Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner decides that the Jean Grey School is very quiet tonight. Stars hover over the school as darkness envelops it. The classrooms are empty. The halls are silent but for the sounds of nature. There will be no teaching again for the next few days. The Beast lies in an armchair, book on his chest. They are in mourning. Kurt recalls that not everyone started as teachers, for they are super heroes - they are the X-Men. Photographs of two teams are seen on a wall - Professor X with his original team - Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel and Beast, as well as another team - Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Rogue, Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers. Their stock in trade is saving the world, and occasionally, all creation. Unfortunately, that job comes with a price - that too many of the X-Men over the years have had to pay.
Kurt lies in his bed, eyes wide open. Several Bamfs sleep scattered about, as Kurt sits up. ‘My best friend is dead’ he reminds himself. He gets dressed into his costume, and walks down a flight of stairs. Unable to sleep, he keeps thinking that there has to be something he could have done - should have done, something to save his best friend. But there isn’t. What is done is done.
Normally, wherever Kurt walks, his Bamfs cluster around him - but tonight they leave him alone, and for that, Kurt is in their debt. As he passes through a corridor, he glances out the window at the statue of Jean Grey. He tells himself that it is funny, he felt much the same when Jean died - she was Phoenix, the quintessence of life itself. And then she was gone. Alive solely in their memories. Kurt’s heart broke then - but it is worse this time.
Kurt thinks about the mourning practices in other nations and how in grief people always seem to build - like Nepal where they build pyres, and Indonesia, where they build graves, or tombs in China and monuments like the Holocaust Museum, in Washington DC. Or, mausoleums in Egypt, palaces in India, and houses for the head, known and unknown, loved and unloved like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in France. Cathedrals, hospitals, schools - like the very school Kurt is standing in now. He comes to a stop outside a large set of doors with an “X” marked on them - he has arrived at the Danger Room, whose holographic technology can bring any reality imaginable to life - even the Wolverine.
The doors open, and as a landscape starts to materialize, one such holographic construct has already materialized - Wolverine himself. He turns and smiles as he sees his dear friend, who he calls “Elf” and tells him that it is about time he showed, as he almost missed the fun.
Kurt recalls that Logan risked everything to help bring him back from the afterlife - as if he knew their story wasn’t complete. But Kurt thought they would have more time together. ‘Did he know his had all but run out?’ Kurt wonders. ‘Did he even care?’ The Danger Room is culling these scenes from its record of Kurt’s memories. This is Logan as Kurt best remembers him - literally a primal force for life. But, looking at Logan now, hearing his voice, Kurt wonders if he should have left well enough alone.
The reason Professor Xavier gathered them together was to rescue the original team of X-Men, who were imprisoned by the sentient Pacific Island of Krakoa - the creature considered super-powered mutants its ultimate source of food. ‘This isn’t the place for a lady, Red. My claws’ll cut you loose’ Wolverine declares as he leaps towards Marvel Girl and cuts her free, while Cyclops leads the newly gathered Storm, Colossus, Banshee, Sunfire and Thunderbird. Kurt watches, while Iceman, Angel, Havok and Lorna Dane are still trapped by Krakoa - the team of X-Men Krakoa has already defeated - and it thought it would get to do the same to this team. Its arrogance proved costly, as Cyclops quickly realized that they may be on their first mission as a team, but they all knew full well how to use their powers. The fiercest among them proved to be the oldest, as Wolverine leaps onto a large crustacean that appears behind Nightcrawler, striking with primal force and absolutely no mercy. Logan dealt out oblivion with a grin - risk meant nothing and danger even less. He’d already lived a score of lifetimes. As far as the Wolverine was concerned - he was going to life forever. With the crustacean defeated, Logan just smiles at Kurt and gives him the thumbs-up signal.
The Danger Room scenario changes, as Kurt finds himself alongside Wolverine, Storm, Colossus and Cyclops, staring up into the flame-filled sky, where Jean “Phoenix” Grey hovers. It was in Jean that Logan found the woman of his dreams. Her heart was already pledged to Cyclops, but Logan didn’t care. He was a creature of instinct and those instincts had never played him false - but Jean became Phoenix. She bonded with a primal force of existence - the giver and taker of life - on a cosmic scale. She was hungry and consumed a star, killing six billion D’Bari on that star’s inhabited planet did nothing to satiate the Phoenix. The X-Men fought to save her and find a way to set things right - but in the end, Jean knew her story could have but one ending. Facing the ultimate temptation, she said “no” and committed suicide. ‘Jean was the best of us’ Kurt thinks to himself.
