What can I say, I'm a die-hard Kuroro fan. I have to get my fix from somewhere. This fic was the result of two challenges in one. I came up with the idea a while back when we were challenged to write a story involving a different Marvel universe than movieverse. I put it on the backburner until I could get a handle on the plot, and still it has been over a month in the writing. Now before some of you run screaming into the night when I tell you this is X-Evolutionverse, give it a chance. There is a plot twist I think you will enjoy, and you know me, I don’t usually do kinky. (If you like kinky, oh well... )
Rating - PG
Disclaimer – The X-Men are the property of Marvel Comics. This story is for fun and not for profit, so please don’t sue me.
“Why did you bring that book along Kurt? We’re supposed to be learning about real French history. That’s only make-believe. You need to get your head out of the clouds and back down to earth.” Kitty reached for the paperback novel, attempting to snatch it out of her friend’s open bag. She wasn’t successful; Kurt’s reflexes were faster. Kitty’s hand closed on open air as he grabbed his book, dropping the backpack to the ground. The bag bounced, spilling its contents into the dry brown of the late autumn grass.
“It’s not fantasy Kitty, there really where musketeers, weren’t there Ms. Munroe? Hugging the novel to his chest, the blue-furred teenager looked quizzically at the African.
Ororo sighed. The field trip to the French countryside had been her idea, but this was the second argument she’d had to referee and they’d only landed the Blackbird a few minutes ago. She tried not to roll her eyes at the overzealous Kitty Pryde. “I’m afraid he’s got a point. Alexandre Dumas was a historical writer as well as a novelist. The Three Musketeers takes place during the reign of King Louis XIII of France. There really was a D’Artagnan and Athos, and many of the other characters he wrote about. Of course, we are not sure exactly how much he embellished their lives, but they most certainly did exist.”
“See Kitty, I told you.” Kurt took the opportunity to make a very immature gesture. He tucked the book securely beneath his arm before stooping to retrieve his backpack. Looking up at the brunette with an accusatory air he grumbled, “Wanna give me a hand here? It’s your fault my stuff is all over the French countryside.”
“My fault? I... you...” Kitty closed her mouth with an audible snap when her white-haired teacher crossed her arms and raised a suggestive eyebrow. “All right, move over so I can help.”
It was just before the school was scheduled for it’s annual Christmas break, and Ororo had volunteered to fly Kurt back to his family for a holiday in Bavaria. The teens were currently studying the French religious wars. At the Professor’s suggestion, she’d decided to take the opportunity to give some of the mansion’s young residents a taste of French culture and history before she returned Kurt to his adoptive parents.
Midmorning in the province of Alsace turned out to be bright and sunny, even if the temperature was a little crisp. Ororo glanced at the cloudless sky, thankful that the European winter proved to be milder than expected. Picking her way along the stony path toward the ruins of a French castle, she breathed in the fresh country air.
Ororo had brought the Blackbird down in a narrow valley meadow, hoping that the hills would hide it from prying eyes. With the trees mostly bare of leaves, there would be little cover otherwise. Thank the goddess that there was still some semblance of countryside remaining in overpopulated Europe. Logan remained behind to guard the jet while Hank had gone on ahead with some of the more adventurous. Normally Kurt would have been leading the pack, but the teen seemed loathe to put aside the book that consumed him on the flight over. History was definitely not the German’s favorite subject. Knowing his adoration for anything of a swashbuckling nature, Ororo had suggested Dumas’ novel in hopes that it would engage his active young mind. Drawing her jacket more closely around her shoulders, she smiled to herself. It had worked almost too well.
The itinerary called for them to explore an abandoned ruin, then walk the short distance into Guebwiller. A search of likely places where they could remain relatively anonymous had brought up this small village. Its picturesque cobbled streets, narrow half-timbered houses, and profusion of flower boxes looked like something out of a fairy tale by the brothers Grimm. Ororo planned on making a day of it before taking the short hop to southern Germany in order to drop Kurt off with his folks.
Kurt’s belongings finally retrieved, the pair scurried ahead of her, approaching the castle through a dark passageway. They burst into the dim light of a protected courtyard, finally stopping to take note of their surroundings. No longer an impregnable fortress, the masonry walls were crumbling in a number of places, damaged by the flow of seasons and the grip of overhanging tree roots. An unexpected scuttling noise and a swiftly fleeing shadow made Kitty suddenly grab Kurt’s upper arm with a panting yelp.
Her cry startled Kurt. Reaching up, he attempted to remove her hand. “Ow Kitty, don’t do that. Are you trying to scare the life out of me?”
Kitty looked anxiously about. The others were nowhere in sight, and although they could hear her calmly humming, they couldn’t see their history teacher beyond the entry tunnel. “This place gives me the creeps. Do you suppose it has ghosts?”
“Nein, I don’t believe in ghosts. It’s probably mice... or rats.” Kurt spoke nonchalantly, taking one step ahead before Kitty seized him anew, yanking him backwards.
“Rats? Nobody said anything about rats.” She clamped onto his arm, refusing to move anywhere without him.
“Kitty.” Kurt said impatietly. “You’re an X-Man. You’ve taken on the likes of Magneto and Juggernaut, and now you’re afraid of a little rodent?”
“Yeah, creepy naked-tailed disease-ridden little rodents. Come on, let’s find Mr. McCoy.” Nose wrinkling, she responded by yanking a second time at Kurt’s arm.
There was another scuffling noise, and a darting figure way too large to be a small furry mammal.
