White Rabbit

by Domenika Marzione

13/December 2006-January 2007

"Good evening and welcome to the News Hour. I'm Elouise Parkash. Tonight, the world takes another step towards officially recognizing the rights and powers of mutants as four more countries have followed the G-10's lead in signing on to the documents that will come to be known as the Cairo Accords. Greece, South Africa, Switzerland and Finland today became the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth countries to agree to the protocols that will formally recognize the rights of mutants as well as the global authority of the proposed mutant security force. More on that later on in the hour.

"In related news, the US government's own official mutant agency, X-Factor, suffered a tragic loss yesterday as former leader Alexander Summers, known to the world by his codename Havok, is missing and presumed dead after an explosion rocked the site of last year's Battle at Akkaba during a routine mission.

"X-Factor's press release, issued earlier today, said only that Summers was part of a team assuring the continued success of the August 2005 Battle at Akkaba. Witnesses, however, reported an explosion at around 7PM local time that could be seen from up to a mile away. There were fifteen people taken to area hospitals for treatment, although their conditions are not known at this time and X-Factor, perhaps hoping for the best, classified their former team leader as 'missing in action.' There were no other casualties.

"Summers, who had retired from the team in 2000, had only recently rejoined X-Factor as part of the global clean-up efforts. Honored by the United Nations for his role in the Battle at Akkaba, Summers returned to his unit after serving for six years as a consultant and auxiliary member of the X-Men, a group he belonged to prior to the federalizing of X-Factor. He was the younger brother of X-Men leader Scott Summers, known as Cyclops, and is thought to be related to Nathan Summers, the driving force behind both the Battle at Akkaba and the radical changes that have taken place since then.

"Alexander Summers, who was thirty-four, leaves behind a wife."

"And a child," Lily whispered as the television switched off into silence, hand reflexively going to her belly.

"I'm sorry, Lily," Orly said as she put down the remote. "I didn't think to realize that it might have made the national newscast..."

"Don't apologize," Lily told her, pulling her legs up and curling into as tight a ball as she dared. She was huddled under a thick woolen blanket - a gift Piotr had given them when he was living in Scotland - despite the usually overwhelming heat from the radiators. The apartment was never and they normally kept the top of the windows open a bit to ease the stuffiness. Alex would leave the windows fully open all the time if he had his druthers. But now, of course... "It's not like not hearing it would change anything."

"True," Orly admitted, looking over her shoulder back at the kitchen where she was making dinner. "But there's no need to have it thrust in your face any more than it is."

Despite what the news had said, X-Factor wasn't merely hoping for the best. The two telepaths who had been at Akkaba both said the same thing - they hadn't felt Alex die. They had felt his astral presence disappear, but it wasn't the same. Sulven, Jean had told Lily, was sure that Alex was alive somewhere. The question was where and when and how they could get him back. There had to be a reason that he was gone and that the people closest to him when the explosion had happened - an explosion completely out of proportion with the amount of plasma he was using and his level of expertise - were all still alive and in relatively good condition.

On the face of it, it sounded easy - especially after Logan, Sulven, Nathan, and the others had disappeared the other year. But although they took care to whisper quietly so that Lily wouldn't hear, she knew it wasn't easy at all. It wasn't a time-space portal that had taken her husband. It was something new and unknown and perhaps not nearly as forgiving as the time stream. There probably wouldn't be any curt messages from stiff Askani sisters telling her that Alex would be returned when he had completed his mission and not before. There probably wouldn't be any news at all. Alex was gone without a trace.

Nathan had gotten her things from Joe Perotelli (in whose car she had left her travel bag) and teleported her home the previous evening, staying with her and not saying much of anything - a fact that Lily was eternally grateful for - until Piotr had shown up, followed shortly by Orly. Lily wasn't sure how they had been reached, especially Orly, but hadn't really cared. She had sat on the couch, exactly where she was now, as the numbness spread until she had felt like she was swaddled in thick cotton - nothing reached her right away, nothing registered. Tea was pressed into her hands, phone calls were made quietly in the background, and still Lily had felt nothing.

