Mixed Feelings

BY : Panduki
Category: X-Men - Animated Series (all) > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 827
Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men Evolution or any characters contained therein and no profit/money is being made from this story, much as it would be delightful to! My OC, Kiro (a.k.a "Ghost"), however, is definitely mine!

Author's Note: Welcome to my story! Please read, enjoy (hopefully!) and review!

Things start to take a rather dark turn in this chapter, and it will get worse in the chapters to come. Be warned!


"Up and at 'em, elf, ghost!" Came a thump from Logan on the door, startling Kurt awake as he sat up in bed, a bleary-eyed Kiro beside him also sitting up in confusion. The alarm hadn't gone off. Had they forgot to set it?

Kurt blinked as he looked over at Kiro's beside clock. 5:30 AM.

"Vas..?" Then he blinked. Logan. They must be about to have one of their surprise training sessions. He groaned. They were never too harrowing, especially on a school day, but it was still an unpleasant surprise that made him hate Mondays even more when they happened.

"Let's go, runts!" Logan could be heard yelling down the hall outside, "Everyone in uniform and down in the Danger Room in 5 minutes!"

Kurt grumbled, but began to get out of bed, as did Kiro as well. Both of them, perhaps due to Kiro's powers, were quite recuperated from last night, and Kurt even felt energized, somehow, as if he had already had a nice cup of coffee. Of course, that could also be the "morning after" effect of having a lover, just amplified with Kiro's abilities. The thought made him smile. "C'mon, mein engel, Herr Logan does -not- like to be kept waiting!" He warned as he went over to the closet and hurriedly began to suit up.

Kiro, in another demonstration of his monastic discipline, seemed to be fully awake already, and nodded as he went over to the closet beside Kurt and slipped his uniform on. This was the first time Kurt had seen it, and he had to admit, it was rather impressive. Both subdued and elegant, and quite fitting for Kiro. After a quick moment spent tying his hair back into that sort of modified topknot he had worn during their first Sunday out together, he carefully tucked his hair into his hood and drew it up, before finally nodding and letting Kurt know he was ready.

"Alright, let's introduce you to the Danger Room," Kurt said with a grin. Kiro had been there a couple of times before, just to see it, but now he would actually join his fellow mutants to take part in a training exercise. Hopefully nothing too hazardous, Kurt hoped, as they took each other's hand and then Kurt *BAMF!*ed them down several levels to the danger room hall below.

-------

"Hurry up with those mats, Half-Pint, Rogue!" Logan ordered as he and Scott continued to push over a couple of heavy bags to the little training area they had chosen in the Danger Room.

Logan, true to form, had foregone the particularly hazardous training exercises today, and instead focused on just basic calisthenics, conditioning, and now, martial-arts, perhaps due to Kiro's first session.

Kiro was unfortunately not quite as used to physical training as he was to normal labor, but Logan was patient with him as he put him and the other mutants through several standard exercises. Push ups, pull-ups, crunches, squats, a quick run around the danger room, navigating low obstacles. It was both a good warm up for the regular team and a nice introduction for their newcomer, Thaumaturge.

They had all worked up a sweat and were now taking a moment's breather while the practice-mats were laid out, and Logan nodded critically. "Alright. Half-Pint, Elf, Cyke, Stripes, Ice Cube," he pointed to several of them, "You're on this bag. Thirty seconds each to tell it how much you hate Mondays," Logan ordered, causing a soft rumble of chuckles through the group, "then rotate through the line. While the rest of you wait, stand in place and practice your strikes. The rest of you, same thing on this bag-" He pointed to the other bag.

Kiro blinked and started to file over to the second line, but was stopped with Logan's hand on his shoulder, "Not you, Ghost. You're with me. Time for your first lesson in hand-to-hand," Logan said, his voice firm. When they walked over to the mats, Logan pointed to the spot in front of him, and when Kiro stood there to face Logan, Logan raised his hands in a fighting stance.

Kiro shifted nervously, looking up at the beefy Canadian with a hint of fear, but Logan just peered back down at him and said, "Alright, Ghost. Rule number 1: Never let them know how scared you are. No fear. Let's see that courage, now." Kiro's expression shifted, and then became impassive, the barest hint of fright in his eyes, as he raised his hands up in a manner similar to Logan's, both of them formed into un-accustomed fists.

'Well, we were all beginners one day,' Logan mused with a mental smirk. As the sound of the other students striking and kicking the heavy bags rang throughout the Danger Room, Logan began to teach Kiro. It was a different fighting style than the type he taught most of the others. He tended to tailor what he taught to each student, anyway, taking advantage of their builds, their natural dispositions, and also their powers when possible.

Kiro, however, was the first teenager he had ever taught who would be learning Aikijutsu, something that Logan used somewhat rarely, but still considered an important toolkit in his arsenal, due to his own small size compared to most. His first lesson actually did not involve much in the way of technique. Instead, he carefully corrected Kiro's stance, ensuring that his knees were bent, his hips tucked in under his spine, and his back was straight. Additionally, his hands were kept open, not in fists at all, and instead resting at his sides with the elbows bent and hands slightly forward. Relaxed, but poised at the same time, ready to react to whatever came against him.

