She’s just a baby when you slip her out of a situation like this, stalking away in the middle of the night and depths of winter while the X-Men and Marauders take at each other’s throats. Let them fight. Let them rip wings off angels and blast flesh off the animals. Let them scramble each other’s minds into eggs. Let them be their own distraction from what is important in this scenario - a little bundle of joy, wrapping in dark red, shielded by more than your arms as you promise to get her far, far away through whatever means necessary.
But it isn’t far, far away that you need to go. No, you need to go further, crossing the barriers of time and space, to a future where she can be safe, but the funny thing about it is that the future is never safe. It is ripe with uncertainty and with dangers unforeseen, but this is why he trusts you.
Because you’re a soldier and no matter what, no matter who opposes you - be it time and space itself or a bullet to the back from the shadows, be it your own own father - you’re never letting a damn thing happen to this baby girl.
It’s just like before. You’re in the middle of a tough situation. The enemies aren’t the same and, in fact, some you don’t even recognize, but you know you need to get her out of there. It is a vestigial memory of another, the better parts of your older half that still find a place in your conscious being, that pulls you from catching up with the hive - hardly as casual as you’d like it to be - to head for the great arbor in the middle of Krakoa.
As one of the Five, you expect she might be there.
As your daughter, you hope she isn’t.
You body slide hard into the building, feet landing firm on the ground and weapons at the ready, but where the super-power inhibiting nanobots “borrowed” from the C.S.A. might have helped with mutants, they don’t help with this.
The tree shakes. It splinters and it crashes down, slamming into all parts of its interior, including the eggs it had been born to keep, to protect, to save as part of the continuation of the mutant species; because she - she was a part of this and, raised by you, she had found it in her being, through all the hardship, to help and not become what Bishop had always feared.
She wasn’t destruction personified.
She was hope given form and given purpose.
And her home was being destroyed.
Finding formula in a wasteland is hard.
It’s even harder when there’s someone after you at all times - bandits who want to take your gear and use your parts, who try to get you to pay tolls to cross bridges which might just as well be out on the other end, but don’t know whether to load their gun or avoid a kick to their knife hand - but you’ve trained for this.
For years, you’ve trained for this.
But not for taking care of a baby.
Five months of travel, over land and across the sea, have brought you to this point, hunkered down on the pavement of the destroyed and dilapidated East Coast to change her diaper because she’s crying; and she’s crying so much now, it tends to grow into monotony and you’re not even sure why she cries when months ago, she had been so calm.
But maybe she knows just as well how important she is to the future, the would-be Messiah of mutant kind that, life spared by a future so tough-lived like your own, would bring them back from the edges of extinction.
Or maybe she knows just as well how important you are to that future, but it isn’t like she can talk.
She can just cry.
She doesn’t cry now.
She fights like everything depends on it because everything does depend on it, and through every second, every minute, you’re right there by her side just like you’ve always been; and she knows who you’ve been, who you were, even in the presence of youth not seen even before she had been pulled into the future with you. You’ve always been old. You’ve always been a soldier. You’ve always been protective.
More importantly, you’ve always been there.
This changes nothing.
You’ve already taken two bullets.
That is two bullets too many.
You’ve been bitten.
This is one bite too many.
“Nobody holds her but me.”
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been out or the good intentions of someone kind enough to take you in, to patch your wounds, to make sure the Turnpike Authority doesn’t make mincemeat out of you: Only you hold the baby.
Because she is your priority.
And she’s crying - again.
Still, there is no crying as the abominations spread like a brood that seemed intent on taking over everything that remains of the Arbor Magna. They spidle their webs, they build their cocoons, they create a stronghold full of mutants rendered null, but not void, if they don’t make good use of their time.
It is bittersweet.
The answer to their destruction is found, but at what cost?
If they don’t, they continue to lose?
So, an ever-hardened soldier makes the call.
She, like you, has spent all of her life so far training, but the Askani education and the rigors of survival aren’t the same. You can be told how to build a weapon, but you cannot learn until you experience it. You can be told how to track time, but you cannot learn until you try and do it. You can be told of all the dangers of the world, but you cannot know it until you see it, and she has.
In the Brood that swam the claimed ship with wanton disregard for everyone inside. They’re a parasite, a hive, and something that only means to their end; but it is a sort of love that puts them in harm’s way - love and intrusion of outside forces - and you know more than anything you have to do what is necessary to save them. Sure, she’s a teenager, she’s in what she thinks is love knowing nothing more than that of a father to a daughter, and she got you put in prison, but that doesn’t matter now - not among the blood and gunk and muck against the swarm.
