NachtcGleikette – Now, know I've been teasing you since the very beginning. Glad you stuck it out with me. :-)

Kitty234 – Timing is everything... :-)

xXSlightly-PsychoticXx – Too late...she already jumped...

BeautifulXinXBlood – Desperate indeed. Thanks for the head's up on the spelling – gotta love spell check. I probably need to get a beta reader, but I'm from the old school, back before we had such wonderful creatures. :-) Thanks for the cookies! White chocolate macadamia nut cookies? Yum!

Rachel felt the wind whipping her hair up around her face; her body was weightless as she fell. Her eyes closed, she sensed the ground getting closer and closer. Just another second. Then there was a sound. A quiet sound. A sound she knew she should recognize...

For a trapeze artist, nothing was more important than timing. It didn't matter how impressive or complicated your routine was or how well you could perform it. If the timing wasn't there you'd miss the bar every time and end up in the net. Or worse, you'd miss your partner and they would end up in the net. Had Kurt rounded the corner a second later, or Rachel found the courage to jump a second sooner, he would have never seen her disappearing over the ledge. For the first time, he was actually thankful for the horrific abuse that had trained him to act instantly. Before, Alkali Lake, he would have been too horrified at seeing Rachel fall to do anything until it was too late. But, now – he leapt over the edge after her without a second thought. In the blink of an eye, he was back, sitting on the floor, holding his beloved wife tight in his arms.

Rachel opened her eyes, confused. Something was wrong...she was right back where she started. She had jumped, hadn't she? She hadn't just imagined it. Suddenly, she realized that someone was holding her. In front of her, she saw Ben Gammon lying still on the floor a few yards away, the taser's clicks slowing to a stop. Then, she caught a familiar, terrifying scent of brimstone. Shaking with trepidation, she dared a look down at the hands grasping her and let out a fierce, hoarse, terrified scream.

"Rachel!" Kurt held onto her as she struggled to get away from him. "Rachel, it's me!! Rachel!!" But he could not possibly yell louder than she was screaming. He tried to make her look at him, trying to hold her face in his hands and force her to meet his eyes. Instead, he let go a rare curse in guttural German as his wife bit his hand viciously, drawing blood. He released her and, clamping his hand shut against the burning pain, watched her hide in a corner a few feet away.

Kurt slowly approached the frightened woman as she huddled between the dingy walls and hard floor, crying and rocking back and forth. She kept her face covered with her hands. He could see a deep, vicious, bruise coiling up her right arm. A bruise he'd left on her when...It was no wonder she was terrified. With effortless grace, he covered the short distance between them, crouched in front of her. "Rachel." He whispered.

Her mind screamed in despair. She couldn't even die here! It had stolen their only escape. She'd be dragged back to her tiny cage like an animal and forced to surrender her daughter. Sobbing, Rachel tried hard not to imagine what Stryker was going to do to her baby. But she knew. He'd either dissect her like a lab animal or he'd turn her into the same kind of monster he'd turned her father into. The monster that loomed over her now. She couldn't stand it being so close. She couldn't stand to look at it. But, as the seconds ticked by in silence, Rachel's fingers slipped apart and she dangered a glimpse at it. What was it waiting for?? For orders? Maybe it just enjoyed her terror as she cowered from it. But when she met his eyes, she did not see a demon. She saw the soul of the man she loved.

Kurt held his breath as Rachel slowly lowered her hands. "Mein Gott..." he breathed, his eyes going wide with shock at his first good look at her. Her face was bloodied and starting to swell. She hardly resembled his wife. Her skin was gray and dull, her hair hung limply around her face in dirty, tangled strands. What had they done to her? Even her eyes suffered. They were no longer bright orbs. They seem to be just empty, black voids. Trembling, she cradled her right arm over her chest. "Kurt?" It was so quiet and so timid, he might not have heard it at all if he hadn't seen her swollen, split lips move.

A lump of emotion stole his voice as he nodded. He reached his hand out to her.

"B-Blue?" Her lips trembled as she let herself have hope for the very last time. She stared at his outstretched hand.

Kurt found his voice, strained and choked, "Yes, Schatz. It's me."

A year ago he had come out of the shadows of the Munich Circus in the fading afternoon light. The same fear stabbed at his heart now as then.

'Please...don't be afraid of me.'

With the last of her faith, she swallowed hard and reached towards him. Shaking, she touched his extended hand, hesitantly. He gave her a small encouraging smile. A second later, she broke down completely, sobbing wildly and clutching his hand for dear life.

