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The Second Hand Unwinds

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~ September 26, 1987 ~

The portal felt weird.

That was the thing Darcy really took away from this experience.  Portals/wormholes/whatever the kids were calling them these days?  They felt weird.  Felt like all your insides were filled with hot ants. Or bees.  Bees that didn’t sting, but that didn’t make it any less weird.   

Also, it was just about as far from Doctor Who as it could possibly be.  

Suffice it to say, she was plenty shaken up by the time her feet touched down on the grass in front of Dr. Xavier’s mansion.  

And even though the Professor from HER time had assured her that nothing bad was going down at the mansion on this balmy day in September, 1987, she still had one hand on her taser because she’d been through enough alien invasions to know that shit like that didn’t care about timelines.  Or anything.

That was all Darcy needed, to get herself zapped unawares by some stupid alien asshole.  Become some kind of carbon skidmark on ground that she shouldn’t have been walking on anyway.  That’d make a great addition to Stark’s Super Secret Science Club Newsletter.  

Okay, so there wasn’t a newsletter.  Or a club.  But there were a group of scientists who were pretty much waiting on her to fail!

Okay, so they weren’t waiting on her to fail.  But she was very quickly coming to the conclusion that wrangling a bunch of scientists who couldn’t remember to eat regularly should be added to her Murtaugh list.  

She’d turned thirty on her last birthday.  How long was she supposed to be doing this?  She had a sneaking suspicion that her perceived boredom with her career du jour turned career de la vie had a lot to do with their offer to be the first human being to test out Bruce’s time traveling BannerTech.

Well, it was Bruce, but it was also Jane’s as well.  And Tony provided the funds.   

It was kind of like Bruce laid an egg and then Tony built a nest out of top-of-the-line grass and twigs and then Jane sat on the egg while Tony and Bruce clucked at her like concerned chickens about whether or not she was turning it enough.      

She looked around her.  No one was nearby.  Everything looked completely innocuous.  She tucked the package from Dr. Xavier to past-him under her arm and kept the other hand on her hip, where her state of the art, birthday-present-from-the-Black-Widow taser was in its handy-dandy holster.  

She wasn’t even completely sure she’d time traveled.  Maybe she’d just teleported up to the mansion.  Everything around here looked the same.  Even down to the landscaping.

She supposed she’d find out soon enough when she went in to talk to Charles.

Charles, as he’d been insisting she call him since the day they met, had given her a small package the night before.  A brown box with an envelope elastic-banded around it.  She was supposed to drop off the package with past-Charles and make her way back to the portal immediately.  Seeing that she’d been dropped down just shy of the driveway, she’d better start booking it.  

The good doctor himself had seemed rather chipper this morning.  The future(or present?)-him, anyway.  He cited something about getting to see a good friend who he hadn’t seen in decades.  She supposed when you were as old as he was, that probably was exciting.

She had no sooner stepped onto the gravel driveway than had something weird happened.  She fucking KNEW it was a good idea to bring this taser.  

A blur approached her, turning into a man at the last second. Seriously, what kind of horror movie bullshit was this?

“Hey Pretty Lady, where do you think--”  And that was all he got out, because he was writhing on the ground amid clicks from her taser contacts.  

And when she said writhing?  Again, he was a BLUR. It actual facts looked like someone out of one of those Japanese ghost story flicks.  And it was freaky as hell.  

“Holy shit!” She released the trigger.  “What did I do?  I didn’t know there was a scramble function on this thing!”   

“What the FUCK?  All I did was say ‘Hi’!” he was suddenly standing right in front of her.  “And you zap me with your stun gun?  Come on…”  He straightened his jacket.  Horror movie might be an unfair description.  He wasn’t horrific looking in the slightest.

He was tall.  He had silver hair.   Silver hair, what even?

His clothing wasn’t giving her any clues as to whether or not the time travel aspect of Bruce’s tech had worked. Guys still wore Pink Floyd T-shirts in her time.  As well as studded jackets and skinny jeans. Silver sneakers too. And they bleached their hair white and silver all the time as well. So no clues there.  

Of course, she’d never seen this guy in her life, and she sometimes spent weekends at the mansion when Jane and Bruce were working with Dr. McCoy.  So maybe...he was one of their dearly departed mutants?  In which case, she needed to just...move along ASAP.

“To be fair?  You didn’t say ‘Hi’, you zipped up in front of me and said ‘Hey Pretty Lady’...” she corrected him.  “Dude, you kinda scared me.”  

“Likewise…when people step out of purple portals around here, it’s kinda suspect...” he looked down at his chest.  “Wanna disconnect me, here?”  

“Not so fast…”  She held out the gun part of the taser.  “I don’t know who you are.”  

“I don’t know who YOU are either,” he countered.  “And to be honest, I’m being nice by asking you to disconnect them. I could do it myself before you even knew what hit you.”  