Eventually, Orly had packed her off to bed, but Lily hadn't really slept. She had gotten in on Alex's side, smelling his shampoo on his pillow, grasping for anything that would let her pretend that he was just away and not gone. The bed was cold - it was always cold when Alex was away at work, the only time that Lily ever used the comforter - and she had kept being woken up by nightmares. All of Alex - Alex drowning in a river and her trying to save him, Alex tripping and falling into a ravine just an inch too far away from where she could grab him before he disappeared, Alex packing up his gear as he had that morning and Lily trying to convince him not to go and him laughing at her fears. After the last one, Lily had given up on sleep, getting up gently to avoid disturbing Orly, who was dozing on the side of the bed that Lily usually slept on, and Felix, who had climbed into the bed between them.

She had gone into the kitchen to make tea, waking Piotr even though she had been careful to catch the kettle before the whistle was audible. He had been sleeping on the couch and came into the kitchen and sat with her. They were quiet for a while, sitting with their tea, and then Piotr started telling her about Dallas. Lily had known a little of the story - mostly what she had seen on the news at the time as neither Alex nor any of the other survivors were too eager to talk about it.

She hadn't known that Piotr wasn't supposed to be there, that he was supposed to be in Scotland, that it was just a series of coincidences that had saved his life in the Morlock Massacre only to ask him to give it up weeks later in Dallas. Piotr said that he wasn't the only accidental tourist that day - there had been no reason for Alex to have been there, or Madelyne, or Longshot or Betsy either. The formal X-Men team, depleted by injury and retirement and still reeling from what had happened in the tunnels, wouldn't have been enough to stop the world from ending. But they had been provided for. That was the way it went with the X-Men. You learned to stop asking why, to just put your head down and do your job and leave the questions to hindsight. Because what lay ahead was never in plain sight anyway.

The only way to stay sane was to not think about it too much, Piotr had told her. To mourn the losses and celebrate the triumphs as if they were isolated incidences, not part of a pattern. You didn't think about whether things would be different, or undone, or worse in a day's time. It was true that Alex show could up tomorrow or next week and they'd all feel a little embarrassed amidst their relief, but Piotr told her that Alex, of all people, would not want Lily to spend her life sitting and waiting for him to return. He'd want her to move forward, to go on, and he'd do his best to catch up to her. Because that, too, was the way of the X-Men. "And, like it or not, you are one of us now," Piotr had said.

At some point, they had gone back to the living room and Lily had dozed a while, waking up to find Felix by her side and Jean and Scott talking to Piotr in hushed tones in the kitchen. They had been in Akkaba when it had happened and had spent the time since the explosion checking out any possible lead in his disappearance. Brunch had been made, the thoughtful quiet broken by random anecdotes of Alex and chatter about the upcoming arrival of the Wisdoms. Scott and Jean had gone home, but would be back tomorrow morning. Piotr had gone shopping, insisting on doing that before he, too, went home for the night.

The afternoon had been spent back on the couch, Lily logging into Alex's email account and unsubscribing him from his mailing lists and forwarding addresses that she'd need to contact employers and friends. Lily had felt guilty doing it, even despite Piotr's talk earlier. It was like it was some sort of official recognition that there was no hope. Orly had told her that it wasn't - Alex was not going to come back, whenever he came back, and want to read old messages about T-Rex and David Bowie.

The comfortable fuzziness was gone now, replaced by a chill that she could feel in her bones and that had nothing to do with the windows open to the December weather. Lily didn't want to eat, but choked down parts of whatever anyone gave her, mindful of the fact that Alex's most lasting legacy was currently growing in her belly. She had started to fret about the doctor's appointment - what if she did anything to jeopardize the baby, Alex's baby, but Jean had reassured her, telling her that Cecilia would be by later to check on her and they'd reschedule the appointment with the Ob-Gyn.  

The little Christmas tree that she and Alex had bought on 110th was dark now, the lights unplugged. They had decorated it with lights and little glass balls and tinsel that they'd had to re-do because Felix kept pawing it and they had dutifully watered it and put back the barricade of early presents so Felix wouldn't think of it as an auxiliary water bowl. Idly Lily wondered what she'd do with the B-movie encyclopedia she'd already gotten for Alex, wondered what she'd do with the rest of the Christmas presents for him that were ordered and en route. Two weeks until Christmas and the world was getting ready to celebrate while she prepared to mourn.

"Lily," Orly said, sounding like this wasn't the first time she had called for her. "Your father's on the phone."

Lily made a surprised face - her father was in the middle of a training exercise and Scott had gotten into a rather heated argument with the Admiral who wouldn't patch the call through.

"Hi," she said, amazed at how shaky her voice was. After that first bout of sobbing when it was just her and Nathan, there had been nothing. No tears. Jean had cried, but she hadn't.

