Disclaimer: I do not own the X-Men. Please don't sue me or steal my story. Thanks!

NOTE: This story was written in response to a challenge inspired by an idea my Dad had. I had to:

1. Somehow combine aspects of Evolution, Movie, and Comic Kurt into one 2. Have Kurt do something illegal 3. Make reference to an Evolution episode I have never seen 4. Make some sort of Bible reference (because Movie Kurt is so religious and Comic Kurt was a priest) 5. Sports had to come into it somewhere 6. It needs some kind of moral, and— 7. Kurt had to get his hair cut (this is the one that started the whole thing).

So...here goes! Please tell me what you think!

Reconciling Differences

by Rowena

"There he is!"

"I see him!"

"He looks just the same as when he left!"

"Hey, Kurt! Over here!"

Kurt Wagner looked over to where his friends were waving at him from the bottom of the escalator, an enormous grin splitting his pale, hologram- shielded face.

"Hallo, meine Freunde!" he waved back, hopping off the escalator and rushing over to them. "Long time, no see, ja?"

"Long time!" Scott repeated, his grin almost a match for Kurt's. "It's been almost three months, man! Summer's practically over!"

"How was the circus?" Jamie asked brightly. "I hear you really wowed the crowds!"

"But of course," Kurt smiled, drawing himself up with a theatrical flourish. "As meine Mutti told me, any appearance by the Incredible Nightcrawler is sure to pack the house, and it had been a few years since they last saw me perform. Did you guys get my poster?"

Jean nodded, quickly unfurling a tightly rolled cylinder of thick, shiny paper. "You bet," she said. The poster proudly featured the Incredible Nightcrawler as the star acrobat of the Szardos Bavarian Circus. It was large and festive, the bright, rich colors just tasteful enough to fall short of garish. "You look so happy on this thing, we wondered if you would want to come back here!"

Kurt shook his head. "Nein," he told her. "The circus is wonderful, but it isn't 'real', if you know what I mean. The audience still thinks I am wearing a costume. Besides, it's not all fun. All I did for the first few days after I got there was pose for publicity photos! It was awful! But, I actually liked this poster, though."

Kitty tilted her head slightly, regarding him with a strange, narrow-eyed expression that Kurt wasn't quite sure how to interpret.

"I looked up your circus on the Internet," she said, her tone somewhat accusing. "You never told us you were so famous! I mean, you've, like, even got your own doll!"

Kurt winced, suddenly seeming rather embarrassed. "Ach, you mean the Bamf?"

Kitty nodded, a small smile tugging at her lips despite her apparent annoyance. "Yeah," she said. "It was so cute, I just had to order one."

Kurt's eyes widened. "You didn't," he stated in something akin to horror.

"I did," Kitty retorted, her smile twisting into a smirk as he flushed so deeply it showed through his hologram. "It's sitting on my dresser as we speak."

"Lieber Gott!" Kurt moaned, hiding his mortified face behind his hand. "Those dolls were not my idea," he told her. "It was all Margali. She said-- "

"Hey, Kurt," Bobby broke in, "is it just me, or is your accent kind of stronger than it used to be?"

Kurt shrugged, shifting his feet uncomfortably as he answered. "I don't know. It might be. After all, I have hardly spoken a word of English for three months!" He sighed, a little sadly. "I didn't realize how much I missed German until I started using it again."

The others nodded in sympathy although they knew they couldn't really understand how he was feeling. They had never had to live in a country where they couldn't speak their first language. After a moment, he looked up, his brow furrowed.

"Where is Rogue?" he asked.

The question seemed innocent enough, but the others shared uncomfortable looks at the sudden reminder of why Kurt had left in the first place. It had been the Professor's idea that he get away from the mansion for a while to get back in touch with his adopted family in Germany. The death of his mother, the shape-shifting mutant terrorist known as Mystique, had hit Kurt very hard--despite the fact that she had abandoned him as an infant only to turn up again, years later, as one of the X-Men's most cunning and dangerous enemies. Aside from telling him that she was his mother, the two had barely even spoken to each other. It had surprised almost everyone how deeply her death had affected her estranged son, and Rogue's actions had only deepened that fierce pain.

"She...uh...," Kitty started.

"She's back at the mansion," Jean said.

