AN: This would likely have taken another several weeks and been far lower in quality if not for the efforts of Nightcrawler's Shadow. She deserves quite a bit of credit for this story.
Disclaimer: X-Men and Modern Standard Arabic have existed for longer than I have, and will hopefully both exist long after I do not. I own neither.
If a curious observer were to have made a perilous midnight climb up to the roof of the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters, he would have beheld an image fit for fantasy: silhouetted by an uncharacteristically luminous moon, a gargoyle perched with a book in its three-fingered hands. Closer observation would reveal a pair of glowing golden irises slowly moving from side to side and a spaded tail swaying to match, proving that this intricately carved statue was in fact alive.
Kurt Wagner, the Institute's resident polyglot, was currently engrossed in a new linguistic adventure— Modern Standard Arabic.
The moon was not quite full, but given Kurt's excellent night vision, the light provided was more than sufficient to make out the swirling, flowing script and the crisp lettering in English that accompanied it.
Lying next to him was a felt-tipped pen and a notepad with his own attempts at replicating the Arabic letters. The writing was large and wobbly, but given both his unfamiliarity with right-to-left penmanship and his eternally troublesome tridactyl hands, it was at least a respectable offering.
Minutes passed uncounted and unnoticed, marked only unconsciously by the regular rhythm of Kurt's tail, an ever-present metronome. Occasionally it would break from its back-and-forth journey to scratch idly at an itch, or more often to stroke just behind his left ear, a telltale sign that the young mutant was deep in thought.
While involved in the latter of these, the spade suddenly stilled its movement. Yellow eyes disappeared halfway under dark lids, then returned to normal as he set down the book and picked up his pen and pad once again.
Kaaf, Ayn, Taa… Kurt took a small bit of satisfaction in the fact that there was an Arabic letter to match the German pronunciation of the letter 'R', but found himself at a loss as to how to replicate a 'V' sound in a language where none existed. He made a grudging concession to English, scribbling the Arabic ''W'. A long ''Ah' sound next… and how to write the ''G'?
After a bit of searching, he concluded that it would have to be pronounced deeper in the throat than normal; at least it would make for a more exotic sound.
A few more moments of scribbling passed, and the Incredible Nightcrawler came away with the groundwork for his name in Arabic: Kaaf, Ayn, Taa, Waaw, Alif, Ghayn, Nuun, Ayn. That took care of the consonants and the one long vowel… next came the short vowels; one had to be placed on every consonant that did not precede a long vowel.
Caught up in the excitement of his experiment, Kurt quickly swapped pen and paper for the careworn hardback he had found in the Professor's vast collection. He swore softly in his native tongue as it fell closed, losing his place. As he opened it again, he was struck by the faded stamp on the inner cover: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
Taken aback, Kurt decided to break for a moment to consider the book's past: had Professor Xavier once spent hours poring over this textbook just as Kurt himself was now doing? Was it merely part of a donation of surplus materials that had outlived their university lives? Had some previous inhabitant of the Institute left it behind when he or she outgrew the Mansion's confines and set off for greener pastures?
The blue teen shook his head. This speculation, while fascinating, could wait until after he had finished with his original task.
Flipping through the yellowed pages until he reached the section on diacritical marks, he took hold of the pen with his tail and began slowly adding the appropriate short vowel marks over the letters in his name. It was simple work, if a bit limiting, to choose between just three vowels. A moment later, he paused. What would he do for the combinations of letters in his name that had no vowel to separate them?
Kurt's eyes raced from one end of the page to the other, searching for a solution to his dilemma, when they fell upon a small circle. Below it in English was a name and a definition: Sukun— Silence. Arabic did not simply leave letters without vowels; it actively silenced them.
The boy set down both pen and book, and his tail resumed its position stroking behind his ear. The philosophical implications of this discovery were simply too profound to pass up. This whole exercise of writing his name was, after all, a way of expressing his identity. His name, while perhaps not entirely his, given his adoptive childhood, was as much a part of him as his fangs, his fur, his oddly-shaped feet.