“I’m Darcy Lewis.  Time-Traveller.  From the future. And not to be rude, but I’m on a schedule here.”  

His eyes narrowed.  “From da futcha?” He’d switched to a really, really BAD Schwarzenegger impression and it made her want to laugh.  

“Something like that.  Except you know.  I’m not an Austrian bodybuilder and I’m not a weapon.  Like.  At all.  That taser is it.”  

“That ‘taser’ is painful…I’m Peter, by the way.  Maximoff.”  

That name meant nothing to her.  She’d never heard it before in her life.  “What’s the date, Peter?”  

“September 26th, 1987.”  

“Sweetness.  That’s the good shit,” she said, sighing with relief.  She reached over and tugged the connectors from him and started walking towards the front door of the mansion.  

And of course, he blocked the door before she could get in.  “What’s in that box, gorgeous?”  

“No idea.  It’s from the professor.  To...the professor…”  She shrugged.  “C’mon, troll-face, lemme pass.”  

He made a face.  “Troll-face?  Excuse me?  Look, I might not be Harry Hamlin or anything, but I look okay.”

“Who in the hell is Harry Hamlin?”  

“People’s Sexiest Man Alive.”  

“Yeah, it’s Dwayne Johnson in my time.  I’ll google that Harry dude when I get home, though.”  

“You’ll what?”  Peter looked one-hundred percent confused and it took her a minute to realize that Google wasn’t a verb in 1987.  It wasn’t even a thing in 1987.  And it was going to take her too long to explain it.  

“Hey dude.  Listen.  I’m on a time limit.  I have to deliver this package to the Professor and be back out in that lawn in…” She checked her watch. “Five minutes.  You’ve already wasted two of them with your trolliness.”  

She pushed passed him and walked into the mansion.  He appeared at her side an instant later.  “Fine, but I’m coming with.  If that’s a bomb or something, I have to save everyone.”  

She rolled her eyes.  “I highly doubt the Professor would send himself a bomb from the future.”  

“I doubt it too, but like I said, I don’t know you.  You could be lying about that.  You understand, right?” He winked.  

“I understand you’re a troll.”  

“What makes me a troll?” he protested.  

“You’re refusing to let me cross the bridge.”  

“I’m escorting you over the bridge.  That makes me the most mannerly troll in existence.”  

They had arrived at the professor’s office, so Darcy chose to ignore her kind of cute, but otherwise annoying, escort by knocking and being bidden inside.  

Her eyes nearly popped out of her head when she saw the man in the wheelchair. He was so much...younger? But he was the professor alright.  Bald as a cue ball with that same look in his eyes.  That look that belied how much he actually KNEW about you.  

“She’s telling the truth, Peter. There is no need to worry.”  

Darcy shot Peter a snotty look before handing the box to Charles.  “Nice to see you again, Professor…”  

“I must confess, for me, this is the first time we’ve met, but if my future self trusts you with something like this, then...you must be special indeed.”  

“Oh...right…” she snickered and blushed.  “Sorry.”  She glanced around the room.  “Also...want to apologize in advance...the first time I met you, I broke (or I break?) that vase…”  She pointed towards a red and black vase on an end table beside his sofa. “Apparently, it’s a keepsake or something?  So, yeah…sorry about that, Professor.”   

“I’m sure it’s quite alright, my dear…”  He turned his attention briefly to the package she’d handed him, opening the envelope first, and scanning its contents quickly.  “Ah.  Have a seat, Ms. Lewis.  Do you like tea?”  

“Sorry, I’d love to, but I’m kind of in a hurry…”  

“Future-Charles has informed me that your scientists’ figures are off.  You won’t be here for only seven minutes, you’ll be here for seven days .”  

Darcy blanched, sitting down roughly on the sofa..  “What?”  

“Seven days.  But, I’m sure you’ll find something to pass the time.”  His eyes glanced over at Peter, who was still standing awkwardly in the doorway.  “Peter. Join us.”  

Darcy swallowed as he sat down beside her on the couch.  “I’m kind of...not prepared to stay here for a week...I didn’t bring anything…”  

“You’re welcome to stay in one of the spare rooms in the mansion.  And I’m sure we’ll be able to procure some clothing and basic necessities for you.  It might not be 2017, but we’re not completely in the dark in the 80s.”  

“2017?  That’s where you’re from?”  Peter nodded thoughtfully.  “I must look different then, if you didn’t recognize me...do I not age well?  Big face scar or something?’  

Darcy pressed her lips together, glancing over at the professor who waved his hand vaguely.  “No spoilers, please, Ms. Lewis.”  

“Oh right.  Sorry…” Peter wiped his hands on his pants.  “Sorry I was a being a ‘troll’ earlier…and sorry you’re stuck here for a week.”  

“Sorry I tased you…” she added.  

