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Thistle & Weeds

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For Kurt Wagner, a good run is a necessity of life, and the park nearby gives him a challenge, the canopy of old hardwood trees overgrown, thick and twisted, full of vines and other climbers. The place is almost as wild as home, and he loves it. Out here, he's alone, the smell of the forest masking the town, just him and the trees. Just him, down on all fours, inhuman and strange and simply himself. For two months he's had the run of this forest.

Until tonight.

He catches the scent before he hears them, and even then, he only hears because he knows he is not alone. The scent is male, with just a trace of aftershave, and a kind of wet, earthy smell that lingers just enough to detect. The sounds put him maybe two meters to Kurt's right.

“Hello?” He asks, cautious.

The other laughs, low and raspy, but there's no malice.

“Something I can help you with?”

There's a tease there, Kurt unable to help himself even now when he should be a little more cautious. The man is up in the trees like him, and from the shadows, the way he's holding his body so easily, Kurt is almost positive he's a mutant too. No human can hold themselves like that, at least not in Kurt's experience.

“Nothing in particular.” The words are English, but the accent isn't American.

“A race then, my friend?” He offers, licking his lips. It's the way the other man holds himself in the trees, the way he's followed so easily, that makes Kurt offer.

“If you like.” The other says. “Where to?”

“The end of the park.” Kurt points, in the direction of the southern gates. “Winner picks the prize?”

The shadow of a man moves, all his weight on his arms, the branch creaking. “Alright then. Agreed.”

“Good,” Kurt flips upside down by his tail. “Go!” He disappears and appears on his feet a branch ahead, leaping through the air, confident of the branches ahead of him. Behind him, he hears a colorful stream of swearing, then the sounds of his opponent following.

The man, the other mutant, is quick, agile, just as talented as Kurt. He moves through the trees with the same amount of skill, swinging up and over branches, keeping up with Kurt like it is nothing. No matter how much he speeds up, the other is only a step behind, like a shadow.

No one has ever kept up with Kurt.

It is invigorating.

The gates appear ahead, and he tumbles out of the trees, landing on his feet with ease, then dashing on all fours to slam his hand up against the stone. A second too slow, his competitor touches it, and Kurt gets a clear look at him at last.

He's white, with black eyes, and dark green hair. He's clean-shaven, but his skin has an odd look to it. Not slimy, not exactly, just a kind of wet cast, almost green, but not quite. He's as tall as Kurt, or as tall as Kurt would be if he stood straight, but not as lean. Definitely more muscular under his black clothes, shoulders wider and arms thicker, stronger, but still not a big man, like Kurt.

“You cheated.” He accuses, his tongue flicking over his teeth. It's green, to Kurt's surprise.

“I did not. We never said that our talents were prohibited. You were perfectly welcome to use your own.” Kurt smiles, pleased, but his new friend practically leers, making him withdraw, just a tad.

“Trust me, love, you wouldn't want me to do that.” The love is what gives him away, helping Kurt place him a little better.

“You are...” Kurt struggles for the correct guess still, because there's a curious upward lilt to the sentence he's can't quite understand. “English?”

“Scottish, close enough. Went to uni in England though.” Uni is university, that much Kurt knows.

“You are far from home.”

“You're further.” Kurt has to agree, and he nods, laughing. “So Blue, what's your prize?”

Blue, it makes him smile. “Your name, my friend.”

“That's all you want?” The man still has his hand against the wall, and he leans over, so now he's angled over Kurt, still smirking. “I'd give you that for free.” There's the sound of a promise there, and Kurt knows the man sees his embarrassment. His lips quirk, and he backs off, standing straight, pulling his jacket down. “But if that's what you want, it's Mortimer. What's yours, Blue?”

“Kurt Wagner.” He introduces himself with a flourish, out of habit. “But in the Munich Circus, I was known as the Incredible Nightcrawler.” Mortimer raises an eyebrow. His face is wonderfully expressive, Kurt sees, his whole face involved with even the smallest expression.

