theothermanofsteel: (seen the world burn)
[personal profile] theothermanofsteel
Two months in Milliways.

Four and a half days at home.

It's handy, from this side of things. Disorienting, but handy.

From the other side -- well. He'll make very sure he doesn't stay eight days, this time.

Piotr needs to talk to Hank.

He doesn't exactly want to. This is not a matter of trust, not with Hank; Piotr trusts Hank with secrets as well as with his life. But the question of mutant survival is on all their minds. With three words from Wanda Maximoff -- no more mutants -- the world population dropped from millions to a few hundred. When there are no students around, Hank mutters words like genetic bottleneck and point of no recovery. He buries himself in labwork, trying frantically to solve this crisis; he doesn't say he's found nothing but dead-ends, but they all know it.

Talking about this new problem means saying to Hank, I'm sterile. Katya is sterile. We cannot have children. This is probably Wanda's doing; this is probably all of us; this probably ensures the death of our species within a generation, if someone can't fix it.

Which is exactly, of course, why he needs to talk about it.

The first day Piotr's back, Hank is gone from the mansion all day. He comes back very late, tired and stressed. The second day, Hank buries himself in his lab, hunching over slides and folders and his immensely complex computer; Piotr interrupts him anyway, and they talk.

Hank is even grimmer, after that.

This was the situation when he left: Captain America opposed the Superhuman Registration Act. Iron Man -- Tony Stark -- supported it. Both had teams behind them; some listened to their leaders, and some didn't bother to.

(Piotr chose a side. And then he walked away.

He has regrets. Too many of them. But he stands by his reasons. It all makes him weary; there is no right side in this. One more war between brothers and sisters. Piotr Nikolaievitch, Peter Rasputin, child of the Cold War and a Siberian farm and a Westchester County mansion and travels in far-off galaxies -- he knows this, and he hates it.)

There was a battle. Captain America and Iron Man and their allies -- friends on both sides, for Piotr and for everyone there. And then, near victory, Captain America surrendered. Told his forces to stand down, took off his mask, and Steve Rogers told the world he was done with this war.

Not because he was losing. But because there were too many bystanders, and too many people hurt, and sometimes the right side becomes the wrong one when you go too far. And Captain America -- Steve Rogers -- is the kind of man who chooses to stop.

When Piotr left for Milliways, Captain America had been taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody.

The second day he's back, it's on the news: Captain America taken to New York City for trial. The crowds thronging in support and (more rarely) condemnation; the plans for transparency; Steve Rogers himself, costumed but unmasked, impassive and straight-backed and handcuffed.

And the shots.

The sniper.

The blood on the courthouse stairs, the blood on that red-white-and-blue uniform.

Logan watches the news with claws out and a cigar clenched in his teeth. When the newscasters start to repeat themselves, he stalks out the door with a growl. A few minutes later, the front door slams. He doesn't tell anyone where he's going.

Invincibility isn't much, in this business. Too many people have it; too many people die anyway. Nobody's life is a constant.

Except that superheroes, X-Men, Avengers -- they're all human too. (Except the ones who aren't.) And humanity loves hope. Loves heroes. And sometimes, when someone beats the odds long enough, and often enough... you start to think, somewhere deep down where the knowledge of odds and mortality doesn't reach, that maybe this guy's different.

Maybe this one really is invincible.

To some people in this Mansion, Cap was a friend; to some of them, he's an icon. A hero. And to some, he's just another guy in a costume, out to save the world. Another comrade in arms, in this business they like or hate but all share. Fallible, mortal -- disliked, even, or distrusted. No one's a hero to everybody, and Cap's no exception. Half the mansion has a history with him, some good and some bad.

But to all of them, he's one more casualty. One more tragedy.

And one of the ones that, deep down, some of them suspected would never die -- not, at least, like that. Not with a shattered throat and perforated torso on the courthouse steps, shot down by a successful assassin.

And even death's not always permanent around here -- Piotr knows as well as any how little it means sometimes, and how very much it means too -- but you never know.

You never know.

And another good man -- another man, at least, who strove to be good -- is dead.

Life at the Mansion goes on. If there's one thing the X-Men are good at -- students, teachers, X-Men and New X-Men and every name they've worn over the years -- it's picking up the pieces. After a crisis, or in the middle of one.

Piotr's not a full-time teacher. He helps out where he's needed: with art classes, with Danger Room training, with mentoring. Sometimes a kid needs a metal Colossus to block shrapnel, and sometimes they need a sympathetic ear, and what understanding and advice one quiet Russian can give.

He does what he can.

This, too, is familiar: friends are gone, friends are dead, friends are enemies, the entire world seems hostile, and life goes on.

On the third day, Piotr looks up from his breakfast to see Logan stalking in. They trade a look; Logan jerks his head a little towards the door, with a "Later, Pete," and goes back to pouring himself coffee. Piotr understands.

A few hours later, a quick word to Scott -- Piotr, at least, is that polite -- and they head for the nearest empty hallway.
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October 2011

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