|Against the Dying of the Light (Colossus gen)
||[Sep. 23rd, 2006|01:29 pm]
Title: Against the Dying of the Light
Characters: Colossus gen, with Jubilee, Storm, and others.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, don't sue.
Summary: Wherein Xavier is dead, the students want to fight, and Peter keeps his own counsel.
Written for: lonelywalker
Pairing/scenario requested: Peter (Colossus) - A view of some or all events of X3 from his perspective.
Warnings: X3 spoilers.
Notes: Title borrowed from the Dylan Thomas poem. Assorted characters borrowed from the Generation X line of comics. Huge thanks to sionnain for the beta.
The night before he left for Xavier's Institute, Peter's grandmother cooked them both a good solid Russian meal, of the sort, she said haughtily, these zvezda at the mutant school would be unable to provide. "Now you listen to me, Piotr," she said, stirring the stewing cabbage with unusual ferocity. "You must not dishonor your family. You will remember your father, da?"
"Da," Peter agreed, although of course he didn't. He never knew his father, or his mother. They had had him and his grandmother smuggled out of the old Soviet Union shortly after he had been born – and born so obviously different.
"Your father," his grandmother went on, chopping some carrots into the shchi, "was a hero. A Hero of the Soviet Union, the State told us, and they gave him a medal to prove it. A great honor! Not many men are so honored. And so young! Do you know why he was given such an honor?"
Peter had heard this many times before. "For his services to the State in the war against Afghanistan."
"Da! He was a great soldier, the perfect soldier. And do you know why?"
"Because he followed orders."
"He followed orders," she agreed vehemently, punctuating each word by rapping Peter's stomach with her long wooden spoon, indifferent to the shchi stains she left on his shirt. An old T-shirt anyway, faded, not fine enough to be taken to this new school of his, of no importance. "He did as he was told. Always! Without question or hesitation! That is what the Communist Party called a hero. The perfect soldier! But on the inside, ah!" And she knocked at his head lightly with her aged knuckles. "He had his own thoughts, smart thoughts, not what the State put there. He kept his own counsel. And when you were born, Piotr, we all could see that you were different. So large, so strong, even then. Not like the other babies. A true Communist, a Hero of the Soviet Union, we should have turned you over to the State to raise. These were the orders. But your father, nyet! Underneath the perfect soldier, a clever mind. He did not want such a life for you, to belong to the State, to never be your own person. So he bundled you in my arms, and he said, Mother, you must go. He got us out, you and I. A hero indeed!"
They never learned what had become of his parents. Perhaps the ruse succeeded, perhaps not. Who could say?
His grandmother's voice grew quiet now, serious. The shchi simmered unheeded on the cracked old stove. "You must be a perfect soldier, Petrusha," she warned him softly. "Always to be following orders, always doing what they tell you, da? But inside, ah! They cannot tell you what to think. Not even this man who hears minds. You must be clever like your father. You must keep your own counsel. This way, always you will be your own person."
And Peter did as he was told.
When Xavier died, he was all the students could talk about for days afterwards. To prove their love for him or his for them, Peter couldn't tell, but they all felt the need to tell stories.
"I mean, everyone could tell what I was, you know?" Angelo said, shrugging. His skin hung heavy and gray from his face and arms. "So I was what they thought I was. A thug. A real zurramato, you know? The cops, they busted up my gang, brought me in. I thought, this is it, they're gonna put me in jail, mutant kids don't get to go to juvie. And they've got me in this cell, right, stinks of piss and mecos. And then this guy rolls in one day, this old gringo pendejo, some fuckin' head shrink, I thought. But then he looked at me, and I knew. He didn't think I was a freak. He didn't think I was ugly. He knew what I was and he was proud of me, or something. First person I ever met in my entire life ever really saw me."
"He never lied to me," whispered Amara, only three months at the school, just twelve and still painfully shy. "My parents said they'd protect me, but they couldn't. My best friend said she didn't care, but she did. The other kids at school swore to the teachers they'd never touched me, but they hurt me when the teachers weren't looking. But when the Professor came, I asked him if he was going to save me. He said no, but that he would teach me how to save myself."
Even Jubilee, who trash-talked all the teachers volubly and with great frequency, managed to suppress her usual wiseass remarks. "He was the only grown-up I ever trusted," was all she said.