The Danger Room shifts once more, to days after Jean’s death. Kurt and Logan are wearing suits, Logan holds a bottle of beer in one hand. Kurt knows that the loss of Jean was almost more than Logan could bear. ‘You’ve drunk enough, my friend’ ‘Not hardly - when my flaming healing factor keeps making me sober’ Wolverine replies as hep pushes past Kurt, who asks him to let him help. ‘Mind your own damn business, Wagner - and lemme grieve in peace!’ Logan retorts, slamming the door to his quarters.
The Danger Room turns to a battle scene in the Morlock Tunnels, as Kurt watches Wolverine fight Sabretooth. Storm, Colossus and Magik fall to the power of Vertigo, while Scrambler stands nearby, grinning. Riptide, Harpoon and Arclight rush towards the battle, as Rogue hovers in the air, costume torn, and Kitty Pryde phases as Scalphunter fires as weapon through her. Kurt remembers how Wolverine was a harder man after that - determined to make sure no more of his teammates would die on his watch. Their newest member, young Kitty Pryde, became the focus of his efforts - but it was during this fateful battle with the Marauders, that Logan lost both Kitty and Kurt. Kurt was caught by surprise by Riptide. ‘Nightcrawler! Port outta there - now!’ Wolverine shouted, but his warning came too late, and before Kurt could teleport to safety, Riptide peppered him with scores of razor-edged projectiles.
‘Kurt’ Storm exclaims. ‘Oh, Storm - he’s cut all over - there’s so much blood!’ Kitty gasps as they, Colossus, Rogue and Magik gather around, as Wolverine holds Kurt’s motionless body. Storm feels his pulse, and announces that there is still a chance to save him. She instructs her team to find her a cloth, something, anything, to use as temporary bandages. Kurt knows that he was but one of many casualties among X-Men and Morlock both. Kitty was wounded protecting Rogue from Harpoon, and Kurt fell into a coma while Kitty lost control of her phasing power, fading almost to the point of extinction.
The Danger Room transforms again, to represent the place where he awoke, in Dr Moira MacTaggert’s research facility on Muir Island, off the northern coast of Scotland. He learned that the X-Men had been lost in battle, saving humanity from an ancient, malevolent force, the Trickster. Kitty was on Muir Island with Kurt, and in a heart-stroke, their world had changed, and their friends were gone. Charles Xavier’s school and the team of New Mutants were under the care and tutelage of Xavier’s best friend, their team’s greatest adversary, Magneto. Kitty and Kurt had lost everything, so they did what X-Men always seem to do in such times - they started again. A new land, new beginning, new team - alongside Captain Britain, Meggan and Rachel Summers - they were Excalibur!
Of course, the X-Men were not dead, and in good time, best friends were reunited. Together, Logan and Kurt traveled the world and fought beside their team against Bastion - which is when Kurt’s luck ran out. Protecting the child called “Hope”, he was critically wounded by Bastion, and although he managed to teleport Hope to safety, his wound was mortal - and he thought his story was done. But, Kurt is an X-Man and he should have known better. He found himself in Heaven, all he believed in - the best of his faith - was proved to be real. But try as he might, he found he could not accept that reality. He wasn’t surprised when the X-Men followed him - when the moment came for him to choose, he turned his back on Heaven, and returned with his friends to their world, and to life. The Danger Room shifts from Wolverine and Nightcrawler on their travels, to Nightcrawler, Hope and Bastion locked in battle, finally to Nightcrawler in Heaven.
Then, the Danger Room shows Wolverine and Kurt, in his image-inducer guise walking down a street through Salem Center, visiting their classic haunts for old time’s safe. Kurt used the image-inducer form because he wasn’t yet comfortable in his body - emotionally and physically. Logan, of course, had other ideas, and slapped Kurt on the back, causing him to drop the image inducer. ‘What are you doing?’ Kurt cries out. ‘Gimme a break, Elf - we been doing this, without that toy, for years. Why the cold feet now?’ Logan asks as Kurt drops to the ground and scrambles to reach the image inducer - but Wolverine puts a foot over it. ‘Maybe I’m not as arrogant as you, ja?’ Kurt suggests, pointing out that he doesn’t have Logan’s healing factor. ‘Do you not understand that I truly died?’ Kurt asks, before Wolverine stands on the image inducer, destroying it. ‘Get over it. Because now, my friend, you’re alive’ Logan declares. Kurt’s form shifts back to his true appearance, and Logan tells him to embrace the man that he is - and the world he lives in. They carry on down the street, ‘You’ve made this town your home. And its people, your friends. Show as much faith in them as you do in your God. Just like him, I vet they’ll surprise you’ Logan smiles. And Kurt decides that he was right.
