Wanda watched with a concerned frown from the doorway of Kurt’s room. His sleep was fitful. He tossed, he turned, he hissed, he growled. The tail coiled tightly around anything it came into contact with. The bedside lamp that glowed softly by his side seem to cast strange shadows across his pained face.
Pietro glanced up from the magazine he’d been idly leafing through. His eyebrow arched, the corner of his mouth curling upwards as if it was somehow attached. Wanda was hugging herself tightly with one arm, chewing absently on the thumbnail of the other hand. His soft chuckle drew her attention. She frowned at the look on his face, the usual mischievous smirk that invariably marked his features.
“What?” She demanded when the smirk deepened.
“You LIKE him!” He teased.
Wanda’s jaw dropped for a moment, but she recovered quickly. “I’m just concerned about him…” She countered. “There’s nothing more than that…”
“Oh puh-lease…” Pietro rolled his eyes. “You’re looking at him the same way Toad looks at you!”
She turned from him, angrily, and stalked off into the kitchen. She stopped suddenly in the middle of the tiled floor, frowning to herself. Was he right? Did she really have feelings for the blue-furred mutant? She cast her eyes back towards his door…
“Is there something wrong with that?” She asked him haughtily as she turned on her brother.
Pietro considered her question for a moment. “Nah…” He admitted. “You could do a lot worse than blue boy…at least he’d never intentionally hurt you…and he certainly has better hygiene than Toad…” He pulled a face to emphasise the point.
“I’ve never been interested in Todd that way…” She said softly.
“I know…” Pietro replied, suddenly feeling bad for using Wanda to keep Todd in line.
She walked back to the open doorway, and quietly slipped into the shadows within. She glanced down at Kurt in the tiny pool of light. He seemed to be resting more comfortably now, though his breathing was rapid and shallow. She reached out and brushed an inky lock from his face.
“He’s awfully warm…” She commented when she sensed Pietro’s presence behind her. “But I can’t tell if he’s feverish or it’s because of the fur…”
“Could be both…” Pietro said softly as he studied Kurt’s pinched face. He was obviously in some serious pain.
“Will you two just let the boy get some rest?” A voice came from without. They turned to find Theresa framed in the doorway. “He’ll be okay…” She assured them. “David was…”
“Yeah…David’s FINE…” Pietro grumbled. “Doesn’t say a word for three months…spends all his free time beating the pixels out of everything that moves in computer simulated universes…”
“You’ve met him…” Theresa sighed. “You know what kind of effect he has on people…”
“You know…” Wanda mused with sudden realisation. “He still hasn’t told us his name…”
“What did the kid call him?” Pietro asked.
“The sinister man…” Theresa informed him.
“The sinister man?” Pietro questioned. “Sounds like a really bad comicbook character…” He took a dramatic stance and pointed upwards. “Look out! It’s Sinister Man!”
“Then what should we call him?” Wanda queried.
“Whadda we know about him?” Pietro folded his arms across his chest. “Apart from the fact that he’s white as a sheet and has that oh-I’m-ever-so-posh British accent?”
“So you want to call him Sir Sinister?” Theresa asked.
“Earl of Sinister?” Wanda suggested.
“Darth Sinister…Dark Lord of the Sith…” Pietro intoned dramatically, dropping his voice several octaves.
The trio chuckled for the first time in a good long while.
Essex smiled at the light-hearted interaction between his young guests, they still had no idea that the main room of their accommodation was bugged and monitored. He was gallant enough to keep their bedrooms and bathrooms surveillance free. He wouldn’t totally deny them their privacy. Especially now that Magneto’s daughter was apparently developing an interest in Mystique’s son. The potential possibilities of that little scenario were certainly intriguing. If nothing else, he could use it to keep the troublesome blue mutant under control…
“Sinister…” He mused. “I can live with that…”
The trio had come to the consensus that someone should remain awake so that Kurt would have some one to reassure him when he awoke. Pietro had drawn what he had dubbed the graveyard shift…midnight until whenever one of the girls woke up. He yawned loudly and glanced at the clock. It was a little after four. He leaned back against the sofa cushions and closed his eyes.
He wasn’t sure if he’d actually dropped off or not, but a soft sniff near his ear had him jumping out of his skin.
“Jeez!” He exclaimed as he looked up into Kurt’s pale golden eyes. “Don’t do that!” How could the guy move so quietly? He frowned. Kurt didn’t seem to be really focusing on him, and he was swaying a little on his bandaged feet. Pietro had noticed the bindings on his hands, but he hadn’t noticed his feet had been similarly wrapped. There were dark shadows under his eyes and a large dark mark on his neck.
“Man…” He said. “You look like hell…”
“Thank you…” Kurt said absently. Pietro was sure he hadn’t really heard what he’d said. Kurt then swivelled unsteadily and half staggered, half stumbled into the kitchen. He managed to pull open the refrigerator door, but almost fell over as he swung with it.