“That’s no mouse.” Kurt whispered, disengaging himself from Kitty’s grasp. He tucked his novel securely beneath his arm and began to edge silently closer to where the shadow had merged with a break in the wall. “Bet you anything it’s Bobby planning to scare us. Stay quiet, I’m going to get the drop on whoever it is that’s trying to avoid being seen.” He murmured, putting a cautionary finger to his lips before disappearing in a cloud of sulfurous smoke.
Kitty did as she was told. Only the thought of dank lower dungeons kept her from phasing below the cobbled surface. A shrill squeal quickly signaled Kurt’s accurate assumption that the skulking shadow was of human origin.
“Stay right where you are.” Kurt pointed a finger at the interloper. “How did you get here?”
“The answer is simple, isn’t it Wanda, probably stowed away on the Blackbird. How many of your Brotherhood pals did you bring along.” Kitty opened her mouth to cry for Ms. Munroe but closed it just as quickly at Wanda’s raised hand, afraid that The Scarlet Witch would hex her before Xavier’s own “weather witch” could prevent it.
Wanda Maximoff stepped from the shadows of the crevice with the smirk that seemed indelibly etched on her lips. “I heard you were flying to Europe so I slipped in through the waterfall. For all your expensive security, you people left one huge gaping hole, didn’t you? And it’s just me. I needed a change of scenery, not to mention some fresh air.” Pausing to take a lungful, Wanda continued her snide remarks. “The asylum was an awful place, but at least it didn’t smell as bad as living with Todd and Fred. Your mother...” Turning to meet Kurt’s eyes, Wanda ramped up her accusatory tone. “...is almost as nasty as the guards at the hospital.”
“Mystique is no mother to me. Don’t blame me for anything that woman chooses to do to you. Besides, doesn’t she still step to your father’s tune? If you want someone to blame for your situation, why not him?” The volume of Kurt’s words increased with every sentence he spat at the gothically dressed girl.
Wanda’s eyes blazed with anger at the mention of Magneto. “You are stupid if you don’t know that Mystique loathes Magneto now. She doesn’t dance to anyone’s music but her own. And DON”T speak to me of MY FATHER, I never want to hear that man’s name again!!” The very air surrounding her now crackled with her wrath. Raised hands her only warning, a furious Scarlet Witch sent a hex careening at Kurt.
Almost too late, Kitty screamed a warning. Kurt clenched his novel, instinctively jerking it up as a barrier between himself and the enraged teen. He attempted to teleport just as the hex hit him. The normal popping sound and smoke was accompanied by a shrieking noise, followed by a rapidly closing fissure of brilliant blue light that sucked the smoke of Kurt’s teleportation inward as it closed. The girls could do little but stare helplessly at the place where Kurt vanished.
Summoned by the sound of angry voices, Ororo hastened into the courtyard, taking flight once she cleared the tunnel. “What have you done?” She cried breathlessly at the teenager.
Rage quickly drained from the unbalanced girl. “I... I have no idea. I didn’t do it on purpose. He made me so mad...I...” Shoulders slumping, the girl lapsed into silence.
Looking fearfully around her, Kitty offered an unconvincing explanation. “You know Kurt, always joking around. He’s probably watching from one of the windows, or maybe he’s even hiding up on the roof?”
Shielding her eyes from the morning sun, Ororo looked in the direction of the ruined castle ramparts. “Even though I think you are wrong, that is still a possibility.” She raised her voice calling, “Kurt, if you can hear me, please join us. Wanda is calm now and I doubt she will offer any further difficulty.” To Wanda, she added, “I don’t know how you managed to stow away, but I suggest if you don’t want to spend the return trip bound and gagged, you best heed this warning. I will not tolerate any more mischief.”
“Yes Ma’am” the cowed Wanda mumbled, for once appearing to regret her actions.
The three waited in the courtyard for Kurt to reappear, scant minutes feeling more like hours. While the time ticked away, it became increasingly apparent that Kurt wasn’t pulling a prank. Considering the odd phenomena that accompanied his last jaunt, Ororo never believed that idea held any merit.
Sending the girls in search of Hank McCoy, the African took to the air. A careful survey of the surrounding grounds and the aforementioned upper levels failed to produce any sign of the wayward German teenager. When the girls returned with the remainder of the school’s students, Ororo charged Hank with returning the children to the jet and requested that he send Logan to help her.
Thorough ground and air reconnaissance bore little results. Painstakingly covering the ruins, Wolverine could detect no evidence of the teen’s scent beyond where Kurt was last seen. No choice remaining, the devastated returned to the institute sans one missing teleporter.
A search using Cerebro yielded the most terrible news. Nearly desolate, Charles Xavier gathered the mansion’s residents into the family room to gently inform them that no sign of Kurt could be discovered anywhere on the globe. A probe of Wanda’s mind indicated that if this was some type of plot of Mystique’s to gain access to her son, the girl had no prior knowledge. She stowed away on the jet of her own free will, purely as a lark. Kurt had simply vanished.
Most disconsolate of all was Ororo Munroe, who blamed herself for the tragedy. The field trip had been her idea and she viewed Wanda’s presence on the jet as her own sloppiness. Ororo insisted on being the one to bring the sad news to Kurt’s adoptive family.
* * * * * * * *
Despite the gaily-decked halls, two days before Christmas there was very little air of festivity in the school’s family room. Many of Xavier’s students had gone home for the holidays. A few stayed behind, preferring to remain within easy comfort of their friends. Kitty had already returned after celebrating Chanukah with her family. A strange dismal feeling seemed to overcome the room’s occupants. Kurt wouldn’t have been present regardless, but the knowledge that he might never again brighten the hallways with his easy laughter and enthusiasm sucked the happiness out of the season.
