1963-07-02 - East meets South
Summary: Soviet spy Piotr Rasputin meets southern cowboy Sam Guthrie.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
piotr cannonball 


It is a lazy Saturday afternoon and Piotr is running laps around the perimeter wall of the estate, down one side, across the lake front, back up the other side, past the gates and return. The huge young man is wearing loose jogging pants, a t-shirt and running shoes and the sun is already turning his fair shoulders and neck red. Apparently the big guy burns easily. Though like most mutants, he tends to be lean and put on muscle with more ease than his human counterparts, staying in very good shape still takes work. Slowing down from a run to a trot and finally halting altogether, hands on his knees, puffing slightly, he mutters, in his thick Russian accent, "Chjort! It gets hot here!" Apparently that first word is an exclamation of some sort, because he keeps his voice down in uttering it.

*

Sam Guthrie spent a couple of hours this morning doing a little more horse-related research, honest — but it's summer! It's nearly the Fourth of July! There's only so much studying one man's brain can take under conditions like these. So about a half hour ago, his little pile of equine catalogs, his memo pad of handwritten phone numbers, and his shirt were all abandoned at the base of an elm tree while Sam ascended into its branches. The old-fashioned way, obviously: if he tried to fly up there he'd probably blast the poor thing into splinters.

He's up there, keeping a watchful eye on the grounds and the people on them — or maybe napping — when Piotr pauses in the shade of the tree and blurts out a bunch of heathen Russkie nonsense. Sam leans over from his perch on a stout branch, holding on to a few narrow ones above for stability, and peers down suspiciously. The foreigner looks pretty tough, so Sam stays up and out of reach when he demands to know: "Was that… German?!"

*

Piotr doesn't quite jump but he does look around quickly before finally tracing the voice to the young man in the tree. His expression is somewhere between surprised, amused and annoyed. Americans. He shakes his head and replies in a deep, rumbling voice, "Nyet. No. Russian. German is much less lovely to ear. Like box of tools falling down metal stairs." He pauses a moment and then asks, in a polite, slightly patronizing tone, as one would use with a small child or mental patient, "Ah, why are you in the tree? On the tree? Up the tree? Not sure which is right for this."

*

"Russian?!" It's hard to say whether Sam is more shocked to meet an actual Russian, or that Piotr doesn't try to deny his nationality. Whichever it was, it gives the teenager enough of a shock that he nearly falls off his branch. There's a second or two of flailing, then:

"Does the Professor know you're here?" the blond boy continues suspiciously. "Ah don't think he'd approve of havin' Soviets on the premises."

With an indignant sort of sputter, the southerner finally answers, "In America, we got a thing called climbin'." (The word comes out sounding a bit like 'klahmin.') "Y'ain't got climbin' in the USSR? Or ar the frozen fields of Moscow just so barren that you ain't never seen a tree before?"

*

Looking a bit alarmed, Piotr gets closer to the tree to break the stranger's fall if he falls out of it. He's significantly taller than even Sam's lanky height and built as solidly as the proverbial brick outhouse. The young Russian nods and says, "Da. I am student here, now. New. And yes, Russian. Though hoping to be American, some day." His blue eyes narrow at the rest of it and his voice is guarded as he says, "I am from Siberia, not Moscow. And we have mostly fields on the collective. Um, the, farm, I think is closest. Farm village, maybe? But plenty of trees. Just, most of us stop climbing them by a certain age." That last line is delivered with an amused smirk that isn't quite hidden.

*

"You're a student? Well, don't that beat all," Sam says. His near-topple necessitated a bit of rearrangment, and now he's situated face down on the bough, one foot and one arm akimbo, propped against other branches to keep him steady. He squints down at Piotr, still very slow to trust the foreigner. "But if you grew up in a collective, wouldn't that make you a commie? Or are you some kinda, whatsit called… asylum seeker?" Sam peers into the middle distance thoughtfully. "Ah suppose if you're on the run from Khrushchev, the Professor would take you in."

