Damned Time and Dammed Time

by Dyce

Disclaimer: Neither Destiny nor the crazy man are mine, they belong to Marvel. I just made him a little MORE crazy, that's all. <*g*> I'm not making any profit from their use, though, so I think I'll be all right. Marvel's characters belong to Marvel, and I do not have permission to use them. Michael, Alanna, and LeeLee belong to their respective parents, and me. This story is a sequel to the Rising Sun series.


"You're starting to worry me now."

That was Destiny talking. Irene Adler, deceased. Fortunately, the man currently occupied with making shadow-pictures on the wall beside him was no longer in any mental state to differentiate between the living and the dead, and certainly wasn't going to let a piddly little thing like an altered life-state get in the way of a good conversation. "To be perfectly honest, Irene, I'm starting to worry myself." He wiggled the bunny's ears playfully. "Does this really look like a rabbit to you?"

"Sort of." Destiny gave him a distinctly - well, not a distinct, since being a ghost she was permanently out of focus, but a very worried look. "But this is odd, even for you."

"I know. But it's fun. I haven't," he observed mournfully, "had a lot of fun in my life, Irene. I never got to do all of those delightful little-boy things like tearing my trousers and wheedling an extra bowl of icecream."

"I know. But usually that sends you into mad-revenge mode, not shadow-puppet-making." Irene looked critically at the current picture. "Try tucking your middle finger under, the dog's nose is a little too pointed."

He did so. "It occurs to me, Destiny dear, that I'm a little madder than usual. Not so's anyone would notice, but I really do think I am. Do you think I am?"

"I think you're a great deal madder than usual, and that's saying a lot." She shook her head. "It must be the alterations to the timeline that's doing it."

"Yes, I thought so," he agreed. "I mean, the fact that I remember dying five separate times is hardly cause for alarm. Jean Grey, for example, will top that record at any time. But it does strike me as being just a little worrying that as far as I can remember, they were all the *same* time. Well, the same incident, anyway. Is that strange?"

"Stryfe, this is *you*. Strange would be if you *weren't* strange." Irene gazed assessingly at the self-styled Chaos-Lord. "But yes, I think that's a bit stranger than usual."

"Yes, I thought so too." Stryfe smiled a slightly deranged smile and made a shadow-picture of a cow. "It's very interesting, though, my death. You see, the first time I remember, I killed Cable while he was killing Apocolypse while he was killing me. Then the next time I killed Apocolypse first, but then he killed Cable and Cable killed me, so that didn't change anything. Of course, I wasn't aware at the time that I was trying to change anything, so perhaps that's why it didn't work." The cow metamorphosed into a squirrel. "Then the third time I had an incredible sense of déjà vu, so I tried to run away and let them kill each other."

"What happened that time?" Irene asked with a certain morbid fascination.

"Apocolypse mortally wounded Cable with his last breath, then fell on me. He was very big at the time. I left a very disgusting looking corpse that time."


"Then the fourth time I killed Cable after he killed Apocolypse but before he killed me, but then that horrible little Professor thing of his shot me so I died anyway." Stryfe put his feet up on the table and stared contemplatively at his big toe through a hole in his sock. "Then the fifth time I had really really *strong* déjà vu. I was very sneaky that time. I killed everyone ELSE in the vicinity first so that Apocolypse wouldn't have anyone's body to jump into."

"That was a good move. Did it work?" She knew already, of course, but it seemed polite to ask.

Stryfe gave her a dirty look. "If it HAD, I wouldn't be going around AGAIN, now would I? No, I miscalculated. His reach extended further than I thought. Delayed his ascension by nearly a year, but that didn't help much in the long run." He wiggled his toes and sighed. "You say this is theˇ¦ seventeenth time around?"

"Eighteenth. You don't remember permutations one through twelve, because then you still had at least a rather tenuous grip on the timestreamˇ¦ not to mention your sanity." Time was Destiny's speciality. When she was alive she'd known it like a comfortable pair of old socks, and now that she was dead was getting rather put out by the way people kept shifting the metaphorical darns. "Every time around you and Cable make enough changes to alter the course of time, but not enough to get yourselves out of the loop. So you come back from the future again, make a brief impression on the world again, and kill each other and Apocolypse again, but not quite well enough that he fails to make the jump into a new body. So he takes over, you're cloned, and the whole thing starts all over again."

"And this is the eighteenth time I've been here? And I still haven't put any curtains on the windows?" Stryfe shook his head sadly. "I'm a terrible housekeeper, Irene."

"Up until now, I don't think you'd even noticed that you HAD windows."

