DISCLAIMER: None of these characters are mine, and I am not making any money from their use. The story is mine, do not archive it without my permission. WARNING: Non-explicit foreplay, sexual references, smooching, unrepentant adultery, theft, Stryfe references, an adolescent well under the age of consent experiencing sexual attraction, cynicism, some plot devices, Summers angst, reference to Jean Grey as Cable's stepmother, drug addiction and use (caffiene), medium swearing, run-on sentences and smart-arse comments.

WARNING 2: This story is nowhere near as exciting as the first warning makes it look.

CONTINUITY: This is set after my other story, 'Faux Pas', which was a rather extended romance between Gambit and Courier. (However, although Remy's relationship status is vaguely mentioned in the story, who it's with isn't because the other characters don't know. So no, there's nothing like Slash here.) It has very little to do with that story, I just wanted to point out where Belladonna grabbed me and wouldn't let go.


Small World
By Diamonde


It was nice, for early morning. Birds were tweeting. There was sunshine happening. Remy looked down at his coffee and sighed a sigh of contentment. He'd had sex, good sex and lots of it, and now he had coffee and quiet. Life was good.

Footsteps interrupted his half-meditative state and Cable walked in. Remy flinched automatically, but Cable utterly ignored him and went for the coffee pot. It was empty. Frowning, he reached for the jar and opened it expectantly. Remy winced and tried to think of a way to shuffle away without seeming to, because he knew it was empty.

Taking a deep breath, Nathan looked in the cupboard, then shut it and turned around. "Where's the coffee?"

"None left?" Remy was feeling very vulnerable standing there in just his boxers.

The Askani'son nodded and smiled and held out his hand. "Give it to me."

"No." Vulnerable he might feel, but his coffee was his coffee. It'd just cooled down to the temperature he liked.

"You know Stryfe? My crazy clone who will kill or take over a small European nation at the drop of a hat? Mad as a march hare?" Cable had stopped smiling, now he just looked understanding.

"Yeah?"

"Stryfe doesn't drink coffee."

Remy blinked. It had been said so calmly, with a perfectly straight face. ".... Here."

"Wise choice." Cable took the coffee cup out of Remy's unresisting hand and sipped contentedly.

Five minutes later Jean padded in to find Remy looking mournful and Nathan looking smug. Knowing possible help when he saw it, Remy turned his best kicked puppy eyes on her. "He took my coffee."

Jean sighed and tapped her foot. "Nathan? Did you use the Stryfe threat on him?"

"Not exactly." Nathan pulled himself up to sit on the bench and continued savouring the last cup of coffee in the house, swinging his feet happily.

"Nate, we talked about this."

"Hey, he can just put some pants on and go buy more if he wants some."

"And you couldn't because?"

Blue-grey eyes blinked at her innocently. "My legs are just painted on, mommy."

"No, he's just a big bully. And I don't WANT to put pants on." Remy folded his arms across his bare chest firmly.

Jean sat down at the table and burried her head quietly in her hands.

"You NEVER want to put pants on. I'm surprised you bother getting dressed at all."

"Ooh, catty." Remy decided that the only way to fight that was camp it up. Cable hated that. "You just jealous." He grinned. "Bitch."

Cable covered his eyes with one hand. "Oh no. Jean, he's going all Chris Tucker on me again..."

"Chris TUCKER? Oh no. White trailer trash all the way!" He tried to fluff his hair up as best he could with his fingers. "Y' stole mah coffee. You gotta PAY."

"Take it on Springer, boys. It's too damn early for me." Jean sighed. "Remy? Weren't you going to get more coffee?"

"No?"

"Please?"

"No." Remy waited for Cable to take a mouthful of coffee, then leaned down and kissed Jean firmly on the mouth. "Have a good morning, Jean."

Jean shut her eyes and winced a little through the smile as the sounds of coughing and spluttering came from her left. "Gee, thanks."

"Y'welcome." Remy padded off. There wasn't any quiet in there anymore, maybe he should go back to his room and cuddle up to the telephone instead.


Cable mournfully sucked the salvagable drops of coffee off his wrist. "He did that on purpose."

