Disclaimer: Most of the characters belong to Marvel
Comics, but these versions have been somewhat
modified. The Shadowlands universe is Alicia's
variant. For that matter, the more specific setting is
from her story "Oasis," and the Cable, Domino, and
Franklin are the ones that appear there. Not only do I
have Alicia's permission to write this, she helped me.
:) Other variants, I believe, are ones I introduced.
Amy is an original. Hatshupet, who is mentioned only
without naming in the first part of the story, has
been graciously lent to me by her creator, Redhawk.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
by Persephone

Part 1

Times and universes flickered madly and slid
recklessly into one another along knife-ripped seams
all around, but within Franklin's sphere of influence
was an island of relative peace, or at least

They called it the oasis.

A lone figure walked quietly out of the chaos,
striding within it as if unconcerned by the shifts --
but faltering a little and pausing to look around in
ever-so-faintly-surprised relief as he entered the
zone of safety. After that first moment, he continued,
glancing about him curiously enough it was clear he
was a newcomer, but without the level of incredulous
anxiety that was the norm.

Few really gave him a second look, almost no one a
third. More outlandish folk to look at were available
in plenty. He was of little more than medium height,
though he stood proudly enough most people thought at
first he was tall. The hood he pulled up over long,
windblown black hair sheltered gray skin with a blue
tinge, and blue eyes and lips, and odd blue marks
around his mouth.

Few gave him a second look, at least, until after he
observed and followed a straggling lot of people into
one of the common buildings, and Cable saw him.

Cable found him a puzzle. All he could see at first
was a hood-shadowed face, and a few escaping locks of
hair, and skin a little lighter than the desert robes
the man wore usually covered. If they'd been long
enough in the appropriate climate to fade the cloth,
most people at least got a tan. Then again, he hadn't
necessarily been the one to wear it to fading.

None of that was really what bothered Nathan, though.
There was a weird feeling he got every time he looked
at the stranger. As if the stranger shouldn't BE a
stranger. As if there were some blatantly, blindingly
obvious familiarity he ought to be picking up on. It
was a suspicious feeling, with a suspicious
resemblance to the suspicions of the shifts that kept
being dismissed as paranoia.

Sure, parts of them probably were paranoia, given the
tendency he had to accumulate deranging chronal energy
whenever he went out anywhere, but he still didn't
think that was all of it.

Actually, maybe there wasn't really anything alarming
about the newcomer. Maybe he was just fresh from the
shifts and trailing bad energy or bad air or
something. It was almost a comforting thought.

Cable still felt he should recognize the man. Didn't
look like he ought to be one of the Twelve, certainly
-- though it'd be nice to have one just amble in
peaceably like that, maybe, instead of getting dragged
or driven, raving and kicking and screaming.

He mulled this over for a while, fiddling with
different possibilities while he chewed one bite of
his food for two minutes without making much headway.

Some exceedingly foolhardy mid-level chronovariant who
reminded him for no readily apparent reason of the
Askani had traipsed out into the shifts to go hunting.
To his great surprise, she had come back, covered in
foul-smelling ink and with what looked like a large
squid dangling ridiculously off her spear. He still
didn't know where she'd gotten the spear, either.

The meat had been, after much careful analysis by
methods of varying reliability, pronounced edible.
There was debate as to the accuracy of this diagnosis,
as it was by this time clearly either not poisonous or
extremely slow of action, and digestible, but had the
consistency of squishy rubber.

Those with much perseverance and strength of jaw,
however, found it both nourishing and of a
sufficiently delicious flavor to keep chewing on it
from getting too boring. Cable, being possessed of
both a half-metal jaw and great obstinacy, was making
a leisurely meal (there being no other kind to make)
of a portion of the creature while waiting for Domino
to finish whatever she was doing. She had declined to
tell him.

He chewed a little while longer, swallowed, stretched
his jaw, and turned his attention briefly from the
mysterious stranger to starting another bite, which
he'd had the foresight to sever from its neighboring
tissues during the session with its predecessor.

Then he looked back up and watched as the newcomer sat
down nearby and turned his head, and the hood slid
back from his face.

Cable saw the oddly-colored skin in the light, and the
distinctive blue marks around the lips and chin.


He promptly inhaled his bite of squid.