“You like that name then?” He's got the beginning of a laugh at the end, for some reason.


“Nightcrawler. You know what that means in English, right?”

“My mother named me. Because I am as dark as the night, and I can crawl on the walls. She liked the way it sounded.” Kurt explains, confused as Mortimer snickers. “This is one of those times I have made a mistake with my English, isn't it?” He's perpetually doing that, even now, after years of speaking the language.

“Don't worry about it, love.” Mortimer says. “Come on, I'll take you out. There's a coffee shop down the way that's open.”

“I should be...” He trails off as Mortimer turns to him, frowning.

“Got a curfew then? A missus waiting?” He tilts his head. “Or maybe a mister?” Kurt feels the heat rush to his face, and he hopes Mortimer can't see it. He shakes his head in answer. “The place is mutant-friendly. We won't have any trouble. Promise.”

Kurt wants to. He wants to sit with Mortimer and talk, see Mortimer smile some more with his expressive face. And it's Saturday night, he has no reason to be up in the morning. So he nods.

“That would be fun, I think.”

Mortimer smiles, and his heart jumps into his throat. A wonderfully expressive face, yes. Wonderfully.

In the shop, the small, privately-owned affair with the bright blue and pink awning Kurt has passed a dozen times, Mortimer orders for the both of them, black coffee with a pitcher of cream to the side. Kurt proceeds to pour half the pitcher in once they sit down in one of the booths, and then three spoonfuls of sugar. Mortimer watches with a smile, as he drinks his black.

“I like it sweet.” Kurt says, self-conscious, but Mortimer doesn't seem to mind.

“Whatever you want, pet.” Pet rolls off his tongue so easily, a sensible part of Kurt won't dare read anything into it. Another smaller part glows, the black eyes on him so intense, the smile that turns up the corners of his mouth mischievous and fun and enthralling. He wants to smile, and he does, minding his fangs as he does.

The waitress brings a tray full of pastries, all laid out to be as pretty as possible, not that Kurt cares. He has a sweet tooth a mile wide, evidenced by the three silver caps he has on his teeth.

“Thank you,” he says politely, and the waitress smiles, showing a mouth full of odd, translucent teeth.

“We just made the danishes, and the jam is local. They're our best thing.” She's really talking to Mortimer he sees, but Mortimer doesn't seem to notice. His black eyes are still on Kurt.

“Cheers,” he offers to the lingering girl.

“So, you're British?” She asks, smiling even wider.

“Scottish.” Mortimer corrects, shrugging off his black coat.

“I've always wanted to go to Scotland.” She says breathily, and now Mortimer seems to hear the flirtatious tone. He glances at Kurt with a smirk before looking up at her.

“Yeah? Kurt here likes Scotland too, don't you, love?” Kurt thinks about Scotland, and the snow, and the wildness, and he nods eagerly.

“Very beautiful.” But the girl isn't flirting anymore. Something about what Mortimer said made her blush, like she's embarrassed.

“Well, call me if you two need anything.” Then she hurries away, and says something to the girl at the register, something that makes her giggle at the waitress.

“You really like Scotland?” Mortimer is smiling at him now, in a way he didn't smile at the girl, and it distracts Kurt from the other two. The way he smiles envelopes his whole face, brightens his eyes. It removes everything but him from Kurt's mind.

“I was only there for two weeks." He says, owning up quickly before Mortimer thinks he knows the country better than he does. "The circus went through. But in Scotland, I was able to go out in the towns, and no one was afraid of me. The people were very welcoming, very kind.” They had been, in their own way. Unlike the unfailingly polite England, the townspeople had been open in their curiousity regarding Kurt, had asked him all sorts of questions. One might think it rude, but honestly, it had been refreshing for Kurt, to have people just ask instead of stare from under their eyelashes and whisper where they thought he couldn't hear. He'd liked the Scots, and their openness. He'd liked their land more though, the air of wildness even in the cities, the way it still felt untamed. He'd liked that a lot.