"Yes he did." Jean yawned and rubbed at her hair. "Remarkably good mood, wouldn't you say?"

Cable snorted. "I'd say he got laid."

"Me too." Jean grinned. "Isn't it cute?"

"Not really." Cable stretched his toes thoughtfully. "Hopefully it'll calm him down though. He's been a bitch for the last week."

"You're been a jerk for the last month, you can't complain." Standing up and moving to the bench so she could pat her almost-son affectionately on the knee, Jean smiled. "Maybe you should follow his example?"

"Me?" Cable shook his head. "Sex is the least of my problems."

#Exactly.# Jean prodded telepathically. #You're trying to shut yourself off again, Nathan. Do you realise the only people you actually have anything resembling a human interaction with are me and Remy? And Remy only because you two work out your thwarted agression by harassing each other.#

#Redd?#

#Yes?#

#Back off.# Cable put the empty cup down and slid silently back to the floor. "I'm going out to find some more coffee and some breakfast. Coming?"

"Nope. Just bring some back with you." Jean sighed. "I think I'm going back to bed."

"Probably a good idea. You look like you could use more sleep." Nathan squeezed her hand gently as they walked back upstairs, reassuring them both that nobody was angry, then went to get dressed.

But the thought wouldn't leave. Jean hadn't exactly been _wrong_, had she? But she didn't know everything, either. For a start, she didn't know just how accustomed Cable was to being alone. Or how much easier it made so many things. He'd spent years that way, not really coming close to anyone else. Celibate years too, sex had never really crossed his mind. Well, except in dreams. Not nice dreams though, or at least not nice wakings. Because back then it had all been about Aliya, and how she wasn't there anymore... Except somehow he'd got distracted along the way and things had changed. He'd gone right through the cold and the loss and come out the other side as someone else. Cable had come out, and sometimes Cable wondered if Nathan Daysrping was still lost in there somewhere, screaming into blackness that stole the sound away before you could hear it and numbed you until you didn't even know that you'd tried.

He didn't want to go back there again. But it was so much easier to let go than to hold on, holding on hurt. Especially since all of a sudden there didn't seem to be much to hold on _to_. Except Jean. Jean cried on him and begged him not to go, even though she didn't know why. But he couldn't help wondering... mightn't she be better off if he did?

_No. Not now, anyway._ Nathan shook off the mildly morbid train of thought, drawing his attention back to the short-term and easily resolved. He was hungry and he wanted caffiene, so he'd go out and get some. Simple.

And if the coffee was good, he'd be able to resist the temptation to throw his mind open to the people of Salem Center and let their thoughts drown out his own. That was much less healthy than coffee.


The sun was bright and warm, and it was shaping up to be a beautiful day. Cable claimed a chair under a shade umbrella and a tree and slid his sunglasses back down onto his nose before flicking open the scientific journal he'd borrowed-without-asking from Beast. After the first three paragraphs of the article on mutant metabolism rates he borrowed a pen from a waiter and began helpfully writing corrections in the margins.

He was pointing out that with with energy usages quoted, allowing for air resistance, gravity, his weight and how fit the two of them had been at twenty-four, Stryfe would have passed out after only the second or third time he'd playfully bounced Cable off the ground instead of continuing until he was hit from behind and still having enough oomph left to kill seven of the Clan Chosen at a range of thirty feet when he was interrupted.

"Cable, right?"

Blinking, Nathan looked up into interested blue eyes. "Excuse me?" He looked her over quickly. She looked normal enough unless you were paying attention, but Nathan knew that that level of strength and fitness didn't come with with absolutely silent movement and the confidence of restrained power in normal people. And her mental shields were as tight as any X-Man's except perhaps his own.

"I said: Cable, right?" She smiled faintly. "Yes, definitely. Mind if I sit down?"

"Do I know you?" The whole thing was almost surreal.

The blonde woman sighed. "You don't remember me, do you."

Well, she seemed to be the type person he would know, but she also looked like the kind of woman he'd remember. And how the hell did she know who he was? "I think you have the wrong person."

She frowned at him a moment, giving him the same careful scrutiny he'd given her. "No, I don't think so. Nathan, isn't it? I'm Belladonna."