He mulls over this possibility, then finally says, "Ah suppose it wouldn't be right to turn someone away from the land of opportunity, even if they might be a spy." He starts swinging down, branch to branch, seeming quite capable at it. "But Ah'll be watchin' ya!" he warns over his shoulder as he does so.

A second later, he lands on both Chuck Taylors next to Piotr and sizes him up. "Ah guess if the commies build all their glorious workers like you, I wouldn't want 'em climbin' trees neither. Deforestate the whole country in a couple weeks!" He offers one hand guardedly. "Sam Guthrie."

*

Amused by this point, Piotr says, "You were born in America, yes? Does that mean you are a cowboy?" He pauses and orders his thoughts, "Is hard to say I'm not a communist. Is like air in Russia. All around you, all the time. Like Americans and capitalism, da? But I am not apparatchik. Not … political. Mostly. And da, 'on the lamb' like American gangster movie. Mother Russia has no love for mutants."

He snorts at the idea he might be a spy and says, "And I like America. Many good things here. Many bad things, yes. But mostly good things." And when Sam plants his feet on the ground, the large Russian takes that hand and shakes it. It's firm, but there is a sense that he's being careful. Not insulting, just out of a lifetime habit of being the biggest, strongest guy in most rooms. "Piotr Nikolaievitch Rasputin. Am thinking of maybe just making that 'Pete'. More American, da? I'll blend in."

*

Sam's handshake is a tight clasp and a boyishly overserious couple of bobs. "Well, Ah for one do not relish the prospect o' having to tackle 'Nackolackamitts' or whatever that middle part was every time Ah say hello, so Pete it is." Releasing Piotr's hand, he puts his own on his hips and gives the man another once-over, shaking his head. "'Blend in' might be a tall order, though, pardon the pun."

He turns around, grabs his shirt from the shady base of the tree, and starts pulling it on. "Just for your information, though, Ah grew up on a farm and Ah basically am a cowboy, so that ain't the best argument you could make for trustin' you." Dressed again, he starts to gather up his magazines and heaves a sigh. "Unfortunately, that attitude about mutants is about the only thing the Russkies and the United States do have in common. At least here you ain't gonna be in too much danger from it."

He turns back to Piotr with his first real smile of the conversation. "And maybe we can teach you why we're the good guys in the Cold War while we're at it."

*

Piotr laughs as the American mangles his name and says, "It mouthful for Americans. Most of you barely speak English! Sam is good, though. Strong name. Like Sam Spade, da?" His tone turns a bit sardonic as he says, "And I am not that big. Great uncle Bogdan was so big and hairy he accidentally married bear. Was great, how do you say, scandal. Not so much for being she-bear. But she was not party member." There is a glitter in his eyes and a certain not-quite-hidden grin that suggests he's telling tall tales.

When Sam mentions being a cowboy, the Russian smiles and says, "Is true? I grew up on farm, but not a cowboy. We use tractors. And raise wheat, not cows. You ride horses? And have a hat? And six-shooter? I have many questions about Westerns. Many things don't make sense in Russian translations."

Piotr nods sagely about the mutant topic and his smile fades, only to come back with an ironic twist at that last line of Sam's. He claps the other young man on the back enthusiastically and says, "Da! Come! We feed you, so you fill out and become fine, healthy cowboy and discuss shameful Western imperialism and exploitation of workers by American kleptocrats! Maybe get you worker's party badge one day!"

*

Sam's eyebrows peak in the middle as he processes the she-bear story, but by the end, he's grinning along with Pete. That expression carries through the questions about his life on the farm, but starts to falter as Piotr offers a cultural exchange rather than a bit of one-way evangelism. It's all moot as the skinnier boy gapes and staggers under the force of the stronger one's back slap.