“Takes more than you to put any fear in a Scot, Blue.” Mortimer says with a smirk, taking a drink of his coffee, as he tilts his head at Kurt. “People often scared of you?”

“Sometimes. Less so now.” He sighs to himself. “You have to feel sorry for them. So afraid of the world around them.” So afraid of Kurt and his family, so closed-minded. It confused him, more than anything else.

“I don't feel sorry for any of them.” There's a bitterness there, and Kurt can't stop himself from reaching out and taking his free hand. He realizes after that it's inappropriate, when Mortimer looks down at their hands, that he doesn't know Mortimer well enough to touch him. But he carries on, regardless.

“People are sometimes afraid of you as well, aren't they?” Mortimer gives no indication of a yes or no, but Kurt already knows the answer. “As amazing as you are, as your abilities are, and they are so small-minded they can't see it. Don't you feel sad for them, for their blindness?”

“You really mean that, don't you?” He laughs, and Kurt feels Mortimer's fingers curl with his for a minute, but then he lets go, to pick up his coffee mug again. Kurt pulls his rosary out of his pocket, and shows it to him.

“Faith helps, more than you know.” He shrugs, self-deprecating even with his faith, but he's found that's the correct way to present himself to strangers over the years. He's encountered too many not of the Catholic faith who are almost offended at his religion, for reasons he can't quite understand, and he doesn't want to risk a bad reaction from Mortimer.

He wants Mortimer to like him.

“You're Catholic." He sounds amazed, eyeing the rosary. "After what they said about mutants?” He doesn't like the way Mortimer says it, like it wasn't just mutants he wanted to include in that sentence. Nor does he like the way his eyes shutter over, his shoulders stiffening. Kurt wonders why, but then puts two and two together, as he remembers Mortimer's hand curling with his, the way he didn't call the waitress 'love', the way he leaned over Kurt. Oh, he thinks. Oh, and there's a bright burst in his chest he can't explain just yet.

He smiles, because oh. “The church is not God. They are only men. And men make mistakes.” He meets Mortimer's eyes, holds them. “And they are wrong about me, in more ways than one.”

Please, and this is a prayer to God. A quick, selfish one, but a prayer, nonetheless.

“Doesn't that drive you mad?”

“I know God loves me. No matter what they say, that will never change.” That is what he's been taught for as long as he can remember, and he has no intention of hearing the words from others, ones who say his kind are abominations, are evil by default. God loves him, this he knows.

Mortimer suddenly chuckles, and puts his mug down. “You're infuriating. You really don't hate anyone, do you?”

“No.” Kurt says, with a smile. “That is enough of that, now." The subject is uncomfortable, and he doesn't wish to delve too deep. "You said before, I wouldn't like it if you used your own talents. What can you do?” Kurt is eager to ask, and not just for the change of subject, as he pulls his legs up into the seat, so he can sit tailor-style in the booth, more comfortable for him then letting his feet be flat on the floor.

“Oh, that. Well, there's what you saw. Agility, all that. I can climb walls. My tongue is prehensile.” Kurt frowns. He doesn't know that word, but thankfully, Mortimer correctly interprets the expression. “Uh, strong. I can make it extend. But what I meant was another trick of mine. If I think about it, I can make my spit as hard as cement. Handy trick, at times.”

“You saw my only trick.” Kurt says, with a shrug. He thinks he'd like to see Mortimer's abilities, see his tongue. He knows he wants to compete with him again, test their similar talents against one another. This is the first time he's been challenged by another on his own ground, and he won't deny he loved every second of it. To be so alone, for so long, can he be blamed? He wants to know this man who matches him so easily, who smiles at him like this. God help him, he does.

“That is an interesting trick. How far can you go?”

“The furthest I ever traveled was three kilometers, when I was very afraid. But that was one time. I have to see where I am going, generally. To go without, it tires me, and I could end up inside a wall, or in another person even. And taking other people with me is very hard. I can take one, if I concentrate very hard. There was one time, I had to take six people back and forth, one at a time. I was exhausted after, even though I was only moving ten meters, normally nothing for me. And they were only children.” He chooses not to elaborate on why he had to move those children so quickly.

