This time they were both tossed in a tiny room, empty except for the two mutants. Sinister wasn't underestimating them again--they were both fitted with collars and restraints. Cable examined the cell for any possible avenues of escape, not really expecting any but still driven to check. Peggy sat against the back wall, her knees drawn up to her chest. "You should have just ran," she commented quietly after a few minutes.
"You would be dead," he replied shortly, feeling along the walls for hidden catches.
"So? I haven't been anything but trouble to you anyway. You'd be better off leaving me behind." She sighed and whispered almost inaudibly, "Everybody would."
~Have I done something to deserve this?~ Cable asked silently, suppressing an exasperated sigh. He was not up to dealing with an emotional girl right now. "I don't abandon teammates," he said shortly, shoving aside the flood of memories that followed that statement. Why had he given in so easily? He'd abandoned others before, friends, when it was necessary for his mission. "Besides, Scott would kill me," he continued, seizing on the obvious explanation.
Peggy's mouth twitched upwards at the mention of the X-Men's leader. "I guess... He might be relieved, though."
"What, you think he adopts every stray that falls in his path?" Cable asked, not expecting the bitterness that tinged the statement. Scott had only given him to the Askani to save his life. He knew that. He shouldn't feel the bitterness of a father's abandonment.
"I think he felt guilty. Or sorry for me." Her fingers brushed across the prominent scar across her left cheek. He's probably regretted it ever since. I'm not an X-Man." There were tears glistening in her eyes as she leaned her head back against the wall.
Cable sighed and looked around, but there were no convenient bad guys springing up for him to fight. He had time, and nothing to fill it but talking to her. "There's nothing wrong with not being an X-Man. Not everyone's cut out for this kind of life. Some of us would rather not live this sort of life either."
"But I have to!" she protested, looking at him almost desperately. He'd touched a nerve, it seemed. He expected tears or at least an explanation, but he got neither. She closed her eyes for a moment and pushed away the emotion with an effort he could almost feel. "I'm sorry," she said quietly, reserved and withdrawn once more. "We need to concentrate on finding a way out."
Cable wrinkled his forehead, seeing for the first time a glimpse of the person behind the mask. He hadn't even recognized that there'd been a mask, though he should be familiar enough with his own to recognize others. Perhaps there was more to this girl than he thought.
"There's no way out. We're stuck here, for now." He considered his words carefully, the cynical part of him wondering why he was even bothering. He told that little voice to go flonq itself. "Peggy, I--I have a confession to make. I didn't give you a fair chance when we first met. I was reacting to what you represent, not you."
Peggy regarded him with surprised eyes. "W-what do you mean, what I represent?" she asked.
"Scott's daughter," he replied simply. The words were harder to get out than he thought, and he wondered why he had to choose this particular subject to reassure her on. "The one he chose, the one he--wanted to spend time with, when he sent me away."
"But--but you would've died if he hadn't!"
"I know that," he replied, wry humor tingeing his words. "I know that intellectually, but not in my heart."
"I--" She didn't know quite what to make of his admission, that much was obvious. "I thought Scott wanted me to be more like you. The perfect X-Man."
He snorted. "The perfect X-Man. Oath, that's something I never thought I'd hear myself described as! I'm many things, girl, but 'perfect' and 'X-Man' are not any of them."
"I just wanted him to be proud of me," Peggy admitted quietly. The desperate yearning for approval was something even Cable, not renowned for his emotional astuteness, could recognize. She was fingering that scar again, he noted. There was something significant about it.
He wasn't known for his skill at subtlety either, so he simply asked her, "How did you get that scar on your face?"
She looked up at him with the frightened eyes of a child peering through that self-possessed mask. "My father," she said slowly, "was a member of the Friends of Humanity. When he found out I was a mutant, he--" She stopped, looking away. "He wasn't happy," she finished in a very small voice. "If it wasn't for Scott..."
Her voice trailed off, and understanding dawned on Cable. No wonder she was so attached to Scott. He remembered when one of his few friends as a child had taken in an abused animal from the streets. That thing would follow her to the gates of Hell without hesitation, so strongly had she been imprinted on its mind. Come to think of it, around everyone else it had acted much like Peggy--quiet, unobtrusive, and curling up into a whimpering ball of fur if anyone tried to get in too close. He'd wondered why Scott seemed so taken with this mousy creature, but now he was beginning to understand. That frightened vulnerability was coupled with a quiet strength few could equal, which had allowed her to do as much as she had. She was so determined to do everything perfectly, without letting anyone see how hard it was. ~Who does that remind you of?~ he thought wryly, recognizing the all-too-familiar description.
