of their team was not with them anymore to assist in the healing process, and that only added insult to injury.
An experienced soldier herself, it was just another chapter of the ongoing tragic story of her life. Nearly every team mate she had ever had was dead, paralyzed, or locked up. For someone who was supposed to have things fall into place for her, Domino was sure unlucky in that regard. So many names and faces burned in her memory were long gone having been claimed by death. But in her eyes, it was worse when it was just some punk kid trying to make it through the world. That was all X-Force was: kids.
Domino had to keep reminding herself that she did what had to be done to help them survive. Had they still been on the run and hiding in the caves of the wilderness, they most surely would have ended up ambushed and dead. She had trained them to the best of her ability, got them medical treatment when needed, and sent them on a rescue mission to get the others. One life had been claimed in the process, and while it could have easily been worse, one life claimed was one life too many.
It should not have happened.
The consequences of it burned in her mind, fuelling guilt that was already consuming her. Yes, they had retrieved those they had set out to get, but ironically she had not even expected to bring them back with her. The assault was needed to answer questions and to stop one more chapter of HYDRA’s ranks. But she had been so pessimistic about finding the girls alive. The one person that she had expected to pick up to aid them, Deadpool, was the only one they had not found. Everyone had remained hush about the other merc’s whereabouts, and Domino was suspicious. Of course, she would probably find out later from Nate where crazy Wade was hiding out anyhow.
Another pang of guilt hit her, and she scowled. She was so conflicted. All of the evidence of their trail had pointed back to Cable. HYDRA had claimed Cable had assisted them. And in a twisted way, she was right; he had technically been responsible for their being followed – albeit it was not voluntary like she had originally thought it to be. In a way she felt she deserved the guilt; she should have had more faith in Cable. Nate was a jerk, sure, but would he have honestly led them into a trap? She had seen it happen before, which was what made her feel as though perhaps her thoughts and actions were justified. It could have been very possible that he would have allowed it in order for something bigger to transpire.
But in the end she had been wrong, and she looked like an ass about it. Domino did not like to be made a fool of, and HYDRA had only succeeded in doing that by playing on her paranoia. Worse, they made her second guess her gut instincts.
She was supposed to be luckier than that; she was not supposed to make stupid mistakes.
Sighing, Dom shook her head from her thoughts and stepped down onto the lawn. The sun was bright, but it did not help heat the piercing cold air any. She shivered as she gripped a large sweater in her hand and approached the young man standing in the yard.
“You been out here for hours now, kiddo.”
Shatterstar did not turn to look at her. “I have no uses inside.”
She nodded, and held out the sweater. “At least put something on. You been running around with no shirt on since we got back. Healing or not, you’re not temperature resistant.”
“Thank-you,” he muttered and accepted the material. He peered down at his blood stained chest thoughtfully, but pulled on the clothing nonetheless. “I didn't want to bring James inside. I thought it would upset people.”
Domino looked at the makeshift wooden structure the warrior had placed the body on, and tilted her head. “So you opted to keep him company, huh?”
He shrugged. “I am unsure how to go about these things. I went to Illyana’s funeral, but I am under the understanding that James’ people had a much different way of dealing with their deceased. He had explained to me once that he had given his brother a warrior’s funeral.”
“A warrior’s funeral?” the merc questioned curiously.
He nodded. “Yes. They release the spirit and honour their life. He explained that there was meditation involved, as well as traditional song and dance…but I do not know those things. I do not believe it’s something I can find on YouTube.”
Domino snorted. “No, probably not.”
“But I did what I could,” Shatterstar covered, and pointed to the wooden construct. That is what they lay the body on. I believe it’s supposed to stay there for four days until his spirit is freed.”
“I don’t think we could bury him with this frozen ground anyhow,” Domino muttered.
“We could,” Shatterstar shrugged. “Roberto and I could do it. Or even Rictor could with his power.”
“You all right?” she asked him suddenly. His sudden strange fascination with the death confused her, and she wondered momentarily how he was actually handling all of this. Of course, Shatty was Shatty and he would always be a rock, but sometimes she worried if he was processing these things the wrong way. It was not something that she wanted to allow him to be confused about.
“I’m okay, I am alive,” he pointed out just like she thought that he would.
“No, I mean, you don’t have to get all this burial stuff finished yourself. It’s not exactly a fun task.”