Kurt closed the space between them and wrapped his arms around her, one hand on her, the other resting over his daughter. His own tears fell on top of her head as he held her to him. "I'm sorry...I'm so sorry..." He sobbed unashamed, pleading for her forgiveness. After a moment, he pulled himself together and stared down at her. "Are you all right?" What a foolish question, he admonished himself. Just look at her! How could she possibly be all right? "Come, Leibe. I'm going to get you out of here."

Rachel was too overwhelmed to speak. She clung to her Blue, having no other thoughts than the most primal of instincts to stay close to her mate for protection.

The two were so intent on each other, neither heard Ben getting up. The last of the taser playing out in his system, he came back under control of himself quickly. With predatory swiftness, he grabbed Rachel by the hair of her head and yanked her away.

Rachel screamed in pain and shock as he jerked her back against him. "I told you this wasn't over, bitch!" He hissed in her ear, remembering the last time he and Kurt had stood off against each other over the dark haired gypsy. She gave another pained cry as he laid his handgun on top of her belly and jabbed its black barrel into her ribs.

Kurt did not yell, or threaten, or even move. His expression was intense and deadly calm. He looked from Ben's eyes to Rachel's. She met his stare dead on. No fear, no panic. Just complete trust in him. Almost imperceptibly, she nodded.

"What's it gonna be, freak?" Ben taunted. "She is mine. I will kill her before I let you have her." He nudged the gun even further into Rachel burning ribs. "Think you can move faster than a bullet?"

A sinister twinkle lit in Nightcrawler's golden eyes. "Ja." he nodded with a ghost of a smile. "The question is, mein Freund..."

His tail snaked up behind him like a hypnotized cobra.

"...Can you?"

Kurt vanished in a burst of smoke. Instinctively, Ben pulled the trigger. But bullet missed its intended target as another instantaneous burst of brimstone spirited Rachel out his grip. It happened so fast, Ben didn't even feel the indiscriminate taste of the bullet...

Without Rachel's body between them, the bullet fired out of Ben's gun and into his own chest. Finally feeling the burn, he stared down, disbelieving at the bright red stain spreading down his white shirt. The gun fell from his fingers with a metallic clatter and he fell forward, alone, onto the cold cement.

The cold hit her like a shock wave as the fifth teleport brought them outside. Her head was spinning like a top. She winced against the brightness of the sun and the snow. Pushing away from Kurt slightly, he released her and she knelt down. She put her hands in the deep snow, watching it melt against her skin, cleaning the dirt and blood from her fingers. "I love snow..." she whispered to no one in particular.

Taking off his coat, Kurt wrapped it around her. "Come, Liebe." He urged, then stopped short at her peaceful, distant expression. It occurred to him that she had been held prisoner even longer that he had. And, this was her first taste of freedom in two Hell-filled months. He knew what he'd endured in that nightmare, but staring at his wife's vulnerable, abused form, he could only imagine what she had suffered.

"You always did like the snow." He said gently, kneeling beside her. He knew the jet was only one more 'bamf' away. After a moment, he helped her up and lifted her gently in his arms like a child. She gave no protest, shivering with cold, her bare feet and legs had turned red from burning snow. Getting the mental image in his mind, Kurt turned to see if she was ready, but saw that she had, mercifully, passed out. Kurt managed a little smile as he pressed a soft kiss to her temple.

For a moment, he stood there contemplating all that had brought the three them to this point.

Looking at the ground below his feet, somewhere in the tunnels that made up Alkali Base, a battle was still waging. He turned his head to the horizon and thought of the very real possibility Mystique had warned him of; a full scale war between the two dominant species on this planet. Then he looked back at his tiny family, his human wife and his mutant daughter.

He knew, more than anything, he wanted them to be able to live in peace; and that was something he was willing to fight for. So, after his family was safe aboard the Blackbird, he returned to the base to take a stand beside his new friends.

And Kurt Wagner, the Nightcrawler, took his place as one of the X-Men.

- fin -

Writer's note -

Well, that's it. My very first fan fic. Hope y'all enjoyed reading it! I sure enjoyed writing it. For those of you maybe a little let down that we didn't get to 'meet' Kurt's daughter, I currently have a sequel going. ('Second Chance') Just go to my account to find it. Also, there is a short story bridge between the two stories.

Also – If there are any German speakers out there who'd be willing to act as an interpreter to an ignorant American who butchers her own language, but doesn't want to butcher yours...

Finally - Thanks to everyone who read, and especially to those who reviewed. It means the world!