"I'm no good to anyone," Peggy said dejectedly.
"I wouldn't say that. If it wasn't for you, we wouldn't have escaped in the first place."
"But I'm the reason we got captured again," she pointed out.
"Don't worry; we'll get out of here." He offered her a smile, the expression feeling out of place but strangely good on his face. "What are big brothers for?"
She looked at him, the beginnings of a smile starting to dawn on her face. Unfortunately, that was the moment Sinister decided to re-enter their cell. "I apologize for the delay. I trust the accommodations have been satisfactory?"
"Spare us the good host routine, Sinister," Cable growled. "It doesn't suit you."
"Then let's get down to business, shall we?" the scientist replied, baring his pointed teeth in a grotesque parody of a smile. His odd cape flowed behind him as he walked across the room. Cable stood and blocked his way to Peggy.
"Leave her out of this," he said levelly. "I'm the one you want."
"Indeed, but I have never been one to turn up my nose at a gift. Oh don't worry; I don't plan to harm her... yet. I have a very special experiment in mind for the young Miss Summers."
Peggy returned the man's gaze evenly, Cable noticed with a surge of pride. "After that, she may still serve some purpose," Sinister continued casually. "How do you suppose your fearless leader would react to having his dear daughter returned to him--one piece at a time?"
"You're not touching her!" he growled, springing at the villain. He raised his cuffed hands to club Sinister across the head. Sinister went down heavily. Peggy showed remarkable presence of mind, springing past the two and using the same move to incapacitate the guard before he could call for reinforcements.
"Let's get going!" Cable shouted, grabbing Peggy as he raced out the door. "That won't keep him down for long."
They raced through the corridors, trying to retrace the path they'd been brought along to return to the hangar. Somewhere along the twists and turns, however, they went the wrong way. "Oath!" Cable swore, skidding to a stop on the roof. They'd made it outside, all right, but they wouldn't be going any farther. He looked around the roof for any hint of another way out. It was too far to jump off the top, and he couldn't carry them both down telekinetically even if he had his powers. He used every oath he knew and probably invented some new ones as he evaluated their situation.
"Cable?" Peggy asked.
"What is i--" He stopped short when he turned around to see her standing there with her manacles and inhibitor collar on the ground at her feet. "How did you do that?" he asked in amazement.
She smiled impishly, the person behind the mask showing through once again. "The guard," she explained simply, holding up a ring with several keys attached. He felt a grin start to pull at his mouth. He fought it back and held out his own hands.
"Well, don't just stand there." She quickly unlocked his restraints. "Now if we can just find a way off this roof," he mused.
Cable turned back again to see Peggy in her pegasus form, tossing her head up in impatience. The grin he'd been fighting won out this time. "Oath, girl, you're coming in pretty handy," he admitted, climbing on her back and taking firm hold of the silky white mane.
Peggy's laugh sounded in his mind. *You weren't so bad yourself, big brother.*
By the time Sinister and his men burst out onto the roof, the Summers were already in the air and making top speed back to Westchester.
"For heaven's sake, Scott, will you stop pacing already?!" Warren exclaimed. "The Blackbird's going as fast as it can."
"I know that, and I'm not pacing," Cyclops replied with icy precision.
"There's a hole in the carpet, and he says he's not pacing," Boomer snorted. Scott glared at her, regretting their decision to bring X-Force along, even if Cable was their leader.
*You couldn't have stopped Domino if you tried, Scott,* Jean told him through their link. *And you were pacing.*
*Whose side are you on anyway?* he snarled back.
*Yours,* she replied evenly. *So stop pacing before you drive us all crazy. Ororo's doing the best she can.*
*She didn't have to lock me out of the cockpit.*
Jean smothered a laugh at his petulant tone. *You were making a pest of yourself. Just trust everyone to do the jobs they've trained for. We're lucky Cerebro was able to detect where they were being held at all.*
"So do we actually have a plan for when we do get there?" Domino asked. She seemed to be stretched out lazily in one of the cabin chairs, but her wiry muscles were taunt with anticipation of action.
