EC EXTRAS: FIRST LOVE
BY MADRIPOOR ROSE
Disclaimer: The X Men are the property of Marvel Entertainment, no copyright infringement intended.
Author's Note: There are stories important to Piotr Rasputin's character development that are not included in the Essential X Men trades. I found this in the trade paperback X Men Vignettes 2, writers Chris Claremont, Jo Duffy, Ann Nocenti. Adult material so no kids allowed. Het. Pairing: Nereel/Piotr/Fahe
Bottom of the world. Coldest and most desolately remote place on Earth. Except for this bit.
It's called the Savage Land.
Primordial enclave where time sort of stopped tens of millions of years ago. A prehistoric jungle where the dinosaurs still roam.
Piotr Nikolievitch Rasputin---otherwise known as Colossus of the X Men---hates it.
Piotr stood up and looked out over the lush and verdant valley floor, wiping away sweat that was stinging his eyes. "Bozhe moi, Mother's kitchen, after a day of cooking in summer was not half so hot as this," he said to himself.
'The clouds that hide this land from detection also mask the sun. But they prevent the heat from escaping…so this valley becomes a steam bath,' he realized.
He sat back down on a fallen tree trunk, where he had abandoned his sketching to stretch his legs and hope for a cooling breeze.
The air was still. Hot and heavy.
'Back home,' he thought, 'even at the height of our Siberian summers, I never sweated as much as this. I'm soaked from head to toe.' He tugged uncomfortably at the crude shorts he wore, and then turned to look at the sketch he'd been working on. A sketch of Anya at the boardwalk. He'd had to abandon it before his sweating palms reduced the work to a graphite smear. 'And the paper of my drawing tablet is so saturated…the pencil cannot make a decent imprint.'
He tried again to brush his damp hair back out of his eyes, and looked over the valley again, sighing.
'All this greenery. So unlike the Rodina, my motherland. It is winter there. Snow covering the earth, the air blessedly cool….' He tried to remember what it was like to be cold. 'I wish I was…' There was movement in the valley below. 'Shto? Can this be? Am I dreaming? Those two figures…the one is Anya, and the other looks like my sister Illyana. But she is just a child, and that girl is almost as old as me!'
He stood again, staggering slightly, dizzy from the heat, and squinted against the glare of the unrelenting sun. A third figure had joined the pair, and now he saw them clearly as the third girl turned, the beaded braid hanging from the tail of her Mohawk swinging as she raised a hand to wave to him.
'Oh. Not them at all. Only the heat and my imagination playing tricks, making those girls of the Fall People seem like them.
The girls were from the primitive tribe native to the Savage Land, who had taken the X Men in.
He glanced back at his sketchbook. The Fall girls, with their Mohawks and leather halters and shorts, bore no resemblance to his little sister, or the beautiful ballerina. 'Anya. It has been months since we parted. Yet I still think of her…miss her. She was so afraid when she saw me transform. In that instant, I became a monster to her.'
A scream rent the sultry stillness, and Piotr moved instinctively towards it.
"By the White Wolf!" he swore as he saw the situation. The girls cowered in the meager protection offered by the roots of a tree. A great dinosaur loomed above them, a nasty looking bipedal creature with sharp teeth.
'For all that dinosaur's size and strength, my armored form should….NO! Something is wrong, I cannot trigger the change!' His flesh remained flesh. 'Probably the heat,' he realized. 'It is affecting my concentration. No time to worry about that now…must try to distract the creature…give the girls a chance to escape….'
He lifted a small boulder and threw it, pelting the monster in the side of the head. "Done it," he grunted. The boulder was not heavy, but the heat and the humidity made just standing an effort.
The creature turned, its large tail snapping toward him like a whip. Before he could react, the tail slapped into his side and sent him flying to land with a muddy splash in the nearby marsh.
He crawled onto dry land, taking a deep breath to test his ribs, telling himself angrily, 'should have anticipated that, and moved faster. Nothing seems broken, thank goodness. Probably hurt like the devil tomorrow, have bruises all over….'
To his horror, one of the girls stood facing the creature, in the open. She threw a stone axe, but it bounced off the leathery hide harmlessly, and left her facing it undefended.
'That girl,' he wondered, 'is she mad…facing the creature in the open?!' He scooped up the fallen axe and began to climb a vine-smothered tree as quickly as he could. 'Or is she simply doing what I tried, risking herself to draw the attention of the dinosaur away from her friends? I must hurry, ignore the pain, there is no ache…I must help her….'
But even as he swung down on a vine, like Tarzan in those movies Kurt was so fond of, the dinosaur lunged and caught the girl between murderous jaws.