Ororo was torn between remaining behind and joining her sister’s family. She would have done almost anything to escape this creeping pall of doom. Even on a good day, Logan wasn’t the best at bringing light and life, and she wouldn’t, in good conscience, abandon Hank and Charles to deal with it alone.
Curled into a comfortable chair, Ororo attempted to read a mystery novel, but her mind wasn’t into it. Kitty sat cross-legged on the couch, chewing at her lip and tapping away at her laptop. Jean and Scott chatted quietly over a couple steaming mugs of cocoa. She noted that at least Rogue and Bobby were having fun playing with the fussball table. With only a couple of days to go, Ororo knew there would normally be a lot more activity. This holiday season just wasn’t going to be the same.
She was considering calling it a night when a bright yellow beam suddenly spit the air between them, an ever-widening crack that spilled dazzling light into the room. Ororo’s eyes clouded, powers gathering. Whatever was attempting to gain entrance would not meet her unprepared. A puff of smoke and a popping noise followed, causing Ororo to stay the lightening she planned to bring down at need. She knew she might regret holding off, but there was something vaguely familiar about the emerging figure. When the smoke cleared, a tall muscular man stood in the center of the room. All eyes took in the stranger in a moment of stunned silence.
Dressed in a wing-shouldered doublet of midnight blue, richly embroidered in red and gold, he would not have been out of place in a Shakespearean drama. Beneath the tunic, he wore a white shirt with bloused sleeves; dark red knee-length breeches covered his legs down to the black leather boots. These were folded at their tops and cleverly altered to accommodate his oddly shaped feet. The red and black leather baldric buckled round his trim waist supported a leather scabbard. The swept hilt of a rapier gleamed at his hip. Atop his neatly trimmed curls sat a black-brimmed hat, the scarlet of its broad single plume cocked jauntily to one side. In mien and manner he was every inch the Renaissance cavalier.
“Kurt?” It came out as a whisper. The only adult currently present, Ororo alone managed to retrieve her voice. The students remained frozen in astonished silence.
It appeared to be Kurt... and yet not. The man silently surveying the group was roughly ten years older, at least a few inches taller and more muscular in build. He had the same blue fur and three-fingered hands, but his eyes glowed like molten gold. The manner in which he was clothed served only to accentuate his Teutonic features. Ororo caught her breath. If this was their wayward teleporter grown somehow into full manhood, he was remarkably handsome in a unique sort of way.
Before anyone could move an inch, he removed the hat and bowed to the assembled company, greeting them in a language few could understand. “Guten abend, meine freunde.” Hesitating for a second, he added, “Ah... pardon my error, I meant to say good evening my friends. I do not have much occasion to use English.”
A little deeper and more resonant than the voice of the missing youth, yet nearly recognizable, Ororo noted, her eyes slowly returning to vivid blue. The startled teenagers began to murmur, a couple also drawing cautiously nearer. Their teacher waved them off. “Stay where you are. This could be a trap.” She didn’t take her eyes off their visitor. “Pardon me. You may look like an older version of Kurt Wagner, but I’m not taking any chances. Jean, summon the Professor and Wolverine. We need to confirm his identity.”
*I am already on my way Ororo.* The professor’s calm voice echoed in their heads, producing visible relaxation in the room’s occupants. All except the African. Perhaps her eyes had returned to normal, but she did not drop her vigilance.
Jean quietly approached her side. “Mr. Logan is on his way down in case there is trouble.” Her eyes scanned the figure waiting patiently in front of them before leaning to murmur in Ororo’s ear. “You know that I’m not as good as the Professor at reading people’s thoughts, but I’m pretty sure that is Kurt, although I don’t understand why he’s aged so much.”
“I have a couple theories on that issue. I am sure the Professor can clarify them.” Ororo directed her attention to the blue German. “You may have a seat while we wait for Professor Xavier, but I’m going to ask you to turn over that weapon.” Jerking her head in the direction of the sword, she raised a cautiously outstretched hand to receive it.
“I understand you find it hard to believe, but I am Kurt Wagner. Bitte, could you tell me what day and year this is?” He inquired as his fingers deftly unbuckled the baldric and placed it almost lovingly into the waiting hands of the white-haired woman.
Taking the sheathed rapier from him and handing it over to Scott for safekeeping, Ororo replied, “It is less than three weeks since you disappeared. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.” Her voice was a little unsteady, the shock beginning to wear off and give rise to a feeling of cautious elation.
Kurt sank into the nearest chair. Leaning forward, he folded his arms over his knees. “Zum teufel! I had hoped to return very near the time I left. It appears I miscalculated. I suppose it is a good thing I did not try returning to the same place I left. Das tut mir Leid, I am sorry if my disappearance caused anyone grief.”
Ignoring Ororo’s disapproving glare, Kitty slid her body to the other end of the couch. “I..is it really you Kurt? We...we thought you were dead. The Professor searched for you with Cerebro and found nothing.” Her eyes investigated the stranger for some sign that it truly was her departed friend.
Raising his golden eyes to gaze at Kitty, Kurt’s pain was clearly visible. “It is so very good to see you again Kätzchen.” He raised his hand as if to take hers but lowered it just as quickly when a dismayed Kitty backed off a little. “I understand your doubt.” He gestured helplessly. “To you I have been gone mere weeks, for me it has been a long and dangerous road.”
Ororo wasn’t about to allow this man to lull them into a possibly false sense of security. “I think we would all like to hear that story, but it will have to wait until you’ve been examined my Charles Xavier...”
“Who has indeed arrived.”
All eyes turned as the Professor wheeled into the family room, followed closely by the grumpy, somewhat rumpled Logan. He looked as if he’d dressed hurriedly, clearly he’d already gone to bed. “What’s this all about?” He stopped dead when his eyes caught sight of the newcomer. “Elf?”
