Title: Shelter From the Storm
Disclaimer: The unbridled niftyness of Nightcrawler belongs to the gents and ladies at Marvel and 20th Century Fox (applause, applause). Angela (for what she is worth) belongs to me, Skybright Daye (applause, applause).
A few notes:
1) The islands mentioned in paragraph two are covered with the ruins of ancient churches built by sailors, who promised God they'd build churches if He would rescue them in the midst of storms.
2)On Nightcrawler's German: Ein Nachtkriecher is a rough translation of A Night-Crawler (as-in "a person who crawls or creeps by night", not the actual worm). On that note let me say that what little German exists in this fic has been B.P.I.M.-ed -- Badly Pirated by Internet Means. As I do not speak German (save for a smattering of totally random words picked up from "Hogan's Heroes" and WWII movies) I beg forgiveness (and request correction) for any grievous errors within.(Thank you, K_Delwin, for the corrections! Duly noted and changed where appropriate!)
3)On Nightcrawler's Furriness: Nightcrawler has fur. This is a fact that bears no dispute, as everything from the earliest comics to X-Men: Evolution will tell you that Nightcrawler has fur. The furriness of Nightcrawler is not open for debate.
The fact that he doesn't look like he has fur in the movieverse does not (as far as I'm concerned) change the aforementioned fact. His "angelic alphabet" scar-tattoos could just as easily be carved into furry skin as into furless skin ("easily" being a completely relative term here, of course: let's face it, that's gotta hurt!) So if you want him with tattoos, fine. But the only way you'll get him from this fanfic author is FURRY and tattooed. So deal.
4) Here's the biggie: This story is full of religious content -- and when I say "religious" I mean "religious" as in Judeo-Christian religious. I was raised, and still am, Christian. It's a huge part of who I am, it's a big influence on how I think and write, and it's not something I'm particularly ashamed of. I warn you once, I warn you gently, but I warn you seriously: do not bother reading this piece of fanfiction just so you can flame me, call me a bigot, and tell me I'm closed-minded. If a fanfic which focuses on the very established faith of a canon character upsets you, this may not be your cup of tea. Please consider that, and alter course accordingly.
The old family estates of New England were designed to be self-sufficient, and Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters was no exception. The previous generations of Xaviers had created their own small kingdom, complete with sprawling woodlands, stables, a long-defunct blacksmith's workshop -- and a chapel.
It was an old chapel, built in the last century when one of Xavier's ancestors returned from sea. Like the ancient churches on the islands of the Mediterranean, perhaps -- a church built to fulfill a promise made in haste, to appease a God Whose Name had been called on in a moment of crisis.
It was almost always empty here. Those students who wished to -- and who could do so safely -- attended churches in Salem Center, the older students chaperoning those too young to drive. Kitty Pryde (who did not yet have a driver's license) rode the bus once a month to the synagogue in the next town. There was a Catholic church in Salem Center, too . . . but that was for those who could walk abroad in daylight.
Not for him.
For him there was instead the holy, ancient-scented darkness of this small chapel, kept clean and in good repair despite its little-use. A small group of birds nested somewhere in the rafters, their gentle cooing the only prayers the old timbers usually heard. The bamf! as he entered had disturbed them -- but not (as he knew from experience) as much as the creaking of the door hinges would. Now the doves settled back down and started to murmur amongst themselves once more.
Kurt Wagner shook droplets of rain out of his hair and shrugged out of his overcoat, listening to the murmur of doves and the muted pounding of rain on the chapel roof. He'd crossed the distance between mansion and chapel in a series of teleports -- but the rain was coming down so hard that even the few moments he'd been physically "there" between jaunts had been enough to get him wet. Now he carefully hung the overcoat over the back of one of the handful of pews and walked slowly down the aisle.
The wooden crucifix was the only religious symbol that had been in the chapel when he'd first arrived -- candles, altar cloth, and similar things had been removed long ago in an effort to discourage mice. With Xavier's blessing Kurt had brought out a few of the icons he'd brought with him, a scattering of candles and a cloth for the altar. He lit the candles now, and the dim room brightened somewhat. Shadows danced in the corners as he knelt and crossed himself.