"NO!" Piotr screamed, as he landed in the one place the dinosaur could not attack, its own neck. "No, no, no, no…." he chanted in helpless rage and struck with the stone axe, as Logan had taught him, at the soft target. The monster's eye.
Blinded and enraged, the beast swung around, trying to find its tormentor, dropping the girl and stumbling toward the swamp, falling. Piotr managed to catch his vine and swing to safety, landing in the tall grass. He gasped for air as the enormous lizard thrashed, sinking into the muddy ooze.
'My heart's hammering---as much from fright as exhaustion. The creature's caught in the bog, the mud pulling him down. He won't be back. Good thing, I doubt I could have lasted much longer. This air is so humid, it's like being underwater,' he thought.
The two girls had crept up from their hiding place, and the sandy blonde came up to him. "My brave warrior. You saved us. I am Nereel." She put her hands on his shoulders. She was still trembling, a little.
"I am Peter," he introduced himself.
"One of the Outlanders, I know."
"Nereel, your friends?"
"Fahe is well, but Shakani…." she led him back to where the other girl knelt weeping beside the torn and crumpled body.
He helped them build a litter, and they brought Shakani's body back to the village. At midnight, the whole tribe gathered for the funeral pyre. Midnight, the twisting moment when day's end turned towards morning. Symbolizing the casting off of Shakani's fleshly incarnation, and the union of her spirit with the eternal, infinite cosmos.
The X Men watched respectfully, thinking of their own recent losses…friends they'll never see again.
Piotr doesn't sleep well.
The great predator saurian---a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Kurt tells him---stalks his dreams.
It carries Shakani's corpse, weeping piteously for him to save her.
He tries to fight---but his armored skin tears like flesh. He tries to run---and becomes mired in the bog.
Fangs close on his face.
He can't even scream.
Piotr sat up in his hut with a gasp, startled to find the girls kneeling beside his pallet.
"Did we startle you, Warrior? We didn't mean to."
He sat up, his mind still clouded with sleep. "Nereel? Fahe? What?!"
"There is a last ceremony," Nereel explained.
Fahe chimed in, "a memorial to Shakani we must perform. We would like you to share this with us."
He got up, slipped his feet into the woven bark shoes he'd made himself, and gallantly offered the girls his arms as they left the hut.
The sun was rising, the sky grey-blue and barely streaked with pink and gold, cooler enough to be tolerable.
Logan was up already, sewing a piece of buckskin leather into a shirt. He was seated on a flat rock just outside the village walls. As they passed, Piotr greeted him, and politely asked, "would you like to join us, Wolverine?"
Logan looked up, took in the two beautiful girls, and leered. "Well, I'll be. Is this the Petey Pureheart I've known and loved?"
"Shto?!" Piotr asked him. What?! The tone was teasing, but Piotr didn't understand.
Logan picked up his sewing. "Much obliged, pal. But I think I'll pass. 'Sides, I wouldn't want to cramp your style."
'What does he mean by that?' Piotr wondered, 'and why are the girls giggling?'
They led him to the water, to a dock where a canoe was tied, and directed him to paddle out to a small island.
Nereel and Fahe were still whispering and giggling. 'Some on my home collective still follow religious ways, but they seem much more serious than this. Different lands, I suppose. Different customs. Hmm. The island is not far from where the dinosaur fell.'
They beached the canoe, securing it well out of reach of the tide, and walked up the sand. Piotr looked around for a temple, or altar, some sacred site. He assumed the ritual had something to do with the three of them being there when Shakani died. Surviving when she had not.
In a way, he was right.
"Now, what must I…." he started to ask, and blinked as the girls moved closer to him, Fahe starting to stroke his bare chest rather brazenly.
"Simply be with us, warrior."
"BE? You mean I…we…." He blushed furiously. "No, I cannot!"
"Why not?" Nereel stood on tip-toe, trying to kiss him.
"But what…what…what of your memorial?" he stammered.
"What better way to honor a fallen friend than by hopefully creating a new life?" Nereel caught his cheek in her hand, trying to hold his face still as she stretched up in another attempt at a kiss.
He caught her wrist, gently pulling her hand away as he stepped backward.
'They…they want me to make love to them---both of them?!---and make them pregnant? Bozhe moi, and Logan knew! He will tease me unmercifully!' There was an undeniable attraction in the idea. But he couldn't. The X Men were trying to find a way out of the Savage Land. 'I can't settle down here, and I can't….'
"Nereel, this should not be with me, but with one of your own people. A man who will care for you and the child for the rest of your days."