“It would seem so. That is what we are here to determine.” A hand motion from the Professor held the man in his seat. “What do you think Logan, is this our Kurt Wagner?” Xavier approached until he was within arm’s reach.
Kurt’s eyes appealed to Logan’s judgment, surely his unique aroma hadn’t changed with time. Audibly sniffing the air, Logan’s brows knit quizzically. “Damn it Elf, when’s the last time ya took a shower?” The next statement was directed at Xavier. “His scent’s a little different. Accounting for the aging, I’d say it’s close enough, but I’ve been fooled by Mystique already. I think ya better confirm it.” Logan backed away, moving to stand behind Ororo.
“I hope you don’t mind. It will facilitate my scan if you will allow me to make physical contact.” The Professor’s request was as calm as when he entered.”
“Do whatever you must Professor, I have nothing to hide.” Kurt’s eyes met Xavier’s without hesitation.
“Good. Now I want you to relax. Empty your mind, then concentrate on the day you disappeared...” The Professor lay a hand lightly on Kurt’s temple as the blue German closed his eyes.
A few anxious minutes passed before both reopened their eyes. Spreading grins indicated that all was as it had originally appeared. Every occupant in the room seemed to eased tensed muscles.
The Professor was the first to break the suspense. “I think that I can unequivocally state that this is our Kurt Wagner. He has quite a remarkable story to tell, but I assure you he is genuine.” Charles unexpectedly drew the German into a hearty embrace. “Welcome back Kurt.” Pulling away, Xavier added. “How are you really? It couldn’t have been easy living that far back in time.” His statement drew a number of curious glances.
“Mir geth es gut, danke, I am well. You don’t know how happy I am to return to the twenty-first century. Among other things, at least in this time period, you do not fear to take a bath.”
Kitty approached him more closely now that his identity was confirmed. “What does he mean Professor? Where has he been the past three weeks?” She still eyed him suspiciously.
“For us it’s only been weeks. For Kurt, almost ten years has gone by, if I’m not mistaken. Is that correct?”
Kurt ran his fingers through his hair. “Approximately, and I’d just about given up hope of ever returning to my own time.”
Ororo had preferred to watch silently. Now her curiosity got the better of her. “Are you saying that Kurt was somehow transported to the past. Judging by the way he’s dressed, I would estimate about 400 years.”
“Yes, early Seventeenth century, to be more exact. Perhaps we should allow Kurt to give us a brief recounting, if he’s up to it.” The Professor turned inquisitive eyes on the German. During his scan, he’d only gotten brief glimpses of his former student’s escapades.
Kurt relaxed back in the chair. “I wouldn’t mind summarizing the events that brought me to the present, but details will have to wait for later. Teleporting through several centuries is a rather arduous task.”
“Yes, of course. Could someone run to the kitchen and get Kurt a drink? Tea perhaps?” Xavier looked around the room until Jean voluntarily stepped forward.
“Actually, I would rather have a Coke, if you don’t mind. It’s been a long time.”
“Sure thing, I’ll get you a nice tall glass.” Jean remarked with a smile as she headed out the door.
Kurt returned her grin before inspecting the room full of eager faces. Ororo wondered if he knew how much his reappearance had lifted the gloominess from the mansion.
Settling more comfortably in the chair, Kurt began recounting the story of his unexpected journey. “I suppose I should start with my disappearance. As most of probably know, Wanda threw a hex at me just as I tried to port. It is my understanding that her powers warp probability. In this case, I have come to believe that the combination of her powers and mine opened not only a dimensional, but also a temporal gateway, which somehow keyed in on the book I was carrying.”
Kurt glanced briefly at Ororo. “Which happened to be about early Seventeenth Century France, you recall I am sure.”
“How could I forget – The Three Musketeers. You couldn’t put it down.” Ororo had born the burden of his disappearance. Now she felt even more responsible. She was, after all, the one who’d given him the book in the first place.
“I rematerialized in nearly the same spot I’d left, but it was so different. The courtyard was completely intact – not a ruin at all. Worse yet, it was crowded with people and livestock. The first thing that hit me was the smell – like a barnyard. And then the screaming started. If you think people from the present time are afraid of me... I’ve heard been called demon before, but that was nothing. Those people would have burned me at the stake if they could have caught me, and they almost did. I teleported away as quickly as I could. I spent the first few weeks constantly on the run – cold, hungry, and frightened. I used my hollow watch as little as possible, saving it for emergencies. Even so, it only lasted a couple of months.”
Kurt broke off the narrative for a moment, gratefully taking a cold glass of soda from Jean’s hands. He took a long drink before setting it on a side table. “Dankeschön Jean, after all this time, that was sehr gut. All right, where was I... Oh yes, on the run. I’m not certain how long I would have survived if it weren’t for Brother Arnaud. He discovered me swiping vegetables from his monastery gardens early one morning. He told me he was expecting to catch a rabbit, and unfortunately, the nick name lapin bleu, or “blue bunny” stuck. I ask you, do I look anything at all like a rabbit?”
“I thought not.” Kurt commented, amused giggles briefly interrupting his narrative. He paused to take another drink while the room quieted. Ororo shifted in her chair, attempting to stifle her own amusement. This new Kurt’s ability to capture an audience amazed her.