They were falling all over themselves to prove their loyalty to the Professor. Any one of them would have killed for him, after that funeral.
Any one of them would have died for him.
And many of them probably would, Peter thought. He somehow doubted the Professor would have disagreed.
Peter shared no Xavier stories, but then, no one asked him to. Peter rarely spoke unless he was spoken to. But he, too, remembered his first meeting with the Professor. "We can help you," Xavier had said.
"I don't really need help," Peter had responded, politely. There was no purpose in lying; the man was a telepath, after all. "But I would like to be useful. You say you have a school. I think you are building an army. I have no objection to your mission or your means. I would like to be of help to you. I will fight for you if you need me."
Xavier's eyes had narrowed. Peter could feel the probe in his mind, subtle but persistent. He kept his face and thoughts blank. He was not lying, so he had nothing to fear from this man. "You are a difficult boy to know," Xavier had said, finally, not unkindly.
Peter had shrugged. "I just want to be of use. My grandmother tells me that God has gifted me with a special talent, and that talent is for fighting. If God had meant for me to heal others, he would have gifted me with a talent for medicine. If He had meant for me to be a great leader, then so would He have gifted me. But He gifted me only for fighting, and so that is what I will do." Peter wasn't sure that he really believed in his grandmother's God, but he knew that faith was a great commodity among other believers, and this man with the gentle voice and hawk's eyes was one who would surely be respectful, or at least indulgent, of such a faith. "I will do as I am told."
An unreadable emotion had passed across Xavier's face, just for an instant. "I don't seek mindless obedience, Peter," he had said softly. "We hope to teach our students how to think, not what to think."
Peter had wondered if that was the truth, or merely a pleasant lie Xavier told himself. After all, Xavier could make his students think whatever he wanted them to think. "Then I wish to learn as well."
Xavier had studied him a moment longer, then sighed. "I wish it did not come to this," he murmured, almost to himself. "But there is a war coming, whether I wish it or no, and though I do not want to fight, neither can I lose the battle. I do believe we could use your help, Peter, if it is freely given."
"I will fight for you," Peter had promised, and he did not lie.
He had not known of Magneto, then. If he had, perhaps he would have given his allegiance elsewhere, or perhaps not. Who could say? He had been thirteen years old. He had had no interest in causes. He had just wanted to fight.
Ms. Munroe caught his arm after the funeral. "When the time comes, Peter," she said, "I will need you to fight beside us. As a full team member."
Peter nodded. It was time and past.
Jubilee, who had been walking beside him, frowned belligerently. "I want to fight, too," she told Ms. Munroe. "I'm older than Kitty, and I've been here as long as Peter and longer than Rogue. Let me fight with you."
Ms. Munroe raised an eyebrow. It wasn't that Jubilee didn't like fighting – just that she usually preferred fighting against authority figures, not with them. "No, Jubilee. You're not ready."
Storm had yet to develop Xavier's warmer methods of handling students. Then again, Peter thought, she couldn't make them see things her way. Xavier could. "You don't have the training," she told Jubilee bluntly, and turned away.
"It's not fair!" Jubilee complained, much later, as they raided the kitchen after lights-out. She never used to bring Peter along on her midnight raids, but lately she'd been going to him more. It used to be John, the only other person who hated rules as much as she did. But John was gone now. She missed him, Peter could tell, but he didn't mind being second best. "Whose fault is it that I haven't had advanced combat training? None of them ever let me into your little lessons in the Danger Room! I'm old enough, my powers are way better for fighting than that silly little Twitty Kitty. Why do they always forget about me?"
"They don't forget about you," Peter said. Jubilee glanced over at him in surprise. He didn't usually interrupt her rants. "They just don't trust you."
He didn't say anything further. Jubilee stared at him for a moment, searchingly, and then turned back to her ice cream. For once, she had nothing to say.
They heard soft footfalls in the corridor and ducked into a darkened doorway. Jubilee clutched Peter's arm and deliberately leaned back into his chest, less out of fear of being caught than so that she might make him aware of the curves of her hips and ass against his groin. Peter wondered if she wished he was John, who would have known all too well what to do with those curves, as he'd proven on several occasions before he'd left.
It wasn't a teacher, anyway. It was Rogue, slipping away in the night, her bag slung over her shoulder, her face pale and resolute.
"Think she's going to join the Brotherhood?" Jubilee breathed in his ear.