"How are you doing?" Daniel Beck's voice sounded tinny and distant.

"I'm okay," she said. Or tried to. Her voice broke and a gasp escaped. "I'm as well as to be expected." This time, she had to take a deep breath mid-sentence. "Even if it doesn't sound like it." She didn't know why talking to her father was bringing all of her emotions to the surface like this - or why they had been able to be kept back with Orly or Piotr or anyone else.

"We're done here soon," he said, sounding concerned even as it sounded like he had to shout a bit to be heard. "I'll come up there once we're back."

Lily, not trusting her voice any more, made a noise of agreement.

"I love you, sweetheart," he said. "I have to go - I'm not supposed to be calling out in the first place."

"I love you, too, Dad," Lily replied.

She had barely hung up the phone before the sobbing overcame her.

"Good morning boys and girls. I am Professor Summers and this is Advanced Fluid Dynamics, undergraduate style. If you did not know this, then I highly suggest you double-check your course book because if you do not recognize me, then you are probably in the wrong classroom."

The fifty-plus people in the lecture hall let out a collective chuckle as a young man in a turban cried out in surprise and gathered his things and fled. Lily allowed herself a smile, although she wasn't laughing at the confused student. For the first time in more than a month, Lily was in some place familiar, some place untouched by Alex's disappearance. And the relief was almost tangible.

Christmas had been a horror. She had been a wreck - alternating between bouts of unbearable anguish that she couldn't purge and a strange guilt for having wrecked everyone else's holiday season. She had tried to keep herself busy - going to the doctor, going up to school three times a week to go swimming and do research (she had found that she really couldn't work in the study now, not with Alex's yellow M&M plush-toy sitting on his desk smiling at her), and undoing what had been shaping up to be a great holiday. Gifts had had to be intercepted and those that could be returned to their senders without hurt feelings were. She had bought a fresh stack of cards to send out because she didn't want to mail the ones that Alex had bought and signed and left for her to sign and mail. She hadn't thrown his away, however. They were on his desk, along with the rest of his papers and the two academic journals that had arrived because the subscriptions hadn't been cancelled in time.

"All right, now that you all have been dutifully warned, I am going to pass out the syllabus. Take one and only one because I didn't print out many extras. If you lose your copy, you can first come crawling to me and beg humble forgiveness and then you can go to the class webpage - the URL is on the top of the first page of the syllabus, right under my email address - and print off a new one."

What should have been the worst day was what would have been their third wedding anniversary. It was three weeks to the day after Alex disappeared and Lily had been at a loss. She suspected that she might have returned what would have been her present from Alex while she was sending back Christmas gifts - there had been a package addressed to him from a jewelers that Lily had had to take to the Post Office and get insurance for the return postage. On the day itself, Scott had shown up without warning to take her to dinner. He had chosen a nice restaurant and they had gotten a table in a quiet corner and Scott had spent the meal telling her stories about Alex. Some from when they were children - the time he and Alex had run away from home and their mother had packed them a picnic basket - and some were from more recent times. Alex and Scott had never really been on the same team at the same time and Scott had the perspective of distance. Lily had spent the meal either laughing or crying and sometimes both and, in hindsight, thought it had been as good for Scott as it had been for her.

"We are going to spend this session doing a quick review of what we did last semester - what took you guys four months to memorize will now take you an hour to remember... Get your notebook out, Amitav. I'm not letting you out early."

In general, cleaning up after Alex (a horrible, horrible turn of phrase that had once been playful - it was Alex who was usually cleaning up after her) had been done with an ease that disgusted her. After the first laundry, there were none of his clothes to handle. After almost six weeks, the personal and professional mail had been reduced to a trickle and the junk mail went into the trash without too close an examination of the intended party. She checked his email once a week and it was usually only spam, although she had a form letter she would send out should anyone real write to him.

It was in the little things that Alex's absence was most keenly felt. The way that food and cat litter didn't appear if she didn't buy it (after the first time Jean and Scott had gone food shopping for her without telling her, Lily had turned on them with rare anger). The darkness of the apartment when she came home in the evening. The way every little noise drew her attention because none of the sounds could be attributed to the white noise that came with living with someone. The cold bed.

