Three Princes


Textual Poaching Alert: Marvel owns everyone, although Social Services would have stripped custody long ago...

She put her ear to the door, checking to make sure that there was nothing going on on the other side. Interrupting a Danger Room session without warning was never a good idea. Especially if there was the distinct possibility that explosives were going to have to be used.

Unbelievable. The key still fit the lock.

Stupid upworlder loyalty. Xavier had no doubt done it intentionally, meant it as an unspoken invitation to drop by whenever. Never imagining that that invitation could be taken up by someone a lot more dangerous than she. Well, not more dangerous, there were too few who qualified for that, but certainly less principled. Regardless, it was stupid.

The problem was that Xavier was always too damned trusting. Too trusting in the innate goodness of humans, for instance, so that he (like all of his pretty brood) was always shocked and saddened by the latest massacre of mutants. If an animal does what it is bred to do, there should be no sadness, no surprise. Nobody gets upset when a tiger eats a gazelle. Nature's a bitch, time to move on.

What was worse, however, was that Xavier was always too damned trusting in his own abilities to control the situation; to perceive problems and correct them before any real damage could be done. Arrogance, it was, undeserved at that. She personally had been witness to just how damaged things could get under Xavier's supervision. Many times over.

The most recent failure of Xavier's hubris was her reason for coming here today, the reason she was prowling the hallways of the Xavier estate's underground bunker.

Sarah had given her excellent directions. The storage areas were off the main hallway, in the opposite direction from the Danger Room by the stairs to the ground level. In any other house, she would be looking for a way to get to the attic. But while the X-Men were slow on the uptake about a lot of things, they had learned that if your home was going to be blown up/taken over/otherwise violated almost annually, then any serious storage had to be done in the underground bunker. And so here she was.

Getting into the room was easy enough - if you can build a door to the Danger Room without anyone noticing, then breaking into a storage closet really should be a minor task. The problem was going to be finding what she was looking for. There was a lot of crap in here.

Morlocks had learned a long time ago that material goods were a waste. A waste of time, effort, emotion, all of it. Possessions would slow you down if you had to run and would invariably prove dangerous if left behind so that they could be picked up by the enemy. Even in times of relative peace, possessions only fueled discord by creating jealousy, covetousness, and the mistaken impression that there was some pride of place in having more things. He who dies with the most toys is still dead. The Morlocks understood that better than anyone.

There was furniture and clothes piled up, but most of the boxes in the room were filled with photographs and papers. She pulled out her flashlight and looked around for that which had collected the least dust.

Against the wall stood a metal box, the lid gleaming as the light hit it. It was Shi'ar in design, that much she knew from her time in Scotland. Hopefully, she could open it. It had taken her a long time to learn how to pick alien locks.

It felt like it took forever, although it probably took only fifteen minutes, but finally the clasp sprung up and the lid could be opened.

The contents of the box were as she expected. A few books, a lot of papers, some photographs, and what looked to be diary rested on top. Not like she'd be able to read it.

There was a small plastic box full of wooden figurines carved from the branches of the oaks that surrounded the estate. Few people were strong enough to whittle on oak, but he had been one of them. Some of the figurines were of woodland animals, a few looked to be caricatures of teammates, a few were probably family members. All were remarkably lifelike.

There were no clothes to speak of, those would have been given to charity. There was, however, not one, but two uniforms. One was his - she had never really realized how skimpy the thing was - and one was the bumblebee scheme that Xavier's people wore in their novitiate. The sister's, no doubt. It was absolute foolishness to so clearly demarcate the inexperienced - the enemy would know exactly where the weak links were - but Xavier lived in denial that he was fighting a war.

Finally, after going through a variety of items, she found what she was looking for. A pile of sketch pads.

The first two notebooks were filled with sketches of various X-Men and the Xavier estate. The portraits weren't bad; he had been a better artist than he had thought he was. The second book ended with what was probably his first sketch of the great love of his life. Kitty Pryde looked almost angelic, far younger and more innocent than she had been by the time she had first entered the Morlock tunnels.

The notebooks were seemingly in chronological order - the portraits had unknowingly traced the whole Jean Grey-into-Phoenix-into-Dark Phoenix saga - and so she expected the third notebook to continue with more sketches of the young Kitty. But they didn't. The third book was of some sort of fairy tale, filled with exotic landscapes and strange people. One woman seemed to dominate this book, a woman far more beautiful than she had ever been (even during that time) and one obviously drawn with deep affection.