Afterwards, Logan began to push Kiro with a firm hand on his chest. Back and forth, side to side, backwards, and then pulling him forwards, the whole time ordering him to stay 'rooted.' "Feel the ground under yer feet, Ghost. Think about it in the back of your mind. Relax and sink down. Don't let me move you. If I control your weight, I win. And if you control the weight of your attacker, you'll win against anyone," he said with a nod. Kiro had landed on his rear, side, or belly more than a few times that morning before he started to have any idea what he was doing, but it was still clear he would need more time before he had learned the technique. Logan's assurances, though, helped to assuage his bruised pride, and soon Logan issued a sharp order to the rest of the students and had them spread out on the mats around them.

The other students had been ordered to "free-spar," and in his peripheral vision Kiro was aware of them trading jabs, punches, kicks and takedowns with one another. Occasionally a hard smack followed by an exclamation was heard, causing Kiro to flinch and look over in concern. This, however, earned him a sharp, but gentle cuff to the side of his head, "No distractions now, Ghost, eyes on your attacker," Logan warned. Kiro nodded and kept his violet eyes on Logan for the rest of their session.

Logan now began to teach him how to relax. The most important skill in Aiki-jutsu, it seemed. Every time Logan grabbed him, and he tensed up, Logan repeated the same order, "Relax, Ghost. Flow with it. Resist, and it'll hurt you. Go with what I'm doing, just like a river." Logan once again began to push and pull him around, and then, to Kiro's surprise, began to throw him. It wasn't anything crazy, but Kiro landed hard on his back, side, and belly several times as Logan seemingly effortlessly guided him around, as if he were a freshly-felled tree that was just waiting to fall somewhere.

But under Logan's guidance, he continued to relax. And the more he relaxed, the more he realized his body seemed to naturally want to roll with the energy Logan gave him, and not just smack into the mat like he had to begin with. It was a curious, albeit somewhat painful, lesson, though thankfully the pain was rather momentary due to their shared healing ability. He may not have been as graceful here was he was elsewhere, yet, especially since he had not been properly taught how to roll, but Logan smiled when he saw the albino once again roll smoothly out of a throw and come up to a crouch, peering alertly at him from the ground, even without instruction.

"Alright, good job, Ghost. Good job," Logan said with approval, nodding. It seemed like he had chosen the art well, as Kiro seemed to be demonstrating a natural knack for it. With a sharp whistle, all activity around the mat ceased, and Logan glanced up at the clock on the nearby wall. 6:50 AM. A few minutes before the time they would normally be waking up.

"Okay, X-Men," Logan said as he looked around. The team were sweating, disheveled, and there were actually several bruises and a couple of black eyes around the mat, but they looked happy, all things considered. Perhaps because of having a new member on the team today. "Anybody with serious boo-boos," Logan ordered, the smirk on his face obvious, "Head over to the side here and see Ghost, he'll patch ya up. The rest of ya, help tidy up these mats and bags, then cool down for a few minutes while we wait on your nurse, here. Good work this morning!" Logan concluded, and a few surprised looks went around the room before the X-Men began to do as he said. True, the session had gone well, and it was fairly simple today, but perhaps Logan was in a good mood for some reason.

Those with serious bruises and particularly black eyes formed a small line in front of Kiro, and he smiled up at each of them as he took turns laying his hands on their injuries. Logan stood nearby and observed with keen interest, and seemed to also be keeping a close eye on his watch. Perhaps there was another reason behind this particular training session, after all? It seemed to take only a few seconds before the mutants reported feeling better, and just a few seconds more before their bruises had vanished. Even the black eyes were gone in perhaps 10 seconds total, even when Kiro had one hand resting on two students, Ray and Sam, on either side of him. The two had rather comically landed a punch in each other's face at exactly the same time.

Once everyone was "patched up," Logan had them all do some quick stretches and cool down exercises, and then nodded. The clock was now 7:02 AM. "Alright, head on upstairs and get ready for school. Get to it!" He ordered crisply, and with a small cheer from several of the students, they took off at a trot to the door of the Danger Room. Kurt paused where he had been about to follow the others when he noticed Kiro approaching Logan, and approached them himself with curiousity. Kiro's hood was still up, so he could not see Kiro's expression, but Logan looked down at Kiro with a small smile (now that the rest of the mutants had departed) after Kiro made a gesture with his hands, and shook his head before responding to an apparent question, "Ya did fine, Ghost. Don't worry about it. It was your first lesson. We'll have plenty more. I think you've got a knack for this, most don't learn how to fall or roll that well on their first lesson."

Kiro drew back his hood, and now Kurt could see him smiling. There was a soft dew of sweat on his face, and his cheeks were flushed, but his smile was bright and genuine. As far as Kurt was concerned, he looked even lovelier. Clearly, Logan's praise meant a great deal to him, and Kurt found himself smiling as well at the bond between the two. He knew it must hurt Logan a bit, to see someone so similar to his lover's namesake, but at the same time, perhaps that might explain the ease of their bond, and how much Logan seemed to care for him, even after only a month together.

Kurt was shocked out of his thoughts as one of Logan's gloves socked him in the face, and he startled with a small jump, exclaiming "AH! Vas?!"

