Epilogue

"Margali was able to remove the splinters, but within a few days it was obvious my eye was infected. Richie, to his credit, went out of his way to get me over-the-counter medicines from the local pharmacy. Unfortunately they did little good. Finally, after a lot of debate, it was decided I would have to be taken to the hospital."

"Oh my God," TJ winced. "You must have been terrified!"

Kurt smiled. "You should have seen the ER nurse," he said. "She nearly fainted when she realized I wasn't wearing some kind of elaborate circus costume. As for the doctors, they were a little too fascinated with me for comfort. For a long time after that, I half believed they took my eye just so they could study it."

TJ made a face. "Dad, that's gross. You should have sued them or something."

Kurt shook his head. "Nein. My eye was very badly infected by that time. There really was no way to save it. And it hurt so terribly, the operation was almost a relief. What worried me most was how all this would affect my training as an acrobat."

"Apparently not too much, considering," TJ grinned. "But that's so incredible. I mean, you would think something like that would mess up your depth perception, but you still managed to become the most famous acrobat in Europe. Not to mention the teleporting."

Kurt shrugged. "It was a little strange at first, but I soon got used to it. And once I'd gotten my glass eye, in many ways it was easy to forget the incident had ever happened. It was a beautiful glass eye, entirely hand crafted by one of the artisans we employed at the circus. In fact the first time I truly felt the loss was the night that eye was destroyed."

"By Apocalypse," TJ nodded slowly. "But then, why didn't you just get another false eye?"

"When Apocalypse fired that gun at me, the force of the laser's blast made the glass explode," Kurt explained quietly. "Hank was unable to repair all the damage the shards had caused to my eyelid and the surrounding tissue, so I never was able to get another false eye. So, I've been stuck with this patch ever since."

TJ smiled gently, reaching out to touch the scarred side of her father's face. "I like the patch," she said. "I always thought it made you look cool, like a pirate or an adventurer or something."

Kurt chuckled. "Danke," he said with a slight tilt of his head.

"But Dad," TJ continued, a bit more hesitantly this time. "There's one thing I still don't get. How come you never told Mom about all this?"

Kurt sighed. "It's stupid, really," he admitted, sounding uncharacteristically bashful. "You see, when I was growing up, I didn't have a handsome, dashing father to look up to the way you did." TJ smirked. Kurt continued. "So, when I first met your mother, I was deeply self-conscious about my appearance. I didn't show it, of course, but I was terrified she would leave me if she found out about my eye. I know now how foolish I was to feel that way, but I just couldn't face the possibility that she would...think I was ugly."

"You're not ugly, Dad," TJ assured him, patting his hand. "Take it from me."

"Ach, Liebling," Kurt smiled. "To the eyes of love, even the homeliest appears beautiful. But thank you just the same."

"If I didn't know you were teasing, I might have to get upset about that remark," TJ said. "After all, everyone I meet says how much I look like you."

Kurt laughed, leaning in to kiss the top of his daughter's head. "You are my strong, beautiful girl," he said warmly. "I am so proud of you, Liebling."

TJ smiled, flushing slightly. "Thanks, Dad. And don't worry. I won't tell anyone your story. But I do think you should tell Mom the truth at least."

"Perhaps I will," Kurt said. "But not tonight. It is very late and we both have a great deal to do tomorrow."

"Hmph. That's just an excuse," TJ said, but she was smiling. "Good night, Dad. I had a really great birthday."

"Gute Nacht, Liebling," Kurt said, heading for the door. "I'll think about what you said."

"See you tomorrow then."

"Tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Teej."

And with a soft click of the door, Kurt was gone. TJ turned on her side, her eyes focused on the small, framed photograph that sat on her bedside table. It was of her and her parents, taken when she was about ten years old. She took particular note of her mother, of how her arm was wrapped so affectionately around her father's waist. As always, Kurt was wearing his eyepatch. TJ smiled to herself at the sight. With her eyes still fixed on her father's face, she reached out a hand and turned off her light.

The End


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