He was Kurt Wagner, not Kurt Summers or Kurt Xavier or even Kurt Darkholme, though the latter might well have been his name under different circumstances. Circumstances had not only given him his name, but had shaped him as a person; each twist along the way, each letter silenced, had led him to this particular moment.
Waterfall. His own mother had thrown him over a waterfall. Whatever motivations or justifications she might have had or later tried to convince herself she had had, the simple truth was that that act had destroyed her chance at that place in his heart that bore the name Mother. Sukun.
Family. As one path in life had closed off in front of him, a childhood as Mystique's son forever silenced in the rush of a waterfall, he had flowed into a new place, a new home, a future completely separate from and beyond what his birth mother might have envisioned. It was then that he had been given the name Kurt Wagner, the particular mix of letters and syllables that had become irrevocably bonded with his personal identity. It was then that he had been found by his family, the band of Romani who nursed him to health and reared him as they had any other Romani child, braving unwanted attention from outsiders and tolerating the antics of an overactive youngster with a penchant for practical jokes and climbing on absolutely everything in sight.
Kurt was painfully aware of how easy it would have been to put him in a cage, to raise him as a sideshow freak; make a fortune off of admissions to see the "demon child" in all its furry glory, and then sell him off to some wealthy patron's menagerie once he no longer brought them sufficient profit; but instead they had chosen to raise him as a son, and later to train him as an acrobat.
His troupe, the family that had treated him far better than his own blood, would forever hold a place in his heart. The memories he had of them still chimed within him like notes of happy music, giving him a safe haven within his mind when the world's cruelty threatened to drive him to despair. But those days were gone forever, torn from him like the life of one he had held dear.
Stefan. He had never meant to harm Stefan. It was the single most terrible event of his life: not even his brush with death at Winzeldorf gave him worse nightmares. With just one betrayal by his treacherous tail, he had murdered his stepbrother and lost any hope of being able to face his adoptive family again. It had been an accident, certainly, but that acknowledgement did nothing to bring Stefan back. Kurt was responsible. Stefan, his closest friend and brother in all but blood, had been eternally silenced, and Kurt had been left completely alone. Sukun.
America. Having lost all but his own life and wishing for that to be taken as well, Kurt had found himself welcomed nonetheless into Professor Xavier's mansion, into the patchwork family these mutants had created for themselves.
He had weathered Kitty's screams and the Brotherhood's jeers, pushing onward until he had wriggled his way into his teammates' hearts as the Fuzzy One, an incorrigible prankster and doggedly loyal friend.
Kurt had been afraid that he would never find love again, and yet here he was, surrounded by it at every turn. Whatever his life might have been in Germany was and always would be silent, but his new life in America still rang out; a resonant chord, deeper, fuller, more mature than the happy notes of his childhood.
It was true that many paths had been shut to Kurt, many letters silenced forever with an indelible sukun. Still, these letters helped to form part of him; in some form, he was defined nearly as much by who he was not as who he was.
He was not Mystique's son but for a stray chromosome and an X-gene, and that fact made it possible for him to be the beloved elfin son of the circus. He could never return to Germany and face his adoptive family with Stefan's death weighing so heavily on him, yet this only made him all the more grateful to have found a family at the Xavier Institute. His life was filled with sound and silence alike, intermingled and intertwined to bring him to where and who he was.
A peaceful smile spread across Kurt's face, and for once he was not self-conscious as it pulled his fangs into view. Pen and paper came to hand once more as he finished the process he had begun, taking a much deeper satisfaction out of seeing the clash of vowel versus sukun than he might have before. There it was, flowing right to left; a series of interconnected letters that, when pronounced, defined him— Kurt Wagner.
Gathering the materials in his hands and tail, he gave a Cheshire grin to the darkness and disappeared in his characteristic puff of brimstone, leaving the waxing moon as sole witness.