"Spacial awareness, elf. Caught ya starin'," Logan taunted him with a playful smirk, a glove missing from his right hand. Beside him, Kiro was giggling silently. He then rushed over to give Kurt a tight hug, and a furtive kiss on the cheek, before Logan growled behind them, "Alright, you two. Clock's tickin'. Head on upstairs and get ready for school, or we're going another few rounds!"

That threat got them moving, and after a pair of waves toward a smiling Logan, Kurt tossed the glove back to the Wolverine and then ported the two of them upstairs to their room.

------

"You're sure about this, Kurt?" Scott asked as they sat at the breakfast table. Around them, there was a steady bustle of their fellow students all getting ready for school. Preparing and eating breakfast, chatting with one another about this class or that one, the occasional playful tease toward Kurt and Kiro as they sat side by side at the breakfast table, and otherwise getting ready to face another Monday. Many had been impressed once again by Kiro's healing abilities after their Danger Room session, remarking at how they didn't even feel the least bit sore from either the workout or the sparring sessions afterwards. Though Rogue had seemed to have mixed feelings about it. "After all," she drawled with a roll of her eyes, "Who's to say ol' Logan won't use it as an excuse to work us even harder?" The collective groan that followed illustrated the fearful truth behind her words.

"Ja, I'm sure. We're sure," Kurt replied, squeezing Kiro's hand beside him. They had decided that they would not hide their relationship, even at Bayville High. Whether through the boost of confidence that had happened, even over such a short time as this weekend had been, or through the support of their family and teachers at the Institute, Kurt had felt it was the only right thing to do. He would be proud of his relationship with Kiro, and if anyone gave them any problems, they would deal with it. And their fellow Institute students would be right there to support them, Kurt had been reminded just a moment ago. But Scott, ever the conscientious leader, had wanted to make sure he was certain.

Kurt and Kiro sat together at the breakfast table, with Scott, Jean, and Rogue across from them, while the rest of the students were gathered around, or going to and from their rooms to grab their things. They would have to be on the road in about ten minutes, so most were just finishing their breakfast or digesting what they had just eaten.

Scott's smile was genuine as he nodded, "Well alright. I don't blame you. You've got all of us at your back, you two, and I bet that'll take some of the wind out of Matthews' sails to have him try and taunt us about you guys, and us not give the slightest damn." Beside him, Jean nodded as well, though a quick glance at her watch made her frown, "Ugh. Why can't time pass this quickly during our classes? I'd better grab my stuff, Scott," she excused herself and headed upstairs quickly. "Sure thing, Jean!" Scott called after her, and stood up from the table as well with a small stretch, "Man, even with that touch you gave me earlier, Kiro, I'm still feeling that shot Jean gave me in the ribs," He confessed, and Kiro blinked up at him with some concern, starting to rise from the table.

Scott chuckled, "Nah, don't worry about it, Kiro. There's no bruise anymore. She just got me pretty good. That time of the month, maybe. I guess that's something you two don't have to worry about, though," he said with a good-natured grin. Kiro seemed confused, but Kurt just laughed, "Better hope she didn't hear you, Scott," he warned him with a smirk once he had recovered. Across the table, Rogue just scowled, "No kiddin', bet she'll give ya a kick somewhere else than your ribs!"

"I'll find out soon enough," Scott said with a shrug and a lopsided grin. "Alright, I'm gonna go warm up the car, you guys meet me outside when you're ready," he then said as he went out the door to the garage.

Once Kurt and Kiro had finished their breakfast, Kurt ported them both up to their room to brush their teeth and grab their bags. Both of them blushed when they noticed the plush pink towels still hanging in their bathroom and draped over their office chairs, a clear reminder of last night's mischief, and Kurt giggled before saying, "Totally worth it. Even if you are crazy sometimes, mein engel." Beside him, Kiro just grinned around his toothbrush, leaning over to playfully bump hips with him before they finished getting ready.

---------

"It's a good thing y'all are so tiny!" Rogue mused with a grin as they once again squeezed into Scott's car together. Scott and Jean were in the front two seats, while Rogue, Kurt, Kiro and Kitty were smooshed in the back. Not too bad, but enough that Kiro's abilities were immediately apparent in both Kurt and Kitty on either side of him. "Hey, like, I'm not complaining one bit!" Kitty said with a giggle and a blush to her cheeks.

"Best cure for a Monday: Hug Kiki the Human Teddy Bear," Jean quipped, and all of them laughed as Scott pulled the car out of the garage and set off down the drive towards the gate. "Alright, everybody buckled up?" He asked as a quick reminder, and they all nodded. Kurt and Kiro had had to share a seatbelt, but it still counted as far as they were concerned.

"Full speed ahead, Mr. Summers!" Kurt ordered, and Scott flashed a playful glare in the rear-view mirror, "Alright, no back-seat Captain-ing, Kurt!"

"Aye-aye, helmsman!" Kurt taunted, and laughed as Scott reached back to try and playfully swat him. Once the gate had opened, they were off down the road to school. Despite himself, and despite it being a Monday, Kurt felt good. Really good. This was the first Monday he could ever remember feeling so optimistic about his life.

---------

Kurt groaned as the timer sounded, and he rested his head on his chin as he reluctantly turned his paper over. He hadn't failed, he knew that much, but it was still nerve-wracking to be so uncertain about several of the answers. Today's test had been the last thing on his mind this weekend, for obvious reasons. And while he certainly didn't regret a minute of his time together with Kiro, the fact that he had not studied as much as he should have gnawed at him now. But there was nothing to be done about it now.