"Children are the charge of all the village. The entire tribe is our family. There is no shame in joining with an Outlander---especially one of such nobility and courage---for your blood will make us stronger," Nereel argued.
She and Fahe were both touching him, trying to urge him to lie down with them. Her assurance that he would not be abandoning a dishonored woman and bastard child to starve or survive on pitying handouts was making their offer all the more tempting.
But if there was a child…his child…how could he leave?
His moment of indecision was interrupted by a roar, and movement in the trees near the bog.
To his horror, the great head of the dinosaur turned in their direction, nostrils flaring. The bloody ruin of the creature's eye made identification a certainty.
"The thunder lizard!" Piotr shouted. "It didn't drown!"
He gave the girls a shove away. "Scatter, the both of you. To the trees and the deep water, it's ME he wants!"
"We won't leave you!" Fahe called out with foolish bravery as the dinosaur lunged.
"Chort vozmee, girl, do as you're told!" Piotr swore at her, backing away slowly.
'No rock, nothing to use as a weapon…save myself.' Piotr threw himself to the ground as the creature lunged again, snapping. So close to the cavernous maw he could feel the fetid breath. The T Rex turned his head, looking for Piotr with his good eye, and struck again.
But this time, a tooth shattered against Piotr's armored body. He caught the monster's upper jaw before the mouth could close on him.
And he heard Nereel cry out, "PETER!?! Lords of Fire, how can this be?"
'I've changed. For a moment…remembering yesterday, when I couldn't…I was so afraid.' Grimacing slightly, he stepped into the monster's mouth and shoved upward with all his strength. There was the sickening sound of breaking bone.
He moved quickly, feeling a certain empathy for the beast. It was a dinosaur, just following instinct. He was also a farm boy, and he had killed animals to put meat on the table. It was an old rule of honorable hunters, you don't leave an animal wounded and alive, in pain.
He could hear the girls as he jumped clear of the massive falling body. Fahe calling out, "Nereel?" And Nereel answering her, "Peter has become a man of iron!"
'I can hear the surprise and alarm in their voices. How long before that turns to terror?' Disappointment twisted inside him. The tantalizing offer of sex, the simpler joys of friendly companionship. Maybe they would take the boat and run from him. That way, he wouldn't have to see the disgust in their eyes. His fellow X Men would lose their comfortable place in the village…he only hoped the Fall People would let them leave peacefully, without attacking them. He had no wish to see his newfound friends hurt as the X Men defended themselves.
"By Lenin, would that I could put an end to such unreasoning fear…as easily as I do this beast,' he swore to himself as he snapped the dinosaur's neck and stood watching as it died.
The girls approached, timidly. "Peter?" Fahe asked.
"Da, Fahe. It is I. This is what I am, as much as when I was flesh and blood. I am not as you or other humans. I am a mutant."
He looked down, not wanting to see the look in their eyes.
Nereel asked, "why is there sadness in your voice, warrior? Without your iron skin it is WE who would lie slain here, not the thunder lizard."
"I know. I was just thinking of someone I once…cared for…and how she fled from me, when she first saw me like this." Part of him was surprised the girls were still there. "I feared you might do the same."
"She was foolish. We are not," Nereel said flatly. "For we see nothing in you to fear. As would anyone with sense enough to follow the dictates of their hearts."
And even though he was in his armored form, Fahe embraced him again, and Nereel reached up for another kiss. Pure shocked joy brought him back to flesh, flesh that was all too willing. "Nereel…Fahe…when the X Men leave, I must go with them," he said almost desperately.
"Then we must cherish the moments 'til then," Nereel said simply.
"You mean that. You still want…."
Fahe laughed. "Silly boy. Let us show you how truly much we do!"
And suddenly he found himself smiling with a wild, light-hearted joy he'd never felt before.
He kissed each of the girls in turn before they went back to the boat for a blanket, and walked inland, away from the grisly scene on the beach and the scavengers that would soon be attracted to the dead dinosaur.
There was a clearing, where the ground was covered with a soft, spongy lichen, and scattered wildflowers. They spread the blanket out, and sat down.
Piotr smiled shyly, and knew he was blushing. "I…I've never been with a woman…." He confessed.
"Do you prefer to be with other men?" Fahe asked, sounding curious. "Is that why you asked the short hairy man to join us?"
Logan? He blanched at the thought. "No! I like women, but the ways of my people are very different."
"They must be different, if you have not…" Nereel broke off, looking him over approvingly. "You have never coupled? Not once?"
"I will please him," Fahe decided, "and while he rests, he can tell us of Outlander ways, and then you can be with him first, Nereel."