‘Star pressed his lips together in a thin line thoughtfully for a few seconds before he decided to speak again. “On my home world we did not have funerals for those who were cancelled.”
She was almost afraid to ask. “What did you do instead?”
Shatterstar frowned miserably. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“In the arenas I was supposed to kill my opponents in order to survive – much like we had done against HYDRA. The difference was that it was for entertainment. Once the last gladiator was left standing, the crowd was happy and the show ended for the night. It was much like…an Ultimate Fighting special, only more violent,” silver eyes moved away and stared across the snowy lawn. Red hair blew across his face, and his troubled frown remained. “When I was declared the winner, I was sent back to my cell until my next fight. There were crews employed to clean up my messes.”
“Like janitors?” she questioned.
“Basically,” he muttered. “They cleaned them up, and the next time I came out to fight my previous mess was long gone. I had theories, but I assume that they just disposed of the bodies the same way they would dispose of garbage.”
“What about the rebellion?” Domino questioned in an attempt to draw away from the morbid awkwardness his last statement had caused. “Didn’t your Cadre people have any rites they performed?”
Shatty moved his gaze back to her and stuffed his hands into the pockets of his sweater. “No, not really. My people were equipped with magnificent healing abilities, and if battle was intense enough to kill them then that usually meant we were not in a position to collect bodies. We either had to engage in combat or back down – which we did not do unless it was extreme circumstances. The bodies of murdered rebels were left behind to decay where they had fallen.”
Domino nodded. “You had to do what you had to do.”
“Yes,” he agreed with a slight shrug. “But to be honest, Domino, I didn’t ever even think of collecting their bodies. It just did not occur to me. They were cancelled and therefore gone, so I no longer had use for them. But here on Earth…”
“It’s just a different kind of tradition,” she explained carefully. “That doesn’t make your way or our way right or wrong. People just do whatever they need to do to make themselves feel better when it all comes down to it.”
He nodded. “Yes, I drew that conclusion as well. Had it been my choice, I probably would have left Warpath’s body to be consumed by the explosion. It would have been easier and he would have left an eternal mark on his contribution to the battle. His warrior spirit would live on, but his vessel of life would be…dealt with.”
“It’s okay,” Dom assured him. “There’s no right or wrong way…”
“I know,” he nodded and looked down at her; a little more assuredness graced his features. “I brought him back because Theresa wanted me to. I know that she has different traditions in her culture, but so does Rictor, Cable, and Sunspot. I assumed in order to honour James though, he would want to be buried the same way he buried his brother.”
“He would’ve wanted that,” she agreed.
“But I can’t do it all because I don’t know it,” he frowned thoughtfully as he reminded her. “But I’m sure he would have given me an ‘A’ for effort.”
She could not help but laugh at that. “Yeah, Shatty, I’m sure he would have.”
“What about you?” he questioned.
“Would I give you an A for effort?” she teased.
“No, I mean death. How do you usually deal with it? Where I come from, death just happens and it’s part of war. You do not feel good about it, or bad about it. It just happens and that is all. I know that’s wrong, but…” Shatty furrowed his eyebrows and rubbed his chin. “You’re a fellow soldier so I’m curious as to what you have done.”
She frowned. “You want the truth?”
“Usually my situations were a lot like yours,” she admitted, and averted her eyes. “Never really got the chance to say good-bye because we had to book. But I’ve been to a lot of funerals too. Never really directed one myself, or anything, but I always went if I had the chance to.”
“You were young the first time you killed, weren’t you?”
The question made her skin crawl. He did not really know better in terms of how tactful it was to ask such a thing; the guy just needed to know – probably for future reference to store away somewhere in that head of his. It wasn’t like he would use it to blab. She cleared her throat. “Yes, I was young.”
“Me too,” he admitted. “I was just a child, and strangely enough the first time was actually an accident. I killed someone in a training spar with my mutant abilities. They had manifested a few years before I technically hit puberty, and, according to the Spineless Ones, I was not supposed to have them.”
“I was probably a little bit older than that then,” she muttered.
“You handle it well even if it does bother you,” he told her. “It’s situations like these that I often try and follow your example. I know the others are upset and I don’t want to say something odd or rash to upset them with my ignorance. You do what they call ‘keep your cool’ and that is admirable.”