They say never bring a knife to a gunfight.
It’s that knife that allows them time.
It’s the same knife, some version of it, that stands between them and the swarm, not bedded into Bishop’s hand, but thrust deep in the thrashing maw of one such creature as he sits in front of her to fight it off. She doesn’t need it - not really. She’s a perfect capable human being, a powerful mutant, and a strong woman, and all that has to do with her upbringing.
All that has to do with you.
And she makes a choice, one she knows you’ll survive because of this new detail, this new draw, this new sense of being whose talons are only growing stronger.
“Burn it down.”
You’ve been in the cold so long you’ve got to wonder how long it has been, but you still know he is chasing you. He is trying to stop you. He is trying to kill her to prevent a future that hasn’t been forged - a future where his missing place within it might have made it self-fulfilling.
Because the hope you raise doesn’t make tyrants.
It makes heroes.
The city is destroyed when you get there, when you finally get to wash your face with water again and warm your bones in the sun, years of travel through time and space turning you both into people far wiser than when you left the past; and through every jump to follow, she’s there, knowledgeable and mature, ready to take on the duties you’re - you hate to admit it - growing too old for.
She’s a soldier.
Because that was what you made her.
It’s a sacrifice that must be made: That is what he tells himself as the Arbor Magna goes up in flames born of a phoenix who has found something that doesn’t work. In the wretched smell of burning hair and flesh, casting husks out of exo-skeletones meant to protect, they know just as well the sacrifice made.
But the weaponry, unlike before, isn’t in your favor from threats of above, and it is all you can do - all you can think, like a guttural instinct, to protect her.
“Bodyslide by two!”
She hates time travel.
She hates space travel.
She pukes almost every single time.
Until she doesn’t and by then you’re home.
The snap of its maw’s is punctuated by the sound of something flashing, with a paf of light that all but blinds the creature and forces the thrashing of its head further through the burning wood of the arbor, but its temporary target is nowhere to be found.
They’re still home.
But home looks much different than seconds before.
Her aunt, your sister, your counselor, your advisor - the Mother Askani; the one who had imprinted her own oath of protection on him that, from such a young age, had traversed centuries. She was family - her family, your family, their family, and she had been left dead which isn't the first time you've experienced such a thing - which isn't the first time she has experienced such a thing, and you feel your mind light up like a wildfire with the rage felt not only in your own heart, but your mother; and both are angry, both are full of rage, and both burn in such cataclysmic fashion, you're afraid that sieve is going to slip off of what parts of your mind have been shielded.
And she knows you're not in control.
She wants to stop it.
But she can't.
Going back into the past isn't something you want to do, but it is something you know you have to do.
Because of her, but mostly because of you.
You know you're going to lose control - you can already feel the memories slipping in as a foreshadowing of what is to come in a past yet to be - and in the destruction that unfolds under the continuous timelines and locations it takes to get to where you need to go, you know that if you waste a second more, it will be too late and it will be more than one mutant dead because of the actions of another.
It will be many.
Even in your lost consciousness, caught up in flame, you can hear her sream. It lasts for a second - a fraction of a second - before there is nothing more than silence; and when you awake, the world is still burning and it seems hope for Krakoa is lost forever. It makes sense that your mind jumps to the most convenient conclusion, the only one that makes any sense in this God forsaken place, and you feel your hands clench instinctively in the further hurt and the further betrayal; in the further pain of the choices that had to be made and the very fact bridges are burning with no hopes to stop them as your home falls to pieces.
And how dare you forgive her for that?
The words are on the tip of your tongue - the threats and the curses and the regretable words that no one could take back once they were said - but they don't fall out of his mouth so much as they echo with the sound and weight of something heavy hitting his brain.
Heavy or wielded by someone just as strong, body hitting the ground with an unceremonious thud as everything goes dark.
Sometimes, the easiest solution is found in the simplest of means.
And sometimes you just have to hit yourself with a shovel.
It had come to you in a series of coordinates, in coordination with the knowledge, the factual basis through history, that if something happened to this little girl, you would lose it - and you would lose it if your prior dealings with the Avengers, the very threat once perceived to Hope, were any indication; but she's okay. She's safe. She is exactly where you can find her, and in a quick flash of light, you do.
It just might be a few hours before you wake up.