"Alright everyone, pass your tests forward, please," the teacher, Mrs. Keating, called, and Kurt did so. Nearby, he saw scattered looks of dismay on several other students as well. To be fair, it had been a difficult test. He was normally very good at chemistry, though, and his mind had been unusually calm and focused today. Perhaps because of how wonderful the weekend had been.

Mrs. Keating was a small, rather attractively built woman with a kind smile and laugh lines around her bright blue eyes, framed by a pair of stylish, simple glasses. She had a dark tan from many years outside, though she clearly looked just as comfortable in a lab as she would have on a beach. Her dirty blonde hair was kept short in a nicely styled bob cut, and she acted (and looked) much younger than the telltale lines around her eyes would suggest, perhaps late thirties or early forties. Even dressed in a simple cream blouse and dark brown skirt as she was now, with her winter coat draped across the back of her chair, she was rather lovely. Not too long ago, Kurt had heard several of the male students in class refer to her as a "MILF," something that had made him blush when he searched the meaning on the internet. Now, however, he felt quite secure in his commitment to Kiro, his angel. Kurt sighed softly and wondered how he was doing in his English class right now.

"Mr. Wagner, do you want credit for this test?" Mrs. Keating's voice broke through his thoughts, and Kurt jumped a bit in his chair as he answered, somewhat confused, "Um, ja, please?"

"Then perhaps it would be a good idea to put your name on it," she pointed out with a snide grin, holding up his test. Sure enough, he had completely forgotten to put his name or today's date at the top. "Good thing your handwriting is so recognizable. Almost as bad as mine," she continued, with a small rumble of chuckles throughout the class. Sheepishly, Kurt stood up and went to her desk to sign his name, before returning to his seat, missing the lingering glance she gave him.

No sooner had he sat down, however, than the lunch bell rang, "Alright everyone, I'll have these graded and back to you by tomorrow. May God have mercy on your souls," she warned, and there was some half-hearted laughs throughout the class as they all rose from their chairs and gathered their bags.

"Mr. Wagner, I'd like to see you for a moment, please," Mrs. Keating once again called, and Kurt paused while the rest of the students left, blushing visibly as a couple teasing wolf-whistles sounded from a couple of the boys before the door shut behind them. Approaching her desk, he nodded respectfully, "Yes, Mrs. Keating?" he asked, the room now as silent as it had been during the test, only the two of them present now.

"Kurt, I noticed you'd been having some trouble focusing the past few weeks, especially last week. I had meant to talk to you on Friday, but you were out the door already. You seem better today, though," She observed, peering up at him over the rim of her glasses. "Is everything alright?"

Kurt surprised himself with a smile down at her, and nodded, "Ja, Mrs. Keating, everything is going just fine," he answered, and the happiness in his voice was genuine.

Her smile made him blush, though, as she quirked a brow and looked up at him with a smile, "Found another girl?" She asked, taking a moment to finish stacking the tests and securing them with a paperclip while she waited for his answer.

"Umm, nein, not exactly," Kurt admitted. He, like many of the male students in class, had been rather caught off guard by her beauty, even in spite of her age. She was clearly a confident woman who took care of herself, and had made a living as a research scientist before she settled into the "quiet" life of teaching at Bayville High. Her husband apparently taught at one of the local colleges, but Kurt couldn't remember which one.

"Oh?" Mrs. Keating asked, as she leaned back in her chair, crossing her legs demurely. "From the way you were acting, I'd swear you were having some sort of relationship or family trouble. You had me worried, especially when you did so poorly on that quiz last week," she explained, and Kurt winced at the memory. It was organic chemistry, normally one of his "cinch" subjects. He was even considering making it a potential college major. But he had been rather torn up about his feelings for Kiro, still, and his mind had simply been unable to focus at the time.

"Well, you're right, it was, um, relationship trouble, but it's okay now," Kurt assured her, and smiled again. Mrs. Keating nodded, "Well, as long as you're alright, Kurt. What's her name?" She asked with a conspiratorial wink.

Kurt immediately blushed again, and rubbed the back of his neck, debating whether or not to fib. But his earlier promise, to himself as well as Kiro, came back to him, and he finally steeled himself and admitted, "Um, -his- name is.. Kiro."

Mrs. Keating raised both brows then, apparently genuinely surprised. But after a moment, she then smiled, and her smile was wide, "Well, that explains a lot, Kurt. But you say you two are doing okay now?" She asked, concern once again back in her voice.

"Ja, Mrs. Keating. We're doing, well, more than okay," Kurt said with a blush, and Mrs. Keating let out a soft chuckle as she rose from the desk, a stack of papers and books under her arm. "Good, Kurt. I'm glad to hear it. I hope I get a chance to meet him sometime. Anyone who can make you smile like that sounds like a keeper to me, especially if it means you're back to being one of my star pupils," she said as she walked with him to the door of her classroom. Outside, students were still filing down the hall toward the cafeteria and the patio outside, and Kurt nodded before he grinned and agreed, "Ja, he is definitely a keeper, for sure!"