Pietro felt uncharacteristically sympathetic for him. He pried Kurt’s fingers off the refrigerator’s door handle, and took his arm. “C’mon, man…” he said as he steered the blue-furred mutant towards the sofa. “Sit down before you fall down…I’ll fix you something…”
“Thank you…” He said again, but this time it was genuine.
“Something bland…” Pietro arched a brow as he took in Kurt’s pale features.
“Damn…” He said. “I vas so looking forward to a nice chicken vindaloo…”
Pietro snorted. “If you can make bad jokes you can’t be too bad…” He loaded the toaster and put on some water to boil.
“Kurt?” Wanda’s groggy voice came from her doorway. Pietro arched a brow at her sudden presence. Either she hadn’t been sleeping with worrying about the X-Man…or she had some kind of Kurt radar that had alerted her to his presence…
‘Oh yeah…’ Pietro rolled his eyes. ‘She’s got it BAD!’
“Are you okay?” She asked as she sat down beside him. “How do you feel?”
“Probably as bad as I look…”
She frowned as she noticed the mark on his neck. It looked like a hickey. “What is that…?” She brushed back his hair. He winced as she touched it. “Look’s like a bruise…”
“Probably from the needle…” Kurt said.
“He injected me vith something…” Kurt said. “Said it vould activate any dormant powers…”
“Has it done anything?” Pietro asked as he entered with a tray laden with toast, cheese, apple pieces, and three mugs of tea.
“I don’t know…” Kurt admitted. “Hurt like all hell though…like my veins vere on fire…”
“That’s why you screamed…” Wanda surmised.
“I screamed?” Kurt frowned.
“Yeah…” Pietro smirked. “At least we think it was you…either that or Sinister’s got a cheetah holed up in here somewhere…”
“Gotta call him something.” Pietro shrugged.
“And David called him the sinister man…” Wanda explained.
Kurt nodded. “Yes…I remember…” He reached for a piece of toast and noticed his hand. “Vhy are my hands bandaged?” He asked.
“Your feet are too…” Pietro informed him.
“You don’t know?” Wanda frowned. Kurt shook his head.
“They hurt?” Pietro asked over a sip of tea.
Kurt flexed his hands and wriggled his toes. “No…”
“Then let’s check ‘em out…” Pietro snagged his wrist and began unwinding the snowy bindings. “JESUS!” Pietro jumped back when he revealed the long, sharp claws. A shadow crossed Kurt’s gentle features and he quickly utilised the claws to tear off the remaining bandages. He stared at his clawed hands for a few moments, dragging his clawed toes through the carpet with a noticeable scratching sound. His eyes narrowed and seemed to take on an eerie glow…
“Kurt?” Wanda whispered. His hand slashed out, he skewered a piece of apple with the claw on his index finger. He nibbled on it thoughtfully, eyes closed. He then threw his head back, his face pulled into an anguished frown. Now he was even more demonic…
He opened his eyes, staring up into the ceiling mouldings. Then he frowned, suspiciously. He moved so quickly even Pietro was caught by surprise. He scuttled up the wall, unhindered by his new talons. He pulled away a small piece of steel mesh, unnoticed in the shadows in the corner of the room, and reefed a miniature video camera from a small niche in the wall.
He twisted the camera in his hands, tearing plastic and metal apart. He dropped gracefully to the floor, then bounded into his room. He was a very guarded person, and loathed the idea that there was a similar camera located in what he considered his private chambers. He had checked the bathroom…but not the bedroom…
He may have been overcompensating for the claws, or was simply not up to the exertion in his current condition. Whatever the reason, he crashed into the wall, knocking over the bedside table and shattering the lamp.
“Gott in Himmel!” They heard him gasp.
Pietro and Wanda exchanged a quick glance, then leapt to his aid. He was sitting against the wall, visibly shaking, all but hyperventilating, staring at his hands again. It took a moment for their eyes to adjust to the dark, a second to realise he wasn’t staring AT his hands…he was staring THROUGH his hands! They could see the pattern of the curtain fabric right through his head! His entire body was transparent!
“Holy shit…” Pietro whispered.
Wanda reached out tentatively and took a firm grip on his wrist. He looked up at her with brightly shining eyes full of fear.
“I am a ghost…” he whispered. “I am fading avay…”
“You’re solid, Kurt…” she assured him. She twisted his hand and searched for his pulse. It was, unsurprisingly, more than a little rapid. “You’ve got a pulse…you’re not a ghost…”
“What’s goin’ on?” Theresa demanded, tying her robe around her. “Yer makin’ enough noise to wake the dead!” David glanced from one face to another.
Wanda had managed to get Kurt on his feet and was leading him back out into the large room.
“Vhat has happened to me?” He looked at the others with wide, startled eyes.