“So could you move me?” Kurt looks him up and down, thinking. He wants to say yes, but though Mortimer is not a large man, he is not a small man either.

“If I concentrated, very hard, and was very determined. Do not ask me to try though.” He answers honestly. He wishes he could say for sure, but he doesn't know Mortimer very well, and with the way he moved, he's a lot of dense muscle. He can't risk it.

“So what effects it?” Mortimer seems genuinely curious, and Kurt's only too happy to talk. No one ever really wants to hear about his ability, or his limits. Even Ororo, his friend, finds his chatter annoying at times.

“Weight, and volume, mostly. Anything over, maybe, um, one hundred kilos, is impossible for me, for the most part.” Mortimer seems disappointed, but it passes. Kurt helps himself to a danish, and finds the girl right. It's perfect, and he's only too happy to eat the sweets, a rare find in the school, with so many children to compete with. A beer would be nice too, he thinks, but that seems unlikely in this place, with the odd laws of this country.

“How old are you then?” Mortimer asks, swirling his coffee cup like a tea cup, a British mannerism that makes Kurt smile.

“I am twenty-eight.” Kurt says, after he swallows. “I just turned. You?”

“Twenty-six. Almost twenty-seven.” Mortimer says. “Do you work?”

Embarrassed, Kurt shifts, knees drawn in. “Ah, in a way. I've been teaching, sort of. Do you know Charles Xavier?” It seems like every older mutant Kurt meets has heard of Charles Xavier, in some form or another.

“I've heard the name.” Mortimer says, as he scans the cafe. There's a rowdy group of vaguely familiar teenagers in a corner, and Mortimer seems tense, until one turns her hair blue and spiky. Then he relaxes, half-smiles at them. Kurt wonders how long he's mistrusted humans. Maybe his whole life. “Can't say I know much about him.”

“He runs a school, for young mutants,” Kurt says, picking at an odd kind of pastry, shaped like a flower. “To help them learn to use their abilities. I have been helping the students with more physical abilities. And I have been teaching German, as a second language. It is the first time I have had a job since I left the circus. It is very different.” In the circus, there were children, the children of the other performers, but they played together, and stayed out of the adults' way unless it was time for training. Kurt only ever dealt with maybe three or four at once. And Xavier's teenagers were not like the ones he was used to.

“Christ, I might kill myself.” Mortimer says, and he looks like he means it. “I didn't like teenagers when I was a teenager." He frowns, watching Kurt. "Here, love, it's one of their own things, let me show you,” he takes over for Kurt, and spreads some of the yellow stuff from the bowl on the pastry. “Try it like that.” Kurt does, and mulls over the taste. The yellow is lemon curd, he realizes, and the pastry isn't dissimilar from a scone.

“Lemon and lavender?” He asks, and Mortimer nods. “I like this.” He takes more, and eats, his stomach growling now from the earlier exercise. Lemon and lavender, he never would have thought, but he does like it. “So, what do you do?”

“Me?” Kurt nods, and Mortimer shrugs. “I'm an engineer," and now Kurt feels inadequate, in an odd sort of way. "I do a lot of independent contracting though. Sometimes I get invited back to my university, for research, or lectures.”

“You're very smart then.” Kurt says, a little awed, but Mortimer shakes his head.

“I'm good with machines. Math, physics. Everything else, I'm shit at. I cheated on my A-Levels, not going to lie.” Kurt's just the tiniest bit scandalized at the way he so casually admits it, but he laughs all the same, and Mortimer smiles at him, enough to make Kurt's heart beat too fast again. “You like teaching?”