“To some people,” she shifted her weight onto her other foot, and finally looked back up at him. “Everyone deals differently, like I said, and there’s no right or wrong way. Just do whatever makes you – or other people – feel better.”
He nodded. “Thank-you.”
“No problem,” Domino offered him a small smile, before she nodded toward the hotel. “I think you should go inside though and have a shower. I think the others’ll want to head out here soon to do whatever it is you guys want to do with Jimmy, and you don’t need to be prancing around with his blood all over you.”
He nodded in agreement. “I’ll do that. I just wish I had a proper battle uniform to wear.”
“I’m sure you’ll make yourself a new one in no time,” she chuckled. “Just find something that looks half decent and it’ll be fine.”
He nodded and brushed his hair from his face as he sent Jimmy’s body one more quick glance. Domino could see all the gears in his head turning; the whole ordeal really was strange to him. Even weirder was that Domino felt an odd sort of comfort knowing that it was the biggest problem on his mind right then. Tradition and acceptable behaviour. That was both frightening and assuring. But again, Shatty was Shatty and he would always be a rock.
“Are you coming?” he asked her.
Domino looked back at him and nodded quickly before turning on her heel. “Lead the way.”
It was cold and silent. A light snow had begun to fall across the abandoned land, and the sky was a dark, fluffy looking grey. Strangely though, the wind had died down and allowed for stillness in the air. The trees did not move, and the snow fell flat. It had caused a bit of an issue earlier when they had tried to light a fire, but they had managed to get golden orange embers burning bright. Mostly though, the stillness made the bodies surrounding the yard look even more picturesque. Each made no movements, and each kept their gazes averted to the white ground.
Cable had cleared his throat first, a small plume of white escaping his lips as he did so. “I know we don’t exactly have the resources to do this properly. But after everything we’ve lost, it’s time we try to give our team mate a good send off. Others weren’t so lucky.”
Roberto felt his heart break all over again. It was still burning and twisting his insides that he had to have left Amara behind.
“He died honourably, however,” Cable continued, voice low. “It doesn’t make this right or better, but to a warrior like himself…it’s meaningful. James always wanted to fight to protect. That was his big thing – to make sure those he cared for did not have to fall the same way that his brother did.
“As a family man and a fighter he was very passionate about keeping in touch with the things that he believed in, as well as the things and people he cared about. As a member of this team, I always relied on him to be a source of security,” Nate moved his gaze up toward the body on the makeshift stand. “Perhaps it was something I took for granted, but it was never something I didn’t appreciate.”
Roberto followed his mentor’s gaze and let it rest on the body of his friend. They had covered it in a large, burgundy blanket from inside of the hotel. On each of the four corners of the platform a small fire burned, and surrounding the entire perimeter of the wood was a line of large grey rocks. When the boys – Sam, Rictor, and Bobby – saw what Shatty had made for Jim, they felt it only right to come out and finish it off. To replicate something important to the Apache tradition to the best of their limited knowledge. It was a group effort, but in the end Bobby felt that Jimmy would have been proud of each of them for it. That in itself was helpful in making him feel a little bit better.
“When Jimmy first approached me to join this team, I knew right away that he would be an asset. He was going through a lot of inner turmoil because of his family’s deaths, but he never questioned his position in the fight,” Nate continued and turned to face the team. He folded his hands in front of him, and straightened his posture as he finally felt the surge of emotion to get the ball rolling. “This cause was what I gathered all of you here for, including Jimmy. At times I know that I can be hard on you all, and even more often than that it would appear as though I don’t give much care or thought to your actual lives – just the cause that you fight for. Truth is…without you guys this fight would’ve been over a long time ago.
“As the New Mutants you all learned to hone your skills to the point where you could affectively control them. But as we grew and evolved into X-Force, you guys learned and mastered the art of fighting. And a fighting spirit is so much more than just the ability to throw a punch or a kick or how to aim and shoot a gun,” the older man’s eyes softened, and he cleared his throat. “Despite arguments or protestations, you all always did what you felt was right and stood up for all of your own actions and beliefs. That’s what makes you fighters – and that’s what makes you heroes.