"No," Peter said with certainty, closing his eyes and remembering the sick, sucking touch of Rogue's skin on his in the Danger Room, when he'd allowed her to shield herself with his powers. "She's going for the Cure."
Rogue's touch had made him feel weak. It had been a novel sensation. He'd rather liked it. She was the only person who had ever made him feel that way.
He heard an intake of breath beside him, almost a hiss. "The traitor."
Would Jubilee have responded like that if Rogue had been joining Magneto? Somehow, Peter didn't think so.
After a few moments, Jubilee seemed to realize that Peter wasn't going to do anything about her body pressed against his, and pulled away with a sigh of frustration. "You want her, don't you? All the boys do. Because they know they can't have her. But then again, neither can anyone else. Not even Bobby. She's untouchable. That's why you're all drawn to her. Like moths to a flame."
She really did miss John. And no wonder, Peter supposed. Maybe Jubilee would be the next to leave the school, though not for any Cure. Who could say? Without Xavier to hold them together, anyone might be the next to leave. Maybe Angelo, who itched for a fight, not yet free of the street gangs of his past. Maybe Wolverine, the loner, who was never really part of the school to begin with. Maybe Jubilee. Maybe Peter.
He had made a promise to fight for Xavier, but Xavier was dead. He was not bound to anyone here any longer. But Storm had said she would need him, and Peter liked being needed.
There were no classes the next day. Most of the students were grateful for the holiday, still grieving, but Jubilee had been spreading her helpless frustration to some of the other older students, and Angelo and Everett nearly got into a fistfight over the TV remote.
"Cool it," Peter said quietly, grabbing Everett's shoulder and firmly yanking him away from Angelo. "This isn't the time for fighting."
"Oh yeah?" Everett snapped. Instinctively, he mimicked Peter's mutation, his fist becoming encased in metal for an instant before shifting back to normal. "If this isn't, then when the hell is? You maybe been payin' attention to the world out there, Peter?"
"Well, it's not the time to fight one another, anyway." Then Peter thought about it. "Or maybe it is."
The angry ones weren't hard to find. Jubilee had already roused most of them – why, Peter wasn't sure, but at any rate, it made them easy to round up. There weren't all that many – just the ones smart enough to understand what was coming, and old enough to chafe at their enforced inactivity. Jubilee, Everett, Angelo, Paige, Jono, Clarice – none any younger than Kitty, but none yet trusted with proper combat training. A waste, Peter thought – why had Xavier waited on these?
Because he could read their minds. Because they were too independent to be unquestioningly loyal. Because the other teachers didn't trust them with their own powers yet. Because Jubilee insulted teachers and Angelo had been a gang member; because Everett borrowed others' powers to play childish pranks and Jono was silent and sullen; because Clarice cut classes and Paige was shrewd and secretive.
Peter knew how to access the Danger Room, although he hadn't been taught to program the holographs. No matter. They didn't need illusions of robots to learn to fight. Most already knew the basics, anyway. All the students were trained to defend themselves, if their powers had such defensive applications.
Now it was just a matter of reversing the purpose.
"Okay," Peter said, drawing on his powers to grow larger, stronger, indestructible. "We begin with one-on-one combat. You can't hurt me, so don't worry about holding yourselves back. Jubilee, you first. Try to incapacitate me."
After a few hours, Peter had sufficiently exhausted them. They'd be too tired to start trouble today, at least, and hopefully they'd turn to this unofficial training as a better outlet for their frustrated energies in the future. Peter supposed he ought to tell Storm about it – he saw no point in hiding anything that might prove useful later on. Back upstairs, he found Doug in the corridor. "Do you know where the adults are?"
Doug shrugged. "They're having some sort of private meeting, them and Bobby and Kitty. I dunno why." He headed off to the rec room.
Jubilee, still trailing along, shot Peter a sharp look. "All the full team members," she said. "Except you."
"They ask me to fight," Peter said, almost to himself. "Not to think."
"Too bad," she commented. "I'm starting to think you might have a thing or two to tell them, if they ever thought to ask."
That evening was the Magneto broadcast on TV, with the clips from the minor attack on the Worthington Labs building. "John," Jubilee murmured, the flames on the TV screen reflected in her eyes. Peter wondered if he ought to comfort her somehow, but he didn't know how, and anyway, she probably wouldn't appreciate it. Jubilee didn't like appearing weak.