“I’m guessing whatever Sinister pumped you full of has had an effect.” Pietro reasoned.
“I have been evolved…” Kurt whispered. He glanced at the dark doorway of his bedroom, then at his hand. He walked over and slowly reached into the shadows. The further into the darkness he went, the more transparent he became.
“That is so cool…” David beamed. “It’s like you can turn invisible!”
He pulled his hand out again. “Only in shadows it vould seem…” He said as he flexed the now fully visible limb.
“Go on, Man.” Pietro urged, gesturing towards the darkness. “See how invisible you can get!”
Kurt stepped tentatively into the shadows, slowly disappearing as he moved further and further into the darkness. “This is so veird…” He commented softly. “I can’t even see myself!” The others crowded the door, each searching the darkness, but none could see him.
“You’re not hiding in the bathroom, are you?” Pietro asked the shadows.
They turned as one to the sound of his voice. They could make out the soft of glow of his golden eyes but nothing else.
“Yer like the Cheshire Cat…” Theresa commented. “’Cept we can only see yer eyes…” He smiled as she said it, what little light there was in the room reflecting of his fangs.
“You know…” Kurt’s eyes narrowed mischievously. “This could REALLY come in handy…”
Pietro paced back and forth, watching the door. Wanda had been gone for a long time, and though he and Theresa had come through their time in Sinister’s presence more or less unscathed, Kurt and David hadn’t been so lucky. He had every reason to be worried about his sister, he thought, she’d spent so much of her life in isolation…
‘Heck…blue boy’s got more confidence…’ He glanced at Theresa, bopping her head to the tinny sound of her personal stereo, and David, once again taking out his frustrations on pixelated enemies. He couldn’t help but wonder which one she would resemble when she returned.
Theresa glanced up at the constantly pacing mutant. She turned off her music and pulled off the headphones. “Wearing a hole in the carpet isn’t going to help her…”
“I know…” He sighed. “But…for someone so powerful…so frightening…she’s so vulnerable…what if he does to her what he did to…”
“Me?” Kurt finished for him when Pietro chocked on his own words. Pietro just looked at him, almost guiltily. “I don’t think he vill…”
“What makes you say that?” Theresa asked.
“He told me I vas the first to be administered vith his concoction…I doubt he vill use it on anyone else until…” He paused taking a deep breath as if he was trying to regain his composure. “Until…he tests me for any possible side effects…”
Pietro looked at him, wide-eyed. “Shit…I never even thought of that…”
“I feel fine…” Kurt admitted softly. “But I could very vell be…dying…or vorse…”
“What could be worse than dying?” Theresa frowned.
Kurt sighed, looking down at his clawed hands where they rested in his lap. “All my life…I have had to contend with being different. My parents shut me avay from the vorld…their greatest fear vas that someone vould do me harm because of the vay I look…you have no idea how hard it vas for the Professor to convince them to let me go to school in America…
“But their fear is not my fear…” He sighed. “My fear is that I vould become even more like a demon…that I vould sprout horns or vings or something.” He held up his hands, brandishing the claws. “And now it looks like that might actually be coming true…” He closed his eyes. “I am becoming a monster…”
“Hey…” Pietro smiled. “That’s nothing a little personal grooming won’t fix.” He flopped down on the couch beside him. “Look…Kurt…I know I’ve given you a hard time in the past…but you gotta be the most decent guy I know. You’re no monster. I doubt you’re even capable of becoming one…” He chuckled softly. “I guess you take after your dad…”
He was about to make some kind of witty retort when they heard a kafuffle at the door.
“Get your freaking hands off me you freaking asshole!”
“Sounds like your sveet, vulnerable sister has returned…” Kurt beamed. The sound of scuffling and muffled voices reached Kurt’s ears, the smile melted to a frown. He leapt over the couch, creeping towards the door. Pietro watched with concern at the way the blue-furred mutant was moving. Soundlessly, low to the ground, like he was stalking some invisible prey.
The door opened and both Wanda and Riptide took a step back at the sight that greeted them. Kurt’s eyes were glowing brightly, his lips curled back in a snarl that revealed his fangs, a deep, rumbling growl escaped his throat.
“What’s the matter with you?” Scalphunter demanded of his baulking team-mate. Then he noticed the snarling bundle of blue fur blocking their path. “Holy shit!”
Riptide shoved Wanda forward as Kurt coiled to spring and quickly slammed the door. He caught her, the glow immediately fading from his eyes, and manoeuvred her to the sofa. “Are you okay?” He asked in his usual soft tone of voice, then he noticed the straightjacket-like contraption they had her trussed up in. “I am sure you vill feel better vhen you are out of this thing…”
Pietro and Theresa exchanged a worried glance. They still had no idea of the extent of the changes in the elfin mutant, and there were times when he just plain scared them. Wanda, however, didn’t seem to notice. Or simply didn’t care. As soon as her arms were free she wrapped them around him and burrowed into his chest. Kurt was more than a little taken aback, but Pietro just smirked at him.