It suddenly dawned on her that this wasn't a picture book of a fairy tale. This was some adventure they had been on. And that woman had been real. He had had another love. She tried to convince herself that it didn't hurt, but it did. She had always been a little proud of the fact that she had been his other woman, the other one besides Kitty. But now it seemed she shared that distinction. And, if that baby portrait meant what she thought it was, there was a lot more to the story than she could have ever imagined.

The next notebook followed from the previous one. She tried not to tear up as she saw his depictions of the massacre that had decimated her people. The next set of drawings was from Scotland and here she found the first sketch of herself. She looked angry, sad, lost... all of the things she had been after the massacre. There were a few more of Kitty here, looking as she had right after she had been hurt in the massacre. The rest of the notebook, however, was empty.

It was with shaking hands that she opened the next notebook. Chronologically, this was the one she was looking for, the one she had skulked through the Xavier estate to find.

But it wasn't. There was a jump in time, the first page was a portrait of Gambit. She flipped through the rest of the notebook, but the pages were indeed chronologically ordered. The next notebook was the same, and the next one after that. There was Havok and Polaris, there was Cable, there was the wedding of Jean Grey and Cyclops, there was a sketch of some Acolyte, a cruel caricature of someone she was quite sure was Pete Wisdom.

"You won't find what you're looking for, Callisto," a voice spoke up behind her. She spun around, ready to fight, but Kitty Pryde just stood there, leaning against the wall. She was obviously packed to go somewhere, a duffel slung across her back and a heavy coat in her arms.

"When I came back, nobody had touched his things. Not even Jean. Logan must have threatened them or something," Kitty laughed bitterly. Callisto noted how old the voice sounded, how raw. "I went through everything, throwing away what didn't need to be saved, sorting through the rest. There were three piles in the end. Three piles for three princes."

"What are you talking about, PrettyKitty," Callisto asked. It was the name she had always used for the girl, but this time, it was used without venom. She had principles after all, and one of them was a certain honor concerning fair fights.

"He was three people, you know. There was Colossus, the X-Man. He was strong and brave and fearless. Then there was Piotr Nikoleivich Rasputin, the man I knew. He was too sensitive, too self-conscious, and cared too much for those who were dear to him," Kitty didn't so much look at Callisto as look through her. "And then there was the person you came looking for, Peter Nicholas. Him, I didn't know at all."

Kitty reached behind her and pulled the opening of the duffel bag around. Out of it she retrieved a pair of notebooks, the same type that Callisto still held in her hands. "I don't need anything to remind me of either Piotr or Colossus. I'll have them forever. I think he kinda wanted it that way. But I took one of Piotr's notebooks anyway, mostly because it has the most pictures of Ilyana." She put one of the notebooks back in her bag.

"The other one is Peter's. I wanted to know who he was, although I'm not quite sure why. But this isn't mine to take. It's yours," Kitty tossed the notebook to Callisto. "Peter was yours, at least until the Shadow King. And then Professor Xavier did what he always has to do and killed Peter to replace him with Colossus. And when it was all over, I got Piotr back, although at the time I wasn't sure I wanted him."

Kitty paused then, looked around as if seeing the room for the first time, and stood away from the wall she had been leaning against. "Do me a favor and put everything back when you're done. Maybe some day I'll come back here. And maybe I won't be too angry to look through that box. That's all Piotr's stuff, except for Colossus' uniform. And that means that you're wading through both his memories and mine. So don't get them dirty, okay?"

With that, she phased through the wall.

Callisto, still disturbed by the whole encounter, did as she was asked. The contents of the box were carefully replaced and the lid re-locked. It wasn't until she had fled the mansion and was back to her own quarters that she opened the notebook that Kitty had tossed her.

The sketches were mostly of her, but not as Callisto the Morlock leader. Instead they were of that other Callisto, the alter ego that had a genesis in a cruel scheme by Masque to gain power over the Alley. The beautiful woman with whom Peter Nicholas had fallen in love.

Callisto had always been proud of her leadership abilities, her willingness to put the Morlocks' interests before her own, something that Masque could never do. As such, she had never mourned for her own situation - Morlocks didn't get sad, they got even.

But the Callisto that had been the beloved of Peter Nicholas wasn't a Morlock. And that Callisto was allowed to be weak and to mourn. So she cried. She cried for love lost - and it had been love, even if neither of them had been themselves. She cried for the woman she had so briefly been. She cried for the prince that had been so briefly hers.

But then she stopped crying. Callisto closed the notebook and put it away in her hiding place, the little safe area that contained nothing else but a photo of her mother and the book that had passed as the census for the Alley before the massacre. Possessions were weaknesses, and Callisto the Morlock knew that any weaknesses had to be well hidden.

And then she moved on.


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