Stryfe frowned, thinking back over the five previous lifetimes that he vaguely remembered. "You know, you may be right. Huh." He shrugged, and went back to his shadow-pictures. "You know there's one thing that bothers me about all this."

"Only one?" Irene gave him a dubious look.

"Wellˇ¦ the constant looping has driven me quite mad, don't you agree?" He smiled brightly.

"No argument from me." The really terrifying thing, Irene thought, was that he KNEW he was mad. Not the ordinary psychopathic-chaos-mongering-self-obsessed-viciousness that he usually had, either, but an utterly deranged mad-hatter-pushing-the-dormouse-into-the-teapot-and-buttering-his-watch sort of insanity that didn't kill people just because it was fun, but because half the time it hadn't even noticed them and the other half thought they weren't really there.

He'd been like this for the last three permutations, of course, but now it was so bad that even HE'D noticed it.

"Well, it just strikes me as strange, you know?" Stryfe poked a finger through the hole in his sock, and waggled it a little. "I mean, here I am as crazy as a loon, and Cable hasn't even noticed yet."

"Cable never notices ANYTHING." Destiny pointed out with a certain amount of justification. "He's so obsessive that nothing can filter through."

"That's true." Stryfe nodded gravely. "That is very true. Irene, you're a very observant woman."

Irene sidled a little further away, just in case. She didn't THINK he could hurt dead people, but right now you just never knew. "Thanks."

"You're welcome, and don't you worry about a thing." He smiled a gentle, kindly, and utterly mad smile. "I have a Plan."

End Prologue


Chapter One


Angelo winced, shuffling as much spare skin as he could up into his hand for padding. "I'm sorry, amante," he said humbly.

"No you're not!" Jubilee glared at him. "You WANTED another kid!!"

"So did you," he defended himself.

Jubilee's eyes filled with tears. "But it HURTS!!"

"I know it does, sweetheart." Angelo kissed his wife's forehead tenderly, stroking her cheek. "I'm proud of you." Now, while she's distracted... remember everything you've learned over the last nine years. Carefully disassociate the finger-bones... eaaaase them down the fingers... safe into the arm... "OWWWWW!"

Jubilee, in the grip of another contraction, and thus gripping quite hard on his hand, merely screamed right over the top of him.

Outside, three year old Alanna listened in alarm. "Mama's screaming at Papa!"

Michael, at seven infinitely older and wiser than a mere three, patted her shoulder comfortingly. "That's just because she's having a baby. They always scream a lot."

"Oh." Alanna decided to be comforted. If Michael said it was all right, then it most likely was. Michael was clever. "Did she scream when I got born?"

"No. She had a ces... Caeserian then," Michael explained. "That's when a baby can't get born the ordinary way, so they operate on the Mama's tummy and take the baby out that way." He considered it. "But Papa says she screamed when *I* was born, and I know Aunty Jean did when Rachel and Chris were born, and Aunty Cece did when Nora was born, so it's pretty normal."

Alanna brightened. "Was I the only one who got see... siezeranned?" Her brother nodded, and she beamed. That meant it was SPECIAL, then.

"Hey, 'Lanna, Michael, you're not supposed to be out here!" Uncle Bobby scooped Alanna up under one arm, and shooed Michael towards the door. "Your mom's gonna be screaming her head off any second."

"She already did." Alanna informed him. "But Michael says it's normal."

"Well... I still don't think you should be listening." Bobby herded them into the elevator. "Let's go and... I know, we'll have some icecream to celebrate your new brother or sister."

"Okay!" Alanna never said no to icecream.

"All right." Michael, although quite capable of resisting icecream at inappropriate times, such as before dinner, or in the middle of the night, accepted the reasonable nature of celebratory treats. "But Alanna isn't allowed to have Rocky Road, because it makes her sick."

"Uh... okay..." Bobby sighed. Much as he hated to admit it, Jubilee's oldest child made him just a little nervous. Not because of the sentinel- father thing, THAT was perfectly all right with Bobby, he knew all about less-than-perfect fathers. He didn't think that he'd turned out anything like his own father, and didn't see any reason why Michael should.

No, the reason Michael made his nonetheless fond uncle nervous was because he just didn't, to Bobby's mind, ACT like a kid. He never had. He'd been a solemn, well-behaved baby, a solemn, well-behaved toddler, and a quiet, intelligent child who was still not only well behaved, but... well...solemn. It wasn't normal. Everything ELSE about Michael was normal - he liked icecream more than he liked spinach, he preferred Grandpa's Harley to Mama's sedan, and he absolutely refused to wear Barney overalls - but something had been... misplaced, and Bobby suspected it was the elusive quality known as childhood. Michael had, at three, wanted to be a policeman. Not because the car had a flashing light, but because 'that's how people without mutant powers be heroes and catch bad people'. And you couldn't shorten his name. No matter how hard several of his aunts and uncles had tried, Michael could not be called Mike, Mikey, or any other variation thereof. It just wasn't possible.

