Saving Cain: Chapter 8

It was halfway through the third period when the Professor came into the entertainment room to ask Piotr if he'd go down and check on Alex after the game.

After the Devils finished knocking the Rangers around, Piotr turns off the television - Scott usually watches at least part of a game with him, but he left after the second period claiming exhaustion (which Piotr mentally translates from Scott-speak into 'I want to go brood by myself now') and the room is otherwise deserted.

Making a pit stop in the dining room, Piotr goes downstairs and into the clinic. Alex is sitting up, seemingly buried under all of the day's newspapers.

"You look like your brother like that," Piotr says as he sets down the bottle of vodka and two shotglasses on the table by Alex's bed. "Or you would, if Scott ever took his newspapers to bed."

The effect of his words does not surprise Piotr. Alex promptly collects all of the papers and put them in a neat pile. Piotr suspects that Alex would do anything to not be like Scott right now.

"What are you doing here?" Alex asks, obviously wanting to be surly but still curious about the liquor and two glasses.

"What does it look like? It is my turn to baby-sit you," Piotr replies, pulling over a chair and sitting down.

"I haven't had a babysitter all day," Alex responds.

"Not in the same room, no," Piotr agrees, then points to the camera in the corner. "You don't think we'd leave you unsupervised with all of this equipment, do you? Lots of knives here, you know."

If Alex is surprised, he doesn't look it. The camera isn't hidden, just built into the architecture of the room. He had probably noticed it.

"So I get personal attention now?" Alex asks, sarcasm winning over curiosity.

"You spend too much time with yourself, you get crazy," Piotr explains with a shrug. "You've been crazy enough since you've been here. You need company."

"What says I want you for company?"

"What do you tell a five hundred pound bear that's sitting on your couch?" Piotr asks in response. "To sit wherever it wants."

Alex just stares at him.

"It's a joke, yes?" Piotr asks.

"I think your delivery needs work," Alex finally says with a frown. "Besides, you're not five hundred pounds."

"I can be," Piotr corrects. "But that would wreck the chair."

Alex fails to hide a wry smile. "I guess so. Are you here so that Xavier can watch me interact with other mutants?" he asks, gesturing toward the camera, "Or is this like being at the zoo where you get to sit up close with the animals?"

"I don't know where the Professor is," Piotr admits, although the thought that he might be watching has crossed his mind. "And you are a very uninteresting animal to sit and watch. You just lie there and feel sorry for yourself. At least when Bobby watches Jerry Springer, the people throw chairs and feel sorry for themselves."

"I'm sorry to disappoint," Alex bit back. "If I thought I could throw a chair, I would."

"I'm sure," Piotr agrees pleasantly and reaches over to pour himself a shot of vodka. "I suppose I should make polite conversation now. Like you are supposed to do for someone in a hospital. So, how have you been?"

"Fucking peachy," Alex responds, looking at Piotr like he is a very stupid alien.

"Good to hear," Piotr says, knocking back his vodka. "Did you enjoy dinner?"

"Highlight of my evening," Alex retorts.

"Good. I like it when people like my cooking," Piotr replies with a firm nod, placing his glass back on the small table. "Good vodka. Much better than the crap we used to make at home."

Alex looks at the bottle. "That's not Russian vodka, is it?"

"Nyet. It's French," Piotr agrees, picking up the bottle of Grey Goose. "Wins the competitions every year."

"Who'd have thunk," Alex replies. "I'd have thought you'd be loyal to your native stuff."

"What loyal? You think they drink Stoli in Russia? Oh, the rich people do, but that stuff gets exported. The vodka that could double as paint thinner, that stays home. This," Piotr emphasizes, gesturing at the bottle he has put back on the table, "By drinking this instead of Stoli, I'm moving on. This is just another example of how we got lied to. How we lied to ourselves."

"French vodka?" Alex asks, confused.

"The Communists used to tell us that we were lucky to grow up in Russia," Piotr explains with a sarcastic snort. "It was the best country in the world. In America, the children went hungry and couldn't go to school or to a doctor if they couldn't pay lots of money and people lived in the streets and washed in rivers and fought with everyone. And then the Communists went away. And we found out everything they told us was a lie, everything we believed was a lie."

"Not all of it," Alex replies.

"All of it," Piotr emphasizes. "Everything. Our past, our present. All lies. Stalin, Trotsky, Khrushchev. They didn't teach any history in school when I was little. They couldn't. There was no history. We burned the books to keep warm because there was no heat, either."

"And this comes back to French vodka how?" Alex asks, intrigued.