"Oh," said Kurt, his expression falling slightly in disappointment as he clutched the carry-on bag hanging at his side. "I have a present for her." Suddenly, he brightened, his brilliant smile returning with a vengeance. "I have a present for everyone, actually! I really missed you guys while I was away."

"Presents!" Bobby grinned, looking up at Scott. "What did you get me?"

Kurt laughed. "I'll show you when we get home, ja?" Then he sobered, suddenly appearing rather worried. "That is, if Herr Professor can--"

"Kurt," a new voice interrupted. The gathered teenagers turned as their mentor, Professor Charles Xavier, rolled towards them in his electric wheelchair. "The problem has been taken care of. You can go get your bags now."

Kurt's darkened eyes lit up, a delighted grin nearly splitting his face.

"Dankeschon, Herr Professor!" he exclaimed. "Das ist wunderbar! Where do I go?"

"Just over there," Xavier pointed across the crowded room to the baggage claim. "Number four."

As Kurt hurried off to collect his luggage, the other X-Men regarded their founder with open curiosity.

"What was that about?" Jean asked.

"Airport security was giving Kurt some trouble about his swords, so I--"

"Wait a minute," Bobby interrupted. "Did you just say 'swords'? Like, you mean swords as in 'swords'? As in real, honest-to-goodness--"

"Swords, yes," Xavier completed, his tone dry. "Three of them, very finely crafted. He had wanted to bring them with him when he first came to America several years ago, but I had refused. Now, however, I feel he is mature enough and skilled enough to handle the responsibility of owning such potentially dangerous weapons."

Bobby stared for a moment, then he started to back away towards the crowded conveyor belts. "I think I'll go help Kurt with his luggage," he said, running off before anyone could object. Scott frowned.

"I think I'll go too," he said. "Just in case."

Jean shot him a knowing look, and he flushed slightly before loping off on his long legs in hopes that Kurt would let him carry his swords instead of Bobby.

"So," Kitty said with a frown, speaking to herself but facing Jean. "Kurt's not only, like, totally famous, but he's a fencer too. And he's never said anything about any of it! I can't believe him!"

"Yeah," Jean said, looking over at the three excited boys. "But then, I guess that's Kurt. He lives for attention but, somehow, it never seems to go to his head."

Kitty snorted, crossing her arms over her chest. "Maybe if it did, we wouldn't be finding out all this stuff about him now. I mean, we've known him for, like, years and everything, but right now it's like I don't even know him at all!"

"Why? Just because he brought home a few swords?" Jean shook her head. "You've always known he'd been with the circus. We've all seen him practicing his routines in the Danger Room. You could have asked him about Germany at any time, but you didn't. None of us did, really. It's not like he was deliberately keeping things from us. It's just that we never bothered to find out about the life he led before he came here."

"You're right," Kitty acknowledged, her eyes widening slightly as Kurt lifted a large, overstuffed suitcase from the conveyor belt with a surprisingly graceful ease. "And, if you ask me, it's about time we did something about that."

*******

"Mein Gott. Can you believe that school is starting in just one week? It feels like no time has passed at all!"

"How can you say that, dude?" Bobby asked. "I mean, you've had a better vacation than any of us! And, don't forget--you promised you'd show us what you can do with those swords."

"What about our baseball game?" Jubilee protested. "I thought we were going to play after dinner."

"We are," Bobby said. "I didn't mean Kurt had to show us right away. Besides, he's one of our best pitchers!"

Hank McCoy looked over at the small group making their way up the stairs, each of them carrying one of Kurt's bags. Kurt had his bulging carry-on and a long, narrow box that had been wrapped protectively in brown paper.

"Don't you think it might be better to let Kurt get some rest first?" he asked. "After all, he's had a long flight and there is a considerable time difference between here and Germany..."

"Nein," Kurt assured him with a smile, his accent somewhat thicker and his voice slightly deeper than Hank remembered. "It's quite all right, Herr McCoy. I'm not tired, and I want to play! Baseball is another thing I missed while I was in Germany."

"Well, if you really think you're up to it, I can't object. We're all very glad you're back, Kurt," Hank said, returning his smile.

"I'm very glad to be back," Kurt called down as he reached the top of the stairs, his smile broadening into a grin.