It was possible to extract food from the airways via
telekinesis. Even peanut butter. It was, however, much
easier to do this to someone *else* than to summon the
concentration to apply a mental power in a novel
fashion while unable to breathe, even without the
added distraction of having just realized Apocalypse
was sitting at the next table.

The newcomer looked over at Cable's first strangled,
abortive gasp, blinked with his own shock of
recognition, and immediately took decisive action.

He omitted the inquiry as to whether Cable were
choking, as the open mouth and peculiar, quiet sounds
emanating therefrom made it fairly obvious. And he
moved with remarkable speed and agility, making his
way rapidly behind Cable as the erstwhile
time-traveler desperately tried to rally his thoughts,
not to mention acquire oxygen.

The next thing Cable knew, powerful arms squeezed
sharply beneath his rib cage, and the rubbery morsel
was dislodged and expelled onto the table. It bounced.

So did the table, when he lunged forward in an attempt
to get away. The fact that the arms released him just
as he started his escape attempt caused his motion to
be somewhat more precipitous than he had initially

Cable rolled, looked up to see En Sabah Nur leaning
slightly toward him and looking mildly surprised. "Are
you quite all right?"


By this time they were gathering quite an audience,
though while its attention moved toward the two the
audience itself was exhibiting a marked proclivity to
move spatially away. Cable staggered to his feet, wild
and bright of eye, and threw a chair at the Egyptian,
who caught it and set it down with infuriating calm
and a slight pat.

"Really, if I hadn't had five thousand years to
develop control of my temper, I would probably be
formulating some comment as to how I should have
simply allowed you to asphyxiate."

"DIE," Cable snarled, and flung the table as well.

The table was fielded a bit less gracefully and with
an expression redolent of aggrieved resignation.
"Really, this is a little excessive, not to mention
potentially rather wasteful of the furniture."

Franklin rushed into the room as Cable emitted an
inarticulate howl rather reminiscent of an enraged
Logan, and -- having exhausted the furniture within
his immediate reach -- snatched up and threw the
remains of his dinner. His target missed the plate but
snagged the meat out of the air and eyed it dubiously.
"What is this?"

"Cable! WHAT is going on?" Franklin shouted, taking in
the scene with its frenzied Nathan and his calm -- if
mystified -- opponent.

"It's Apocalypse! Here! Help me kill him!"

Franklin looked at "Apocalypse," who appeared slightly
exasperated but if anything less hostile than would
normally be expected of someone having furniture and
half-eaten food hurled at him, and raised an eyebrow
at Cable.

"Have you been outside the shields today without
telling me? You're acting like you've picked up a
month's worth of temporal residue --" he asked. "It's
a squid," he added, as an afterthought, in response to
the newcomer's mild question. "A piece of one, anyway.
It's a lot like eating a very tasty eraser."

Cable gaped at Franklin, temporarily speechless, then
sputtered weakly, "But it's Apocalypse!"

"Must you keep calling me that?" the topic of
discussion asked with the most irritation he'd shown

Franklin glanced to him. "You prefer something else?"

"My name is En Sabah Nur. Apocalypse is..." he paused
and continued with distaste, "a *Greek* name."

"En Sabah Nur then." Franklin glanced at Cable, who --
perhaps fortunately -- appeared to have been struck
dumb again. "What's wrong with Greek though?"

Nur shook his head. "An old prejudice, I suppose.
Nothing as long as they aren't insinuating themselves
into control of my country."

Franklin thought this over for several long seconds,
eyeing Nathan carefully and surreptitiously plotting
to lock his mouth closed somehow if he opened it
again. "Well -- everyone's welcome here as long as
they behave reasonably well, essentially." Which he
sincerely hoped Nur would do. This version seemed
perfectly rational and not at all inclined to assault
anyone, which was in fact more than could be said for
the Askani'Son at the moment.

At this auspicious moment, Domino finally pushed the
door open and was greeted with rearranged furniture,
what appeared to be a modified version of Apocalypse,
Nathan looking severely agitated, and Franklin
standing poised almost between the two in the attitude
of a determined, if rather anxious, peacemaker.

She opened her mouth. Franklin noticed her and plunged
breathlessly into an introduction. "Domino, this is En
Sabah Nur. Nur, this is Domino. Do not try to kill
each other."