At school, however, things were almost normal. Alex had only ever been a rare visitor up here and while members of her department knew, she didn't run into them often enough during the intersession for it to matter. The department secretary was her usual solicitous self and the issue that had hung over Lily's head since last semester - which would come first, the end of the spring term or the arrival of the baby - would still have to be addressed. One of Lily's colleagues, an elder statesman of the department who had been around back when City College was called Harvard on the Hudson and was home to some of the city's most respected public intellectuals, had surprised the hell out of her last week by offering to cover her sections should it prove necessary.

Today, the class session passed smoothly. It was the third time she was teaching this course and, combined with her familiarity with the students she was instructing from the previous semester, there was no reason to expect surprises. As far as her students knew, this semester was just like the previous one. If any of them wondered about whether their professor would go into labor in the middle of illustrating something on the blackboard, none of them were going to say anything.

After class ended, she spent fifteen minutes answering individual questions and signing permission forms for students who needed access to the sub-sonic wind tunnel at the lab. She went down to the EFMA lab herself afterwards and re-confirmed the appointments she had set up to do demonstrations with the rotating mirror machine (the work-study students who handled bookings tended to actually get things correct if they had the professor looming over them), afterwards getting mildly distracted by the SPARC 10 workstation they had revamped over the intersession before returning to her office. To her relief, there were only four students waiting for her and none of them was trying to get her to authorize an override approval for her course.

Lily didn't leave Steinman until after five, even as she could hear Alex's voice in her head warning her about heading to the subway alone after dark. The area was essentially safe, Alex had known that, but there was just enough level of threat for concern. She got home, fed Felix and herself, returned Xiao's phone call, watered the two plants that had been given to them by Ororo before she moved down to Antarctica, and spent the better part of a half hour trying to find something nice in her wardrobe that didn't make her look like she had swallowed a small city. She was at an annoying stage where she didn't look obviously pregnant and could be mistaken for just being fat. And that, for very shallow reasons, bothered her. Eventually, she opted for the scoop necked velvet dress on the premise that empire waists made everyone look pregnant anyway.

It had gotten cold yesterday after being unseasonably warm for late January and Lily bundled up with a hat and scarf and gloves before grabbing her purse and heading off. In deference to the weather, she changed at Times Square for the N to Prince Street and then walked from there rather than just taking the 1 down to Christopher Street. The gallery was on Spring Street just east of West Broadway, which turned out to be right after Wooster. Jean met her at the door, which was still locked to the public, and showed her where to store her things.

"Everyone's trickling in," Jean said as Lily followed her to a back room. "Well, everyone who could make it tonight."

Tonight. A momentous occasion for many reasons. Not the least of which was that this was Lily's first social event after Alex's disappearance. She had steeled herself against the sympathetic looks she knew would be forthcoming.

But this night was not about her. Settled into his apartment, Piotr was also settling into civilian life again. Even before he had returned to the States, Piotr had quietly looked up the gallery owner who had shown most of Peter Nicholas's work and asked if he thought that it would be a good thing to resolve the mystery that had surrounded Nicholas's disappearance more than a decade ago. The gallery owner had simply asked when he wanted to start showing his work.

Lily had heard of Peter Nicholas and had remembered his disappearance. She had been living in Cambridge at the time and one of her roommates' boyfriends had been into the whole contemporary art thing. While she certainly appreciated Piotr's abilities, art was not something she had spent a whole lot of time contemplating. But seeing him so excited was more than worth an evening wandering around pretending she knew chiaroscuro from prosciutto.    

The noise and lights were upon them as soon as she entered the large room. There were a couple dozen people already there, about half of whom she knew. Immediately she found Kurt and Amanda talking to Elisabeth Braddock Worthington, whom Lily knew she was still allowed to call Betsy.

"Warren's around somewhere," Jean said. "Probably trying to pry Scott and Rogue out of whatever corners they're trying to hide in."

After Peter Nicholas's disappearance, courtesy of Charles Xavier and the Shadow King, his art had soared in value and Joseph Grinnell had made a small fortune selling it. Of course, they were not really Grinnell's to sell - a matter that had been settled by Warren Worthington's attorneys on Piotr's behalf. According to Piotr, while he hadn't liked that Grinnell was going to profit, Warren had been some sort of morally outraged and was adamant about taking action where Piotr had been more laid-back. Lily knew that there was some scheme that Alex had only known vague details about and of which Piotr had known none. It had produced a large bank account that had sat waiting for Piotr and Peter to meet again. That bank account was now being used to help pay for renovations to the loft apartment.