He blinked. Now that rang a bell. A loud one. "Gambit's wife. I didn't think we'd met."

"Oh, we have." In the absence of an answer, Belladonna sat down anyway. "But I don't really blame you for not remembering. It was a while ago, back when you were running the Wild Pack as a mercenary."

"Oh." He did remember a rather delicate meeting with several assassins he'd thought belonged to the Guild, but since they had been very tactfully telling him that if the Pack took the job they'd been offered they would regretably have to be killed, it hadn't seemed politic to ask. And those had all been men as far as he could recall...

Belladonna smiled. "But that's not really important, is it. Except that you'll understand why I need to ask what I'm asking."

"You haven't asked anything yet. And since on the last few occasions you've shown up you've tried to kill teammates of mine, why should I answer?"

"The last time I saw you you were standing next to Robert Kelly, and the time before that you were shooting Charles Xavier on national television. There's always a story, but it's usually not anybody else's business." Belladonna rested her chin in her hand, calculating eyes undermining the winsome expression. "I just want to ask a question and get an honest answer, not dig up the past. This is business. And unlike the rest of them, I think you'll understand that."

"Fine. Ask your question. I make no guarantees as to the answer, though."

Belladonna nodded. "Can you give me your assurance that the X-Men have no intention to attempt to interfere with the internal or external workings of the Guild? Having a leader who is also an X-Man is a rather delicate situation, and I need to be able to assure my family that none of you will use that to manipulate him or us, or restict our workings."

"I see." Cable sipped his coffee. "Are you here in an official capacity as leader of the assassins or personally?"

"A little of both. This is an unofficial visit, but as leader of the assassins I need to know. Because if there is such a risk, it is my responsibilty to remove Remy from his current position. I'd rather not have to do that, so I'm asking."

"Because Gambit can't ask, or even admit the possibility."

"Exactly."

As befitted the question, he thought about it for a few minutes. And Belladonna herself. Her shields were good, but althought he couldn't read her conscious thoughts he could still detect her basic emotional state. She seemed genuinely concerned and businesslike, but also something else. Almost delight, but she was making an effort to hide it. "Were you really looking for me in particular?"

"No, actually. But once I saw you over here I realised that you were a particularly good choice. Because you understand my position, and you don't like Remy and so are unlikely to cover for him."

"True. No, the X-Men are unlikely to attempt to interfere with the Guild in any way. Gambit keeps both roles very seperate, so even if anyone tried they'd more than likely just piss him off and get the opposite result. Anyway, most of us realise that certain... family things need to be kept private." Cable paused. "Now I have a question."

"Ask away."

"Are you sleeping with him?"

Belladonna blinked, shock rippling across her mind. "No, of course not. Why on earth would you ask that?"

"Because I want to be certain that you can't manipulate him either."

"Fair enough..." She paused frowing. "But what gave you that idea?"

Cable shrugged. "He's been floating around in post-coital happiness for nearly a week now. It's starting to get on my nerves."

"Oh that. Yes, I can sympathise. I keep wanting to slap him." Belladonna drummed her fingers on the table. "So it's not me and it's obviously not you, so who is it?"

Cable unexpectedly grinned. "Still interested for the good of the Guild?"

Belladonna smiled back, mischief evident in every line. "No, my own curiousity. Any ideas?"

"Nobody here."

"Nobody at my end, either. He's not that stupid. I was assuming that it was Rogue."

"No."

"I think I'm a bit disappointed. Then I could have been smug in the knowledge that there would have been lots of guilt and fighting and angst, but if it's someone else that means that he actually has a life and I don't." Belladonna frowned. "How embarrassing. If someone's going to be having an adulterous realtionship in this marriage, I feel that it really should be me."

Something in her expression told Cable that Belladonna had in the last twenty seconds figured out exactly what her husband was up to and simply wasn't inclined to share. "When did we meet before, Belladonna?"

"Well, we weren't properly introduced. And 'Belle' is fine. You were just having a brief discussion with my father and two of my cousins, and I was watching. You did say hello to me. I'm not surprised you don't recognise me though, I've changed a bit since then." She grinned. "I was twelve, after all."