“It suits me, I think," he says, with a shrug. "Many of the children are very angry, very hurt. I try to help them let go of their anger. They're all so young, too young to be so angry.” All those students, he thinks, who do not speak to their parents or even their siblings, who sulk in his classes, like rebellion, almost, only quieter. Those parents, so unlike his own mother, who ignore their own children, like they're ashamed of them, their own flesh and blood. That, Kurt cannot understand.

“I'm sure they've got plenty of reasons.” There's a dark look in Mortimer's eyes, but it fades as quickly as it came. “So what was that about a circus?” Kurt grins, despite the quiet knowledge that Mortimer only wants to change the subject as quickly as possible.

“I was a performer, in the Munich Circus. You see, my mother, she is uh,” Kurt struggles for the English word. “She sees people's futures? I do not know the English word," he admits sheepishly.

Mortimer only takes a sip of his coffee, as he says, “She's a precog. Short for 'precognition', in English."

“Yes, that." Kurt replies gratefully. "She is the fortune teller for the circus I grew up in. When I was given to her, it was obvious I had very different gifts. But the circus is full of many mutants, and three of the acrobats had similar abilities. They trained me to be an acrobat, from when I was very little. I became the star.” He's proud of it, and it shows, but he hopes Mortimer doesn't see it as arrogance, hopes he sees nothing negative in Kurt.

Mortimer doesn't seem to care at all, actually, as he says, “You liked it.” Like it's a fact, like he knows already.

“I loved it." Kurt admits, laughing a little himself at the idea, how silly it is to love such a useless career when he is admittedly doing something now that is of more importance. "I could use my abilities openly, and I was with other mutants. It was wonderful.” His smile fades, and he takes another sip of his coffee. “I miss them very much.”

“Why'd you leave, then?”

He shrugs. “The circus was sold to an American. That's how I ended up here.” Kurt frowns, saddened, wondering if what he is about to say is appropriate for a first meeting. “He was not as enlightened as our previous owner. He did not want me in the center ring.”

“Where did he want you?” Mortimer sounds like he already has an idea though.

“In a cage. He said I belonged in a freak show.” It makes him sad to think of it, how the man had looked at him, how he had ignored the pleas and reasoning of the others for his own prejudices. “My family, the circus, would have none of that. But if they went against him, they would have lost their livelihoods. So I left. I stayed in a church in Boston for a time. It was old, abandoned. And then my friend Ororo found me, and took me to Professor Xavier's school.” He leaves out the more important bits. He doesn't want to scare him, nor does he think a lot of it is his story to tell. Not Jean Grey's, at least.

“I'm sorry, love.” Again with the endearment, as Mortimer takes his hand this time, and the harmless word, it makes Kurt's chest far too tight as he blinks away from this man, and his eyes. “I'm sorry you were treated like that.” Kurt doesn't want Mortimer to let go, wants their fingers to stay joined, as just this touch makes his heart swell up until it presses on his lungs, his ribs, take over every thought.

“You asked me if there was anyone waiting for me.” Kurt says, instead of taking his hand back. “There isn't. But maybe there is someone waiting for you?” He wants to know now if he's getting his hopes up. He's never not known what it meant, the way his heart pounded when Andre, one of the fire-eaters, paid attention to him. But it's never been anything he was brave enough to explore, or has ever been offered, really. He's had a total of two women in his life, and he doesn't know what the rules are here, if Mortimer's flirting in earnest or not, if the way he holds Kurt's hand means anything at all.

Mortimer smiles again, in the way that extends to his whole face, and the hold on Kurt's hand changes, goes from comforting to something else altogether.

“No, love. There's no one waiting for me.” Kurt can't help the smile that spreads on his face, and Mortimer seems just as happy. “So, love, have to ask, what are the marks for?” He traces his fingers through the air, over Kurt's face, head tilted.

“They are angelic symbols.” He pushes his sleeve up, to show the ones on his forearm. “The archangel Gabriel gave them to mankind. My skin cannot hold ink, as we found. The needle couldn't penetrate. My aunt was a, um, tattooed woman? In the circus? She tried to give me the first one, but it did not work. So I came up with my own way.” His own way to hold the symbols that meant so much to him, the ones that answered his prayers, his Hail Marys and Our Fathers.