Hank watched until the rest of the teens had followed Kurt up the stairs and out of his view, then continued on his way to the rec room. Rogue was in there alone, leaning with her back against the windowpane and her gaze focused on a plump squirrel that was making its hesitant way across the grounds.

"Well, he's back," Hank said softly, not wishing to startle her.

"Ah know," Rogue retorted, crossing her arms tighter across her chest and hunching her shoulders, almost as though she was cold.

"Aren't you going to welcome him home?"

Rogue's expression hardened. "He won't want to see me," she stated.

"Well, I'm not going to force you," Hank told her, "but I do think you should at least try to talk with him. This thing has been going on for far too long."

Rogue turned to him then, her green eyes dark in her pale face. "What makes you think it'll ever be resolved?" she asked bitterly. "If ah'd killed your mother in cold blood, would you forgive me?"

Hank hesitated, caught off guard by the blunt question. Rogue smirked, walking up to him. "Ah didn't think so," she said coldly, brushing past the large, furry mutant and leaving the room.

"Rogue, wait!" Hank called after her, but she was already gone.

*******

Kurt grinned in delight as he strode into his bedroom, taking in the large, comfortable space as though he was seeing it for the first time.

"Now this," he said, "is much better than the trailer I had in the circus." He chuckled. "It might take me a while to get used to all this luxury again!"

"Where do you want all this stuff?" Scott asked, lugging Kurt's largest suitcase after him.

"Anywhere will do," Kurt told him. "The floor is good. Dankeschon for all your help."

Kurt walked over to his desk to set down his sword case, catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror as the others came in to deposit their burdens beside Scott's. He tilted his head, regarding his holographic reflection with an odd little smile.

"You know, I really should change this hologram now I'm going to have to use my image inducer again," he said, almost absently. "I hardly even touched it while I was with the circus."

"What do you mean?" Scott asked, walking over to him.

"Well," Kurt explained, "with all that traveling around there weren't really many places where I could charge the batteries, you know? So, I pretty much left it alone except for emergencies." He looked down at the device, frowning when he noticed a small light flashing at the corner of the display. "Speaking of batteries, I really should recharge it now before it dies on me, ja? It's a miracle it's lasted this long!"

Scott shook his head. "No, I mean about changing the image," he said as he watched Kurt deftly unfasten his watch from his wrist with his oddly paired holographic fingers. "What's wrong with it?"

Scott squinted, averting his gaze as the hologram around Kurt flickered, then faded out. When he looked back at his friend, everything he'd been planning to say died in his throat. Kitty blinked, all but frozen as she stared at Kurt from her place beside the bed. Kurt didn't notice their reactions as he busied himself plugging his watch into its special recharger.

"Wow, Kurt," Jean smiled, walking over to stand beside Scott. "Not bad. It looks like all that training with the circus really agreed with you."

"I'll say," Scott agreed, his eyebrows slightly raised. "What happened to that skinny little fuzzball we used to know?"

Kurt blinked at the expressions on his friends' faces, somewhat flustered and unsure how to respond. Jubliee smirked, her dark eyes lingering on Kurt's lean, muscular arms before taking in his worn, sleeveless vest and his striped, flared trousers.

"I'd say he filled out rather nicely," she giggled. "But, God, Kurt, where did you find those pants? They're so...colorful!"

"Hey!" Kurt exclaimed, growing defensive. "Meine Mutti made me these trousers." He lowered his head. "I kind of outgrew my other ones."

Jubilee burst out laughing, and even Jean couldn't suppress a chuckle.

Kurt lashed his tail, his narrow, indigo features darkening as he flushed, frowning slightly. "Come on guys. It's not funny! Besides, I don't look all that different." He glanced in the mirror as if he was worried his reflection would change at any moment.

"We're not teasing, Kurt," Jean protested. "And I'm sorry I laughed. You really do look good."

Kurt's fuzzy cheeks darkened even further, and he lowered his golden eyes. "Danke," he said, appearing almost shy.

That look on his face was too much for Kitty to take. Her tongue suddenly came loose in her mouth as she blurted, "You...you, like, cut your hair!" She blushed almost painfully as Kurt turned to her.

"Yeah," Bobby added, fingering his own short, brown hair. "Why did you do that? I've been trying to get my parents to let me grow out my hair for ages."