“For reasons I can not fathom, that monk was not afraid of me. Most fortunately, he was also the head of the order. He persuaded his brotherhood that I was merely a boy and not the monster I appeared, and that I needed their protection. I decided to stay, resigning myself to the fact that there was no means for me ever to return to my own time. I spent the next four years receiving schooling from the monks. They were a very well educated group of gentlemen, many born younger sons of noble families. It was considered a rare privilege to serve God in that capacity. I learned many things – agriculture and animal husbandry, Biblical and world history, pharmacy and astronomy.” Kurt’s eyes surveyed the kids who where once his peers. “You would be surprised at how quickly you can absorb knowledge without the distraction of TV, video games, or cell phones.”
“I would like to spend some time discussing the things you have learned. It would be an invaluable experience, from a historical perspective.” Ororo couldn’t help interjecting. “Perhaps you might consider writing some memoirs before your firsthand experiences begin to fade.”
Kurt paused to match eyes with his one-time history teacher. She was every bit as sophisticated and beautiful as he remembered. Only this time he was no longer an insecure teenager. Still, heat crept up his neck beneath the concealing darkness of his fur. He tried not to let it spill over into his voice when he answered; “I will certainly consider it, if milady will promise to assist me. I fear my written English has grown a trifle rusty.”
“I’d be happy to help.” Ororo said softly, cutting her comment short because of the impatient looks she was receiving. “Pardon me for interrupting. Please continue.”
“As kind as the monks were to me, eventually it wasn’t enough. I told Brother Arnaud that I needed to explore. It saddened him, but he understood. My chance came when a traveling group of performers passed through the village. Circuses centuries ago, just like today, attracted a strange group of people. That was when I discovered that even then there were mutants. Not as many as the present certainly, and mostly not as powerful. I actually fit right in, and I finally got to use my gymnastics training, which I continued to practice just in case I needed it. When we performed, we did so by the dim light of torches. Our patrons believed that my appearance was some kind of clever costuming and my teleporting merely a trick. I don’t think many of them ever realized that they were seeing the real thing. I spent several years traveling all over Europe. It was enjoyable, but it was also hard work and we never had much money. Some nights we went hungry. Not everyone appreciated us either. We endured our share of rotten vegetable tossing and pitchfork flailing.”
When Kurt paused to catch his breath and finish his drink, Logan offered up a question. “So how’d ya get the fancy duds and the sword Elf? Ya didn’t take up stealing I hope.”
Kurt cocked an eyebrow at Wolverine, wary lest his comment was not made in a joking manner. “Of course not. I was just getting to that. I didn’t stay with the circus. My travels brought me confirmation that other teleporters existed. Every village and town we rode through, I queried about people with strange abilities. Anytime I secured information on possibilities, I would let the circus continue on without me and set off in search of that person. While most rumors were fruitless, one such quest led me to woman that did more than teleport. You may have noticed a few distinct morphological differences? Those transformations resulted when she not only overshot this current time period by several millennia, but also caused what she called “evolutionary enhancements”. At first I was not amused, although I came to appreciate the straighter posture. The change in my eyes took a little getting used to. My night vision was enhanced, so I’m not complaining.”
Kurt cleared his throat, bewildered by the looks he was getting. Obviously not everyone in the room had noticed the changes until he brought attention to them. Ororo rather liked the soft glow of his eyes. It lent him an added air of mystery.
“Anyway, one such journey of discovery brought me through a small German principality. As I have noted before, being on my own was not the safest way to travel. I was ambushed on a narrow mountain path and rendered unconscious before I could teleport. I awakened in the presence of the Prince himself, who had heard of some of my exploit. It seems I had already become somewhat of a legend. Rather than fearing me, this nobleman sought to capitalize on my abilities. His original objective was hire me as an assassin. Of course, I refused. His Royal Highness was well aware he had no capacity to hold me captive, so he made a different offer. He would clothe and feed me well, train me as his man at arms and I would serve as one of his house guards. Remembering the musketeers, I rather liked that idea. Besides, I was born a man of this century. I was extremely weary of being cold and hungry. I rapidly earned his confidence and he began to aid me in my search for others like myself. I’m not entirely sure why he did so, but I think he knew if he kept me close and happy, I would not end up working for one of his rivals.”
Kurt paused to stretch his legs before concluding his story. “I didn’t tell my liege exactly why I sought other mutants. I can only imagine his rage when I did not return from my latest journey. Ah well, that is a thing long past now, isn’t it? Anyway, after several false leads, a member of the court told me about a clairvoyant named Jarvinia Mahler living in the foothills of the Alps. She was rumored to disappear for months at a time, only to return with treasures from strange civilizations and knowledge of great deeds. I wasn’t sure if this was the type of person I was looking for, but I chanced it. Her foreknowledge was, as I prayed, due to her ability to teleport through time. It took careful negotiation, but as I am standing before you now, she accomplished what I required. She could not escort me, a span this great taxes her powers. Frau Mahler navigates time by the positions of the stars and moon. She will reappear in one lunar cycle. As payment, I am to provide her with knowledge and items from this century.”
Kurt rose and faced Xavier with a gesture of entreaty. “Professor, I know it was very presumptuous of me to offer her goods from your house. I am not sure how I can pay you, but it was the only way she would agree to help me. I also bow to your wisdom on choosing acceptable items. I do not wish to gift her with anything that will compromise the present.”
Charles quickly put him at ease. “Kurt, there is no reason to apologize. We are just happy you have returned to us. I am certain we can come up with something that will appease this woman. In the meantime, make yourself at home. This is still your home. We have done nothing to alter your bedroom, although I am sure your clothing no longer fits.” Xavier looked about the room, which had filled with the remaining current residents. “I am sure one of the larger boys wouldn’t mind donating something comfortable for you to sleep in tonight.” He raised his voice to include the entire group. “It is getting late. I suspect tomorrow will be a busy day. No doubt Kurt is weary. There will be plenty of time for him to answer questions once he has a full night’s sleep.”