"Our Father, Who Art in Heaven . . ."
Not that it mattered where the prayers were said -- only that the were said. His room in the mansion would have been just as fitting a place for the candles and crucifixes. But it was . . . overwhelming, he guessed the word was . . . to be so often surrounded by other people. Even in the normally-crowded world of a traveling circus, people tended to keep their distance from someone like him. His closeness to God had been fostered in that solitude, and some small part of him still craved it.
But the greater part of him was amazed and delighted at the day-to-day interaction of the people at Xavier's School. He wondered if any of them realized what a gift they had in this place, in the chance to be surrounded by people like themselves. He knew he certainly realized it -- every time he walked into a room and was greeted with a smile instead of a shriek.
He finished the Our Father, and began another prayer -- but at that moment the door hinges sang out unexpectedly, groaning in protest against the unaccustomed movement. The doves in the rafters took flight in a sudden explosion of wings, and Kurt turned to find a startled, wide-eyed girl staring at the ceiling, clutching the half-open door and looking as if the next stirring of birds' wings would find her bolting back outside.
She was one of the older students, maybe sixteen or seventeen. He recognized her from somewhere -- had probably met her at some point, in the hallways -- but her name escaped him. Amanda? Andrea, maybe? An "A" name, at any rate. He stood up.
Now the startled eyes turned to him, and she took a half-step backwards. "I . . . I . . . ."
His automatic reaction to a situation like this, the first thing he though to say when he saw someone looking at him like that. "Don't be frightened."
She paused. "I'm not. I . . . just didn't know anyone'd be out here. That's all." Another half-step backwards. "I'll go . . . ."
"Don't." He tried to make his voice gentle, tried not to spook this young woman who had braved the rain to come here. "Please, come in."
She hesitated, then stepped into the chapel and pushed the door closed. The birds protested once more, though less loudly this time. The girl glanced up again.
"I don't suppose you ever saw a movie by Alfred Hitchcock," She said quietly, "Called The Birds?"
"No." He advanced a few steps closer to her. "I prefer Errol Flynn, myself."
"Never mind, then." She stood, dripping water into a rapidly-growing puddle in the center of the aisle. "You're sure you don't mind . . . ?"
"It is fine." He smiled. "Perhaps you should take your coat off."
She smiled tentatively back, glancing down at the puddle she was causing. "Guess so."
She peeled the wet trenchcoat off to reveal faded jeans and a school-issued sweatshirt with the distinctive circled X. Her over-long blonde hair was escaping from its ponytail, hanging in dripping-wet locks around her face. The girl shook the worst of the water off the coat and draped it gently over the nearest pew. Then she smiled once more at Kurt. "Nice weather we're having."
"If you like rain, yes." He tried to read what she was doing here in her eyes. There had to be a reason for a teenaged girl to brave a raging rainstorm on a Sunday afternoon, just to visit an almost-abandoned chapel.
She took a few steps closer, glancing around as she did so. Then she smiled. "You're . . . Nightcrawler, right?"
He smiled and nodded. "My real name is Wagner -- Kurt Wagner."
"Angela." She held her hand out, and barely missed a beat when Kurt put his own two-fingered one in it. "Nice to meet you . . . Herr Wagner."
"To my friends, it is Kurt." He raised an eyebrow. "Sprichst Du Deutsch?"
"Oh. Um . . . just a little. I was learning, before . . . ." Whatever it was she'd been learning German "before" went unsaid. She let her hand drop awkwardly. "I'm sorry. I interrupted you." She gestured to the altar.
"It is fine. In fact," He added, "I am glad of the company. It's usually very quiet out here."
"I know." She nodded. "I come out here once in a while. To . . . think."
"It's a good place for that." He smiled warmly and turned to walk back down the aisle. Then he turned, held out his hand. "Would you like to join me?"
Another startled look. "Oh. I'm . . . um." The girl cleared her throat. "I'm not . . . Catholic."