Kurt reached up to run his thick fingers through his short, wavy hair, even more embarrassed than he had been before. When he spoke, his accented voice was little more than a low mumble. It was clear he was rather sensitive about his new hair style.

"I had to wear it in a ponytail when I was on the trapeze," he explained quickly, "and Chester and Stefan said I looked like a girl, so one day about a week after I first arrived I woke up to find they'd cut off all my hair as one of their stupid jokes, OK?"

Bobby smirked. "They actually snuck into your room and cut your hair while you were sleeping?"

Kurt shook his head. "Nein. The three of us shared a trailer, just like when we were little, so they didn't have to sneak anywhere." He smiled then, a slow, wicked grin. "But, I got them back, though."

"What did you do?" Bobby asked, starting to get excited.

Kurt's golden eyes glittered with mischief. "I pulled a Samson on them."

Scott shook his head. "A Samson...?"

"Ja, you know, Samson and Delilah? The guy who lost his strength after his girlfriend cut his hair?"

Scott furrowed his brow. "I think I've heard that story."

"It's in the Bible," Kurt told him. "Anyway, Stefan and Chester had never seen me teleport before. I came here only a few weeks after my powers manifested, so they had no idea what I could do."

"But, what does your teleporting have to do with this Samson guy?" Bobby asked.

"I'm getting to it," Kurt said. "You have to know that they cut my hair really short--like a crew-cut almost." He made a face.

"That's awful," Kitty exclaimed.

"Ja," Kurt agreed, brushing at his wavy hair with his fingers as he peered at himself in the mirror. "It's only just now starting to grow back. It still feels kind of weird, though."

"Are you ever going to tell us what happened?" Jubilee asked. "Or are you just going to squint at your reflection all day?"

Kurt stopped playing with his hair and turned back to his friends, shooting Jubilee a mock-scowl.

"Well," he said, "at rehearsals that morning I pretended I wasn't feeling very well. When Stefan and Chester asked what was wrong, I told them that my mutant powers were somehow linked to my hair, and that I was feeling terribly weak, almost like I was fading away." He smirked.

"I'm the only mutant they've ever met, but even so I was kind of surprised that they actually believed me. After that, it was almost too easy. I told them I was fine, that I could still do my routine. But then, right before I was supposed to push off for the grand finale, I pretended to faint. I fell off the trapeze, then teleported behind the seats before I hit the net. All they saw, though, was me dissolving into a puff of smoke--fading away into nothing, as it were."

Jean raised a hand to her mouth, torn between amusement and alarm. "Oh, dear," she said. "I can just imagine what happened next."

Kurt grinned. "Well, they started screaming and blaming each other for what had happened. People started pouring into the tent to see what all the commotion was about. And then, Margali burst in." Kurt chuckled at the memory.

"Wait a minute," Bobby broke in. "Did she know about your powers?"

Kurt nodded. "Of course! She and Mutti are very good friends. They tell each other everything. It only took her a moment to figure out exactly what had happened. Once she did, though, she was positively livid.

"You see, she'd already had the posters and everything all made, and now they'd gone and changed my appearance only a few days before the show was supposed to open. We ended up keeping the posters anyway, but the two of them had to clean out the elephant pens for a month."

"Weren't they mad at you for the way you'd tricked them?" Jubilee asked.

Kurt shook his head. "Nah. They were too happy to see me alive--and they thought my powers were just too cool! We ultimately worked that stunt into the act, and it was so funny listening to the audience trying to figure out how we'd done it after the show."

Jamie drew his rounded face into a pout. "Oh, man," he whined. "I wish I could have gone to see your circus. I was stuck at home in Canada all summer. The most exciting thing that happened to me was when me and my Dad went fishing and the boat tipped over."

"Ach!" Kurt grinned. "I'm glad you brought that up! I'd almost forgotten about your present!"

Kurt unzipped his carry-on bag and pulled out a small, flat, square box. "This is for everyone," he told them, holding it up. "It's a DVD of a special television documentary that was done on our circus. I look kind of stupid with my hair all short and bristly, but it includes that routine I was telling you about. I thought you guys might like to see it. It's all in German, but it has English subtitles."

"Oh, awesome!" Jamie exclaimed.

"When can we see it?" Jubilee asked.

"You were, like, on TV?!" Kitty practically squealed.

