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An Unlikely Councilor
Part Two of the Arrival Quartet
by Rowena

In the light of day, the destruction wrought by Stryker's soldiers during their invasion of the mansion was even more appalling than Wolverine had anticipated. The bodies of the soldiers he had speared with his claws in his rage had been dragged away, doubtless by Stryker's surviving troops, but the telltale evidence of their presence still remained. Professor Xavier stared at the small pools of coagulated blood, and felt his own blood run cold.

"Logan..." he started, but try as he might he couldn't think of a follow up. Wolverine sighed, his lips pursed and his eyes shut tight against the memory of the bezerker rage that had consumed him when the soldiers attacked.

"I held off as long as I could, Chuck," he growled from between clenched teeth. "Pullin' my punches, tryin' to take 'em alive. But they were attacking children..."

Xavier held up a hand, trying to signify his understanding with a sympathetic look. "I know, Logan. You did the right thing, under the circumstances."

Logan looked down at the bald man, surprise battling with angry self- loathing in his bright, black eyes. "Glad you see it that way." Then he grimaced at a sudden realization. "I'm afraid you'll be needin' to buy a new 'fridge too."

Professor Xavier sighed and turned to Scott, who was standing stiffly and stoically at his side, a perfect soldier.

"Our first priority is finding the children," he said, telepathically sending soothing waves of compassion Scott's way. Scott's mental shields were up, however, blocking all his attempts to comfort the grieving man. "Cerebro has no doubt been gutted by Stryker's men, so we'll have to do this the old-fashioned way. Logan, find Storm and begin the search. The children probably haven't gone all that far and will probably still be on the grounds."

Logan nodded and turned to go.

"Oh, and Logan," the Professor called out, causing the short, burly Canadian to stop in his tracks. The Professor turned to face him, a small smile on his face. "If you see Mr. Wagner, invite him to join you. Although he is not one of us, I think he would like to be of help."

Wolverine just nodded, then continued on his way. Once he was gone, Xavier sighed deeply and turned to Scott. "Accompany me to my office, Scott," he said, his voice tired. "We've got to plan our meeting with the President."

"...and this is where we come to hone our special powers. Unique challenges can be set up for each of us to face, either individually or in teams, and if you're not alert, you could get pretty badly hurt. That's why we've nicknamed it the Danger Room."

Kurt stepped into the large, empty room with some trepidation. "The 'Danger Room'?" he repeated. "So, this is basically a training room for practicing mutant powers, ja?"

Ororo nodded. "Yes. With so many people out there who hate mutants, it's a good precaution to know how to defend ourselves."

Kurt nodded, walking around slowly, getting a feel for the space. "Do you think--if I asked to join you--do you think the Professor could set up a rig so I could practice my acrobatics?"

Ororo started to reply, then blinked at the implication of what he had just said. "Kurt," she said, trying to restrain the sudden hopeful feeling that was quickening her pulse. "Did you just say what I think you said?"

Kurt paused in his examination of the room and turned to face her, his face serious but his eyes playful. "Jawohl, Fräulein," he assured her brightly. "I have been thinking about this since you told me of your mission here. The thought of helping others like myself--mein Gott, before I met you I had not even known there were others like me. I had heard the term several times since coming to America, but I did not know just what a 'mutant' was. Back home in the circus, I had to take rather drastic measures just to convince myself and others that I was not a...a demon." He spoke the word with difficulty while gesturing to his scars, the angelic alphabet that graced his indigo skin. Ororo tilted her head, unsure how to respond to that. Kurt went on, speaking slowly and carefully as though he were making a difficult confession.

"No demon could wear such sacred symbols on his skin," he explained at her confused expression. "Where I come from, many believe that someone who is malformed has been corrupted by the Devil. They thought my outward appearance was a manifestation of the evil within me. To counteract this supposed evil as well as my own sins, I made these scars. They are an acknowledgment of my own potential for sin--a potential every human being shares. I made them a part of me so those who saw them would not fear me as a demon and try to kill me. These scars acted as a protection not only for my soul, but for my body as well. If it were not for them, I fear I would have been burned at the stake long ago."

Ororo stared, her eyes wide with astonishment. She had commented before on the beauty of his intricate scars. Now that she knew why he had made them, she wasn't sure what to think.

Kurt didn't notice her changing expression. He sighed and his midnight features clouded. "I know that, after all that has happened, I can never return to the circus," he admitted, his voice tight with pain and loss. "Even if the President sees fit to pardon me, which I know will never happen, I will forever be branded as 'The White House Assassin.' I would be a danger to my family were I to return home."

Ororo closed the distance between them, taking his thick hands in her own slender ones and looking into his golden eyes. "Kurt, you were not responsible for your actions that day. I'm sure that once we meet with the President and explain to him, he will most certainly pardon you."

Kurt looked at her, an incredulous smile spreading across his face. "Now who is being the wide-eyed optimist?" he joked.

Ororo smirked. "What can I say? Your hopeful attitude is contagious." She stepped closer, squeezing his hands even tighter. Kurt's smile faded and he started to grow somewhat alarmed at her willing nearness. Her intense eyes stared into his, and he felt a shudder run down his spine all the way to the tip of his tail. His heart was beating faster, his breath was quickening. He swallowed. He had never felt quite like this before, even with Amanda. He had loved her dearly, but she had never looked at him as anything more than a brother. She had certainly never stared into his eyes the way Storm was doing now, she had never squeezed his hands in such an innocent, yet intimate way...