Marrow called him Short'n'Ugly, of course, but that was different.

None of this should be taken to mean that Bobby didn't adore his 'nephew',which of course he did. He just, with a perceptiveness unusual in most adults but common in Bobby Drake, realised that Michael had simply been born thirty-five, and would stay there for the foreseeable future. This put him at six years older than Bobby himself, and this was also unlikely to change.

And that, understandably, made Bobby a little nervous.

"C'mon, kids," he said now, towing them out of the elevator. "There's a carton of Mocha Fudge calling our names."

Alanna beamed.

Michael sighed, and made a mental note to buy Aunt Rogue another carton of icecream before she noticed it was gone.

* * *

"I've changed my mind," Irene said, without much hope. "I don't want to know what the Plan is."

"Don't be silly, of course you do." Stryfe (in full armour) was working his way through a 'Learn To Dance in Five Easy Lessons And Two Hard Ones' videohe'd found somewhere. Watching him try to shimmy had, so far, been the highlight of Irene's death. "It's a brilliant Plan."

"Okay. Fine. Tell me." Irene rested the memory of her chin on the memory of her hand. "What's your Master Plan, that will allow you to defeat Cable and Apocolypse and finally triumph, bringing joyous anarchy and free 'net-time to the world?"

"Guess." He eyed her cunningly.

"I'd much rather not." Irene braced herself for what she just *knew* was coming. "Dazzle me with your brilliance."

Stryfe executed a rather clumsy two-step, and beamed at her. "I'm going to clone myself a sidekick."

Irene moaned in utter despair. "I knew it."

* * *

Jubilee sighed, weary but happy, as she lay cuddling the tiny, sticky body of her newborn son. "Hi, sweetpea," she whispered. "I'm your mama. That's right, I am." The baby burbled softly, already half asleep. His mother smiled and kissed one closely furled fist.

Angelo hovered, gloating over his wife and child like a miser over his greatest treasure. He would never get tired of this moment, if he saw it a hundred times. Jubilee's soft smile, the enchantment in her eyes, and their tiny, wrinkled, beautiful baby nestled in her arms. His eyes were a lighter blue than his brother's and sister's had been. They would stay blue, he was sure. Just like his mother's. "He's beautiful," he murmured softly.

"They always are." His wife - the thrill would never go out of that phrase - gazed adoringly up at him. "Our babies... they grow up so fast, I forget how tiny they are when they're born."

"Yeah." Angelo took careful hold of the small fist. "Hi, Logan."

Jubilee looked up at him, her smile brightening. "Really?"

"Sure." Angelo smiled goofily as his son's tiny fingers closed around one of his. "That's what you wanted to call him, isn't it?"

"Logan," she whispered tenderly, touching the small cheek. "Logan Henry Espinosa."

"Sounds good." Angelo touched the small cheek one more time, then smiled and straightened up. "I'll go get the other kids."

Jubilee nodded. "They'll want to meet him." She chuckled softly. "If I know this place like I used to, they're in the kitchen being stuffed with icecream."

A few minutes later, Angelo herded his two elder children into the room, and had to restrain them from a flying leap onto the bed. "Hey, hey, slow down. No squashing the nino. We've taken the wrapper off now, we can't return him."

Alanna giggled. "Don't be silly, Papa." She clambered onto the bed and gazed at the tiny morsel of humanity in her mother's arms. "He's awful wrinkly," she pronounced critically.

"He's been floating in the amniotic fluid." Angelo explained seriously. "You'd be wrinkly too if you'd been in the bath for nine months straight."

While Alanna giggled at that image, Michael smiled his rare smile, reaching out to touch his brother's tiny hand. "What's his name?" he whispered.

"Logan," Jubilee said softly. "Like grandpa."

Michael considered this. "That's a good name," he decided. "Does he have a middle name?"

"Henry. For Uncle Hank," Angelo said, cuddling his daughter as she inspected the baby closely.

"Logan Henry Espinosa." Michael tried it out. He took thebaby's right hand in his own, and shook it solemnly. "I'm Michael Dimas Lee. I'm your big brother."

"An' I'm 'Lanna Espinosa," Alanna chimed in. "Mama, why is mine and the baby's names different from Michael's?"

"Because Mama and I didn't get married until after Michael was born." Angelo hugged her. "So he has her old name."

Alanna shrugged. That made sense. "Okay." She brightened. "We had icecream!"

