Disclaimer: I do not own the X-Men or any of their infinite incarnations. Please don't sue me or steal my story!
NOTE: This story takes place in the Exiles dimension where Kurt and Wanda are married and have a grown daughter named TJ. The Exiles Nightcrawler sports a gray goatee, thinning hair, and a black eyepatch. In this universe Apocalypse is the main villain, Professor Xavier is dead, Wolverine is confined to a wheelchair, and Cyclops has left theX-Men to form his own Brotherhood.
NOTEII: This story was written in response to a challenge: How did the Nightcrawlerof this universe lose his eye? It's composed in three layers, each with its own very different answer. The 'true' answer was inspired by the true story of how my grandfather lost his eye.
Ask Me No Questions and I'll Tell You No Lies(1)
Prologue: A Birthday Request
Rosie's Bar was all decked out for a party. Pink and blue balloons hovered in clusters over curling streamers and sparkling signs, all cheerfully proclaiming "Happy Birthday TJ!" and "You're 21 Today!"
Rosie wiped a few stray peanut skins and condensation rings from her hardwood counter and glanced over to the small group still laughing in the corner booth. Only an hour ago, the bar had been teeming with mutants of all shapes, sizes, and degrees of opacity. Now, only four remained, but they were the core and the heart of the party—and four of Rosie's favorite customers. Tucking her cloth into her pocket, Rosie sauntered over to the booth and placed her hands on her hips, one russet eyebrow arched over her twinkling green eyes.
"You do know last call was thirty minutes ago," she teased, struggling to keep up a stern expression as her straggling patrons blinked up at her. "If I wasn't so tired, I would probably have to chuck you all out into the street."
Logan sniggered, looking up at her with a toothy grin. "Hey, Rosie-girl," he greeted, backing his electric wheelchair away from the booth. "Take a load off! Come and sit by me."
Rosie looked from one slightly surprised face to another, feeling a sudden flush rise in her cheeks. She hadn't expected the Wolverine to actually invite her over… "I don't know…" she hedged.
"No, it's OK," TJ said, looking to her dad and mom for confirmation. Then she smiled. "Dad was just about to tell us a story." She shot her father a significant glance. "Weren't you, Daddy."
Kurt Wagner shot his daughter a look and Rosie couldn't help reflecting how much the slender, blue-skinned girl resembled him. The fuzzy, indigo superhero was sitting next to his daughter in the corner of the booth, one arm sprawled comfortably over the back of their seat. With the other, he was holding hands with his wife, Wanda, who was sitting next to Rosie. Despite his slowly graying hair and scarred features, the middle-aged X-Man was still quite dashing. As for Wanda, the formidable Avenger had retained her striking beauty, the few thin lines around her eyes only enhancing her broad smile. Like her daughter, Wanda's thick black hair was crowned with a glittery paper "Happy Birthday" tiara. Yet, aside from the gentle curve of her face, Rosie couldn't see much of the Scarlet Witch in TJ. From her playful golden eyes and delicately pointed ears to her long, spaded tail (which may or may not have been retractable, Rosie had never been sure) Talia Josephine Wagner was the spitting image of Kurt.
"But Liebling," Kurt was saying as Rosie broke out of her musings, his deep voice tinted with a faint, but unmistakable, German accent. He looked slightly uncomfortable. "We've been having such a good time, and I'm not sure that story is fit for—"
"But Dad, you promised!" TJ retorted. "All my life, whenever I asked you always said 'I'll tell you when you're older.' If twenty-one isn't old enough, then what is?" She sighed then, her voice softening as she looked up at Kurt. "Dad, I just want to know the truth. Don't I have a right to know how my father lost his eye?"
"She does have a point, hon," Wanda said gently. Kurt sighed, reaching up to scratch the ragged scar that rose above his black eye patch with a thick, indigo finger. Rosie bit her lip, feeling awkwardly out of place.
"If you're uncomfortable, I can go," she offered. "I still have a lot of cleaning up to do, and—"
"No, Rosie, you're staying right here," Wanda said, giving her husband's hand a meaningful squeeze. "It's past time Kurt got this off his chest. It's keeping it inside all this time that's made him self-conscious, and there really is no reason for it. "
TJ blinked up at her mother in surprise. "Wait Mom, do you mean you know? I thought Dad never told anyone what really happened."
Wanda shook her head. "Dr. McCoy gave me the details after the incident. But I've never heard a peep about it from your father. The only time he ever even mentioned it was in that story he used to tell you when you were small."
"Oh, right!" TJ smiled, remembering. "The one about the Wild Hunt! I used to love that story!"
"No kiddin'," Logan grunted, clearly amused by the memory. "You roped this poor sap here into tellin' you that story practically every night for five years." He laughed, "You have no idea how many missions were delayed because Nightcrawler's little girl was cryin' for her bedtime story!"
"Lay off it Logan," Kurt smirked. "There was only that one time. And if I remember right, I teleported to the site ahead of you."
"I'm sorry, but what is the Wild Hunt?" Rosie asked, surprised at her own interruption. She hadn't meant to pry, but sometimes her thoughts had a way of escaping before she realized she'd spoken. Everyone knew Kurt's eye was a sensitive subject, and the last thing she wanted was to offend the famous superhero with her big mouth. "It's just--it sounds familiar," she continued hesitantly, "…like something out of a fairy tale or a fable."
"Oh, it is," Kurt told her, apparently grateful for the change in topic. Rosie breathed a private sigh of relief. "It's a very ancient tale with its origins in old Germanic and Celtic folklore. I just gave it something of a personal twist." He stroked his salt-and-pepper goatee, his single golden eye distant. "It's been such a long time, though…I don't know if I even remember it all anymore…"
"Sure you do!" TJ exclaimed. "You have to! It's the greatest story ever!"
Kurt and Wanda shared a look over the table.
"Why don't you start it off then, Teej?" Wanda suggested. As she'd expected, her daughter looked scandalized at the very thought.
"No way! Dad's got to do it or it won't be right!"
"Well, I'll need a prompt," Kurt said, releasing his wife's hand just long enough to stretch his arms lazily above his head, causing the joints of his shoulders and back to crackle. "These old brain cells aren't as sharp as they used to be."
TJ made a face, which made Kurt laugh. "Don't start with that, Dad," she said. "You are not old. Just begin the story with 'Once upon a time'!"
Kurt grinned. "It's a bit corny," he teased, "but it just might work. OK, here goes...
"Once upon a time, there was a vast, dark forest..."
(1) Title quote attributed to Irish playwright Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774).
Next time: Layer One: The Wild Hunt. Stay Tuned!