"Fräulein Storm..." he started, his voice slightly strangled, but she just smiled.

"You are just what we need around here," she said, her tone sincere. "And I'm sure the Professor would agree. If you do decide to join us, you will find you are more than welcome, and very much needed."

Kurt could feel himself blushing, and the embarrassing realization that his cheeks were turning a deep shade of purple only made him blush harder.

"Never have I been so quickly..." he trailed off, searching for the right word, "...accepted as I have been by you and your friends. Fräulein Storm," he said taking a step back and gracing her with a deep, formal bow, "I would be honored to become a member of the X-Men."

To her shock, at that news the normally stoic Ororo found she had to restrain herself from jumping in place and squealing like a giddy schoolgirl. She shouldn't be feeling this way. She knew she shouldn't be smiling so soon after Jean's tragic, noble sacrifice. But looking into his face--it was insane! She barely even knew this strange, blue man, yet somehow, in only a few short days, he had managed to find a way to pierce her thick, callused emotional shields and enter straight to her heart. And, to her surprise, rather than being angry or resentful, Ororo found she liked it. She liked him. Suddenly, his decision to stay meant more to her than anything else in the world.

"That is so wonderful, Kurt!" she smiled, her blue eyes shining. "Come on, we must tell the Professor at once. I truly believe he will--"

She was cut off by the sudden sound of the Danger Room doors sliding open. Both occupants turned to face the newcomer.

Wolverine stared at the broad grins that greeted him, almost angry that they would have the gall to smile so soon after Jeannie's sacrifice. His shocked look quickly deepened into a dangerous scowl as he pulled a cigar from his pocket and stuck it in his mouth, unlit.

"Prof wants to find the kids A.S.A.P." he grunted around the thick stogie. "Storm, you're with me. You," he gestured to Kurt, "can tag along if you want."

"Certainly, Herr Logan," Kurt said with a slight bow of his head. "I would be honored to assist in any way possible." He strode forward, completely unintimidated by Wolverine's hostile demeanor. "And, for the record, my name is Kurt Wagner. That's Vahgner. But, you" he mimicked Wolverine's earlier dismissive gesture perfectly, "may call me Nightcrawler." He grinned teasingly. "The 'Incredible' part is optional."

As Wolverine's scowl deepened even further, Kurt turned back to face the empty room one last time. "Yes, indeed, this space does have much potential for a good training session," he said. "Perhaps, Herr Logan, you and I could fight a duel sometime? I am a master swordsman, and I couldn't help but notice that you, too, have some skill with blades."

Wolverine's eyebrow raised incredulously at the taller man's blatant challenge. "You serious, circus boy?" he grunted, trying to equate the confident, smiling man he saw before him with the cringing, terrified blue man he had heard praying his guts out in the back of the X-jet for the past three days.

"But of course," Nightcrawler assured him, his eyes playful, yet somehow dangerous. "After all that has happened, I need a good workout to release some of the tension and aggression that has built up within me. Are you up to the challenge, Herr Wolverine?"

Wolverine regarded the taller man through narrowed eyes, coming to a sudden realization. Something about his tone, the look in his eyes, the scent of playful deception that surrounded him, elucidated his true intentions more clearly than words ever could.

"You're a sneaky little devil, ain't cha," he snarled, chomping hard on his wet cigar.

Kurt raised an eyebrow, but a slight flicker of his yellow eyes was all the response he gave to Logan's use of the word "devil". "I assure you I am quite serious," he said.

Logan crossed his arms. "This so-called 'workout' is more for me than for you, ain't it. You're just the type to pull a trick like this, I can smell it. You're hopin' a fight'll get me to open up about Jeannie, ain't cha? I see you've already gotten to 'Ro, here." Ororo blushed, her anger at Logan's attitude causing her eyes to flash dangerously.

Nightcrawler hadn't meant admit it, but Wolverine had seen right through his bluff. He turned a glare to his lashing tail, apparently blaming it for giving the game away. Even so, he wasn't ready to give up quite yet.

"Logan, will you accept my challenge or not?"

Wolverine considered. He was having trouble seeing Nightcrawler as anything more than a hyper-religious rural circus hick, and his mental image of him with a sword in one hand and a rosary in the other was almost ludicrous. Still, he had managed to scare seven shades of spit out of the President of the United States and the entire Secret Service while he was under Stryker's control. If he was as good as he claimed...

Wolverine held out a thick, blunt hand to the lithe, blue man before him. "Yeah, sure," he said. Kurt grinned brightly and took the proffered hand eagerly in his own. "But I don't spill my guts that easy. Especially to strangers." If he had meant that jibe to sting, it seemed to have the opposite effect. Kurt's grin just broadened.

"I look forward to my victory, Herr Logan," he said, his sharp teeth flashing. "Remember, the loser buys the beer. Now, let's go find those kids."

With that, Nightcrawler offered his elbow to Storm, who took it with a smile, and strode confidently from the room, leaving Logan behind to pick up his damp cigar from where it had fallen when his jaw went slack. There was certainly far more to this Nightcrawler than met the eye. Logan chuckled despite himself. It was always the quiet ones, wasn't it. Suddenly, life didn't seem as bleak as it had a moment before.

"Hey, Herr Logan," a lightly accented shout came from the hallway, "are you coming or not?"

"Hold yer horses, ya big, blue elf," Logan grin/snarled from behind his unlit stogie. "I'm right behind ya."

End of Part Two