...And The Years Have Left No Mark
by Alicia McKenzie
DISCLAIMER: Marvel's, not mine. No money, don't sue.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Someone, a considerable amount of time ago, issued an Aging Challenge...I'm afraid I don't know who, nor the exact parameters of the challenge, but I do remember enough to recall that this was started as some sort of response. I don't know what exactly provoked me to sit here and finish this...given that the alternative was to read Hubert Jedin's 'A History of the Council of Trent', maybe that's a no-brainer. Hmm....;) Feedback welcomed, unless you're going to quibble with my science, which is, of course, eminently quibbable. 'Damn it, Jim, I'm a historian, not a physicist!' <EG>
You know what it is? A platitude. . .the short version of an explanation that would inevitably lead to jokes about needing aspirin the size of hockey pucks. 'Time travel does strange things to the aging process'. The X-Men ask me how old I 'really am', and that's what I say. Usually in tandem with a well-rehearsed sardonic smile, the sort of smile that tells them no, they're not getting the whole truth, and they'd better just deal with that.
It's better than the truth. Easier. A few of the people I care about most have this bizarre complex about having been 'robbed' of the time they should have had with me. They're wrong, of course. Time belongs to no one; what little you have, you steal from the universe, which is far too occupied with greater matters of creation and destruction to take any notice of the dances of insects.
Stealing time. . .stolen time. Some are content with a little. . .with one lifetime. Others, like me, practice grand larceny on a daily basis.
I suppose I sound cavalier about it. I'm not, you know. I feel. . .worn. Worn out and worn down. I really need to stop playing with the kids; they're a little too energetic for me, these days. Too fast, too strong. . .of course, I'm not going to tell them that. Some things are constant, and I still have my pride. Appearances to maintain. I lead from the front, like I always have. Like a Clansman does, even if this isn't the Clan of my youth. My youth. . .
Oath, I feel a few centuries old this morning.
Hold on; I AM a few centuries old.
I guess that explains that.
Most of the aches and pains are psychosomatic, I know that. The others are injuries I've gotten recently, that haven't quite healed yet. The new ones heal more slowly, every year. I age in real time, after all, and I've been in this era for a while now.
It's only when I timerip that I can slip through that convenient loophole in the universe, that the energy I travel as can be reconstituted as the body that was mine when I left. It's a neat trick. Handy, too, because somehow, without fail, I ALWAYS come back to the place where I started. No matter how long I'm away. Circles upon circles; the story of my life.
I can timerip from the twentieth century, spend five years in the twenty-sixth and two in the thirty-eighth, and then come back to the twentieth, the very same day I left, and step out of the timestream as the man I was, with only memories left of those seven years.
And the echoes, of course. No matter how complete the 'reconstruction', the body always remembers. So I have the phantom pain, invisible scars, to go along with the memories.
Seems fair, in a way. Why should I escape unscathed? I've interfered in the history of men and women across more years than I like to think about. . .changed the path of whole societies with a well-timed murder, or in better cases, a little help when the going gets tough. I've played judge, jury and executioner for civilization at countless points along the way. . .
How many candles on the birthday cake? More than I like to think about. The good die young, as they say. I like to think that I died somewhere back in the thirty-eighth century. . .maybe sometime not too long after my Clan did. 'That Nathan,' I could say when it's all over and the time comes to pay the final cost. 'Judge that one; look into his heart, not mine.'
Because I know the man I am now, the one who's hanging on to life here to such an extent that he's letting himself get time-locked, letting himself age, is as much of a selfish creature as Apocalypse is. This Nathan's sold himself, piece by piece, century after century, in the futile hope of creating order out of chaos. A different kind of order than the High Lord's, but every bit as hopeless.
Yes, I know I sound depressed. I'm a cranky old man, want to make something of it? Old and cranky and tired of living. . .I don't know how Apocalypse stands it. . .but not ready to give up, not yet.
I see it, occasionally; the glimmer of hope, the faint promise of a different way, a better way. The pieces in my head begin to shift around into a new pattern, the tapestry of time as I see it reshaping itself. I feel my perceptions begin to open up. . .just begin, mind you. The universe is a tease.
Change that works. What a temptation. Reason enough to keep fighting for a while yet. . .
Oath, it's not as if I know how to do anything else, right?
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