"We were taught we did everything the best, that we were the best scientists and the best athletes and the best farmers. So naturally, we made the best vodka, da? Well, that was a lie too," Piotr says, pouring himself another glass. "We don't make the best vodka. The French do. At least it's not the Americans, which would be just icing on the cake. But here in this nice house, with the nicest of everything all around me, it would be silly to drink Russian vodka simply because I used to think it was the best when I could have the French vodka that really is so."

Alex just stares at him.

"There is no shame in being lied to," Piotr says as he lifts his refilled glass. "The shame comes in choosing the lie over the truth because the truth is unpleasant."

"And that's obviously what you think I'm doing," Alex says dryly.

"Perestroika came when I was little, although not as little as I should have been - Siberia is not a trendy kind of place - and the government was suddenly no longer a mystery," Piotr says instead. "The Communists pretended that there was no perestroika. That they could continue on as they always had. And look where it got them. Even in Siberia, they couldn't last long. But," Piotr emphasizes, pointing a finger at Alex, "the men who used to be Communists, the smart ones, they are now something else. They are still in government, but they changed their stripes. They adapted and moved on."

"So you want me to abandon my principles and become a corrupt politician?" Alex asks with a cough. "I think that French vodka is going to your head already."

"I'm a Siberian peasant," Piotr scoffs, drinking the liquid in the glass he's been waving around. "My blood is half vodka from birth. I can drink anyone in this country under the table." And then he grew serious. "My point is this: you are feeling sorry for yourself that things aren't how you thought they were. Well, a whole country had to go through what you did. And some of them survived and some of them did not. The ones who did survive were the ones who adapted, who moved on. The politicians are corrupt, yes, but that is not the point. They have accepted that things are different. Not like the others, the ones who lie around and moan and talk about how good it was when the Communists were around."

"It's not the same. They couldn't accidentally vaporize everything in a ten foot radius," Alex retorts.

"You are not unique, Sasha," Piotr chuckles. "You are not the only mutant who is scared of their power. You are not the only mutant who could be dangerous. You aren't even the only mutant who wishes they weren't one. But here, here you are being granted an opportunity. You can do what you want and you don't have to live your life with one eye over your shoulder looking for Sentinels. You want to go to Harvard? You can go to Harvard. You want to go work in a car plant in Detroit? You can do that, too. But what do you do instead? You wallow in self-pity and take out your anger on your brother."

"Ah, I knew there was a point to all of this," Alex says bitterly.

"You don't realize how much he cares about you, do you?" Piotr asks, genuinely curious. It was one thing if Alex was just being spiteful, but it was another if he was genuinely acting out of ignorance.

"He doesn't know me. He doesn't know anything about me," Alex replies, frowning. "He's trying to resuscitate the long-dead image he had of his little brother. That's why he's so concerned. He doesn't see me. He sees the little boy that he thinks he let go. He feels some sort of obligation to our parents. He thinks he failed them or something."

"And so instead of humoring him, you decide to encourage his fears?" Piotr asks, picking up the vodka bottle and pouring into both glasses this time. "That is unnecessarily cruel, don't you think?"

"Real life is a cruel place," Alex snorts.

"You are a child, you know nothing of real life. And you are a selfish, stupid child if you think that your brother does not know just how cruel it can be," Piotr says, shaking his head sadly. "Your brother is a good man, a kind man. He cares about you for the child you were, yes, but for the young man you are now. At least that you are some of the times."

Alex frowns, then reaches for the vodka, idly wondering if it would react badly with his pain medicine.

"If my brother were to re-appear, I would be happy to see him," Piotr says as he watches Alex down the shot. "I wouldn't push him away simply because he wasn't there when I needed him."

"You lost your brother?"

"'Lost' is a good word," Piotr agrees with a nod. "Mikhail disappeared in the protests in Moscow when the Communists tried their coup. Just disappeared. No body to ship home, no sign that he fled the country, nothing. He was there one minute and gone the next."

"I'm sorry," Alex says.

"Are you? What if I told you that he was a mutant? Would you be sorry then?"

Alex took the rebuke silently.

"I don't know if he was. I don't know if my sister will be," Piotr allows. "But Mikhail is not the issue tonight."

"No, that would be Scott, apparently," Alex sighs.

"A little secret for you," Piotr says, leaning forward. "When we found you two, after the explosion, he was protecting you still."


"You were too self-absorbed to notice how you were barely touched by the blast and how it was Scott who was all bruised and cut up," Piotr accuses mildly. "But when we dug you two out, he was protecting you with his body. Covering your face instead of his own. His visor was all broken."

Alex furrows his brow, but didn't say anything.

"It doesn't matter, really, whether you take care of yourself," Piotr says as he stands up. "You will do as you will do. And it does not matter why he tries to protect you, but he does. But try not to get Scott killed the next time you try to be stupid, da?"

And with that, Piotr drinks the third shot, picks up the bottle and the two glasses and leaves the clinic.