Bobby, who was standing nearest to the door, tilted his head. "Hey, guys," he said. "I think I heard the call for dinner."

"All right!" Kurt exclaimed, his tail swaying happily behind him. "I'm starved!"

Scott smiled. "It's nice to know some things haven't changed," he teased. "Come on, Mr. Big Time Circus Star. Let's head down."

"And then we're playing baseball," Jubilee stated. "Now Kurt's back we've finally got someone who can pitch!"

*******

The mansion was silent and still, almost eerie as the early morning sunlight filtered in through the drawn curtains of the foyer. Rogue pressed the button for the elevator and stepped inside, impatiently tapping her foot as she rode it down to the sub-basement, where the Danger Room was waiting. She really needed to kick something about now.

She had spent a very restless night, her vivid nightmares so real it was almost as if she was reliving the past.

Kurt had brought her to the cliff's edge, his golden eyes desperate and pleading as he tried to explain what he wanted her to do. An ancient curse had transformed Mystique, his biological and her adopted mother, into stone, and apparently only Rogue's powers could save her. The process would be dangerous and difficult, but Kurt had somehow managed to find a strange old lady who said she could help.

Rogue had known how important it was to Kurt that Mystique survive this. She was his mother and he truly loved her, despite all the pain and shame she had caused him. Deep down, Kurt believed that she loved him in return, even though she was not at all the kind of person he had always dreamed his real mother would be. Rogue, however, knew differently.

She had touched Mystique, absorbed her thoughts, her memories. She knew how the cold-hearted, blue shape-shifter truly felt about her son, and she knew that truth would crush Kurt, crush him so badly that he might never recover. Rogue was still finding it difficult to deal with, and Mystique wasn't even her real mother.

The truth was that Mystique cared nothing for her son. She wasn't even interested in getting to know him. His appearance had made him a liability to her from the very moment he was born, and Mystique would keep nothing near her that she could not use to her advantage. There had been the occasional flash of regret or mild curiosity after she had abandoned him, but there had never been any love, or even affection.

When she'd seen him as a teenager, her first reaction had been one of vanity. She had hoped no one would discover he was her son--not out of shame over abandoning him or to spare him any pain, but because she didn't want anyone to know she was old enough to have a son his age. When she finally did contact him, her motives had been just as selfish. She had hoped to plant a seed in his mind, planning to manipulate his emotions until he would be willing to leave the X-Men for her if she should ever need a convenient teleporter. It hadn't worked, and she had soon given up on the idea, figuring that his powers were not worth the effort it would take to convert him.

Rogue's powers, on the other hand, had been worth all the scheming and planning Mystique could come up with, and more. She had spent months posing as a student named Risty, worming her way into Rogue's confidence until Rogue had come to think of her as her best friend. Mystique had done this in the belief that Rogue would be useful to her plans in the future. During all time she had spent with Rogue, she had barely even spared a glance for Kurt, despite the fact that they had eaten lunch together dozens of times.

Mystique had been a cold, calculating, evil creature, crafty and dangerous with no redeeming virtues Rogue think of. When faced with the choice between saving her life and allowing the threat she posed to continue indefinitely, or else putting an end to her hurtful, manipulative existence once and for all so she could never harm anyone again, Rogue had made the only decision she felt she could live with--even if that choice would cost her one of her closest friends. She had pushed Mystique off the cliff, where she shattered into hundreds of stone fragments on the rocky ground far below.

Kurt had teleported after his mother in an unthinking panic, but he had been unable to reach her before she hit. The look of utter devastation in his golden eyes, the empty pain that twisted his narrow features as he fought against his tears--when she saw these things Rogue had known that her choice had cost her her brother. Kurt would never forgive her for what she had done. And now, almost half a year later, she was still finding it impossible to face him.

Rogue scowled darkly when she saw the Danger Room light was on. Mr. Logan must be getting in some early-morning exercise. Not particularly wishing to disturb the fierce Canadian in the middle of a session, Rogue chose instead to go up to the observation room to see what was going on.

Wolverine was indeed down there, but he wasn't alone. Rogue's eyes widened in amazement as she stared at his shadowy companion. That wasn't the scrawny little bean-pole she'd known. The lithe, blue figure she saw laughing with Wolverine was taller, broader, his muscles more defined and his short, wavy hair giving him a clean-cut, yet surprisingly roguish look. Three months of intensive acrobatic training had done wonders for the slender eighteen-year-old, and Rogue was finding it surprisingly hard to look away.

