Saving Cain: Chapter 4

And then there is silence. It has been only a moment or two, but it feels like an eternity. Piotr Rasputin cocks an ear, listening for anything from structural creaks to wails for help... Nothing. The former is a relief. The latter...

"They're alive," Professor Xavier says from underneath him, no doubt sensing his thoughts.

Piotr had been at his post by the door - for some reason, playing the heavy for Cyclops versus the FoH punk is a lot more fun than serving as muscle for the mafiya crowd - when the Professor came out of the room.

Xavier had said that Cyclops could handle things from there. Piotr felt -- feels -- that a telepath would be a better interrogator, but perhaps Xavier knows something that indicates otherwise. However, since watching the Professor keep telepathic tabs on Cyclops and Alex X (leaving Cyclops to handle things is different, of course, than leaving Cyclops alone to handle things) is somewhere between boring and rude, Piotr closed his eyes and leaned against the doorjamb.

And then it happened. There was an anguished scream that probably came from Alex X and a cry of surprise that was most probably Cyclops. A telepathic warning from Xavier came a heartbeat before the door exploded outwards, but it was enough time for Piotr to transform into his organic steel form. The blast sped his progress toward Xavier, but not so much that Piotr couldn't control his movements. He tackled the Professor, knocking him from his wheelchair to the ground as the hot wind - wind!?! - blew over them and covered them with debris.

And then nothing.

After Xavier speaks, Piotr stands up slowly - there are bits of door and other parts of the room on his back and all over the hallway.

"Holy Sh...inola!" Ororo exclaims, surveying the damage. Henry is next to her, Bobby just visible behind him.

"If that FoH hotshot hurt Cyke," Bobby begins threateningly, then trails off as he catches Piotr's highly skeptical smirk.

"Cyclops will be fine," Xavier says calmly from the floor. Piotr excuses himself and lifts the Professor back into the wheelchair that Henry has uprighted. "Jean, did you bring..."

"Right here, Prof," Jean replies, waving one of Cyclops' spare visors with one hand.

"Well," Xavier says, gesturing with his chin toward the room. "The debris precludes me being able to progress much past the doorway."

"That's hardly a problem, is it?" Jean asks. A wiggle of the fingers later, a path is telekinetically cleared.

Off to the side, Ororo murmurs that she, too, could have done that. Her control over the winds for small-scale motions is greatly improved. Henry pats her shoulder reassuringly.

"It does appear that our young guest has heat-related powers," Xavier says as Piotr rolls him slowly into the room.

"You have quite the talent for understatement," Henry comments as he moves into the room. "He melted the mirror."

In fact, the whole room has melted. Or is downstairs, Piotr muses as he looks around. A wall is missing and the moonlight streams in unfettered. The heat must have been incredible - well beyond anything a fire could generate. The mirror lies in a still-steaming puddle-shaped mass on the floor. Right next to where the dresser should had been.

The large bed that had not-quite dominated the room is a mass of melted springs in the corner, covered, like everything else (that remains) in the room, with some white ash-like substance. Honestly, Piotr thinks to himself, the room looks like the barns had years ago, after... "Chernobyl," he murmurs.

"Similar enough," Xavier agrees. "The radiation levels aren't nearly so potent. But the same effect."

There is a murmur of surprise from the group and Ororo mumbles about the FoH accidentally succeeding in their pogrom to sterilize all mutants.

"So where in this small-scale nuclear winter are Scott and our guest?" Henry asks.

Piotr notes that Henry doesn't sound distraught and idly wonders if Xavier isn't 'encouraging' them to be calm. They had all heard about what he had tried to do with Cyclops right before Scott had fled with the Blackbird. Or perhaps they are all taking much more subtle cues from the telepaths. Jean isn't freaking out and, bizarre love triangle with Wolverine aside, she does care about Scott.

Xavier rolls himself closer to the edge of the gaping wound in the building. "Down at ground level, I fear."