But, sadly, fate had darker plans for Kurt’s best friend. The Danger Room transforms at Kurt’s command, and a modest house appears. Kurt wonders if this is the price demanded for his resurrection - a life for a life? ‘How’s that for hubris? My best friend is gone and I talk about myself. That is not the way to honor his memory’. So, Kurt has built this one last house for the dead - his testament is no tomb, no monument, but a house worthy of Wolverine. Kurt smiles as he steps inside, finding it plain and comfortable, with worn couches and pool table. ‘Give him a motorcycle - ten motorcycles - aus spap an der freud!’ Kurt thinks to himself. A large amount of food appears, a fridge full of beer, shelves of whiskey, meat cooking in the oven - the scents of life, of being alive - and enough time to be happy - with their friends.
Just then, dozens of heroes appear in their contemporary forms. Kurt gazes around the room and sees them interacting with each other - X-Men. Alpha Flight. Avengers. From one side of the room to the other and in-between - Puck, Havok, Spider-Woman, Thor, the Black Widow, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Man, the Beast, the Thing, She-Hulk, Northstar, Kitty Pryde, Rachel Grey, Dazzler, Longshot, Psylocke, Storm, Rogue, Colossus, Jubilee, Sunspot, Cannonball, Gambit, Iron Man, Angel, Aurora, Iceman, Snowbird, Vindicator, Sasquatch. But as Kurt gazes around, he sees that one element is missing - the centrepiece of this celebration. Kurt decides that the computer has done a wonderful job, bringing Wolverine’s friends to life. ‘Why won’t it do the same for him?’ he wonders. ‘Why can’t we celebrate his life? Do him the honor he has so richly earned?’
Suddenly, at the doorway, a figure can be seen - ‘There at the doorway - open the door, Logan - so your party can truly begin!’ Kurt smiles. But the door doesn’t open. ‘But…this isn’t what you would have wanted, is it?’ Kurt frowns. ‘Damn you!’ he shouts, throwing his arms into the air, the holographic constructs of Wolverine’s friends all vanish. The house is empty. Kurt tells himself that he should have known better, for Logan isn’t someone to be remembered in this web of fantasy. For Logan, friends sit around a midnight fire on the hilltop overlooking Breakstone Lake. They toast the man and tell stories about him that make you laugh, honouring his life by vowing to make theirs better. And with the dawn, they start their life anew, because above all, his friend Logan was a man whose existence was grounded in the real world - not the field of his dreams.
Kurt realizes that Wolverine touched so many souls, as headshots and scenes flash him by - Mariko. Fighting the Hulk. Drinking together. Logan’s crucifixion. Colossus fighting Juggernaut. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Black Widow, Spider-Man, Professor X, Jean Grey, Iceman, Cyclops, Power Pack, Cloak & Dagger, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Magik, Puck, Guardian and Vindicator, Snowbird, Shaman, Havok, Longshot, Dazzler, Colossus, Deadpool, Jubilee, Cable, Moonstar, Cannonball, Wolfsbane, Sunspot, Warlock, Storm, Angel, Rachel Summers, Forge, the Beast, Banshee, Psylocke. Kurt thinks that Wolverine made mistakes and tried his best to set them right. That he fought for his friends and tried his best to make their world a better place. He never gave up and never backed down. He would go to the wall for those he cared about - he would even forgive you if you couldn’t match those standards - all he demanded, in the end, was that you try.
Kurt hangs his head, ‘If you brought me back to life for no other reason, Lord…I pray it is to prove myself qual to that challenge. Logan deserves no less. He was my friend’ Kurt utters. ‘A beautiful sentiment, Kurt’ Rachel Grey remarks as she stands in the Danger Room doorway. ‘You reading my mind, Rachel?’ Kurt asks his good friend. ‘I’m a telepath, it’s what I do’ Rachel replies. ‘You think he’ll find my Mom up there?’ Rachel asks, referring to Jean. ‘Absolutely’ Kurt tells her, adding ‘I pity anyone fool enough to get between them’. Rachel tells Kurt that he doesn’t look sad, to which Kurt replies that he has faith. ‘But we aren’t up there, are we? We’re down here’ Rachel points out. ‘Not down here. Still here…and I think…I think that when you build a house for the dead, you must remember not to bury the living there as well’ Kurt announces, as he and Rachel embrace. Kurt adds that the living have houses and worlds and lives of their own.
They leave the Danger Room, arms around each other, as Wolverine’s house dissolves behind them. ‘Then let’s leave this place, you and me. Climb a gill, light a fire, sit under the stars, tell some stories, watch the sunrise’ Rachel suggests. Kurt tells her that nothing would please him more. Out of the houses of the dead - and into the world of the living.