-----------

"Hey, there they are!" Kitty called as she pointed. She, Scott, Jean, and Rogue were sitting at their usual table in the cafeteria. They had thought about going outdoors to enjoy the cool weather and the clear sunshine, but had decided to wait until Kurt and Kiro showed up to see if they were interested. Kiro still seemed to be cautious about sun exposure, and even though he wore sunblock each time he went outside, he still tended to find shade to stay in, perhaps out of habit.

"Well, it looks like Kurt wasn't kidding about being 'out,'" Scott observed, and Jean followed his gaze to see the two of them holding hands as they approached their table. Kurt and Kiro were both smiling, though Kurt's looked a bit strained as they approached, and Jean could sense a small tremor of unease wafting off of him. He knew better than to think that they shouldn't expect trouble, and Jean felt her heart clench at the thought that the two still felt so threatened about doing something that any other straight couple would do without a second thought.

"Yeah, bro's got guts, that's for sure," Rogue said proudly, and reached up to give the two a wave as they got closer. Her expression immediately changed to a scowl though when the boys stumbled and nearly fell, a large senior she didn't recognize at the table beside them quickly retracting his leg with a sneer. She didn't hear what he said, but from Kurt's reaction the boy must have been insulting them. Kurt snapped something back, and immediately continued walking towards where Scott and the others were sitting. The senior stood up, and seemed about ready to approach them, but was apparently talked down by some of the others at his table.

When Kurt and Kiro finally arrived, Kurt had carefully put a pleasant smile back on his face, and Jean looked up at him kindly, "Well, at least the day's half over, hm?" She said with a shrug, and felt a small sense of relief when Kurt's smile softened as well, though his eyes were conflicted. "Ja, Jean, it's just.." he said, then trailed off.

"Ah know, bro," Rogue said, scooching over on her bench to make room for the two of them. "But hay, you know how those jackasses are, once the novelty wears off they'll probably find somebody else to pick on. Especially when they realize that you and we aren't gonna put up with that crap."

"Speaking of 'picking on,'" Kitty warned with a growl, before tossing her head toward the direction of a certain Brotherhood mutant approaching them, flanked by two others. Sure enough, Lance had apparently decided to start his weekly routine a little early today. And this time, Fred and Pietro were with him. Todd was nowhere in sight, but Kurt was sure the Toad was somewhere nearby. Though, to his credit, Todd at least seemed to have been nowhere near as serious about their bullying of Kiro as the others had.

"Well well, if it isn't our resident geek squad and the happy fag couple," Lance sneered, and beside him, Pietro and Fred laughed. "Hey, 'Kiki,' surprised you aren't wearing a dress today. What's wrong? Trying to hide what you really are, you little sissy bitch?" Lance said, loud enough for a couple of tables nearby to hear him. Clearly they were looking to start trouble. Kurt felt himself flush with anger, but a touch to his arm by Rogue helped to restrain him a bit. He had no intention of letting any of them cow him into submission, but at the same time, a cafeteria brawl wouldn't help matters either. Much as he wanted to pound Lance's face in, right that minute.

'Don't, Kurt, please,' he heard Jean in his head, and he realized he had perhaps been broadcasting his deepest wish right then. Beside him, however, Kiro just looked up at the three Brotherhood mutants, his violet eyes sad. Violence, it seemed, was still something that was just foreign to his nature. Rather than the anger that Kurt felt, Kiro just seemed to pity them, even though there was clearly also fear in his eyes. Fear for himself, and fear for the others at the table. Beside him, Kurt could feel Kiro beginning to trembling softly.

"Funny hearing you call him that, Lance, seeing as how you seem to think you need backup just to get anywhere near him. You afraid he might seduce you or something?" Kurt taunted, and his words dripped with venom. "You do seem awful interested in him, ja? Almost obsessed? Too bad. He's MY boyfriend, not yours, no matter how bad you want him!" Kurt said, his voice growing louder as well, and an edge of both protectiveness and slowly broiling anger emerging. Around them, a few in the cafeteria laughed, and off to the side, somebody make a remark about "Lance the fag chaser." His taunt, the underlying accusation, and turning Lance's own remark against him, worked wonders. Lance immediately grew red with anger, and beneath them, the ground trembled, "Why you little fag, you callin' me a-"

"-Ja, I am. And you'd better back off if you know what's good for you!" Kurt snapped back, his voice raising to a full on shout as he rose from his seat at the table. By now, their little confrontation had attracted the attention of several more tables in the cafeteria, and Scott also stood from the table. "Alright! Simmer down, both of you! Alvers, back the hell off!" Scott warned, his voice having to raise as chanting began from one of the nearby tables.

"Fag bash! Fag bash! Fag bash!"

"Oh my fucking GAWD," Rogue snarled. It was the table that senior had been sitting at. And they seemed to be cheering Lance on. Lance had been particularly vicious to Kiro over the past couple of weeks, his initial crush on the albino "girl" backfiring spectacularly. But it had festered into deep resentment, even hatred, and perhaps Kurt had indeed struck a nerve when he questioned Lance's sexuality with his insult.

"Boys, please, do not do this!" Kitty said with an edge of panic in their voice. She had never seen Kurt this angry, this bitter, and it seemed that he had combined both his anger at being treated so scornfully his whole life because of his appearance with how he was being treated today as a "fag." Almost as if there were something else going on.