Kurt chuckled. "I won't hold it against you." He gestured at the crucifix. "Nor will He."
She laughed in spite of herself, then shifted uncomfortably. "I haven't . . . talked to Him . . . lately. Not in a really long time."
Ach. So that's it.Kurt took a deep breath and listened to the shuffle of wings in the rafters. "Then He will be glad to hear from you."
A pause. Finally she shook her head and shoved a strand of wet, over-long blonde hair out of her face. "You're going to have an answer for everything, aren't you?" She asked, smiling.
"Ja." He smiled back, mind searching for what else he could say. He was ostensibly a "staff member" -- even if he didn't teach any classes -- and, if this student was troubled, that made it his duty to try and help her.
After another moment she shrugged and padded down the aisle past him, taking a seat in the front pew.
"Jubilee says you're . . . a priest, or something." She said suddenly, turning back to look at him. "Is that true?"
"A priest?" Kurt laughed in spite of himself. "Nein, nein! That is certainly not true."
"Hunh. Should've known." Angela studied her muddy tennis shoes. "Jubilee says a lot that isn't necessarily true."
Kurt studied her, the laughter dying away. She sounded . . . disappointed? He moved quickly down the aisle, hopped up to perch next to her on the pew -- he was more comfortable crouching than sitting -- and studied the figure on the crucifix for a moment. Lord, give me the words to say.
"I'm not a priest, fraulein. Just another sinner, trying to keep to the right path. But," He added, glancing at her, "If you need someone to listen, my ears are as good as any."
Angela glanced sideways at him, then dropped her eyes back to the tennis shoes. After a moment she sighed. "Have you ever been so angry at someone -- a friend -- that you couldn't talk to them?"
Kurt nodded. "Ja. I have felt that way."
"Well . . . that's how I've felt since I got here." Angela squirmed and glanced at the crucifix. "Since before that. Since . . . ." She bit her lip and glanced at her hands, twisting her fingers together.
Kurt gently put his own hand on hers. It wasn't hard to guess what this young woman meant. "Since you became different. A mutant."
Angela nodded. "All of a sudden, everything just . . . fell apart. And . . . I didn't . . ." She took a deep breath and glanced at him once again. "Everything I loved and everything I had just . . . went away. All because of this."
"And you are angry -- so angry you cannot speak to Him?" Kurt's golden eyes searched the girl's blue ones, trying to find some way to ease the hurt he saw smoldering there.
She looked away. "At first I did. I asked Him over and over to make it go away. To fix it. But He didn't." She shook her head and laughed sadly. "He wouldn't."
Angela stood suddenly, taking a step closer to the altar. "I know He can. He made it happen, He could make it go away!" The last word echoed loudly enough to disturb the doves, who chided her softly and ruffled their wings. She continued, "But He didn't. And now . . ." The girl suddenly crossed her arms, hugging herself tightly. "Now I can't talk to Him at all. I sit out here and I try to talk. But all I can feel is . . . hurt. And angry. And whenever I open my mouth all that hurt and anger just bubbles up and chokes me, and there's nothing I can say."
Kurt nodded. Then he said tentatively, "Perhaps . . . you might start . . . by thanking Him."
"Thanking Him?" Angela turned, eyebrow raised in disbelief. "For making me . . . this . . . this . . . ."
"Perhaps not for that." Kurt tilted his head. "But you could thank Him for this place, for the people here. You could thank him that you are safe."
Angela blinked, then half-laughed and sank back onto the pew. "I must seem incredibly petty to someone like you."
"Ja?" Kurt lashed his tail and moved closer to the girl's new seat. "Why would that be so?"
"Well . . . look at me. I'm sitting here angry at God because I've got problems, but at least I'm not . . . um." The abrupt stop told him she'd let her mouth run away with her, that she was searching now for some way to unsay what she'd just said.
He spoke before she could, his voice tinged with amusement. "Not like me?" He gestured gently at his own face -- the pointed ears, the furry indigo skin, the delicately terrifying fangs. "Not ein Nachtkriecher?"
"Uhm . . . yeah." Angela mumbled, turning scarlet.