"You know," Everett said softly, leaning in, "I hate to say it, but Magneto sorta makes a good point, here."
"He's always made a good point," Peter replied, just as quietly. "He wouldn't be so dangerous if he was wrong."
Peter slipped away after the broadcast and went to Storm's room. She was standing out on her little private balcony watching the skies. She turned when she heard Peter approach. "Peter? What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to tell you," he said. "The students want to fight. Not just Bobby or Kitty. A few of the other older ones."
"Well, they can't," Storm snapped. Thunder grumbled in the distance. "They don't have the training."
"They could, though," Peter said simply. "Professor Xavier told me, when he first brought me here, that a war was coming. You could have an army if you wanted."
Storm stared at him as though she didn't recognize him. "I will not send my students out to die. The Professor felt the same. We never wanted to build an army, Peter. This is no children's crusade."
"They want to fight," he said again. "And they will, sooner or later, and if you don't want to lead them, someone else will."
"You don't understand," she said, and turned away. There was no point in trying to convince her, Peter could tell, no point in telling her about the illicit training session in the Danger Room. She wasn't listening. She wanted Peter to fight, but not to think. She didn't believe him. This is why you keep your own counsel, he thought, remembering his grandmother and the smell of stewed cabbage. Because people don't know how to listen to truths they don't want to hear.
So he stopped trying, and walked away.
The next day, he trained with the non-X-Men again, and wondered to whom they would end up offering their skills. They were angry, they wanted to fight, they wanted to rage out at something. Disaffected, embittered youth, the Generation X of mutantkind.
If Xavier's death was the dying of the light, then, as the poet said, these teenagers would not go gentle into that good night. But to what purpose?
"John was right," Jubilee said bleakly, as another day died and the teachers still failed to give the students any information on the battle they all knew was fast approaching. "He was right to leave. We shouldn't be fighting the Brotherhood – they're mutants, they're our own kind."
"You won't be fighting them," Peter replied.
He broke curfew that night, sneaking out for a night on the town with the other non-X-Men (who would need a proper name, maybe, if they never became real X-Men, but Peter would leave that decision to others; he was their trainer for the moment, but not their leader). Clarice teleported them to Grand Central Station one by one; they slipped into the crowds and onto the subway, downtown to a mutant bar in the Village. Only two days in and they were already a gang; the possibilities were frightening.
The possibilities were controversial.
"There's no reason to leave the school," Paige insisted. "A couple of years, they'll realize they need us. We'll be real team members soon. We can surprise them."
Jono just shook his head, silent as always.
"The Professor's gone," Everett said pragmatically. "How long you think the school's gonna last?"
"Where else would they send the kids?" Paige shot back. "The school can't close, never."
"But what if it does?" Everett persisted. "Who do we fight for?"
Jubilee toyed with little fireworks at her fingertips. "Don't see why it matters. We could join the Brotherhood, maybe. They're winning. And they've got the right idea."
"I don't want to slaughter humans," Angelo said. "Much as they might want to slaughter us."
"No, just cure us," Jubilee said. "Like we're sick."
Paige frowned. "But we're still kids, we shouldn't leave school…"
There are other schools.
They all would've recognized Xavier's voice in their heads, and this wasn't it. Peter glanced over his shoulder. A woman sat at the bar behind them, middle-aged but still beautiful, her white dress clinging somewhat frighteningly to her very apparent figure. She smiled.
My name is Emma Frost.
There was a commotion in the hallway, so Peter and Jubilee poked their heads out of the rec room to see what was happening. Wolverine and Dr. McCoy were thundering down to the tunnels to grab their gear, Storm was running to find Bobby and Kitty. "Peter," she said breathlessly, grabbing his arm. "We have to go, now. Get downstairs."
He nodded, and turned to go as she dashed away.
"Wait," Jubilee said, touching his shoulder. He looked back at her. "Who will you be fighting for?"
"The X-Men," he told her.
She studied his face intently. "For always?"
He almost smiled. "For today."
After all, Peter was a member of the X-Men team now. He had promised Xavier to fight for him, and as good as promised Storm the same. He would fight the Brotherhood today, even if it was a mistake, even if Magneto had the right of it. He would be the perfect soldier. He would follow orders. Maybe he would even be called a hero, if they won.
But he kept his own counsel. And tomorrow, and the day after that, what would he do then?
He would wait and see. Who could say?