The following one-shot contains X-2 spoilers. I do not own any of the X-Men characters, places, or events. This little fic is dedicated to Diana and Caitlin, two fellow authors and movie – Nightcrawler fans. Much thanks to my reviewers. I followed your advice to not spell out the accent, but unfortunately the only way I could change it was to remove the old version, making your reviews disappear.

Many grim stories begin with dark and stormy nights, which for some reason strike terror into many hearts. Darkness, however, was Kurt Wagner's friend. Late at night was the only time when he could hide his demon-like appearance and roam the streets. Storms made it even better, since most people weren't inclined to go for midnight walks in pouring rain. Westchester was not a center for nightlife in any case. Kurt had only been living at Xavier's school for a few weeks and had not yet had time to explore the nearby towns. Reasoning that hardly anyone would be out, he decided to board a bus to "Lake Peaceful", which was so tiny as to almost be considered a village. Scott had told him that there was a late bus that stopped near the mansion and ran on Friday nights.

Wearing a raincoat with a hood over his face, with gloves on and his tail safely concealed, Kurt was certain that nobody could make out his mutations as long as he stood in the shadows. He felt even more secure when he saw that there were only a few passengers that were all clumped together in the front except for one sitting way in the back. The bus driver was tired and apathetic, paying no attention to the German except to give a grunt and a nod when Kurt handed him his money. All of the travelers were either asleep or dozing. The front of the bus was lighted a bit too well for his comfort, though, so he moved to the rear, where it was dark and safe. The other passenger appeared to be asleep.

Kurt sank down into a seat across from the other passenger, and could just discern that the traveler was a man, but nothing else. The rain drummed against the windows, then rushed past when the bus began to move, leaving wet streaks that blurred his vision. He wondered if the rain was naturally occurring, or if Ororo (what a wonderful name, he thought) was crying alone. A stab of guilt came at the thought that if she was, he should be there to comfort her. Storm's relationship with him was delicately treading the balance between warm friendship and love. It would have progressed further if it weren't for his caution, for though he loved everyone in one way or another, few people except God had ever loved him. But He is enough, thought Kurt, and He will allow other blessings to come as He wishes.

Fingering his rosary, Kurt thought about the real reason he was wandering tonight. Every night since he first came to the school had been filled with nightmares and insomnia. It chilled him to think how close he had come to murder, even though it had been against his will and he was certain of innocence before God, his mind replayed the scene over and over, with the same amount of terror that he had felt with the actual experience. He had prayed often for the strength to leave the past behind, both for himself and his new friends, and for mercy upon the men who were responsible for the attempted genocide. Especially for one man, who was lying dead beneath miles of water.

Or so he thought.

Little did he know who was sitting across from him. The passenger woke with a start that suggested he had been dreaming. A bolt of lightning provided illumination for one brief second. In that one second Kurt saw the face of the other man. It was the face of William Stryker.

In moments of shock Kurt's English usually left him, but this was to such an extent that he lost all language completely. Some strangled gurgling was the best he could come up with. Stryker was similarly incoherent, his vocal chords managing to produce a single word.

"YOU!" Stryker pulled out a gun from the recesses of his jacket. "I'm warning you," he threatened. Kurt's tail worked its way free and pulled the knife he now carried for self-defense out of his pocket. The situation was a stalemate. Both were tense, but neither could make a move.

"We thought you were dead, Stryker," said Kurt, breaking the hostile silence. After these past months in America his German accent had begun to dull, but was still noticeable. He could see that Stryker was glaring at him with a mixture of hate and horror. He felt his muscles twitch, itching to yield to his temptation. Killing him would be easy. Nobody would know, for the man across from him was supposed to be long gone. Nobody could accuse Kurt...except God. The two words struck through his mind.

"You're supposed to be dead, mutant." He spat out the word, making it into an epithet. "The water engulfed everything."

"One of our students flew the jet to us, and Jean Grey held back the water with her telekinesis until we could leave, but she couldn't board and hold back the flood at the same time. She drowned."

"Touching. And if you think you'll get me to tell you how I survived near murder, you are very wrong. Now I have no career and am wanted for treason, because somehow the President knows I was connected to his assassination. I hope that'll help compensate for your disappointment that I'm still alive." The words were bitter.

Kurt's reply was full of sincerity. "I know you hate our students, and you hate Logan, whose life you erased, Scott, whose heart you broke, Ororo, who lost a friend because of you, and Professor Xavier, who has only worked for the good of mankind. I know you hate me, and I know you think that I am a monster. Many people do. But I do not hate them, and I do not hate you. The pain you have caused only saddens me. Once I was angry, for you had passed judgment upon me when you knew nothing about me, but how am I to condemn you, when I do not know you either? Only God can judge. I forgive you, and would only hurt you now if you were actively trying to kill me." There. He had said it. The mutant was instantly relieved that he now couldn't yield to temptation without breaking his word.

Stryker did not take being forgiven well, especially by someone he despised. "Spare me the preaching," he said.

"I am not preaching! It is my own decision, not yours that I speak of."

"Forgiveness! You tried to kill me."

"That wasn't me. It was Logan's decision, and his own only. His history with you goes back much further. We only met once, very briefly."

"Oh yes, that excuses it all, doesn't it?"

"Excuse me, but did you not try to kill all mutants? In my thinking, that is more of a crime. But as I say, I will not harm you."

Stryker shook his head. "I prefer to keep this, thank you very much," he said, referring to the gun.

"As you wish. This is my stop. Farewell." His tail put his knife back into his pocket, and his tail went back under his jacket. With a sigh, Kurt left the bus and walked out into the rain. Oh Father I thank thee, he thought, that I have passed this test. Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, dear Lord.

As the bus drove away, the figure in the shadows smiled. A flash of gold glinted from the eyes as the features morphed and changed into the face and body of an attractive, but quite ordinary looking, young woman. So naïve, Mystique thought. He hasn't known me long enough. Why did I do such a silly thing like that, "testing" him to confirm my suspicions? If Erik finds out, I'll tell him that I wanted to know if Nightcrawler was Brotherhood material. Which he isn't, he's too wishy-washy. Didn't take after me at all. She shook herself. Maybe I need a vacation. Getting sentimental.

"And yet...I'm proud of him."