Domino looked at Franklin. Looked at 'En Sabah Nur'.
Then smiled, very carefully, and went over to Nathan,
keeping her posture relaxed and unthreatening. "Hey,
babe," she said cheerfully, and kissed him on the

Nathan made a sound resembling the bleat of a thwarted
goat. Domino gave him a worried look. Nur also gave
him a worried look, which gave Domino quite a turn
when she realized it. After this session of giving,
Nur sighed deeply, turned away, and solemnly crossed
the room to search for and retrieve Nathan's plate,
which had wedged itself into someone's clay sculpture
and made it look rather as if the half-formed unicorn
were being menaced by a flying saucer.

He returned, quite gravely, bearing both plate and --
still -- the remaining portion of Nathan's squid,
which he flopped onto the plate before setting both
objects back on the table, now restored to its proper
orientation, and returning to his own table. There he
sat down, thanked Franklin for his welcome, and
assured him that he had no plans to kill any of the
inhabitants of wherever they were.

Nathan opened his mouth, and Domino patted him, rather
firmly, on the arm. "Let's sit down," she suggested.

"But --"

"Sit. Down."

"But that's --"

"I know. Sit DOWN."

He gave her the single most aggrieved look she'd ever
seen on his face, and then complied, with a surprising
amount of meekness.

Then he proceeded to stare disconsolately at his squid
for the next five minutes, after which point he was
distracted as the same chronovariant huntress marched
in the door with another, even larger specimen
dangling from her spearhead and trailing tentacles in
all directions.

People in her path vacated it hurriedly, due not so
much to her imposing demeanor as to an aversion to
being slapped in the face by a writhing squid. Nathan
started wondering whether the creature was perhaps not
altogether dead yet. Either that, or it was having a
reaction analogous to that of a beheaded chicken.

Nur looked up from his conversation with Franklin,
stopped speaking, and stared. This was an
understandable reaction. The huntress was dressed in
what appeared to be iridescent fish skins, and had
smudges of purple goo all over her and ink in her
hair. The smudge on her nose looked incongruously

She had also located Franklin and come to present her
catch to him, which put Nur well within range of an
energetically flopping squid carcass.

Cable found himself idly debating whether the fact
that the man didn't dodge was a tribute to his nerves
or his stupidity. Franklin didn't dodge either, though
he did look a bit startled.

"I brought you another piece of meat," she stated, a
little superfluously. "Where would you like me to put

Franklin regarded her for a moment, then chuckled a
bit tentatively. "Why don't you take it back outdoors
and, uh, finish killing it?"

She looked affronted. "I *did* finish killing it." A
tentacle waved gently and draped itself over Nur's
left ear. He removed it, looking faintly repulsed.

"Well, go make it *act* dead," Franklin suggested
patiently. "If you put it in the kitchen that way
it'll knock everything out of the cabinets onto the
floor or something."

The huntress dragged her prey out the door for a few
minutes. The buzz of conversation had just resumed
when she walked back in, this time bedaubed with more
ink and purple goo, and the tentacles separated from
the squid's body and draped over her shoulders. The
effect vaguely resembled either Sinister's cape or a
demented aloe plant. Cable wasn't quite sure which.

Franklin grinned at her. "Thanks, Amy. You can finish
your butchery somewhere more comfortable now." Amy
grinned back and disappeared into a back room.

Nathan turned his attention with some difficulty back
to his squid steak and his very attractive dinner
companion. It was very rudely reclaimed when Franklin
leaned over in their direction and said brightly,
"Cable? Domino? I've explained what we're trying to
do, collecting a new Twelve, and Nur here says he'd be
glad to help gather people for it."

Nathan stared at Franklin. Franklin smiled back at
him. Nathan continued to stare at Franklin, whose
expression grew ever so slightly worried.

"Nathan? Think about this tactically, please --"

Nathan nodded slowly, and picked up his knife and
fork, staring down at the squid. The squid was less
interesting than the knife, and he shifted his grip on
it, looking up very carefully at Nur. "He's going to
help us collect another Twelve," he said, very calmly.
"That's nice."

Nur watched Cable with equal care. Being neither
foolish nor unfamiliar with hand-to-hand combat, he
had reached the reasonable conclusion that Cable was
considering an introduction between him and the knife.
"I am reasonably well suited to it," he pointed out.
"I adapt readily to different shifts. But I would need
someone to show me where these people are."

