A/N: I don't own X-Men Evolution or any of its characters. But Arial Lavig and his family and history are mind. R&R is appreciated.
Chapter 1: New Arrival
A handful of hours had passed since nightfall, the early spring air outside still cool with the memory of winter, but the fire burning in the hearth warmed the room like a mother's worried embrace. Charles Xavier stared quietly into the dancing flames, elbows resting on the arms of his wheelchair as he steepled his fingers in thought. He had been waiting for a little while now, to the point he was beginning to worry over Logan's long absence. After all, even if Logan was bringing back the new mutant Cerebro had detected, there was still a chance of danger for them both. Magneto, Sabretooth, Mystique, the Brotherhood of Mutants…all had been quiet of late, and it boded ill.
"You shouldn't worry so much," a deep feminine voice said gently, "They'll be here soon."
Xavier glanced over to one of his long-standing friends, offering her a worried look. Ororo Munroe's stark white hair seemed to be on fire from the natural light, and it added an eerie feel to her appearance as it framed her mocha-skinned face.
"Logan will be alright. You should have more faith after all this time, Charles."
He sighed. "I know, Ororo. But that doesn't mean I can just dismiss my feelings of concern. Any number of things could happen—"
"At any given point in time," she finished, having heard this argument before. "To any of us. It doesn't matter if it's tonight or five years from now. Anything could happen at any time. But you have to leave a little to trust and faith."
"That doesn't mean I will not worry." he insisted, and Ororo shook her head, offering him a weary smile.
"You are like a father eagle, Professor. You worry over all your chicks." she chuckled.
A smile slowly turned up the corners of his mouth and he turned his gaze back to the fireplace. "[A father eagle,]" he remarked telepathically, "[I like that comparison, Storm.]"
An abrupt knock on the door broke the gentle quiet and the telepath immediately turned his wheelchair around, bright and alert. He reached out mentally, just enough to recognize Logan behind the door.
"Enter." he called.
The door swung inward to admit a familiar brunette man with a mouth turned down in a typical grim scowl. Trotting along behind him was a young blonde boy who hung his head, staring at the floor as he hugged a ragged-looking backpack to his chest.
"Logan. You had no problems, I trust?" Xavier asked.
"You sound like you got no faith in me, Prof," the brunette answered in his coarse, tough voice, "We're fine." He gave a hard look at the boy, who refused to raise his head.
"And," Ororo spoke up, not unkindly, "Who might this be?"
The boy only lowered his head further, hunching his thin shoulders.
"Storm, Professor X," Logan exhaled gruffly, "Meet Arial Lavig."
"It is a pleasure, Arial." Xavier said politely, and finally the boy looked up, revealing a pair of bright blue eyes wide with fear set in a round, angelic face.
"G-guten Abend, Professor…" Arial surprised them temporarily with his German accent. "…Herr Logan tells me that you vant to offer me a place…to stay? Th-that you take in people…like me?"
"[Like us.]" came the reply, and Arial's eyes widened so much they threatened to fall right out of his face.
"Y-you…h-how did you…?" the boy stammered, and frantically made motions to indicate his own mouth before gesturing wildly at Xavier's.
"[This is my gift, Arial.]" the Professor replied before switching to a verbal response. "I trust you know by now that we are all mutants here at my institute. This mansion is perhaps the closest thing to a safe haven many of us have, and I would like to extend what protection we have to you."
"Me?" the boy asked in disbelief before tightening his grip on his careworn bag, hugging it closer and lowering his face again. "But I am a freak."
"We all feel that way, kid. You just gotta come to accept your mutation as it is: part of you." Logan grumbled, having an unusual moment of wisdom.
"Logan is right, Arial," Xavier agreed, "We all struggle with feelings of guilt over our differences, but given time…I hope you will come to realize that you are unique, special, and that this is all part of who you are."
The boy said nothing, but hunched his thin shoulders high, and shivered.
And to the astonishment of the adults, the ripple of his motion quivered through his shoulders, as though they were trying to separate from his body. Arial looked up, his cherubic features marred only by the dirt and grime on his face, a sign he'd been living on his own and possibly on the streets for a long period of time, and his blue eyes met Xavier's darker ones. The rippling motion slowed, then stopped.
"Nein, Professor…" Arial murmured, his expression growing sad, "I am a freak, even among mutants."
There was an odd feeling surrounding the boy, as though he was trying to mentally offer consent to look into his thoughts. Warily, Xavier closed his eyes and reached for Arial's mind.