Muttered grumbles and sighs accompanied the departing teenagers. Kitty paused at the doorway with a final backward glance. Ororo noticed the skeptical twist of her mouth was still present. Although she often complained about being annoyed by Kurt, Ororo knew she was easily his best friend – his presumed death had hit her the hardest. Adjusting to the change in him wouldn’t be much easier.
“Ororo?” The Professor’s voice pulled the African out of her wandering thoughts. “Would you mind escorting Kurt upstairs and see that he’s made comfortable?”
Pausing to crane her neck, Ororo’s eyes searched for Logan. He would have been more appropriate, apparently he’d already slipped away. As happy as she was to have the blue German back, she worried that Kurt might find her as responsible for his misfortune as she believed herself to be. She’d wanted to avoid an immediate confrontation. “Certainly Charles, I’d be delighted.” Ororo smiled, hoping that Kurt didn’t notice her diffidence. She reached for the confiscated sword, handing it back to its owner. “Sorry I had to take this from you. I’d love to see a demonstration of your skills. I believe Logan knows how to fence.”
“Thank you my lady. I understood the necessity. If memory serves, I believe Logan is accustomed to a Japanese style of swordsmanship. A match between us would prove most interesting. “ He slung the baldric around his waist, raising his eyes to look at Ororo as his hands automatically secured the buckle. “You look worn Fraulein. There is no need to show me to my room, I remember where it is.”
Ororo regretted her earlier reluctance. Kurt’s kindness had begun to make her realize that he didn’t blame her. “Don’t be silly, It’s no problem. With what you’ve been through you shouldn’t have to beg for clothing. Besides...” Ororo almost shyly slipped her hand through Kurt’s proffered arm. “That whole mob just thundered up there at the same time. There’s going to be a huge line for the facilities. While I go looking for some sleep clothes, you can take a shower in my private bathroom. How does that sound?”
As the two began slowly ascending the staircase arm in arm, Xavier’s mind slipped quietly into Ororo’s. *Please do not tell Kurt, but I’m going to charge you with keeping an eye on him for a few days. Having spent the last decade in a completely different era, it is going to take Kurt awhile to adjust. I want you to notify me if you observe and signs of emotional distress.*
*Why me professor?* Why her indeed, she and Kurt where not exactly close.
*You offered to transcribe his experiences... Besides, there is no one whose judgment I trust more. Do you have any objections?*
*No, none at all. I appreciate your confidence in me. I hope it is well placed.*. The Professor had a point. Hank might have sufficed, if it weren’t for the times his feral nature managed to get the better of him, otherwise Xavier himself.... Ororo put the matter aside as they reached the landing. *I promise that Kurt’s psyche is in good hands.*
*I know, that’s why I asked you. Good night Ororo, sleep well.*
*Good night Charles. * Hand still wrapped around the weary cavalier’s arm, Ororo propelled him toward the attic steps. “You do remember I like my privacy, don’t you?”
* * * * * * * *
Kurt’s return resurrected a true spirit of merriment. Around the breakfast table the following morning, the teens decided to make a last minute shopping run. Among other things, none of them had any presents for their friend, and above his loud protests, asked him not to worry about reciprocating.
Ororo considered taking him shopping herself – his greatest need was clothing. They’d managed to assemble a few items for him to wear for the time being, but no one else was the right size. However, Christmas Eve was not her notion of an ideal time to go. Kurt likewise begged off. Even with a new hollow watch, he wasn’t ready for the culture shock of a packed shopping mall.
Once Scott drove off in the school’s RV, Ororo thought it might help Kurt to spend some time bonding with the mansion’s adult population. It didn’t work out as well as she planned. The Professor joined them for a short period when Kurt showed some interest in expounding on his life in the past until some minor crisis pulled him back into his study. Hank excused himself, explaining that he had a few last-minute details to finish on a present he was constructing for Kitty. Logan, as usual, was off only heaven knew where. Their disinterest rankled with Ororo. Kurt had literally spent years trying to return to his friends and family, only to be left nearly alone.
Ororo took her responsible for making the German feel welcome very seriously, spending the remainder of the day in Kurt’s company. A vastly improved and very charming Kurt, in her opinion – not that she would have told anyone. They called his family to explain the circumstances. Although his parents seemed a bit confused, their genuine joy at knowing their son was alive and well seemed to bolster Kurt’s flagging spirits.
The kids returned later than expected. Laden with bags and boxes, they added wrapping paper to their burdens and made a beeline for their bedrooms. Ororo could hear their happy voices drifting down the stairs. It brought a grin to her face until she noticed Kurt’s wistful glance in the same direction. He quietly let himself out a side door leading to the gardens. This time she let him go. Some things he had to work out on his own.
Evening rolled around with little improvement. Ororo thought that once the last-minute preparations where complete; they could all gather in the family room and celebrate. She hadn’t counted on their prior plans.
“But Ms. Munroe,” Kitty had pleaded, “Duncan’s family is having a big party tonight. The Professor gave us permission weeks ago, don’t you remember?”
Ororo opened her mouth to protest until Kurt lay a hand on her arm. “Let them go. They are young and this season is for children, is it not?” She didn’t like the pained look he tried to hide, but she bowed to his wishes and gave the teens her consent.
It didn’t occur to her until after they departed that Kurt had probably been invited... before he disappeared.
* * * * * * * *
“Ororo, you still play the pianoforte, correct?” Kurt paused for a moment, slapping himself in the head before she could open her mouth to comment. “Of course you do, in your reckoning, I’ve only been gone a couple weeks. It would be so nice to hear one again. I find the harpsichord a little grating.”