"That's where you come in, Nathan," Franklin said,
very carefully.

"Oh? You want me to introduce him to the Twelve. Isn't
that nice."

"Nathan," Franklin said, trying very hard not to
laugh. This wasn't funny. It really wasn't. "I don't
think I've ever heard you use the word nice so often
within the space of a minute."

"Oh, but it is nice. It's nice that we have a new
friend, who wants to help." Nathan started to saw at
his squid, very calmly.

"But?" Franklin asked, hearing a definite 'but'

"But if you think I'm going out into the shifts with
Apocalypse at my back, boy, I am NOT the chronically
unstable one, here."

"My name is not Apocalypse," Nur inserted firmly.

Everyone looked at him.

"Come on, Nathan, think about it. He's powerful, being
out there apparently doesn't drive him mad the way it
does members of the Twelve, but he's got more sense of
them than anybody else except maybe some of the
chronovariants. And he's hard to kill."

"Oh, perfect sense. Except you're not the one who's
going to be out there in the shifts with him,

"You clearly distrust me," Nur observed unnecessarily,
then turned to Franklin with what might have been a
twinkle in his eye. "He wouldn't expect me to hold a
grudge because he threw a piece of squid at me, would

"And a sense of humor, too." Nathan stared across at
Nur, balefully. "I'd say the world was coming to an
end, but that would be rather redundant, wouldn't it?"

Nur looked around. "I wouldn't call it an end," he
replied seriously. "A bit of a tangle, perhaps, but
not an end."

Nathan threw down his eating utensils, glaring. "You
wouldn't call it the end of the world. You have NO
idea how much better that makes me feel, you --"

"Nathan!" Franklin said, sternly.

"I *have* been insulted before," Nur told Franklin
gently. "I won't break." He fixed Cable with a
piercing stare, dark-blue eyes steady and looking out
of place under the black hair. "I was expressing an
opinion, not attempting to comfort you."

"Well, good," Nathan said violently, getting up so
rapidly that he knocked his chair over backwards.
"Because I don't want anything from you. If there was
one blessing of this whole flonqing mess, it was that
I didn't have to deal with you, just the mess several
dozen other yous made!"

Nur rose as well, somewhat more gracefully. Or at
least more quietly. "So I am told. I am offering to do
what I can to help... clean up that same 'mess.' Will
you deny me that, and yourself what aid I can give,
because of what less responsible versions of me have


Nur raised an eyebrow. He had eyebrows, too. This was
ridiculous. "Perhaps that was a poor choice of words.
Less concerned with the larger effect of their
actions, shall we say, in order to avoid the
interpretation of less complicity."

Domino stared at him. "You sound like Hank."

"I sound like whom?"

"Hank. Beast. Henry McCoy. Oh, forget it, for all I
know you don't have one."

"There's one or so here," Franklin cut in. "I'll
introduce you later. Nathan, listen, I really do think
he could be a lot of help."

Nathan laughed wildly, running a shaking hand through
his close-cropped hair. "You do, do you. That's nice."

Domino rolled her eyes. "Nate, quit doing that," she
said sternly.

"Yes, stop doing that." Franklin was looking decidedly
Unimpressed. "I know how hard it is to accept this,
but he's FRIENDLY."

"How do you know?" Nathan demanded suddenly. "He might
just be a very good actor." He blinked at Nur and then
started laughing wildly. "I... just had a image of you
doing Hamlet. 'Alas, poor Cyclops, I knew you

Nur looked somewhat disturbed. "I don't usually
consort with monsters of Greek mythology, as it
happens," he rumbled dryly. "Or are you referring to
someone who uses the name?"

Domino rose smoothly out of her chair and slammed a
fist into Nathan's jaw as he lunged forward. The blow
was strong enough to knock him on his rear, where he
sat for a moment, rubbing his jaw and looking up at
Domino balefully.

There was silence for a moment. "Apparently," Nur said
into the silence, which whimpered faintly and fled, "I
have missed something."

Nathan, for once in the course of the conversation,
was paying no attention to him at all. "You hit me,"
he muttered at Domino, sounding hurt.

"You noticed."