A chaotic whirlwind of memories rushed to meet him. He saw a beautiful woman with long, curly blonde hair being laid in a casket…a much younger Arial crouched down by a beach on a stormy day…a tall man in a lab coat turning to speak sharply to him…that same man looking over a report printing off from his computer, his expression carefully neutral…preteen Arial, sitting in a room, caught up in something he was drawing…the blonde woman, baking cookies and smiling at him…young Arial, dressed in formal black, watching teary-eyed as the woman's casket was being lowered into the ground…the man in the lab coat standing over him as he filled a syringe with a viscous fluid, an insane smile spreading over his face…
…And Arial, looking at his reflection in a mirror, his eyes widening in horror at the sight of his unnatural new limbs, his mouth opening in a terrified scream…
Professor Xavier opened his eyes, retreating back into his own mind, more than a little shocked at what he'd seen.
"I told you…" Arial muttered into the fabric of his backpack, "I am a freak."
"Well, Arial," the head of the institute spoke slowly, "I still hope your view will change as you spend more time here. Given enough time and an effort on your part to open up, we will all accept you as one of our own."
"I…I don't vant to talk to total strangers about…" he paused, then gave his shoulders a tiny roll, "About this."
"No one is going to force you to relive memories you'd rather not have, Arial. Nor am I going to expose your thoughts to anyone. I would prefer you come to that choice on your own. Just take your time, and give the others a chance to accept you. And give them a chance to be accepted by you, too. Relationships are a two-way street."
The boy said nothing, but looked at the floor and shuffled his feet awkwardly, blushing slightly beneath the grime on his face.
"Storm, show him to his room."
"At once, professor." Ororo complied, walking over and gently placing a hand on Arial's mess of blonde hair. "Come, child. You look like you'd appreciate a chance to clean up."
Silence filled the room as the door shut behind them, and the professor turned his wheelchair around to face the outside window to think.
"Somethin' botherin' you, Professor?" Logan asked after a few moments.
Charles paused before answering, trying to find the best way to explain without exposing too much of what he'd seen. "I saw enough to understand why Arial considers himself a 'freak' among other mutants…and I suppose, to his young mind, his point is valid. If he does have a natural mutated ability, it seems to be both connected to and overshadowed by his unnatural one."
"'Unnatural one?'" Logan parroted, his tone skeptical, and when Xavier started to open his mouth, he cut him off. "Nevermind, don't tell me. You told the kid you'd respect him enough not to go blabbing."
"Hopefully in time, he will come to the choice to tell us all of his own accord." the professor sighed.
There followed a long quiet, and then Logan spoke again. "Think he and the elf will get along?"
Xavier looked up. "Kurt?"
"Yeah. Two little German teeny-boppers…they're bound to find something they have in common."
"You know Logan, I think you may be right. Perhaps Arial will bond with Kurt. I daresay his own mutation may look small in comparison after a time."
"Here's hopin', professor."
Outside the room, watching from the height of the window, something moved away and out of sight, and Xavier nearly jumped. Spinning his wheelchair about to face the window, he shut his eyes, placing his fingertips on his temples, and cast out with his mind.
"Professor?" he heard Logan ask, but he was already caught up in the sea of thoughts. There were the less organized, confused minds of the sleeping animals in the area initially, then came the structured thoughts of the other mutants. The students, already in bed, either awake trying to find ways to fall asleep, or already deep in slumber and dreaming of their tomorrows. Logan, concerned and on his guard, ready to spring into action at a moment's notice. Ororo, her maternal instict kicking in out of concern as she showed Arial into his new room. And Arial himself, still confused, frightened, insecure and vulnerable with his chaotic memories.
But that was all.
He lifted his fingertips from his temples, opening his eyes, and tried to consider what he'd just felt. Had there truly been someone present, or had the leftover dregs of Arial's memories left him slightly paranoid and jumping at shadows?
"What's wrong? What's there?" Logan asked, balling his fists and lowering into a predator's crouch, preparing to pounce at the merest hint of danger.
"Nothing…at least…not anymore." Charles sighed.
"I don't wish to assume things, but I'm rather worried. It has been some time since he last threatened the Institute…"
"Want me to do a quick patrol?"
"That would be appreciated, Logan. Thank you."
And with that, the man known also as Wolverine bolted from the room, eager for a fight, while his superior remained alone as the embers in the fireplace began to flicker and die, wrapped up in his thoughts.
Inside his new room, Arial, having finished changing into a pair of pajamas that were a size too big for his skinny frame, tentatively curled up on the new, unfamiliar bed, and fell into a fitful sleep. And outside his window, a figure watched him toss and turn, blazing eyes glinting with greed at the sight of his unnatural mutation. But by the time Wolverine rounded the corner to that side of the building, there was nothing at the window save the outstretched limbs of the trees, swaying gently in the night air.