Piotr goes as close to the edge as he dares and looks down. In the background, he can hear Jean, Ororo, and Henry moving to run downstairs. Bobby stays behind.

"Can I take a shortcut?" he asks, sounding as if he were unsure about whether or not it is an appropriate time to be using his powers.

"Indeed you should," Xavier affirms. "And take Piotr with you. I am more than capable of getting down to the med lab on my own."

"Don't you want to come?" Bobby asks. "I could make a slide instead of a pole..."

"The acceleration would be a little too much for either of us to handle, I fear," Xavier says, sounding surprisingly... amused to Piotr's ears. "Actually, that would make an excellent physics problem for you, Bobby. We should calculate my terminal velocity for slides of differing angles."

"How... how can you be giving me homework now?" Bobby sputters. "Scott's..."

"Fine," Xavier interrupts as he backs his wheelchair up and then turns around to head toward the door. "Conscious as of a few moments ago, in quite a bit of pain, but with no serious damage done." With that, he leaves the room.

"Let's go, Bobby," Piotr urges gently. "There's a lot of debris and I don't want Henry and Jean to have to lift everything themselves."

Bobby nods sharply and, screwing his face in concentration, builds them a cross between a fireman's pole and a monorail. Piotr follows Bobby down, choosing to let his bare hands freeze on the ice than take the chance that Bobby had not made the structure strong enough to bear the weight of his steel form. He makes a running landing a few moments later, hands burning from the cold and the friction.

The disaster site is just off the back porch. Ororo has turned on the lights that normally bathe the porch and accompanying walk in a gentle glow, but Jean uses her telekinetic muscle to aim the wrought-iron Victorian lamps at the pile of rubble.

The whole mess is in a crater and Henry speculates that it was created when Scott used his optic blasts to slow his fall. Else there shouldn't have been a hole in the ground and there probably shouldn't have been a relatively undamaged pair of young men underneath the rubble. Bobby shudders at the thought of Scott's terminal velocity considering the height of the fall and the acceleration above what was caused by gravity and vows to quit if the Professor gave him that as a homework problem.

There is less debris than there should have been for an explosion, Piotr muses as he looks around, having helped cause a few himself. It stood to reason, obviously, if there had been some sort of small nuclear detonation, then some of what had been in the room has simply vaporized.

"I've got a bead on them," Jean announces. Piotr can see that she is wearing Scott's visor around her neck like sunglasses. "They're not in immediate danger, so all we have to do is clear out what's on top of them."

"Well, Piotr, Bobby," Henry sighs. "I think that's girl-speak for 'Get to work'."

Ororo cracks a smile, but ostentatiously waits a good long moment before joining in with the digging. "Where are we going to put this stuff?"

"I wish I could make an ice wheelbarrow or something," Bobby muses.

"Worry about that later," Jean says. "We're going to have to get people in to fix the walls and the landscaping anyway, let them toss everything into a dumpster."

"Are they close to the edge or more to the middle?" Henry asks. "I don't want to step on anybody..."

"Over closer to that side," Jean points. "Scott, don't even think about moving. Or talking," she calls out. "Just stay there and don't move. If you want something, just think at me, okay?"

It takes about a half hour of careful debris removal - they have to work from the top of the pile, lest they create an avalanche lower down - before the quartet finds the pair.

'Oh, my," Henry whispers, almost reverentially.

Peering over, Piotr really can't add anything to the sentiment. Lying on their sides, spooned together, are Scott and Alex X. Scott's visor is gone - they had actually come across it digging (the bridge of the nose is cracked and it will need to be replaced) and he lays there, eyes squeezed shut, with his free arm curled protectively over Alex's face and head.

"Anything broken, Fearless One?" Jean asks as she carefully leans over and pulls Scott's arm away so that she can reach his face and put on the visor.

"A rib or three, maybe," Scott replies in a hoarse whisper. "Is he..."

"Out cold," Ororo answers. "I think I like him this way."

"Exhaustion," Jean adds, no doubt sensing Scott's concern. "You must have broken the fall for the both of you."