Franklin muttered something under his breath that
Susan Richards would definitely not have approved, and
got out of his chair, kneeling down beside Nathan.
"You have got to be the most hard-headed you I've ever
met," he said levelly. "And I've met a few."

Domino rubbed her hand. "You can say that again," she
muttered. Franklin didn't.

Nathan folded his arms on top of his knees and laid
his head down on them with a sigh. "I give up," he
said weakly. "Put him on the Christmas card list, I
don't give a flying flonq..."

"Nathan, look --" Franklin started. "Do you honestly
think I'd try to send you out there with an enemy? I
know it's hard to get used to the idea. But *think*
about it. It's not like there aren't *advantages* to
having him at your back. Shoot, maybe we need him,
have you thought about that? For all we know, it's not
twelve people we need at all, it could be thirteen."

Nathan's head jerked upright, his expression almost
frightened. "Thirteen?" he said unevenly.

Domino knelt down beside him, putting an arm around
his shoulders. "You can't rule out the possibility,"
she said gently.

His eyes narrowed, and he glared at her and Franklin
both. "Stab your eyes," he said lifelessly. "You knew
that if you suggested that, I couldn't -- that I
wouldn't --"

A chair scraped on the floor, and Cable blinked in
shock as Nur folded down to sit cross-legged on the
floor with them. "Trust is oft something of a scarce
commodity. I don't make a habit of demanding it out of
hand from those who have had reason to consider me an
enemy." He cocked an eyebrow. "Of course, I might note
that hostilities between us have to date been somewhat
one-sided. Still -- your rescue mission, if that is
what I should call it, seems a worthwhile undertaking,
and if there is a way by which I could win your
confidence, I should like to hear it."

Nathan stared at him for a moment. "I'm a telepath,"
he said, very quietly.

"That's nice," Nur replied. Domino gave a choked
giggle, earning herself a wry look from the Egyptian.
"I assume you mean to imply that you wish to read my
mind. Very well."

Nathan swallowed, not quite able to believe what he
was hearing. *Do it before he changes his mind,* a
tiny voice urged him, and he reached out tentatively
-- and stopped dead, cold fear washing over him.
"No," he muttered, his hands clenching so tightly into
fists that the muscles in his flesh-and-blood hand
started to cramp. Beads of sweat stood out on his
forehead as he stared into Nur's eyes. "I can't, I --"

"I will not attempt to resist you," Nur said calmly.
He looked entirely relaxed. Cable did not think this
was fair at all. It was in fact a deceptive
appearance; the offer was a calculated risk on Nur's
part, given that the telepath had spent a fair
proportion of their acquaintance casting furniture and
aspersions at him.

Nothing, as far as Nur could tell, happened for the
next few minutes. As a rule, he could perceive when a
telepath attempted to reach his mind, whether he
permitted them to succeed or not. He determined that
Cable did not appear calm enough for subtlety at the
moment, and ventured a gentle reminder. "Nathan. You
may begin any time now."

"I --" He was actually trembling, Nur saw. "I -- no, I
won't. It's not -- I can't --"

"I'm *not* a telepath," Nur saw fit to point out. "I
could probably keep you out if I tried, but I'm hardly
likely to launch an effective counterattack in the
realm of the mind. If you prefer to forego the
process, I have no objection. You did bring it up; it
seemed a convenient way to reassure you as to my

Nathan shook his head slowly, pulling away from Domino
and getting to his feet. "I won't," he muttered. "I
look at you, and I -- I just can't." He took a deep,
shaky breath, squaring his shoulders. "I can't trust
my judgment here." He looked down at Franklin. "So I
suppose I have to trust yours."

As it seemed the thing to do, the other three stood as
well. Domino patted Nathan's calf first. "Mine,"
Franklin replied quietly, "is that he's sincere, and
could do us a lot of good. And I'm going to count on
you to treat him like a partner, not an enemy, because
otherwise sending him with you really would do more
harm than good."

Nathan gave a hollow laugh. "I really, really need to

Franklin looked sympathetic. "Go on then. I wasn't
planning to throw you back out there yet anyway, you
know; you practically just got back."

Nathan gave Nur an oddly hunted look, and then turned
and strode out of the bar, not looking back. Domino
watched him go with a sigh, and then stuck a hand
towards Nur.