Kurt smiled, shaking his head. "Because a burden is carried in secret, my friend, does not make it less of a burden. If anything, it makes it harder to bear."
Long pause. Then, "It isn't fair, you know. I . . . you . . . we never asked for this. We never asked to be made like this."
"Nein. Nein, we did not. But He knows more than we ever can, and He has some purpose in making us what we are -- even if we do not see that purpose. In that I, at least, find comfort."
"In this? Even being what you are, what we are?" Angela shot him an incredulous glance. "I don't see how you can see this . . . " She faltered, paused, and took a deep breath. "As anything but a curse."
Kurt took a deep breath as well, and fingered his rosary. Lord, give me wisdom. Help me to help her. "A burden can also be a gift." He said finally. "Have you ever thought of how much we have been given? Of the power He has given us -- to fight for good in a world full of evil?"
Angela shrugged. "Yeah. The teachers are telling us that all the time -- that we're 'gifted'. Professor X even calls them 'gifts' instead of 'powers'. But . . . even if they are gifts . . . Why us? What did we do to deserve . . . this?"
"Whether burden or gift, the answer is the same -- we did nothing to deserve this." Kurt glanced at her, studying the downcast eyes and the conflict written in her face. "If it is a burden, then it is given to us unjustly. But . . . if it is a gift . . . ." He paused. "If it is a gift, then it is a gift we did not deserve. It is a high honor he has chosen to give to unworthy servants. And if that is true . . . ."
"Then He hasn't cursed us." She said quietly. Realization dawned in her tone as she met his eyes. "He's blessed us."
"But . . . ." Angela once again stood and stepped closer to the altar. "It's still hard. It still hurts. Burden or blessing, either way . . . ." She took a deep, shuddering breath. "It's still more than I know how to deal with."
Kurt paused for a moment before replying. "Someone once told me, 'God gives us no bearable burdens. He gives us unbearable burdens, so that He might then teach us the strength to bear them.'"
She smiled faintly, turning from studying the altar. "Who told you that?"
Kurt grinned. "A strong-man, in the Munich Circus. He lived by it." He stood and moved to stand next to her, putting a two-fingered hand on her shoulder. "God will not take this burden from you, Angela. But," He nodded gently at the altar, "If you ask Him, He will give you the strength to bear it."
Angela's eyes met his own, bright with a mixture of hope, sorrow, and tears. "Do you really think so?"
"Nein. I know so."
"But . . . it . . . it's been such a long time . . . ."
"He never stops waiting to hear from His children," Kurt replied. "That much time cannot pass."
She took a deep breath, looked at the crucifix and then at him. The doves murmured in their sleep in the rafters above, and the drumming of rain on the roof began to slow somewhat.
"Talk to Him." Kurt nudged Angela, very gently, towards the altar.
Angela nodded and stepped forward -- then paused. Smiling through tears, she reached out to grasp his own hand in hers and gave it a squeeze. "Thank you."
"You are welcome." He turned and advanced a few steps towards the back of the chapel, then paused. "Angela?"
She glanced over her shoulder. "Yes?"
Kurt half-turned to look at her. "You are never alone, my friend. I hope you will remember that."
"I will." She smiled and nodded. "I will."
He nodded back, walked the last few steps to the back pews and picked up his overcoat. He smiled to himself as he pulled the coat on. Professor Xavier had asked him if there was anything he felt qualified to teach.
There was a muffled bamf! of imploding air, a sudden puff of dark-purple smoke, and the drifting scent of brimstone.
Outside, Kurt was pleased to discover it had stopped raining. The sun shone golden and warm in the afternoon sky, and the shouts of students playing outside drifted across the school grounds.
Kurt smiled as he thought about Xavier's question. He knew at least one student who might be interested in learning German -- and perhaps there were others who needed a word of encouragement to help them in their faith. He had the feeling his role at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters would be more than just that of an X-Man.
It is not the path I would have thought to choose, Lord. He thought with amusement. But I am grateful to be on it, just the same.
There was another bamf! . . . .
And he was gone.