Scott's eyes were covered by his ruby-quartz visor, but if he'd been able to he would have given her a dirty look. "We go in, we get them out," he said, as if it was the simplest thing in the world.
Domino raised an eyebrow. "That's the plan? Now I see where Nathan gets it from."
Scott's jaw twitched as he fought to restrain his temper. The woman had the same ability as Nathan for pushing his buttons. "In case you forgot, Nathan is being held by Sinister."
"Oh, is that why we're blasting towards his base without a thought in our heads?" she shot back acidly. "Operating like that will just get us killed."
"This isn't one of your mercenary groups, Domino. My d--my children," he corrected, "are being held by an insane scientist. Who knows what could be happening to them?"
"I think I know," Bobby offered, half-raising his hand. Scott ignored him.
"They could be in some lab having experiments run on them! They could be being tortured!"
"Or they could be outside waving," Bobby suggested helpfully.
"Or they could be outside--" Scott stopped in confusion, looking back at Bobby, who pointed to the observation window. Scott's jaw dropped. Cable was perched on Peggy's back just outside the window, waving with an ironic half-smile.
"You know, if Ah didn't know better," Sam said, his eyes wide, "Ah'd swear that horse was grinnin' at us."
"Open the door!" Scott managed to get out. One of the others palmed the control that opened the Blackbird's main hatch. A moment later Pegasus touched down to a graceful landing inside. Once Cable slid off her back, Peggy shifted back to her human form. "Are you all right?" Scott asked.
"Don't worry; we're fine," Cable replied.
"Mm-hmm. Jus' great," Peggy mumbled, her eyes half-closed. Cable reached an arm out to catch her before she fell on the floor. To everyone's surprise, he picked her up and carried her over to an empty chair, setting her down gently.
"Relax, Scott," he said dryly, looking over at the X-Men's fearless leader. "She's just tired. She's had a hard day." He looked uncharacteristically at-ease with his father, putting a hand on the other's shoulder and steering him towards the cockpit. "I'll tell you all about it, but first don't you think we should tell whoever's driving to turn around?"
Hank insisted on checking Peggy out as soon as they returned to the mansion, and by the time she managed to break free of the overly-eager doctor, X-Force had already left. Life being for the X-Men what it was, Peggy didn't have the opportunity to see her brother for a while. The time flew by, and before any of them quite knew what was happening, Scott and Jean were standing at an alter in the backyard saying their vows.
Peggy stood beside the refreshment table at the reception, filling her plate again. She'd just snuck a sausage roll in her mouth when a stern voice asked, "Don't they feed you around here, girl?"
She turned around in surprise, swallowing hastily. "Hello Nathan," she said when she'd recovered. Smiling at his companions, she said, "Hello Sam, Tabitha."
"This food rocks," Tabitha proclaimed, popping another pastry into her mouth. She looked at the pile on Peggy's plate with wide eyes. "Geez, they been starving you or something?"
"Even mah momma'd have a hard time keepin' up with an appetite like that," Sam laughed.
Peggy blushed, then said quietly, "It's not my fault I eat like a horse. Blame Mother Nature."
"The rallying cry of all mutants," Nathan agreed good-naturedly, stacking his own plate with goodies. "Some of us are lucky enough to have a fast metabolism."
Peggy chuckled. "I don't know about you. I carried Scott and Jubilee together and they weren't as heavy as you were, Leadbutt," she teased. Tabitha nearly spit out her punch, and Sam looked worriedly at his leader's face. Peggy cringed at his sternly-impassive expression and suddenly found her toes very fascinating.
Nathan frowned at her retreat back behind the mask and decided it was worth a small sacrifice of his dignity. "Peggy," he said, making her look up. A corner of his mouth twitched upwards slightly. "What is, is." The smile returned to her face. He cleared his throat and looked back over towards the dance floor. "I suppose I need to work off some of the wedding cake, then. Would you care to dance?"
Peggy smiled delightedly, setting her plate down and taking his outstretched hand.
A pair of red-shielded eyes watched them walk out on the dance floor from across the reception. Scott smiled slightly as they started to waltz. At last, they were finally starting to feel like a family.