He shook it, gravely. "Thank you."

"He's set in his ways," she said. "I can't blame him,
but I'll talk to him. Anyway, you're sort of
refreshing," she said, her mouth quirking upwards in a

Nur raised an eyebrow. "Refreshing?"

"You know. Proof that nothing's impossible." She
winked at him, and left.

Nur chuckled softly and turned to Franklin. "To be
honest, civil conversation is refreshing as well, for
me. I am rarely precisely *surprised* to be attacked
on sight, but the incidence of it has been rather
higher than usual of late."

Franklin smiled a little sadly. "There are some yous
running around that *I* would attack on sight, if they
happened to wander in here."

"Understandable, from your description," was the quiet

"Well. Yeah. I'd probably better explain everything
we've figured out so far, or think we have, about the
shifts before you and Nathan go anywhere in them

"I *have* been traveling within them for some time
now, with comparative success," Nur pointed out. "I am
not without experience."

Franklin couldn't help grinning. "I believe you," he
said emphatically. "And believe me, I want to hear
anything you can tell us about them too. But there're
still some things you probably haven't run across."

"I'm certain there are," Nur replied equably. "And I
would welcome such information."

"Especially, uh..." Franklin looked a little
embarrassed. "The members of the Twelve -- whether
there *was* a Twelve in their timeline or not --
attract the energy as they go through shifts. And, the
more of it they accumulate, the more powerful they
get, and, well, they also go crazy." He paused. "So
having Nathan out there too long at a time is a bad

There was a long pause while they looked at each
other. Franklin realized somewhat belatedly that he
was slightly taller than this Nur -- which seemed
decidedly odd, as he was used to a
seven-foot-or-so-tall Apocalypse.

"Just to clarify matters," Nur said finally, and very
blandly, "are you telling me that you wish me to go on
a search-and-rescue mission in partnership with a
lunatic?" He didn't sound terribly perturbed, but
there was an odd note in his voice that might possibly
have been laughter.

Franklin shuffled. "Not exactly," he hedged. "But if
you stay out there too long you might come back with
one." The note must have been laughter, as Nur
proceeded to throw back his head and give vent to it.

"I shall endeavor to avert such an eventuality," he
rumbled afterwards, with a remarkable return to
gravity. "If the effect is cumulative only while
outside this place, should I assume it is reversed
somehow upon return to your sphere of influence?"

"I can purge the energy. I'm not quite sure if I get
all of it; I think I do, and they all get a lot saner
-- some of them I'm not sure were quite sane to start
out -- but they seem to keep a little of the power and
somewhat more of the skill every time. I think."


"This is based on their descriptions, though -- I
can't leave and still hold this place together. And
they mostly don't talk a lot about what goes on.
Nathan's closemouthed in most universes, actually, but
sometimes I think this one takes the cake...."

Nur gave Franklin a thoughtful look. "You seem
distracted, suddenly." Actually, Franklin seemed
babbling, suddenly, but that didn't seem tactful to

Franklin grimaced. "It's -- I don't even know whether
it's worth mentioning. Nathan swears there's some sort
of awareness behind the shifts. He's been dead-set on
it for years, and I don't think it's related to
whatever level of temporal energy's in his system at
the time." Franklin smiled weakly. "Although he tends
to rant about it more when he's been out in the shifts
too long --"

"An awareness," Nur repeated thoughtfully. "This is
not something I have noticed, but then, I have never
even attempted modifying my powers to include
telepathy or chronovariance. Has he speculated on the
nature of this 'awareness'?" A sudden smile. "Or
should I ask him?"

Franklin sighed. "He says it's hostile. Which makes me
wonder if it's not just paranoia...." His expression
grew a little grim. "I don't like to consider that as
an option."

"Paranoia is underrated," Nur replied lightly. "I've
seen more definitions of sanity come and go, and roam
past again.... Truthfully, I have not found the shifts
particularly hostile as far as I was concerned, but
then, I have more opportunity to adapt than most."