Cable sighed. "Okay, now I feel old. I walked right into that."

"You did."

"And you remember that long ago?"

"Perfectly. It was a defining moment in my adolescence. I was happily wandering along being a little girl and thinking boys were icky, then suddenly this incredibly tall, muscular man walked into my field of vision and I suddenly thought 'oooh, I want that'. It was rather disturbing." She grinned again at his surprise. "You know, you haven't asked my where my accent went yet."

"I assumed that you left it back in Louisiana, because being blonde and female people think you're stupid already." Cable felt oddly better. He was being flirted with. By Gambit's wife. He had wanted a distraction, after all...

"Ooh, you're good at this." Belladonna laughed softly. "Okay, what colour underwear am I wearing?"

"There my genius fails." His libido happily presented several interesting guesses, though.

Belladonna smiled gently and tilted her head to one side. "Want to find out?"

Through great effort of will, Cable managed not to embarrassingly spit coffee all over the table.

Laughing again, Belladonna stood up. "It's been a while since you got propositioned, hasn't it?"

"By someone who came up to me to ask if I had any plans to manipulate her husband, yes."

"You must admit, it was an original icebreaker. Let me help you out, here..." She leaned in a little and spoke softly. "You get up, put one foot in front of the other and follow me to the hotel around the corner. Then I think we can make it up as we go along."

For several reasons he didn't understand and quite a few more that he did, Cable stood up and followed her. She walked along with casual innocence, looking for all the world as if she was heading to a little church volounteer work, not a hotel with a man she'd known for about fifteen minutes. Total over thirteen or so years.

"If you start skipping I'm going to laugh, and it'll just ruin the image." He already wanted to laugh, at both of them. It felt nice.

"If I skip, _I'll_ laugh." Belle grinned and turned the corner. "And then people will notice us and go 'oh look, aren't they a sweet couple', and I don't want them to do that. I got sick of being half of a sweet couple quite a few years ago."

"I don't think we could be a sweet couple if we tried." He didn't mention the faint bitterness in her voice. It was from years of conflict and trouble, not anything that he had a right to mention.

"And we're not going to try." Belle walked into the lobby of the small hotel and made a beeline for the stairs, good humour returning quickly. "I knew planning to stay the night would be handy."

"I knew there was a reason I was glad my stepmother didn't come to breakfast," Cable replied, completely deadpan.

"There we are. Fate."

Nathan didn't mention that his stepmother probably hadn't come with him because he'd disagreed with her when she'd told him that a good screwing was exactly what he needed, but privately decided that if it was fated then Fate loved saying 'I told you so'. Instead he just followed her into the plain, impersonal room and pushed the door shut behind them.

If it had been a scene in a movie the cameras would have shown a view of the closed door, maybe some curtains blowing. When you're actually standing there yourself, it's completely different. It wasn't that Nathan was at all uncertain or nervous, although it didn't seem to be a result of his recent withdrawn apathy. Instead he was curious and a little intruiged. He didn't know very much about Belladonna, including how to spell her surname, but it really didn't seem to matter.

"Red."

"Red what?" Belladonna slid her arms around his waist and looked up questioningly.

"You asked me what colour, and I'm guessing. Red."

"What makes you say that?"

"Something some woman told me once about the psychology of red shoes. You're not wearing red shoes, but you did proposition me, so I'm guessing red underwear."

Belladonna looked thoughtful. "Okay, that seems like a good guess. Want to know if you're right?"

Cable grinned. "Just to see if I'm right." But he stayed looking at her face while he slid the zipper down her back then stroked the bared skin gently with his right hand, undoing the hooks of the bra without ever seeing it.

"Nathan?" Belladonna pulled her hands back and slid them under the edge of his shirt to rest on his hips.

"Mm?"

"You're hiding something from me."

He blinked and frowned. "What?"

"I'm a telepath too. Did you know that?"

"No."

"Well, I am. And I know that you don't want me to see something, so you're not letting me. And that really seems like a waste of effort, wouldn't you think?" She didn't look away either, but inched her right hand higher instead. "Because, if I recall my X-Men literature correctly, all this right here should be metal. Am I wrong?"