It would be typical Scott, Piotr muses, to be more worried about the safety of the kid who wants to kill him than his own hide. Although that isn't really fair - all of them would have been concerned. Just not as concerned.

Ten minutes later, the pair is freed entirely. Piotr picks up the limp form of Alex X and Jean and Ororo each slid one of Scott's arms around their necks (much to Henry's feigned jealousy and indignation) and guides him back inside to the medical room. Bobby's offer of instant ice packs is gently turns down - he just doesn't have that fine control yet.

Even though the trio is behind him, Piotr knows by the muttered exclamation that Scott has looked up at the hole in the side of the mansion.

The Professor is indeed waiting for them when they arrive. Alex X is strapped (gently) onto a bed and Scott is guided to the X-ray machine.

"I wonder if you've been exposed to enough radiation tonight to just check your bones by turning the light off and waiting for you to glow in the dark," Henry muses aloud as he waits for the films to develop. "Which does beg another question: it's understandable that Alex was unaffected by your little adventure. But why weren't you?"

The unspoken question, of course, was directed not at Scott, but at Xavier. Xavier, who had let his lieutenant stay at ground zero for what he knew would be some sort of explosion (even if it was only meant metaphorically) while he himself hid out in the hallway. They all knew Alex X was going to manifest his mutant powers soon - imminently, according to the Professor. So why had Xavier let someone who is secretly making out a list of what he wants for his nineteenth birthday face that alone?

Piotr doesn't know at what point in his relatively-brief-but-increasingly-bizarre life it was that he learned the difference between silences, meaningful silences, and silences that really aren't because of telepathic communication. But he knew this is the last of the three. Xavier's talking to Scott.

Scott, who's now sitting on a bed with his legs dangling down. He attempts to slouch but is given a sharp reminder by his (fractured, but not displaced) rib that that isn't such a good idea. Sitting up ramrod straight, looking very much like he does indeed have a stick in a place most people wouldn't want one, Scott nonetheless manages to sigh almost pathetically.

"I suspected he wouldn't be," Xavier says, sensing -- correctly -- that the unspoken question is more important. "It was safer for Scott to be there than anyone else. Including me."

"But how cou..."

"You know why, Henry," Scott speaks up, voice pitched low and raw. "Because a link between powers always follows a genetic link."

"A genetic link?" Jean asks sharply. She has been giving Alex the once-over, channeling some physician - pediatrician, even - to check for problems that the x-ray might not have picked up. "You're related to this creep?" She puts down the stethoscope she had been wearing. "But you don't have any living family! Except... oh! Alex. Christ."

The silence is broken by Ororo. "Okay, for those of us who are neither telepaths nor Henry - who really has to learn about gossip and when to spread it - what's going on?"

"Alex is my brother," Scott sighs, trying to lie down from a sitting position without curving his back. It is a graceless move resembling a tree toppling.

"And you didn't want to tell us because..." Piotr asks. Not angry. Hurt, a little. Because he hangs out with Scott - more so than any of the others these days with Jean being post-Wolverine and Henry running off with Ororo and Bobby being fifteen going on twelve. Because he resents the implication that he can't handle the news and still do his job.

"Because Alex just found out and you saw what he did," Scott replies slowly. Xavier's shot him up with painkillers and they must be kicking in. "Now consider our team's general inability to keep our mouths shut and imagine that happening at any point during our retrieval."

It's not the whole answer - Piotr rather suspects that his own ideas are probably closer to the truth - but it's unassailable logic. Alex - and he's now 'Alex' in Piotr's mind, not 'Alex X' or 'the FoH cretin' or a hundred other variations on that theme that really don't translate well from the Russian even in his own thoughts - could have killed people. He could have blown their cover - not to mention their car - right to hell.

So Piotr just nods and shrugs. There's not much else to say. Or anyone who will answer - Scott's starting to look droopy and Xavier's about to push all of them out of the med lab. They can gossip among themselves later.