Attempting to wipe the hurt from his eyes, Ororo set out to make Kurt’s Christmas Eve as merry as possible. There was a roaring fire in the grate of the mansion’s salon. Numerous candles flickered warmly, the only other source of light. They drank each other’s health with hot spiced wine, the scent blending with that of the fresh pine boughs spread across the mantle and windowsills. The conversation had eventually drifted to musical preferences.
Ororo smiled gently as she moved to accommodate his request, taking a seat at the highly polished grand piano. “What would you like me to play sir?” Formal words, but the sparkle in her eye gave her mirth away.
“You wouldn’t happen to know any pieces by Paladino or Lassus... No I suppose not.” Kurt swiftly answered his own question. Crossing his arms, he smiled ruefully before adding. “I would gladly settle for Bach.”
“Don’t tell me you met the man himself?”
Kurt raised one eyebrow at the dawning smirk on Ororo’s face. “See here meine freundin, you’re trying to trick me. Johann Sebastian Bach was not yet a twinkle in his parent’s eyes before I left the past. I merely missed his music.”
Ororo’s smile broadened. “You missed Bach? But you where only a teenage boy when you disappeared.”
Kurt crossed to the piano’s side. Leaning casually on the black wood, his eyes met Ororo’s with a hint of playful challenge. “You would be surprised at the things teenagers really like that they would never willingly admit, even to their closest friends.” His gaze intensified, suggesting something yet unspoken.
Ororo stared into his eyes. The beauty of their unmarred fire sent an unexpected current of excitement through her body. Then she noticed the crucifix around his neck. “I know just the piece. I only hope I do it justice.” Ororo launched immediately into Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, her face lapsing into a mask of concentration.
Eyelids sliding closed, the pleasure of the beautiful music send Kurt heavenward for a few moments. “I don’t think I dare ask how you know me this well already.” His voice softly murmured, head nodding lightly to the lilting melody of the chorale.
Smiling sweetly, Ororo held her comment until the notes faded quietly away. “I’m not really sure how I knew, it just seemed right and we are not exactly total strangers, after all. Besides, you didn’t have much of a choice. It’s one of the only Bach pieces I ever mastered.
Kurt moved to her side. “And very well mastered indeed. Many thanks, Liebchen, your playing was one of the things I missed while I was gone.” His hand drifted serenely down to one of hers. Ororo did not resist when he raised her long supple fingers to his mouth, pressing a gentle kiss to their backs.
“I... I’m glad I... could oblige you. Merry Christmas Kurt.” Light from the candelabra danced in her sapphire eyes, illuminating Ororo’s flushed cheeks despite her attempts to remain the perfectly epitome of a controlled goddess. There was little remaining of the over-excitable teenager in the man who flirted with her. The weather witch knew it was selfish, but the trip to France no longer held any regrets for her.
Kurt bowed low before releasing her hand. “Danke, meine freundin, you have no idea how merry. “ He captured Ororo’s eyes one last time. Stifling a yawn, Kurt took a step backwards. “Fröhlich Weihnachten and guten nacht Ororo. I must beg your pardon, but I am very tired. I think it best that I retire early. Thank you for a truly wonderful day, perhaps you will play something else for me on the morrow?”
Ororo found unexpected pleasure in the resonant tones of his German accent, especially now that it wasn’t peppered with attempts at American slang. The way his voice rolled her own name made her heart flutter. “Good night Kurt, sleep well. I am certain I will find something appropriate for this cheerful holiday. It is a much better Christmas than any of us anticipated now that you have returned.” Infinitely better, her mind echoed as she watched his retreating figure.
Kurt held her eyes a second longer, nodding with an enigmatic smile before turning toward the door. His tail calmly sweeping the air, he moved with nearly impossible grace. Wrapping it around the knob, Kurt pulled the door shut behind him. Allowing a sigh to escape her lips, Ororo remained motionless as he slid the spaded tip thought the narrow opening just before the door closed with a quiet click. She remained seated at the piano long after Kurt had gone, gazing at the candle’s glowing flames deep in thought.
* * * * * * * *
The sun had already set when Ororo gathered the winds to her, allowing them to carry her aloft into the chill night air. She sought to burn off some of the calories from their wonderful Christmas dinner, not to mention solitude from exuberant students laden with every sort of gadget, set at the loudest possible volume.
Kurt’s presence, even in somewhat unexpected circumstances, had done a great deal to restore everyone’s holiday spirit – everyone’s except his own. Thoughts of the blue German brought to mind how reserved he’d been behaving all day. Kurt had been showered with gifts, predictably the much-needed clothing. He appeared grateful, making a show of his appreciation, but there had been something missing just the same. It didn’t elude the African how his happy grin failed to transfer to his eyes, or that his tail hung limply behind him, especially when the kids ran off to play their new music or video games. He’d only picked at his dinner, and quietly slipped away leaving his dessert untouched. Suspecting the source of his melancholy, Ororo went in search of him, without any luck. Kurt was the master of concealment when he wanted to be.
The cool evening air had the exact effect Ororo wished, clearing her head of the warm fuzziness induced by overindulgence. From her view above the trees, the full moon’s light revealed an unanticipated addition to the normal outline of the mansion’s rooftop. Unless Xavier’s school had somehow spontaneously sprouted a gargoyle, she’d finally found her quarry.
Ororo let the wind carry her across until her feet were inches from its surface. Dropping quietly to the shingles, she wrapped her cloak tightly around her more for comfort than warmth.