"No. Some people just... find it disturbing."

"My family got unpredictable powers by drinking a potion that glows in the dark that they bought from a whore in tacky armour. I nearly died fighting aliens that wanted to use us as a warm place to grow their eggs. I like b-grade science fiction. Show me disurbing."

Nathan sighed and pulled the t-shirt over his head, letting the telepathic illusion fade as he tossed it aside. In about the last reaction he would have expected, Belle's eyes lit up and she slid her hand over the metal of chest and arm with a smile.

"Well, colour me fascinated," she said softly, continuing her exploration. "Do... how much do you feel?"

"Not much. Pressure a little, no temperature or texture. I can tell that you're touching me, that's about all."

"What about here?" She slid her index finger down the line where flesh met metal.

Nathan shivered. "That feels... strange."

"Good strange or bad strange?"

"Ticklish strange."

She pulled her hand back with a grin. "Oh, you know something else?"

"What?"

Belladonna took a step back and slid out of the dress with a wink. "Good guess with red."

Nathan laughed and took the step back, leaning down to kiss her. For a moment it felt strange, Belle was several inches below what he'd come to consider average kissing distance and something of an unknown quantity. But once the kiss got started, there was no stopping it. The world narrowed down, the joking quality disappeared. Nathan could feel red satin crushed against his chest and didn't know whether it was because of his hands on her back or her arms around his neck, while the teasing tongue against his own seemed to steal the oxygen right out of his lungs.

There was little finesse and no real affection as they broke apart, panting, to scramble out of the rest of their clothes then came back together with a little more violence than was strictly necessary. But there was possessiveness and genuine lust and the same good-humoured honesty about it. And, Nathan reflected as Belladonna's fascination with the difference between the TO and the rest of his chest continued rather distractingly, all day.

Even with every muscle toned to perfect combat readiness, Belle was light and easy to carry the few steps across to the bed. Then there could be more kissing and he wouldn't need to lean down so far. Belle finished his thought with her action and a grin, wriggling backwards and pulling him after her.

Cable smiled to himself mentally at the blend of new and familiar. The feel of tense muscle and restrained strength under his fingers, that he knew and loved from when he'd been a teenager, long years before. Fraility nad never really been attractive as far as he was concerned.

The perfume, on the other hand, was a new one on him. He stopped kissing her to smell it better, surprised at how much he'd missed being able to. Jean didn't wear perfume any more, and he coubted any other X-Women would appreciate being randomly sniffed. Anyway, it wouldn't be the same.

Of course, the problem with perfume-sniffing was that you so quickly got distracted by neck. There he discovered another difference... Belladonna had quite possibly the most sensitive neck he'd ever come across. Pulling one of the short braids of hair over her shoulder (blonde, another difference), he brushed the end gently against her skin. She squirmed, and Nathan laughed softly. Then tried it again.

"Tease." Belle grabbed his hand and gently pulled her hair out of his grip.

"You say that like there's something wrong with it."

* * *

Nathan's eyes slid across the room from sheer habit, then he blinked and frowned. "Is it really three o'clock?"

"Apparently." Belle sighed. "This is the 'sorry, but I was supposed to leave an hour ago' moment, isn't it."

"I wasn't supposed to do anything, but I did say that I was just going out for breakfast at seven." And he'd said he'd buy coffee and bring it back. Oops. There was probably a houseful of surly people on Graymalkin lane.

"Hmm." Belladonna drummed her fingers on the metalic side of his chest thoughtfully.

"I'm not a table, you know."

"Oh, I'd eat off you." Belladonna replied reassuringly. "I was just thinking. But I suppose you probably should go."

"Yes."

She coughed. "Well, if you're ever in New Orleans..."

Despite what Stryfe might say about Blaquesmith or Blaquesmith might say about Domino or Domino might say about everyone, Nathan Christopher Charles Askani'son Dayspring Summers was nobody's fool. And he wasn't utterly blind, either. "How's next Wednesday for you?"

Belle grinned cheerfully. "Not as good as next Monday."



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