“It vill be okay, Vanda…” He said. “The Professor vill find us…”
“Yeah, right…” Pietro sneered. “It’s been over a month!”
“I did not say he vould find us easily…” Kurt admitted. “We cannot access our powers here…Cerebro detects mutants by picking up on their mutant abilities…but I am sure he and Herr Beast vill think of something…”
“And then of course…there’s our parents…” Pietro added without enthusiasm.
“Magneto and Mystique?” Kurt questioned, an unfamiliar tone of sarcasm in his voice. “Yes…I am so sure they are leaving no stone unturned in their search.”
“Your Mom was always pretty good to us…” Pietro told him. “Sure…she was a little short with us…and abandoned us for extended periods…”
“She excels at abandoning children…” Kurt said softly. “She has been as much mother to me as Magneto has been father to you…”
“But she does care about you, Kurt.” Wanda looked up at him.
“She has an unusual vay of showing it…” Kurt all but growled. “Sets her team against me…blows up my home…destroys my possessions…tries to kill my friends…”
“Do you remember when we first met?” Wanda asked, trying to break him out of his destructive train of thought. “At the mall?”
“Yes…” Kurt looked at her a little suspiciously. It wasn’t something he remembered fondly.
“Before we left the house…she pulled my aside and said to me…’there are two amongst them…two I want you to be gentle with…cause no lasting harm to…’”
“Two?” Pietro queried. He knew of Kurt’s relationship to his former leader…but who else would Mystique be concerned about?
“’Remove them from harm altogether if you’re able’ she said…” Wanda continued, if she’d even heard her brother she gave no sign. “She had granted me my freedom, so I was pretty much willing to do whatever she asked. So I asked her how I would know the two she wanted me to…go easy on…” She smiled sheepishly. “’A boy and a girl…’ she told me. ‘The girl you will know from the white streak in her hair…and the boy…’ she paused then, and I could see something in her face…sadness I think. Her voice was real quiet when she continued. ‘The boy…looks like me…’” Kurt was quiet as he absorbed the information.
“Why would she want you to go easy on Rogue?” Pietro asked. “She was pretty pissed when she defected.”
“She is my sister…” Kurt said softly.
“Your SISTER!?” Pietro echoed. “And I though I had it bad.” Wanda threw him a scathing look.
“I don’t see the resemblance…” Wanda admitted.
“She is adopted…” Kurt told them. “Ve only found out recently…Rogue did not take it vell. I like to think it vas for being daughter to Mystique rather than being sister to me…”
“I’m sure it was…” Theresa said. She really didn’t know who or what they were talking about, the trio had far more history than she was aware of. But she knew she wouldn’t be upset if she found she was related to someone like Kurt…
“It’s gotta be hard for her…” Wanda said softly. “Having both her kids siding against her…”
“What about you two?” Pietro turned to Theresa and David. “You got people who’d be looking for you?”
“My Da might be…if he knows I’m missing…” Theresa said. “I go to boarding school…and he’s often incommunicado with his work…me cousin Tom might be looking though…”
“My mother probably doesn’t even know I’m gone…” David said softly, turning from his paused game. “She’s some big wig in the government…I’m not sure exactly what she does…she’s hardly ever there…”
“Is there some prerequisite that says second generation mutants have gotta have a messed up family life?” Pietro asked no one in particular.
“Ve vill get out of this.” Kurt said with unwavering confidence.
“How can you be so sure?” Wanda asked, peering up from the relative comfort she’d found in his arms.
“You have to have faith, Vanda…” He smiled at her. “Sometimes…it is the only thing ve’ve got.”
“Man…” Scalphunter said as he returned to his employer’s presence. “What did you do to that freaky little kid?”
“Hmmm?” Essex looked up from the data he’d gathered from Wanda’s session.
“He was ready to tear my throat out!” Riptide informed him.
Essex considered him for a moment. “Well…that’s hardly surprising.” He intoned, returning to his readouts. “I don’t think he much cares for you.”
“And he was growling…” Riptide continued. “Like some kinda animal…”
“And I’d swear his eyes were glowing.” Scalphunter added.
“Really?” Essex put down his paperwork and gave them his full attention. “Sounds like my serum was effective. It’s been impossible to learn anything since he discovered the surveillance equipment…I must conduct a proper study of him…”
“There is no way you’re gonna get him to go anywhere he don’t wanna go.” Riptide said.
“Come now, Riptide…” Essex smiled. “He was intent on attacking us BEFORE I administered my serum…”
“And now he’s got claws, glowing eyes and who knows what else…” Riptide countered.
“Well…we’re just going to have to be creative…”