Curious to know what they were saying, Rogue quickly hit the intercom button on the control panel before her, tilting her head slightly as she listened.

"...they were impressed when I showed them my swords, but they really have no idea how much hard work it takes, either the fencing or the acrobatics. Sure it's fun to work at the circus, but it's far more intense than even your training sessions. After all, if everything isn't done just right, even with the net someone could get killed. It's not like in here, where there's a safety program in case something goes wrong."

Wolverine nodded thoughtfully as he lifted a long, brightly polished sword from a case of three. Kurt watched him, his golden eyes almost protective as they followed the blade. Wolverine swished and twirled it a few times, then handed it to Kurt, hilt first.

"These are very good blades," he told the fuzzy teenager. Kurt beamed proudly, twirling the sword himself.

"Coming from you, mein Herr, that is very high praise indeed," he said happily, thrusting and parrying with an imaginary foe. "Even if I did beat you."

Wolverine scowled, but Rogue could tell he wasn't angry. If anything, he seemed proud. She hoped Kurt had noticed.

"You just had to bring that up again, didn't 'cha. Really rubbin' my face in it."

"You bet," Kurt grinned, spinning gracefully to end in a dramatic pose, his sword outstretched. "It is not everyone who can say they beat the Wolverine."

"You wanna go again, Elf?" Logan growled, his flinty eyes flashing dangerously. "I promise I won't hold back this time."

Kurt raised an eyebrow, a crooked smile quirking across his face. "I'm game if you are."

Logan laughed, waving Kurt over to him. "Come here, Elf," he said, reaching into the battered bag that held his own sword and pulling out two cans. "I think you've earned this."

Kurt's eyes lit up as he caught the can Logan threw him, but he bit his lip as he crouched down beside his mentor. "But, what about Herr Professor..." he started.

Logan sat back with a sigh, popping the top of his beer and taking a long swig. "Hey, I won't tell if you won't. Eighteen's legal in Germany, ain't it?"

Kurt's grin was returning in tentative spurts. "Ja," he said. "The legal drinking age is sixteen, though there are some exceptions. But, this is America."

"Hey, if you don't want it..."

"Nein," Kurt said quickly, opening his own can. "Danke, mein Freund." His grin took on a slightly wicked cast, the effect only intensified by his sharp fangs. "Don't tell Herr Professor, but one of the things I will miss most about Germany is the beer." He chuckled, shaking his head. "It doesn't seem fair, though. With my metabolism it is almost as difficult for me to get drunk as it is for you with your healing factor."

Logan raised an eyebrow. "You know this from experience?"

Kurt laughed. "Not really. But I have never experienced any of the effects of alcohol. I just enjoy the flavor of a good beer now and then."

Logan nodded with a grunt. "Yep. That's the way it is with me too, kid. Even when I tried to get drunk, it just didn't work. There's a couple 'a times I spent an entire night drinkin' and I didn't even end up with a headache. Just a very full bladder."

Kurt snickered, then sat back against the wall. For a while, no one said anything and the two of them fell into a companionable silence. Rogue was just about to leave when she heard Kurt's voice, much softer and more somber than before.

"Logan," he said, almost hesitantly.

Logan shifted his position to face him. "Yeah? What?"

"Have...have you seen Rogue lately?"

Rogue straightened, straining to see the expression on Kurt's face far below. Did he still hate her for what she had done?

Logan sighed, setting down his nearly empty can. "She didn't welcome you home?"

Kurt shook his head. "Nein. I haven't seen her since...well, since before I left. I had hoped that..." He trailed off, lowering his head as he played absently with the spade of his tail.

"That what?" Rogue said out loud, wishing even harder that she had a clear view of his expression. "What?!"

"The kid seems to be under the impression that you're still angry at her for what she did," Logan said, his eyes slightly narrowed. "Is that true?"

Kurt sighed deeply, then released his tail as he rose to his feet and began to pace the room with long, graceful strides.

"I was," he said at last. "For a very long time. And I still believe that she was wrong. But I think now...that I can understand why she did it."