News that Peter Nicholas was alive had sent shockwaves through the New York art scene and the show (all of the works save three were being loaned by their current owners; Piotr had not had much time to create new pieces) had landed on the front page above the fold in the Times' weekend arts section. The news that Peter Nicholas was Piotr Nikoleivich Rasputin, recently retired member of both Excalibur and the X-Men, would doubtless cause more gossip later tonight.

"Lily!" Piotr called quietly across the room, breaking away from a group of people Lily didn't recognize. "I'm so glad that you came," he said, hugging her as tightly as he dared.

"Wouldn't miss this for anything," she replied with a smile, genuinely meaning it. They hadn't had that much time to simply socialize since his return to New York - almost all of their time had been spent fiddling with the apartment-studio. And then Alex... But Piotr had been there for her, and for that Lily was grateful. He was now her friend too, she'd like to think, rather than just one of Alex's.

"I am glad for that," Piotr told her earnestly. "Not only because it is you, but also because, well, any friendly face is a welcome one."

"You're nervous?" Lily asked with some surprise as Piotr extended his elbow so that she could loop her arm around his. They walked back not to where he had been standing, but towards where Kurt, Amanda, and Betsy were sipping white wine and chatting.

"I am," Piotr admitted. "And not just because I am going to turn Peter Nicholas into Colossus... I know that much of the fascination with Peter Nicholas is in his disappearance, not in his art. I don't want to be the one telling all of the magician's tricks, you know?"

"Piotr, you are a fantastic artist and you were making a name for yourself before you disappeared from the scene," Lily told him, pulling him gently to a stop so that he'd look down at her. "Don't tell me differently. I was there. And, quite frankly, any mystique lost by Peter Nicholas returning from oblivion is going to be regained by Peter Nicholas turning out to be Colossus. Not many of the folks being shown in galleries down here can say that they took a sabbatical from being a starving artist to go save the world."

"Oh, don't fall victim to his tricks, Lily," Kurt Wagner told her as they joined the trio, exchanging greetings. "It is merely Piotr's attempt at a sympathy ploy. The man is suddenly the toast of New York again and he has developed an ego appropriate to his build. He is just milking us all for as much as he can," Kurt teased. He was resplendent in a well-cut dark navy Italian suit that made his indigo fur almost gleam. An obviously proud (and just as well-appointed) Amanda stood next to him, shaking her head in silent bemusement. She was quite used to Piotr and Kurt's verbal jousting.

"Pah," Betsy snorted indelicately, pulling back an escaped tendril of hair with an elegant fingertip. "Whatever means of preening Piotr has learned have come from you."

Betsy had retired from active duty at the same time Warren had, after Akkaba, although they were both still heavily involved in the cause. Betsy used her social position in both London and New York (hence the switch to the more formal appellation) to raise funds to create educational and medical facilities for the astonishing number of psionic children being born after the Merge - including the devastatingly high numbers abandoned at birth. Lily thought the change from scantily-clad Psylocke to elegantly styled social doyenne would have been more abrupt than it was, but, as Alex had reminded her, Betsy had been born into the life to which she was now returning.

"You are looking lovely, by the way," Kurt said to Lily as he pointedly turned up his nose away from Betsy. "Pregnancy, dare I say, suits you."

"Pregnancy suits no one, Kurt," Lily retorted, touching her belly lightly. "But I thank you."

A hidden voice calling for Piotr interrupted the banter and he made his apologies before going off to find out who needed him.

"I'm really happy for him," Betsy said as she watched him disappear behind the small group conversing by the entryway. "Of all of us who went through the Siege Perilous, Piotr was the only one who ended up in a happy place. It was the cosmos's way of rewarding him and I'm so... relieved, I think, to see him finally able to enjoy that reward. I can feel the rightness of this. I think the cosmos is happy, too."

Rogue, looking mildly uncomfortable in a trendy pants-and-tunic combination, joined them then and the conversation turned to less weighty matters. She had them all drawing stares with their raucous laughter as she detailed the mad hunt she and Bobby had gone on so that Bobby could find his Deluxe Edition boxed set of the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD. ("I don't know why he couldn't've just ordered it from Amazon like everyone else.")

Eventually Joseph Grinnell, a thin man in his fifties who wore the local uniform of black slacks and matching turtleneck, clapped his hands together to draw everyone's attention. He said that the doors would be opening to the invited guests in ten minutes and everyone should make their way to the gallery showroom at their leisure.