Making sure not to startle him, Ororo watched the yellow glow of his eyes follow her until she was standing next to him. “Good evening Kurt, I hope I am not intruding. I won’t be hurt if you’d rather be alone.” She murmured softly, feeling it almost a pity to break the silence of the peaceful evening.
“Never Liebchen. What gentleman would turn down the company of such a lovely lady?” Kurt smiled, patting a spot of roofing shingle. He had traded his doublet and breeches for a thick sweater and comfortable trousers. His unshod feet where curled over the roof’s edge like some great bird. Dressed entirely in black, it was a wonder Ororo had seen him at all.
Ororo suppressed a giggle as she stepped to the edge of the roof, making herself comfortable at his side. “You are quite the flatterer kind sir.” She trusted he wouldn’t think she was mocking the formal way he spoke – she rather liked it. “Do you mind if I ask why you are up here all alone?” She wasn’t certain he would offer an explanation.
“Nein Ororo, I don’t mind at all.” Kurt sighed, drawing fingers through his windblown curls. “I think I ate too much for dinner.”
Eyes tracing over him, Ororo chose her words carefully. “You’re not being truthful, my friend. I was watching. You barely ate anything. What’s the matter, lost your taste for turkey with all the trimmings?” She hoped she wasn’t pushing too hard, but something was clearly bothering him and she had no desire to see it fester.
Kurt looked down at his knees, folding his arms around them. “No, that’s actually one of the things I missed the most. Seventeenth century cuisine is not what I’d recommend as a regular diet.”
The silence lasted long enough that Ororo had opened her mouth to comment when he finally spoke again.
“I...I thought I would be really happy to return to my family and friends, and all the conveniences. Now I find myself wishing I had never come back. I’m no longer used to the noise... or the pace. Things are different. I’m different.”
There was a hint of desperation in Kurt’s voice that made Ororo wince. At times she wished to return the serenity of Africa, which was much the same in many ways as stepping backwards in time. In fact, she occasionally did just that. She fully understood what he was feeling, but in no way wished him to make that choice.
“You will grow accustomed Kurt. You’ve only been back two days. It will take time, but it will come back to you.” She hoped her gentle tone would soothe his worries. She found the new Kurt absolutely charming, and despite her attempts to remain objective, she felt a growing attraction she could not deny.
“It’s not just that. It is... I... do not belong. I can see it in their eyes although they try to hide it. I am an adult and they are still students. What we had is gone, lost forever. They will try their best to include me, but we no longer relate on the same lever. I’m not even sure I want them to. I have always felt out of place, and now I am doubly so. I have lost every friend that I had. Despite all the difficulties and dangers, I’m beginning to wish I could return to the past.” Dropping his head to his knees, Kurt’s voice became an unsteady whisper. “When Frau Mahler arrives for her payment, I am considering asking her to transport me back. At least there I knew my place.”
Blood rushed to Ororo’s face, filling her with dismay. He can’t leave, not now... She lay a comforting hand on his arm, willing him to look at her.
When he didn’t respond, her hand drifted up to cradle his cheek. She stroked it gently, wondering at the softness of his fur until he finally raised his head.
“I don’t want you to go back.” She murmured, drawing close enough that her breath stirred his unruly curls.
Kurt boldly met her gaze in silent inquiry. Much was shared between the two that needed no utterance before they leaned in, eyes drifting shut.
An impossible thought less than a month ago, and now... Lightheaded, she feared she might fall off the roof, and yet... the touch of Kurt’s lips erased everything... every doubt, every barrier. A long time had passed since she’d had a serious relationship, as if she’d been fated for this moment, waiting for him to catch up to her...
Eventually leaning back with a contented sigh, Kurt wrapped his arm protectively around Ororo’s shoulders, holding her to him. “I am beginning to understand why people say that God works in mysterious ways.” His voice rose barely above a whisper.
“How so?” Ororo snuggled into the warmth of his chest.
“It’s this...” He brushed his lips against her hair then lay his head lightly against hers. “You... you just don’t know.”
Ororo cocked an inquisitive brow at his speechlessness. “You...?” Drawing away just far enough that she could glimpse his face, she couldn’t quite get the words out. She allowed him to finish the sentence.
“Yes – I had quite the crush on you – from the very first night. Do you remember? You and the Professor picked me up at the train station.” Even if it wasn’t visible through his fur, Kurt felt sudden warmth flush his cheeks.
Ororo pursed her lips. “But... it never showed. I mean... you never hung around, or offered to help me, or... anything I’ve seen with some of the other boys.”
Chuckling lightly, Kurt tugged her closer. “You are a very beautiful woman Ororo, and very powerful. I don’t think you understand how intimidating that combination is to a teenage boy... or a grown man, for that matter. I was so in awe of you I couldn’t find the words to talk to you directly.”
“You don’t stili feel that way, do you?” Ororo murmured, returning her head to the comfort of his shoulder.
“Perhaps.” Kurt shrugged, giving her another squeeze. “Ororo,” He let the name roll around on his tongue. “I like being able to call you that. The name befits you, Liebchen. ”
Ororo laughed quietly, enjoying the soothing way his chest vibrated when he spoke her name. “This has been the strangest Christmas. If someone had told me on Thanksgiving that today I would be sitting here kissing you, I would have thought them deranged. And two weeks ago...” Her voice faded painfully away.
Fingers lightly brushing her hair aside, Kurt tilted her chin to look in her eyes. “I wish I could have spared you that... I tried to anyway. My timing has never been worthy of admiration.”
Ororo slid her hand behind his neck. Pulling gently, she brought his mouth within a breath of hers. A moment before she lost herself in his embrace once again Ororo whispered, “Oh, I don’t know. I’d say, in this instance, it was absolutely perfect.”