"True, but he's the sanest of the Cables I've met,"
Franklin said with a sigh. "They tend to fall apart,
even without the added bonus of the residue. It's that
overdeveloped sense of responsibility most of them
have --"

Nur noted that the others in the immediate vicinity
were either ignoring them or appeared to be trying to,
though they'd spoken quietly. "I have encountered some
previously. All of whom attacked me, come to think of
it, except for one who was in no condition to move. At
least one of them, though, seemed well enough
otherwise.... I will do my best to preserve this one,"
he finished gently, with a half-smile.

Franklin found, a little to his surprise, that he
couldn't help but smile back. "You do that. I'll let
you know when it seems about time to start looking
some more -- if you'll be ready?"

"My preparation should not be a problem. I believe I
could find this place again, and presumably I will
have time to become acquainted with the list of people
you are seeking before such time as I would be
searching for them."

Franklin nodded. "I can tell you... and maybe," he
added thoughtfully, "you should go over them with


Nur did take Franklin at his word and seek out Cable
to discuss members of the Twelve. First, however, he
spent some time getting acquainted with Oasis, partly
in hopes of giving Nathan a little more time to get
used to the idea.

The vast majority of the inhabitants completely failed
to recognize him. Only a very small fraction of this
majority seemed perturbed by his unusual appearance.
Those who did recognize him tended toward fight or
flight, except for one or two who seemed completely
paralyzed and simply froze in one spot like frightened

This last reaction was quite alien to Nur, who could
see it making some contribution to the probability of
survival under certain circumstances, but thought
those circumstances really could not be said to exist
when there was neither cover nor an inability of his
to see objects not in motion.

"If you are trying to turn invisible," he said in
passing to one of these individuals, "it isn't

The individual gulped, rolled his eyes, and folded
onto the floor. Then he promptly turned invisible.

"Very well, I take it back," Nur conceded to the
floor, and took a circuitous route toward Franklin and
the piano in order to avoid stepping on the erstwhile
rabbit impersonator.

As of his second day at Oasis, Nur had demonstrated an
unexpected skill: playing the bagpipes. He played in a
style which seemed to owe nothing whatsoever to
Scotland, even though as Egyptian bagpipes did not
seem to be available he was forced to use a set of
more northern origin.

The entire thing would probably have been less
unnerving had Franklin managed, when someone asked if
Nur could play any more contemporary songs, to locate
first some sheet music other than that to "Daydream
Believer." And then again, perhaps it wouldn't.

His first day at Oasis had been less than conducive to
musical pursuits, as his activities had consisted
largely of meeting attacks from frantic former X-Men
and associates thereof with what was, to them, vastly
exasperating calm and imperviousness.

Bishop had taken one look at him and guns had blazed.
"Die, monster, DIE!"

Nur had braced himself against the blasts, refrained
from returning them after the spillover from an energy
beam of his own that melted one of the guns was
returned with interest, and waited for Bishop to quiet
down. Franklin and Cable, dashing into the room at the
sound of the disturbance, had been greeted with a
booming, "I am curious, Franklin. Are these two
related?" as Nur gestured toward Cable and spoke over
the racket.

Franklin had quipped back that Bishop was one of the
few people Cable was NOT related to, but as Cable and
his family were either nonexistent or far less
prominent in Nur's timeline, the joke had gone rather
over his head.

On a separate occasion, Warren had emitted a wordless
scream of fury that he seemed to have stolen from a
roc, and spread metallic wings both to fire and to
swoop at close range. Nur had ducked, then calmly
taken hold of Warren, sat him forcibly in a chair, and
wrapped him up in his wings, as there seemed some
likelihood of a beheading otherwise.

Nur currently possessed a large collection of poisoned
metal feathers with small amounts of blood on them,
but no remaining wounds. Warren had, somewhat to his
surprise, calmed down and apologized after Nur
explained and Franklin vouched for him.

Franklin had eventually resorted to summoning everyone
he could think of as likely to start anything into one
room and explaining that this particular En Sabah Nur
had been welcomed here under *his* auspices and that
he (Franklin) was getting really tired of having him
attacked all the time.

He'd assumed Nur was also getting tired of it, but
hadn't felt he could speak for the External,
especially as he hadn't asked. Besides, that might not
have carried much weight with this crowd.

Lorna had proceeded to offend Nathan deeply by
swallowing hard and saying that, well, if Cable could
be a good guy she guessed Apocalypse could too. Cable
had turned a distressing shade of purple, opened his
mouth, and closed it again with a wounded expression.