Lily felt a pang of heartache as she watched the people she knew pair off - Warren (resplendent in his dark tuxedo and white wings) came to collect Betsy, Jean and Scott appeared, Joseph was spotted near Rogue, and Kurt gallantly escorted Amanda into the showroom. She was never alone - in fact, if Lily weren't in as good a mood she might have suspected some covertly organized hovering - but she felt the absence of Alex acutely.

In the years that she had known Piotr, Lily had seen him express his artistry constantly and in many formats. He had sketched for the twins when they were babies and spent quality time with them now that they were older coloring with crayons. He had drawn capable, if untechnical, blueprints for the electricians who had been rewiring his apartment. He had helped Alex re-finish the oak cabinet they had gotten to hide the television and used a delicate little brush to treat the brass finishings. He had painted and decorated his own home so that its loft origins were almost hard to imagine. But she had never seen him work on canvas.

Even as an acknowledged layman when it came to art, at first glance into the showroom Lily could see why there was such a buzz about Piotr's work. While the paintings were indisputably modern, they were very... retro in their style, full of traditional colors and motifs without coming across as recycled or derivative.

The gallery was a series of geometrically shaped rooms strung together and after Lily had traversed the oval, the square, and the hexagon, she could appreciate why the return of Peter Nicholas had been so warmly received. Piotr had not tried to be Picasso; he had tried to be Caravaggio. And in a world where flinging animal feces on a canvas was being called art, there was something deeply attractive about not attempting to screech out self-professed profundity and genius with every brushstroke. This was art about love.

"Oh my goodness," Jean said in a quiet voice as she came up to Lily, gesturing subtly with her hand. "I didn't think there would be any from the Callisto Series here."

Lily followed Jean's finger to a trio of portraits across the showroom. The last two were hard to see, the angle making the glare from the track lighting almost blinding. But the first one was a three-quarter profile of an impossibly beautiful woman, black hair cascading over her shoulder as she looked slightly behind her, dark eyes smiling over a joke that was probably lost to time.

"What's wrong with them?" Lily asked curiously. From his sketches for the children Lily knew that Piotr had an ability to render his imagination vividly, but she was sure that the portrait was of a real person and not an imagined one. And that made her wonder who she was - that was not a casual look on the model's face.

"Callisto..." Jean began and then sighed. "She was the de facto leader of the Morlocks. A fierce, proud woman. Ororo fought her for the leadership of the Morlocks once and killed her. Not permanently."

Lily knew of the Morlocks - had known of them even before her rather shocking introduction to Marrow at the mansion some years back. They had come above ground after the Merge and while many of them lived in New York (there was a Morlock neighborhood in Jersey City, New Jersey, too), Ororo had been fairly preoccupied with a mass immigration to the New Lands when Lily and Alex had been up visiting the previous year. Marrow, now calling herself Sarah Marrow, was a film student at NYU and had made a documentary of the Morlock Massacre that had garnered rave reviews at the one film festival where it had been shown thus far and there was talk of a distribution deal. Ororo and Remy were quite proud of her.

"She's very beautiful," Lily commented, feeling that the world was inadequate, but couldn't come up with anything better. It wasn't the face of someone who'd fight to the death, though.

"She was, for a while," Jean agreed cryptically. When Lily gestured for her to continue, Jean nodded but took a moment to speak again. "What happened to Piotr to turn him into Peter Nicholas sort of also happened to Callisto. Except it was part of a plan to overthrow her and it wasn't meant to be a gift... They wiped her memory and changed her features and left her a beautiful amnesiac and that's how Peter Nicholas found her - and fell in love with her."

Lily reacted with surprise. She knew about Piotr's ill-fated love affair with Kitty Pryde, but Piotr in general was so circumspect about that part of his life that to hear anything about it almost felt like gossip.

"She was his muse, I guess you'd say," Jean went on. "They were happy together, so happy. I was part of the original X-Factor then and we had to give them shelter for a bit... Oh, Lily. If you had seen Piotr then, you'd never have recognized him. And then shit happens, like it always does, and Piotr had to lose everything and come back to us... Callisto eventually found out what had happened to her and went back to the way she was, both in spirit and in body... She's been a much harder-edged person ever since. They're both haunted by that time in their lives. Except Piotr's worked towards getting back to that place and Callisto's worked on forgetting it."

Lily nodded. She didn't think Jean would appreciate the irony - the parallel between Piotr and Callisto and herself and Alex.

on to the next chapter
back to the index