They undressed, and stretched out on the blanket. The girls lay each beside him, and he turned his head back and forth to kiss Fahe, and then Nereel.
Nereel stroked his chest while Fahe stroked…lower. Piotr's eyes rolled back with pleasure. He had comforted himself with his hands many times, but this…. She tickled and teased him skillfully. "Daaaaaa…oh no, nyet, not yet," he moaned, and shuddered as he spilled himself into Fahe's hand. The girls giggled, Fahe rolling away to wipe her hand on the moss.
"Wow," Piotr sighed, and kissed Fahe passionately as she cuddled back against his shoulder.
"Now," Nereel began. "Are Outlander women mad, that none have chosen you? Or…if mutants are outcasts…are there no mutant women who are not your bloodkin?"
"Nyet…no, the women aren't mad, and there are many mutants who are not of my family. I just have not found a woman I wanted to be with, who was right for me. Until now," he gave them both a quick grin. "It is different in our world. A man and a woman, who have spent time together and like each other very well…only one man and one woman…they will agree to be married."
"What is married?" Fahe asked.
"Oh. Well, the man and the woman stand before their family and friends, and take an oath. That by law, they will stay together and only…be…with each other. And the man promises that he will provide for the woman and their children, and the woman promises she will care for their children and the home, and they live together in the same house."
Nereel frowned. "But what if the man desires another woman?"
"He should pretend that he doesn't. He has made a promise to be faithful. We call it adultery, when someone married has sex with a partner outside the marriage, and it is a very shameful thing to do," he took a breath and admitted, "though it does happen. And if a woman has a child without being married to the father, that is a shameful thing too, though it should not be so for the child, who is innocent."
Fahe frowned. "But then how do two women who are married have a child, if they cannot ask a man to gift them one in joining? Or two men?"
"They don't….men are not allowed to marry other men. Women aren't allowed to marry other women."
Fahe snorted. "The Outside world is a very strange place. Are you sure you want to go back there?"
Nereel's eyes were wide with sudden understanding. "Fahe! Peter thought we meant to trap him here, to bind him to one of us through the baby! Or else tempt him from his virtue," she gasped in shocked horror. "We did not know of your customs, we meant only to reward you for your bravery, to honor you by asking the gift of a child, and enjoy the pleasures of joining to breed."
"There are other pleasures we could share that would not put a baby in our bellies, if you find it shameful, Peter," Fahe offered hopefully.
"I understand that now," Piotr reassured each of them with a quick kiss, and thought, 'it would be tempting to stay. If the X Men cannot find a way out of the Savage Land. The Fall People have reinvented a natural communism without the corruption of party politics. The tribe is family, all share equally. They still hunt and gather, I could teach them to farm, be a father to the child…if only it weren't so hellishly hot….'
"Tell me of your ways," he suggested.
Fahe smiled lazily. "You will be with us today, we will join many many times. Then, you may be with other women, or men as you like. Nereel and I will wait to see if a child comes to us from you. If you give me a son, and Nereel a daughter, that way each child will know they share a father. Our only law is that family may not join. The child would stay with us until weaned and walking, and then they would be children of the tribe. Any adult would feed and shelter any child who happens to be near their hut at a meal or nightfall. As they grow older they will take on different chores until they find a role that suits…your son or daughter would likely be hunters, warrior. After the rite of passage that marks adulthood, at the age of twelve years, they build their own hut."
"Our child would be cared for, loved. The mother and the child would want for nothing," he said slowly.
"There is a saying, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. It means that you should respect the customs of a place while you are there, even if they are different from your own. You each want a child, and have chosen me to try and give you one. To bring fresh blood into the tribe, and to in some small way replace the loss of Shakani. I would not be abandoning a child of my own, but helping you to have the child you want..." he slowly worked his way through the torturous chain of logic. "No. There is nothing shameful in that."
They spent the day on the island, making love, talking, laughing, making plans for the hoped for child and giving Piotr a glimpse of the life he wouldn't be there to share. He told them of his childhood in Siberia and they laughed at the idea of waist-deep snow, wondering that he found the idea of escaping the Savage Land difficult, then. They rested, picking fruit from the trees and sharing it, feeding each other and licking overripe juices from each other's skin, and they swam in the shallows of the great salt lake that served the Savage Land as a sea. He made love to each of them once more, and they took the canoe back to the mainland to return to the village before sunset.
"Your friend!" Fahe pointed to Ororo, who lay crumpled on the beach by the water's edge. Piotr ran to her and gathered her up in his arms. "Storm! What's happened to you?"