Mortimer holds his forearm, looking at the design appreciatively as he follows the swirls with the fingers of his other hand, raising goosebumps on Kurt's skin. His fingers are cold, very much so, but Kurt doesn't mind.

“So you used heat.”

“You can see that?”

“Engineer.” He reminds him, as he flicks his eyes up to Kurt, grinning. “I know brands when I see them. Bigger fan of ink, when it comes to body art, but this is good work. You did these free-hand?” Kurt nods. “How many do you have?”

“My arms, my face. I did these,” he gestures to the ones on his cheeks, “With a mirror. And my chest of course.”

“I'd like to see those.” Mortimer says, in a way Kurt can only hope is as flirtatious as his heart thinks it is. “Why the angel Gabriel?”

“One for every sin.” Kurt tells him, grinning. “I have sinned quite a bit.” Mortimer laughs, and releases Kurt's arm. “You have uh, ink, then? Tattoos?”

“Guess you'll find out, won't you?” Definitely flirtatious.

“And how will I do that?” Kurt teases, playing along.

“I can think of a few ways.”

There's a loud sneeze, and a fireball flies over their heads. Mortimer ducks, and Kurt opens his eyes upside down, hanging from the overhead lamp. He flips over back into his seat, looking behind him, trying to see where it had come from.

“Oh my god, I'm so sorry!” One of the girls in the back has her hands over her mouth, her face crimson in her embarrassment. Her friends are laughing at her as she sinks down into the booth, eyes scrunched close.

“Hey, watch it with that in here!” The girl at the register says, holding the fireball, still burning bright, in some kind of bubble-gum pink bubble. Deprived of oxygen, it's slowly burning out. “What if you set the place on fire?”

“I'm so sorry, sometimes it happens when I sneeze, or cough,” she pleads, as one of her friends pats her back comfortingly. “I'm so sorry, I'll be careful, I promise.”

“Have to say, there were times I hated looking like this.” Mortimer muses aloud. “But then there are times I can think, well, could have been worse. I could light my flat on fire anytime someone brings 'round a rabbit.”

Kurt can't help but laugh, though he feels sorry for the poor thing. He thinks he knows her, thinks she might be an older student. Xavier has so many, Kurt can't remember them all.

“When I was younger, and I got sick, every time I sneezed, I would teleport. I once ended up on top of of the big tent.” He'd been twelve, feverish and miserable. His mother had laughed until she had tears in her eyes, while he had curled up under his covers, now miserable and wet. Mortimer seems to like that story too, chuckling quietly. “Are you telling me you had perfect control, right from birth?”

“I didn't say that.” Mortimer says. “I implied it.”

“That doesn't make it any less of a lie.” Kurt says, and Mortimer grins, putting down his now empty cup. “There was something, wasn't there? What?”

“Alright, yeah.” He admits. “When I turned about, I think twelve, my skin changed. Started giving off this kind of sticky stuff. Didn't know what it was. So one day, I was climbing the walls again, 'cause I was bored, see? My mum comes in, starts screaming at me loud enough to make a banshee cry. Turns out the stuff was acidic. Was making the wallpaper peel right off the walls where I had touched it. I had to re-paper the whole sitting room, and I was grounded.” He fluffs his hair up, grins. “Didn't learn to control it til I was fourteen. Couldn't touch other people for a bit there. Now I just let it happen when I need it to.”

“Why would you need your skin to be acidic?” Kurt asks, curious.

“Makes my work easier sometimes, is all.”

Music goes off, and Mortimer starts digging in his coat, pulling out a mobile.

“Just a moment, swear.” He holds it up to his ear, looking irritated, while Kurt tries to find something to occupy himself, feeling awkward. “Yeah?” Kurt hears a voice, low and gravelly, on the other end. “No, I'm busy. See, I can do this thing, where I have conversations with other people. It's called 'intelligence'. I realize that's a big word for you though.” The voice growls something incomprehensible, and Mortimer sneers, then hangs up. “Sorry, coworker of mine.”