“I’ll be the first to admit and to tell you that being a hero isn’t easy. Through the glory, fame, and attention, you get to experience those amazing feelings as a result of saving someone’s life. Everyday another person gets to keep living because of you. But it takes a lot of sacrifice on your part as well. You see things that normal people shouldn’t have to. You lose friends, family, and those you love. You lose the ability to lend out your hearts and trust to just anyone, and sometimes it feels like you lose the ability to be able to function at all. Trauma and grief go hand in hand with being a hero. That’s something that takes a lot to accept. And it takes a lot to get over as well.”
Cable gazed back down at the ground for a few moments before folding his hands behind his back and walking down the line of his team. “Through all this grief and hardship I know that no matter what I can rely on each of you to accept that sacrifice. And because of that, I owe you all everything. You make this cause happen and you keep the spirit in the fight. Never could I set that same amount of faith and appreciation in anyone else.” He stopped in front of Terry and stared down at her. “And you should take no shame in what you do. Despite what anyone else in this business may have to say about this team, you guys make this world a better place and that’s what matters.”
The red head looked up at him with blank, cold eyes. “But that doesn’t bring him back now, does it?”
“No, it doesn’t,” Nate shook his head. “Believe me when I say that if I had the power to change that I’d do anything to make it happen.”
“I know that, Nate,” she replied. “But that doesn’t…”
Sam placed an arm on her shoulder. “We’d all change it if we could.”
She did not look at him and she did not reply. Blue eyes just moved back to Jimmy’s body and stayed there. Sam frowned and cleared his throat. “When Ah first met Jimmy he was kinda arrogant. But he always fought foah what he thought was right – and even if at the time it was against everything that the New Mutants stood foah – Ah still admired that fact about him. And that quality never changed about him even now all these years later. The whole time we were fightin’ HYDRA he wanted tah make things right and take them down. It’s horrible how this ended, but he fought with all the courage and will that he had. And foah that Ah’ll always remember him as one of the most heroic this team had tah offer.”
Roberto nodded. “Known the guy a long time, and he was someone I can definitely say I would trust having my back no questions asked. We’d goof off and have fun on missions, but that would never stop him from making sure he got his job done.”
Cable smiled fondly at the two boys, and continued his walk down the line until he stopped in front of the other half of the team. “Anything you guys want to add?”
Ric shrugged. “The guy could be such an asshole…”
“Rictor,” Domino warned.
The Mexican smiled a little. “We all are – but Jimmy and me were kinda stuck in the middle of this ongoing war with each other. Always pranking and messing each other up, you know? That guy…he would never quit. As soon as I thought I had the bastard good he would come back and one up me every time.” He pushed nose length hair from his face and stared up at the platform. “Even though I’d wake up with shaving cream on my face, ice down my pants, and half my hair cut off…I’d still say the guy was cool shit. A bastard, but awesome. And to go down fighting and doing what needed to be done is the way he would’ve wanted to go out.”
Shatterstar nodded. “He was the first person I befriended on this team. His honour, strength, and will made him an exceptional warrior. This unit will not be the same without him.”
“Seconded,” Domino cleared her throat from next to the Mojoworlder. “Physical skills aside, the guy always had a pretty eager attitude even when he was moody. It made fighting with him and living with him a pleasant experience.”
Cable looked at Tabby, who just pushed wet tears from her face. “I’ll miss him. That big jerk. He did what was right, yeah, but…” she wiped her cheeks again and folded her arms. “I’ll miss him.”
Nate nodded and looked back at Terry one more time. The redhead did not remove her gaze from the platform. She did not move the hair blown across her face with the sudden breeze, and she did not acknowledge the rest of the team watching her. She was completely closed off, that much Roberto could tell from his place next to her. He knew exactly how she felt, and saying words of praise was not going to help her right then.
Cable cleared his throat and returned to his spot in front of the team. “This isn’t going to be easy. But all we can do at this point is keep Jimmy – and Dani, Amara, and Maria – in our thoughts and memories and use them as motivation to continue forward. There’s a lot ahead of us still, and each of those people would’ve wanted us to strive to go on. And hopefully we won’t have to resort to anyone else being only a memory.”
“No, we won’t let that happen,” Sam spoke up.
Cable nodded. “We’ll try our best.”
Terry finally moved her gaze back to their mentor. “Sometimes, Nate, our best is nae enough.”
She just shook her head before lifting off into the air and flying back toward the hotel. The rest of the team watched her awkwardly for a few moments, and no one said a word.
Go to Part Two.