“Still...it was kinda bad-ass...not many people can catch me.”  

“I gathered.”  

Dr. Xavier was watching their interchange with more than a little interest, but it all kind of broke apart when someone arrived with tea. Darcy didn’t think she’d ever get used to how he communicated with his mind.  He glanced up at the doorway, waving him inside.  “Hank, come in.”  

Darcy spun around, expecting to see Jane and Bruce’s beloved blue colleague, but was super surprised to see a flesh and blood man. “Whoa…you look…” she snapped her mouth closed.  “You don’t know me, but I know you in the future.  Fan of your work, Dr. McCoy.”  

“Thank...you?”  


 

~May 2, 2017 ~

“Dr. Foster?”  Hank’s voice sounded worried as he looked at the StarkPad that Tony had thrust in his hands the second he’d arrived in their lab.  “How many times did you check your work on these figures?”  

“Quite a few, and Bruce doubled checked every time I checked...” Jane frowned as she stood from her desk.   

“Triple checked,” Bruce called from behind his computer.  

“Oh right...how could I forget…” she muttered under her breath.  She would roll her eyes, but she was fairly certain she’d strained the muscle one used to roll one’s eyes.  Between Bruce’s constant second guessing and Tony’s smart-ass remarks, that muscle was getting a steady workout.  A steady OVER-workout.  

Jane really just wanted this time travel test drive to be over and done with.  

She hoped at least that Darcy was having fun.  She’d seemed so down these past few...well...year and change.  It had been a while since Jane had seen her excited about working here. At best, Darcy looked bored.  At worst, well...

Jane really hated to see her friend unhappy.  Maybe getting to travel through time would recharge whatever it was in her that had rolled over and died.

“Well, you’ve both got this equation incorrectly copied…” Hank began to rewrite the equation up onto the dry erase board.  “You’ve got this backwards here…” he circled a portion.  So, an hour in our time doesn’t equal seven minutes in 1987...seven minutes in 2017 equals an HOUR there.”

Jane’s stomach dropped.  Where, she didn’t know.  She was pretty sure they could maybe find it in the basement level if they ran really fast.  Panic burned in her veins as she scrambled to come up with a solution. “Oh my god…so we have seven minutes to set up the portal or…”  

“Or you miss your chance for this time and location.”  

“I couldn’t set up the coordinates in seven minutes even if I had the right equation…” she lamented.  “I’d need...at least a day and a half.  Maybe I could do it in twenty-four hours with competent help…”  Tony started to grouse, but Jane silenced him with a look before continuing.  “Dr. McCoy, do you mind staying and being an extra set of eyes?”

“Not at all, that’s what I’m here for anyway.”  Dr. McCoy reached for the button on his blazer, slipping it off and over his shoulders as he draped it over Jane’s desk.  

She took a deep breath and exhaled, trying to calm herself.  She was no help to Darcy if she wasn’t calm and collected.  She had some of the greatest minds in the world here in this room with her.  “So.  Our new goal is twenty-four hours. Twenty-four hours to a new portal.”

Bruce frowned.  “But that means...she’ll be there for a week!”

“If only there was a way to send word to her…” Jane frowned, deep in thought.  “Did she take her phone?  Is there a way to get a message to her on her phone?”  

Tony interjected. “Look, I’m gonna tell you what I told her.  I’m not a mother-fucking Time Lord.  I can’t sonic-screwdriver her phone to accept calls in 1987.  Think of the phone bills, Jane.  Just THINK.”  

She narrowed her eyes.  “I was thinking about sonic-screwdriver-ing a satellite.  But I think it’d take more time than we can devote to something like that right now.”

Hank looked pensive for a moment before speaking.  “Let me call the Professor.  He’s been known to communicate with his past self before.  Or at least...he’s been known to find ways to communicate.  I’m sure if there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of sending a message to Darcy, he’ll be able to find a way to do it.”  

She felt instantly better, her chest loosening up a little.  

“Also…” Bruce interjected.  “Stay with me here, but if each person’s timeline is fixed, as we’ve come to believe through our hypothesizing...Dr. Xavier probably remembers Darcy visiting him in ‘87.  Maybe he already told her?”  

Tony frowned.  “So what are you saying?  Darcy already knew we were going to fuck this up?”  

“No.  But...Charles did.  And remember, he gave her a note for his past self?  And a package?” Bruce tapped his pen against his bottom lip.  “I’d say she probably already knows, but still...call the Professor and make sure, Hank.”  

Jane frowned.  “Why on earth would Dr. Xavier withhold this information from us? He could have let us know that the formula was wrong!”  

“Fixed timelines, Jane,” Bruce reminded her.  “If he had done that, Darcy would have been back much sooner.  There’s something she needs to do in 87.  Something important, I’ll bet.”   

“Very true.  Charles always has his reasons.  And I’m sure Darcy is in good hands,” Hank agreed.