He ran a thick hand through his hair, his tail curling and uncurling as he spoke. "My parents," he said, "they had me sit with Father Hagan, and I told him everything that had happened. And, well, I realized then that even though what she had done was terrible, the thought of losing my sister hurt even worse than losing my mother." He shook his head, his tail lashing back and forth, then going back to tying itself in knots. "I know this is a horrible thing to say, but at least Rogue was a sister to me. Mystique..." He trailed off as he sank back down beside Logan, slouching against the wall.

"I know now that she never really cared about me at all," he said with some difficulty. "It was just wishful thinking on my part." He shook his head, finishing off his beer and setting the empty can on the floor next to Logan's before continuing.

"Mystique was filled with hate, and she inspired the same kind of hate in others. That is why Rogue did what she did. And that is why I think I can forgive her. I don't want Mystique's legacy of hatred to take my sister from me." He sighed, playing with his tail again. "Although, I fear it may already be too late to fix things between us."

Rogue shuddered, suddenly aware of the tears streaming down her face. She struggled to quiet her sobs, but her relief was too overwhelming to control. Kurt forgave her. Her little brother forgave her, and that meant more to her than anything else in her entire life. She had been reluctant to acknowledge the relationship at first, but she had never realized how much Kurt's brotherly overtures meant to her until she was in danger of losing him forever. Now that they were reconciled, she would strive to be worthy of his open-hearted affection, a quality she knew she would never possess--at least not on the same scale as Kurt.

But, wait a moment. They weren't reconciled yet! Kurt still thought she was avoiding him! Well, she would fix that right now.

Rogue rushed down the stairs to the main level, then burst into the Danger Room, not caring how they would react once they realized she had been eavesdropping on their conversation.

Kurt and Logan jumped to their feet, the startled expressions on their faces causing Rogue to laugh with an uncharacteristic abandon as she rushed over to Kurt and wrapped him in a fierce, though careful embrace.

"Was--Rogue!" Kurt exclaimed, nearly falling back with the force of her impact.

"Kurt, ah heard everything you said," she confessed, resting her chin on his shoulder as he returned her embrace. "Ah wanted to welcome you home, but ah was just so scared that you wouldn't want to even look at me after what ah did."

"It's OK, Rogue," Kurt said, his tone soothing, his tail twining itself around her waist as he gently smoothed her white-streaked auburn hair. "I'm not angry with you anymore. I just hope that you can forgive me for how I treated you."

Rogue stepped back slightly to shoot him an incredulous look. "Kurt, you ain't got nothing to apologize to me for! Ah'm the criminal here, and ah deserved everything you said and more. Even though ah'm adopted, ah'm actually a lot more like our dear mother than you, and it scares me to death sometimes." She shook her head, her eyes darkening.

"Nein, don't talk like that," Kurt told her firmly. "Mystique had been manipulating you for a long time, filling you with her unique brand of poison. She tricked you and she betrayed you, just like she did to everyone else. You may have been angry at her, you may have even hated her, but you are not like her. She was cold and cruel where you are kind and sincere." He smiled at her, a broad grin filled with affection and warmth. "Finding out that you are my sister was one of the best things that ever happened to me!"

Rogue shook her head averting her eyes from his. Kurt's grin faded, but the warmth in his expression remained.

"Are you hungry?" he asked.

Rogue looked up at him again, caught off guard by the unexpected question.

"Ah'm absolutely starved, if you want to know the truth," she admitted with a rather sheepish smile. "After all, ah kinda missed supper last night in my silly attempt to avoid you."

"Then come here, meine Schwester," Kurt said, wrapping his arms and tail around her as she stepped forward, "and I shall take you to breakfast. I have a present for you too, from Germany. It's a necklace interwoven with symbols of friendship and family. Mutti made it at my request. She makes these kinds of things to sell at the circus."

Rogue couldn't suppress a warm smile of her own. "Ah can't wait to see it," she said as she wrapped her arms around him in return.

Kurt grinned, then turned his head to face Logan.

"See you later, Logan!" He waved, his grin broadening as he noticed Logan was struggling very hard not to smile. Then, with a theatrical BAMF of sulfurous smoke, Kurt and Rogue were gone.

After all those months of guilt and pain, the two estranged siblings had finally come to terms with all that had come between them, taking to heart a lesson that their mother had never learned--how to forgive.

The End