But it didn't matter. Her words fell on deaf ears.

Scott had only a second's warning before Fred's hand snatched Kurt's arm and yanked him over the table to stagger in front of Lance. Lance's fist immediately connected with Kurt's jaw before Kurt even had time to think about blocking or dodging, and he staggered backward with a snarl, held firm by Fred's grip, as Lance landed a follow-up to Kurt's nose, both solid hits. Scott immediately surged forward to shoulder-check Fred and free Kurt from his grasp, before he then turned his attention to Pietro.

Kiro had rushed immediately to Kurt's side, and had his arms around the other boy to try to shield him with his back to Lance while he recovered from Lance's haymaker. It had been a solid hit, and Kurt was still stunned, even trying to struggle free of Kiro's grasp until he felt the boy's healing powers go to work. Lance, however, saw and took his opportunity.

While the girls came forward to help Scott deal with Pietro and Fred, and a crowd of raucously cheering students surrounded them, Kurt and Kiro were left to deal with Lance alone. With Kurt doubled over and bleeding from his nose, Kiro was easy prey for Lance. Grabbing the small albino boy by the neck, Lance snarled, "You bitch, you little fucking faggot!!!" in Kiro's ear before he kicked Kurt out of Kiro's arms and then spun the albino around. Kiro's violet eyes flashed in panic before Lance punched Kiro squarely on the cheek, snapping the boy's head to the side. On the backstroke, Lance's elbow connected with Kiro's other cheek, and Lance then began to pound him in earnest. Beneath them, the earth continued to tremor with the force of Lance's hatred, even without consciously trying to use his powers, and Kiro staggered against the force of Lance's blows, while still somehow trying to place himself between Lance and Kurt, who had finally almost recovered from his busted nose, mostly due to Kiro's momentary touch.

The crowd of students pressed in around them, and Kiro felt someone from the crowd grab him and shove him back towards Lance when he staggered away again from a particularly hard punch, and Lance took the chance to deliver a sharp kick to Kiro's gut, staggering him once more and sending him to his knees as the air went out of his lungs. Lance's fist connected once again, this time squarely against Kiro's nose, smashing it viciously under the force of his anger. Kiro crumpled to his side, curling up into a ball in an effort to try and defend himself. Lance was about to deliver another kick to Kiro's stomach or perhaps his ribs, when Kurt slammed into him in a body-tackle, roaring like an enraged beast, sending them both slamming into Fred, who had his hands full trying to deal with combined attacks from Scott, Rogue, and Kitty. He already had two black eyes, and a busted nose himself, but the Blob was as ever implacable, especially with them unable to use their powers for fear of being discovered. Pietro, at least, was crumpled in a heap on the ground, and from where his hands were braced as he writhed in pain, it seemed Scott had quickly and easily dealt with him by giving a firm kick to his groin.

Fred was staggered by Kurt slamming Lance into him, and Kurt soon had Lance slammed onto the floor as well, now giving him blow after blow to the face, shouting curses at him in German. Nobody could quite understand what they meant, but Jean found herself shuddering at the anger, perhaps even years of pent-up anguish and resentment, that they revealed. There was a special undercurrent to it, one that frightened her. She got the feeling, briefly, that this went beyond simple bullying. Even Lance, it seemed, was stunned by the assault, and could only try to shield himself from Kurt's punches, his lip and nose already bleeding, looking not unlike Kurt above him. His injuries showed even through his image inducer. Kiro had crawled over, still in obvious pain, but was trying, unsuccessfully, to calm Kurt down while Kurt continued to kneel on Lance's chest, pinning him to the floor. Kiro's nose had stopped bleeding, and even the ugly bruises on his face were already starting to fade due to his powers, but he still looked like quite a mess with blood all over his nose, lips, and chin, and tears streaming down his cheeks.

"THAT'S ENOUGH! BREAK IT UP RIGHT NOW, ALL OF YOU!!!!" Came a furious shout from nearby.

The crowd around them immediately dispersed, the chanting of "Fag bash!!" finally stopping, as students pretended to have never been interested in the melee that had just gone down. Principal Kelley was soon storming across the cafeteria, flanked by one of the police officers assigned to the school, and anger radiated off him in waves. Fred dropped Kitty whom he had been holding up by the back of her shirt, and she staggered away with a cough, trying to catch her breath. Meanwhile, Scott backed off as well, immediately going to Kiro's side to help him pull Kurt off of Lance, still spitting invectives at him in German.

"Shut it, you fucking fag bitch, you got exactly what you deserved! Both of you! And I got plenty more where that came from!" Lance spat right back, even as his words were slurred from what must have been a broken nose. Kurt's fury had held nothing back, and it was a wonder he hadn't just strangled Lance right then and there, Jean realized with a tremor of fear. Once again, the force of Kurt's rage stunned her. She could never remember seeing him this angry.

"You shut yer goddamn mouth, you bastard! Nobody talks to my bro or his boyfriend like that!!!!" Rogue shouted at Lance, her own rage clear. But at a stern look from Principal Kelley, she backed away, helping Jean back to her feet from where she had been knocked down by Fred and almost hit her head on the floor. Kitty, too, had finally seemed to recover, though she had a shiner beneath her eye that was already starting to blacken.