"Ah'll have you know, Ah've been eatin' real well just fine on my own since Ah got here last week," Sam answers, picking out a relatively innocuous point of conversation before tackling the Red Menace aspects. (Piotr might notice that Sam doesn't make a similar claim about his diet before arriving at Xavier's — or he might not.) "Ah'm a great cook — workin' with the Professor to get some real Kentucky barbecue goin' up here. Your tastebuds'll think they died and gone to heaven, which is a place that Ah'm allowed to talk about here in America." The last point is delivered with emphasis. Sam manages not to stick his tongue out, though.

"Ah ride horses and Ah have a hat," he confirms. "Well — the hat's back in Kentucky. Ah was afraid it'd fly off and Ah'd lose it if I wore it flyin' up here." That comment's a bit cryptic, to someone who doesn't know what Sam does. Still, he skips right past it to finish: "Six shooters ain't so great for huntin', so I mostly use rifles, but real cowboys used those all the time."

*

Piotr doesn't comment on the comment about eating well, but there is a momentary flash of sympathy on his face. Yes, he perhaps understands the undercurrents there. Perhaps life is much the same in agrarian communities, far from the seats of power. Sometimes one bad harvest is all it takes to push a family to the edge. He nods and says, "I look forward to eating your 'Kun-tuck-kay' food. It sounds very interesting. And I am bad socialist, I do believe in heaven. Right here!" He sighs and gets a little misty eyed as he says, "Yankee stadium. Baseball. Beer (even if is terrible American beer) and corn dogs. Is all best things in one place. One day I will go to game and maybe not leave."

He considers the mechanics of hunting and six-shooters and offers, "I have used my father's old service rifle to hunt deer and wolves. Wolves very bad in Siberian winter. They get very hungry and bold. But I thought cowboys had gunfights all the time? Telling people to get out of town by noon and stopping the rustling (is word?) of cattle and all that."

*

"Oh my God, y'ain't even heard of Kentucky." Sam's groan evinces less shock than appalled realization of just how much Americana Piotr has missed out on. At least the big guy seems enthusiastic about it. Sam shakes his head at the injustice and stuffs his hands into his pockets, the magazines tucked under his right arm threatening to make a break for freedom before being corralled by a timely assist from the left.

"Alright, well, we can get you to the baseball field. It ain't football, but it'll do." He shrugs and says with faint disapproval, "Maybe one of the teachers will make a field trip of it for all the foreigners we got running around here. Otherwise, Ah'll just give you a piggyback ride." A wry grin crosses the light-haired farm boy's features. "As for cattle rustlers — yeah, that's the word — ain't none been dumb enough to try anything like that on the Guthrie farm since Ah been alive. If they had, well, maybe we'd've broke out the revolvers. We do take that sort of thing seriously."

*

Pitor makes a face at the mention of football. "Bah. American football is like rugby for very big toddlers. So much padding. So many rules. Not even any blood! Is boring. But baseball, baseball is sport of genius. Of, how do you say … philosophy. And science. Is about stillness. And speed. About restraint. And strength. About the collective, working together to achieve greatness. Americans do many good things in the world. Help clean up after Russia defeated Hitler, create the tractor and harvester combine. Blue jeans. Blue jeans very good. And rock and roll. But if you did nothing else, you would be, ah, redeemed, by baseball." Somebody is a fan, it seems.

And I think not on, um, piggyback ride. No offense, but I would break you a little and you seem like nice person. Also, Professor X doesn't look like a man who would share wheelchair. Good man. Maybe great man. With great dream. But I think a little bit of a, um, snob, maybe. Very much a boyar."

*

Sam pauses and gapes at Piotr for a second, uncertain where to start. Football, boring? The Russians defeated Hitler? It's a disaster. So he just slaps the bigger man on the shoulder — he's one of the few who wouldn't have trouble reaching — steers him back toward the school, and says, "Pete, you got a lot to learn. But we'll get you there." He laughs and shakes his head. "Just… don't tempt me to show you what Ah mean by a piggyback ride. Ah messed up enough of the Professor's lawn this week."

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