Domino had patted his arm. "She's got a point, Nate."

"Shut up."

"You know she's got a point."

"Dom, look at the steam coming out of his ears," a
Rogue intervened. "Leave the poor man alone."

Nur had tactfully told Lorna that in the experience of
most people present, at least, the former seemed to be
more frequent, and that his name was not and never had
been Apocalypse.

Cable was still brooding about this off and on when,
on this third day, Nur joined him uninvited at
breakfast -- after playing a duet with Franklin on
bagpipes and piano -- and greeted him with, "Good
morning. Do you have a Living Monolith yet, and why
does he call himself that?"

At least he didn't choke this time. "No, we don't,"
Cable growled. "I haven't gotten but one all the way
back here yet, and *he* left." It still rankled, too.
For somebody just to walk out like that, preferring
the shifts and the madness over even *trying* to help
fix things....

So did Lorna putting him on a level with Apocalypse.
He could understand hating the Marauders if anyone
could, but he'd never... never....

He supposed that had sort of been her point, as
apparently this Nur had never, either.

"Are you serious about all this? You really want to
help? You never tried to take over the world and weed
out the population you didn't think was fit?" It was a
complete non sequitur and really had nothing to do
with the Living Monolith at all except in the most
convoluted of ways, but he had to ask.

Nur gave him a surprised look. "Let me see. I am
indeed serious about my willingness to help with your
search-and-rescue mission and your attempt to restore
some form of order to the world. I have never done
extensive 'weeding' of the population beyond that
necessary to maintain some order in a nation. As for
taking over the world, it was once a fairly
respectable ambition, you know."

Cable gave him a suspicious look and opened his mouth,
but Nur swallowed a mouthful of what appeared to be
grits and continued as if oblivious to the intention.
"For the record, however, my acquisition of world
power was limited to ruling Egypt off and on for some
millennia, and influencing it in between, plus the not
inconsiderable international influence we wielded."

"You ruled Egypt for millennia?" He was fairly sure he
sounded dazed.

"Off and on, since I was a bit past seventeen," Nur
responded, in a tone that suggested he wasn't quite
sure why it was a question at all. "I took...
sabbaticals, you might say, but the assorted interim
pharoahs were always to some degree or another my

"You ruled Egypt since you were seventeen," Cable
repeated flatly, trying to digest this. "With the
exception of sabbaticals." Apocalypse *couldn't* have
gotten control of Egypt in his timeline that early.
Any of them. "*Seventeen?* Weren't you a little
young?" Well, no, not compared to some of them....

"I was a man by then. I had passed my initiation into
the Sandstormers, and survived in the caverns that
killed Baal while the rest of the tribe was
slaughtered." There was pain behind that, though
little for the tribe. "I didn't care for Rama-Tut. I
made Egypt the most powerful country in the world and
made my wife its queen."

Nathan blinked, mind reeling slightly at the last
part. Ruling a powerful nation wasn't a startling
ambition for Apocalypse -- er, Nur -- but -- a wife?
"You're married?"

"I was."

"What happened to her?"

Nur gave him a very peculiar look. "She died."

Brain still not completely back online, Cable inquired
with a hint of suspicion, "Of what?"

Nur gave him an even more peculiar look. "Old age," he
said, in an extremely dry tone. "This *was* a few
thousand years ago, you realize."

Nathan opened his mouth and left it that way for a
moment, then closed it. That, he told himself
painfully, was stupid. Mindnumbingly so. How horribly
embarrassing. He almost squirmed.

Nur took his gaze away shortly, perhaps in pity,
perhaps merely in thought, and stared back through the
centuries. "I still miss her."

There didn't seem to be a very good response to that.
En Sabah Nur... in love? It was not a congruous
thought. Casting about for something to say, he came
up with, "What did you do after she died?"

"Went for very long walks."

"Oh." He'd been expecting something more... dramatic.
"Where did you walk? Did it help?" Nothing had seemed
to help after Aliya. Or Domino... even if he'd found
another eventually. Only time, a little. Not that Nur
had any lack of that.

"Mongolia. And not really."

"Mongolia?" That put him on the alert. "You wouldn't
by any chance have run into Ship there, would you?"

Nur blinked. "How," he asked slowly, "did you know

"Long story."

"I have time."