"Kurt, c'mon man, snap out of it! C'mon!" Scott pleaded, his hands on Kurt's shoulders as he knelt in front of his best friend and looked him square in the face, trying to catch his gaze. "You're better than him, Kurt. You know you are. Don't let him win this," Scott continued, even as Lance laughed at them and stood up to stand beside a barely-recovered Pietro and Fred, perhaps waiting for Principal Kelley to assess the situation.

"Alright, somebody better start talking, or all of you are coming straight to my office to get a suspension!" Principal Kelley ordered, his arms folding across his chest as he glared at them collectively. "It was Alvers," Jean began immediately, rubbing at the back of her head with a wince, "He, Fred and Pietro came over to start trouble with Kurt and Kiro-"

"Fucking fags! BURN IN HELL!" came a shout from nearby, and it was greeted rather horrifically with scattered applause around the cafeteria, most having stopped eating to now watch the proceedings.

"SHUT IT!" Principal Kelley yelled, and his voice filled the cafeteria, immediately quieting every student in the room once more. Jean had to hand it to him, the man knew how to command a presence. Scott, meanwhile, had finally succeeded in calming Kurt down, and Kurt and Kiro were hugging one another where they knelt on the floor, apparently heedless of the many eyes watching them.

"Fine, we'll talk about this outside. All of you, get up and follow me. Now!" Principal Kelley ordered, and turned smoothly on his heel to immediately walk toward the double doors leading out to the patio outside. Under the watchful eyes of the police officer, the bruised and bloody troupe marched out behind him, Pietro walking with a noticeable wince and a limp, Kitty was happy to see.

While Principal Kelley's reputation for being a stern "hard ass" was well-deserved, the man was quite fair in his ruling. Once Jean had calmly explained what had happened, corroborated by a couple of witnesses the police officer had selected on the way out, Principal Kelley's decision had come swiftly, and based purely on the fact that Fred and Lance had made the first physical attack. A simple "Who threw the first punch?" decision, albeit one that could perhaps sometimes be a little too simple.

Nonetheless, his ruling was, "Alvers, Duke, Maximoff, you are to report to my office. I'll decide what to do with you there momentarily." The Brotherhood mutants sneered at Kurt and Kiro, and Lance in particular spat, "Fucking fags. I'm not finished with you, that's a promise. Especially you, you little bitch," he spat at Kiro before he was steered firmly toward the office by the police officer, Officer Giles.

"As for the rest of you," Principal Kelley said as he turned back towards Kurt, Kiro, Kitty, Scott, and Jean, most of them looking worse for wear. Kiro had tried to touch them, but Jean had quickly stopped him. 'Your powers have to stay secret too, Kiro, you can heal us later. Believe me, we'll appreciate it,' Jean had assured him, and Kiro had nodded, tears continuing to leak from his eyes. Clearly, this fight had shaken him. Even now, he was trembling as Principal Kelley's eyes glared at them.

"You're not going to be suspended, since you were clearly just defending yourselves, but still. It takes two to tango, Summers, and I would have been a lot happier if you hadn't turned this into a full on barfight in the middle of my cafeteria," He said, and Scott nodded with a respectful, "Understood, sir," causing a small trickle of blood to fall from his chin. He had caught a couple of blows to the face, himself, but thankfully none had broken his glasses.

"What were we supposed to do, though, Principal Kelley?" Kurt asked, and his eyes were raw with anger, still, as well as fear. "Just.. stand there and take it?" He continued, incredulity in his voice. Beside him, Kiro's hand saught his, and squeezed gently.

"Listen, Wagner," Principal Kelley said, "I'm not exactly supportive of this.. lifestyle choice of your's," Kurt blinked and he saw Scott stiffen noticeably beside him, "But you must have known this would happen by flaunting it the way you were this morning." Kitty and Rogue both gaped, and outrage flashed in Rogue's eyes, but a quick gesture from Scott had them both back down. Kurt, however, hadn't seen Scott's gesture. "Flaunting it?!" Kurt exclaimed, "We were just holding hands in the hall!" he continued, his voice raising, and he looked about ready to start yelling before Scott firmly placed a hand over his friend's mouth, whispering harshly, "Cool it, Kurt, let's not get in any more trouble here, alright? This is Principal Kelley you're talking to, not Alvers."

"Principal Kelley, please," Jean said, her voice calm, and hands out in a placating gesture, "Kurt and Kiro aren't asking for your, um, support, or approval. Just that you take your duty as a principal seriously, as you have done just now, and let them continue their studies in peace." Beside her, Kitty frowned, but nodded. It seemed it was the best they were going to get. After all, Principal Kelley had clearly not condoned the attack, and his actions seemed as fair as they had always been.

"Fair enough," Principal Kelley said, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Perhaps I shouldn't have said that. But I expect you all to try to behave with a little more tact in the future, and hopefully avoid these kinds of altercations. I've already had to have a little chat with what's his name.. Matthews.. about this boy," he nodded towards Kiro, "And it just seems like this is throwing gasoline on that fire."

