I hate this place.
I can't tell you when I started hating it. It could have been the day Jean died. It could have been before. But I remember the day I realized it how much I hated this mansion.
It was a Saturday night and, except for Ilyana, we were all flopped around in the entertainment room - superheroes don't have much of a life, you know - and the late movie came on. Some stupid horror flick, I don't remember the name, started playing. None of us really wanted to watch it, but Logan had the remote control and, well, nobody was gonna bother the guy with claws.
Kurt and Ororo had been sharing the couch by the window, although neither of them was in the room at the moment. Piotr was on the other couch with Kitty leaning against him, his arm behind her on the back of the couch. I was in the chair next to them and Logan had the overstuffed seat with the best view of the television. He had gotten there first, and, well, nobody was gonna bother the guy with claws.
The movie was not very good, but it was pretty gory, worse than what you usually saw on television, I thought. But I don't get to watch TV too often, so it could have been par for the course these days.
"Popcorn, pretzels, soda, beer," Kurt called out as he walked slowly into the room carrying a tray, Ororo following behind with cups and napkins. We all perked up - dinner had been a while ago.
After another half-hour or so, snacks consumed and dozens more hideously dispatched by the killer bees, we were all flopped out, half-asleep. What are a bunch of bugs when you've already faced aliens, psychopaths, and even giant insects?
Well, not all of us were so blasé. With each attack of the killer bees, Kitty would curl up a little tighter and Piotr would look down at her, his concern illuminated by the lights from the television. He looked up at me and I nodded.
"Hey, Logan, mind finding something a little lighter?" I asked. "Something without bugs?" Left unsaid that there was no reason to watch such a bad movie if all it was doing was freaking out Kitty. Considering that she was snuggled up next to Piotr, the odds of her leaving the room on her own accord - or with Ororo's prompting - were minimal, and Piotr wasn't going to create any hints of impropriety by taking her off by himself.
It wasn't until later that I really got a chance to think about it, after we watched the end of "Some Like it Hot" and went up to bed. Kitty had been clearly disturbed by the movie, which had she been any other fourteen-year-old would not have been anything of note.
But she wasn't any other fourteen-year-old. She spent her days doing lessons and her nights battling the forces of evil in the universe. She had tackled demons all on her own, not to mention the odd possessed teammate, the Hellfire Club...
I was half asleep when it hit me.
Kitty wasn't just scared of the bees.
We are used to Kitty putting on a brave face and acting all grown up, the way all of us do so that we don't realize that we are in the position of having the fate of the planet rest in our hands.
But Kitty isn't like everyone else. As close to grown up as she may appear - and yes, all of us have noticed, even if Piotr seems to notice more than the rest of us - she is still a child. She shouldn't be saving the world. She should be going to the mall and hanging out with her friends and getting picked on by the seniors the way all the freshmen in high school are.
Instead, she races through her math homework (Hank's books are going to get recycled - the rest of us punked out during calculus and Kitty's good with figures) so that she can join us in the Danger Room sessions. Instead of figuring out what to wear to a school dance, she's trying on new variations of her battle costume.
She's fourteen, for crying out loud. She shouldn't have a battle costume.
I shouldn't have opened my eyes just then. Not because they weren't protected (they were), but because the first thing I saw was the photo of Jean and I that I keep by my bed. It's my favorite photo of us; we're both facing the camera (and Bobby, who was taking the picture), my arms wrapped around Jean and her hands resting on mine as they're clasped at her waist. We're both so visibly happy. It was taken in Tarrytown, not far from here, on a rare Original X-Men reunion day when Warren had dragged us out to see foliage. Yeah, the great Archangel is a tree man.
I shouldn't have opened my eyes and stared at that photo because now in addition to thinking about Kitty's stolen youth, I can add Jean's.
I can feel a flash of pure hatred course through me, intended for the owner of this mansion. Charles Xavier, publicly the wealthy benefactor of the wretched mutant, privately the tyrannical taskmaster leader of our little band of outlaw heroes.
But the hatred changes direction before I can put it in a place Xavier can see it - I know better. Xavier has a heart underneath the heartless exterior, a soul behind the computerized personality. As quick as he is to put our feelings last (exactly how many times have we mourned your "passing", Professor?), he wept for Jean, too.
Instead, I turn the hatred inwards. (Yeah, Jeannie, I know I'm real good at that.) I can't be angry with Xavier for being so inconsiderate precisely because I'm as guilty of it myself.
If Kitty's situation really bothered me, I would have done something about it. One quick chat with Xavier - Ororo at my side - and Kitty would be in one of the nearby day schools. She'd be spending her days in classes with kids her age. It might be a little awkward - she's already seen much more than anyone her age should ever have to - but she'd have some of her life back.
But I haven't gone to talk to Xavier about it. I haven't even talked to 'roro, although I know how she feels about it already. Why? Because I'm the leader of the X-Men and Kitty's just too useful to our team. She's a whiz with computers and electronics, her phasing ability is invariably needed, and, quite frankly, she keeps everyone else on their toes. Nobody wants to be the one to have to explain to the Prydes exactly how we got their baby killed.
I have a purely personal reason for keeping Kitty on the team, too. She reminds me of the old crew. She's got Hank's delight with gadgetry, Warren's love of grace and style, Jean's compassion and humanity, and Bobby's youthful exuberance. I don't think she reminds anyone of me. I'm the one without the personality and Kitty's just too colorful.
I can justify my own reasons until I'm blue in the face (note to self, do not use that line on Hank). But I can't make the hate go away. I have to be angry with somebody. Or something.
That's why I hate this place. Because if people didn't fear mutants, if the rest of the universe didn't think Earth was easy pickings, if there wasn't a need for there to be superheroes, then this place wouldn't exist.
If all of that, then it would be simply another sprawling manse on Greymalkin Lane, the home of an erudite, if eccentric, academic. Not the secret base of the X-Men. Not a place where the dreams of the few - us - must die so that the dreams of the many may live. Not a place where a fourteen-year-old girl must train for battles that might cost her life. Not a place where another girl trained in the skills that did cost her life at the age of only twenty-four.
I hate this place.