“You do not like him?” Mortimer shrugs.

“He has his uses. Mainly, lifting heavy things. Oh, and he's good at...” Mortimer feigns at thinking. “Lifting heavy things.”

“You have no patience for people you think are stupid.” Kurt chides.

“Not my fault," Mortimer says, with a wince, and checks his phone again. Kurt wonders if he's boring him, as Mortimer frowns at the thing. “They're going to close soon. We better clear out.” The teenagers are already packing up, and he notices the way the two girls working are watching them all with impatient faces.

“Oh, sorry.” He starts rummaging in his pocket for money. Though they lived in the mansion, the Professor did pay them something, and he's sure he has a few dollars in his coat somewhere.

“I already paid, love.” Mortimer assures him, standing.

“Then let me give you something,” Kurt insists, but Mortimer's hand on his arm stops him.

“I asked you. That's the way it works.” Like a date, Kurt realizes, too happily.

“Thank you,” he says, and Mortimer looks like he's thinking of doing something rather sudden, something Kurt wants too. He barely knows this man, he reminds himself, but his heart doesn't hear a word of it, as his face tilts of its own accord.

“Mr. Wagner?” One of the teenagers breaks the moment. Kurt studies his face, and recognizes him as one of the newer students, a boy named Todd. “We're heading back to the school. Do you want to walk with us?”

Kurt bites his lip, not sure how to say 'no', but Mortimer answers for him.

“I have to be off, love,” he says. “Do you have a phone?” Kurt does, though Ororo and him are still trying to figure out how to do anything other than text and play games on them. “Let me see it,”

Kurt hands it over, and Mortimer quickly taps the screen, entering his number presumably, then passes it back.

“We'll be in touch, yeah?” Kurt nods, and Mortimer leaves with a wave of his hand.

Kurt leaves with the children, and finds himself smiling as one girl berates Todd for asking Kurt to walk them home.

“He was on a date, you idiot!” She hisses, obviously thinking Kurt can't hear her.

“With who? He was just with that guy.” The girl, Amber, Kurt remembers at last, groans.

“That was his date,” another boy says.

“Professor Wagner isn't a fag!” Todd says, loud enough Kurt can't pretend not to hear. The other children fall silent as Kurt turns to him, Todd's face defiant in the darkness.

“That is a very unkind word, Todd.” He says. “I would ask that you do not use it anymore, please.”

“Are you?” Todd demands.

“It's none of your business anyway.” Amber says, storming past him, and Kurt. Kurt sighs, and follows her, the other children trailing like ducklings behind him.


Mortimer keeps checking his mobile, the odd feeling in his stomach refusing to dissipate. Kurt's number is taunting him.

“So his range is minimal?” Magneto asks, looking disappointed.

“I can see him being great in combat, but not for what you want.” Mortimer says. “And honestly, I don't even see him in combat. Gentle as a lamb, that one. All about God, and forgiveness.”

“That is a disappointment.” Magneto sighs, but shrugs as well. “There are other teleporters, I suppose. I had thought Mr. Wagner would be the best option considering, well, certain factors.”

“I guess.” Mortimer doesn't know what to say, really. He keeps looking at the number.


“Sorry, you were saying?” He asks, snapping back to attention.

“Perhaps there's more to him than you saw. He was frighteningly efficient in the White House. He took out over a dozen armed and trained guards, after all. Even you and Mystique would find that impossible.” Mortimer nods, because Magneto's right. He normally is. “Meet with him again. Try to see if you can find some anger in there.”

“Yes sir.” He agrees, slipping his mobile back into his pocket.

“And Toad?” He turns back, and he doesn't like the look on Magneto's face, the odd appraising look that seems doubtful of him. “Is there something I should worry about?”

“No.” He says, with a shake of his head. “Nothing at all.”