* * *

"I wish I'd had parents like that," Stryfe said wistfully.

Irene distrusted Stryfe being wistful. To paraphrase Yoda, wistfulness led to regret, regret led to anger, and anger led to nasty things happening to someone. Ergo, wistfulness, however cute it might be, was bad. She snorted. "Parents like that wouldn't have lasted thirty seconds in your future, and then where would you have been?"

"I think they would have lasted," he disagreed. The he brightened in the hideously frightening way that always made her wish she could still sweat. "Want to send them forward and see?"

"No." Irene shook her head vehemently. "You... uh... can't remove them from the genepool. There aren't enough good-parent genes as it is."

Stryfe considered this, and nodded. "You're right. Good point."

Irene couldn't breathe, but she pretended to heave a sigh of relief anyway. "Thanks."

"In fact..." Stryfe's eyes gleamed again. "I'm going to do something NICE for them."

"Oh God, no."

* * *

"Thirteen... fourteen..." Angelo arranged stuffed toys in a neat row along the foot of Jubilee's bed. The good thing about having a short wife was the oodles of extra footroom. "Fifteen is a hideous stuffed rabbit from Tabitha. You know, I think she still holds a grudge over that time you hit her with your crutch."

"She deserved it. She said bad things about my baby." Jubilee nuzzled the top of baby Logan's head. "Look at him, Angelo. He's so beautiful."

Angelo looked. Small, red-faced, fluff-haired,and utterly perfect. "He's a little angel." Then he blinked. "This one's for me. Huh."

She looked up. "Hm?"

"This." He held up a small grey teddy. "Unless there's something we don't know about our baby, I think 'Best Father in Space and Time' is a little premature for him." He held out a small yellow bear. "You got 'Best Mother'."

"I did?" She took the bear in her spare hand, absently settling her baby more comfortably in the crook of her arm. He cooed softly, half-asleep. She smiled down at him for a moment before she could tear her eyes away to inspect the bear. Sure enough, its little grey t-shirt was emblazoned with the words 'Best Mother in Space and Time'. "Aw, that's so cute! Cable, you think?"

"No, Cable has a two-year-old. He gave us three dozen diapers, a slightly pre-loved orange giraffe, and a half-used Valium prescription."

"LeeLee still hasn't outgrown that manic stage, huh?"

"Current odds have her calming down in time for puberty." Angelo admired his teddy in its little yellow shirt. "I like this. I've never gotten a present when the kids were born before."

"I gave birth to your offspring. It's supposed to be present enough." But she smiled at him, blowing him a kiss as she perched at the other end of the large bed like a slightly ruffled Madonna cradling her child.

* * *

"You wanted to do something... nice." Destiny was definitely feeling her way through this one.

"That's right." Stryfe was cleaning out the fridge. The alleged lunchmeat had progressed through an entire spectrum of mold and had actually turned pink again. He was torn between throwing it away and putting a bit of it in in a petrie dish to see if it would eventually climb out.

"So you decided you would do something nice for these two young parents." Irene watched him pry open a jar, using telekinesis for want of a techno-organic jar-compliant hand.

"Yes I did. I'm branching out. 'Nice' is a field in which I need work. Along with 'sane' and 'reasonable', but those are boring." Was it mayonnaise or spaghetti sauce? If you couldn't tell, he decided, best not to risk it.

"So, instead of giving them money, or foreknowledge of the future you gave them... let me be clear on this... you gave them a pair of matched teddy bears wearing t-shirts saying 'Best Parent in Space and Time'?"

He looked up at her a bit anxiously. "You don't think they liked them? It seemed to be the thing to do. Everyone was giving them stuffed toys."

"Yes, but..." She blinked helplessly. "Best Parent in Space and Time?"

"They are. I've looked." He shrugged. "I even colour-matched the bears to them, did you see? And with little contrasting t-shirts."

"Yes, I saw." It had been one of the more surreal aspects of the whole affair, from where she was sitting. And this was him in his 'saneish' phase. "But... don't you think it was something of a giveaway? I mean, space and time, there aren't THAT many time travelers around, really, at least not ones that can spellˇ¦"

He shrugged. "They won't suspect me. If I'd blown the baby's head off, yes, well, they'd have suspected me right after Bastion, Sinister, Apocolypse, and maybe Belasco. But teddies? Nah. I'm completely above suspicion."

She nodded slowly. That actually made sense. "So... you're not going to do anything horrible to them?"

"I don't know yet." He shrugged. "It depends."

"On what?"

Stryfe gave her his most angelic look, and she watched as the mental scale dipped back into mad-as-a-hatter-land. "Does cloning their baby count as 'horrible'?"

End Part One