"We didn't ask for a fight, sir, and you know that," Scott said with a shrug, "But you've seen how Kiki is," he added. At Principal Kelley's raised brow, Scott managed a smile, "Sorry, that's Kiro's nickname at the Institute. But, um, you've seen how he is. He's quiet and gentle, about as non-violent as it gets. We're not about to just stand by while he's assaulted. And his boyfriend, Mr. Wagner, definitely isn't," Scott added, noticing Kurt's protective arm around Kiro's hips. Kiro's tears had stopped, and his head was now resting on Kurt's shoulder, violet eyes on the ground.

Principal Kelley sighed, "Well, I guess you've got a point. But just promise me you'll do everything you can to de-escalate the situation first? Call a teacher, for God's sake?" He finally concluded, and removed his glasses for a moment to rub his eyes. Scott imagined that this had probably caused quite a headache for him.

"We'll try, sir," Jean promised, and the rest of them nodded before she continued, "Hopefully once the novelty wears off there won't be anymore trouble. At least, that's what we're hoping for."

Principal Kelley sighed, "You and me both," before he firmly pointed back to the cafeteria doors, dismissing them. With that, the six Institute mutants made their way back into the cafeteria, the conversation around them back to a dull roar.

-------

"Look, dawg, I ain't got any problem with it," Todd said, perched on the bench beside Kurt. He had been sitting at their table when they got back, lunch still in session for another 45 minutes, and despite the unpleasantness that had just happened, they had been determined to resume their meal in peace. At Jean's clever suggestion, Kurt had brought over several wet paper towels, and they had taken turns "cleaning" themselves while Kiro held their free hands, healing their bruises, busted lips, and nosebleeds. While not exactly a perfect subterfuge, it clearly worked, and soon enough they were all back to normal, at least physically, though some lingering bloodstains on their faces helped complete the illusion that they were still at least a little bruised and scuffed, enough that they would be "healed" by tomorrow morning.

Todd's presence had been greeted by some initial hostility, and Kurt had been about to take a swing at him before Scott held him back, causing another worried frown from Jean at Kurt's unusually powerful emotions. But Todd had surprised them all by his reason for being there, "Lance asked me to join in, but I couldn't, y'know?" He confessed, and looked over at Kiro with a mix of emotions in his eyes. Almost all of them, however, positive.

"Y'all call him 'Kiki,' right?" Todd asked, and they nodded, before he continued, "He's been, like, real nice to me and all. Helped me out when I got busted up by some of the football boys, last week." At this, all eyes looked between Todd and Kiro, mingled surprise and a mix of other feelings on their faces. "Nobody's ever been that nice to me, dawg, 'specially after I done nothin' to deserve it," Todd said, and he actually looked bashful, for the first time anyone at the table could remember seeing him. "They left me out behind the field, and I could barely move, yo. Almost felt like they broke somethin'. But then Kiki was there, and he fixed me right up. Made me feel like a million bucks. All smiles and stuff, too! It was.. um.. really nice.." Todd trailed off with a blush, looking particularly unusual on his skin.

"But anyway.. we heard from Matthews and his goons that y'all were, like, a gay couple and stuff," he explained, and at their expressions, he raised his hands to clarify, "Look, dawg, I ain't got any problem with it." He then nodded and continued, "But yo, when Lance heard about it, he just about went ballistic. Especially with Matthews teasin' him 'bout that crush he had on Kiki real hard for a little while, y'know? Said he was gonna bust you up real bad, Kiki," Todd said, and beside him, Kurt felt Kiro shiver. Lance's assault had been perhaps his first real taste of the hatred that people could have for people like them, and Kurt felt his heart twist with concern. But he was soon greeted with another surprise, along with the rest of them at the table, by what Todd revealed next.

"That's why I went to the Principal, yo. Had to tell him shit was about to go down.. I.. I didn't want anybody gettin' hurt. 'Specially not him," he said, nodding towards Kiro. "It's one thing when we get into our lil' scraps," he continued, "But it's another when it looks like Lance really wants to kill somebody," he said with a shiver.

"Wait, you mean that you went and warned Principal Kelley about this?" Kitty asked, clearly incredulous. Beside her, though, Jean nodded. She could tell Todd was telling the truth. "If you, like, weren't so gross, I'd totally hug you right now," Kitty confessed, and her expression was genuine.

"Yeah, Tolansky, that was really cool of you," Scott said with a nod, clearly impressed.

"Gawd damn, that's the first major surprise Ah've had since y'all's secret came out," Rogue mused, looking at Todd with what might have been a small kernel of respect before gesturing toward Kurt and Kiro.

Kurt, for his part, nodded as well, and reached over with a fist toward Todd. Todd, again in a small surprise, bumped Kurt's fist in return, before Kurt said, "Ja, Todd, thank you. That earned you a few brownie points."

Todd shrugged, "Hey, I ain't a good guy or nothin', don't get any ideas," he said with a glare around the table, "But.. umm.. y'all should watch out, ok? I don't think I've ever seen Lance like this. Not even when you and him broke up," he said with a nod toward Kitty. Kitty just looked like she was about ready to throw up or let out a yell of anger, "Ughhh, I can't believe I ever saw anything in that creep," she said scornfully.

"Hey, thanks for the warning, Todd, we'll keep our eyes open, yeah?" Rogue said, and around the table, everyone nodded. Since Lance had just gotten himself suspended, along with most of the other Brotherhood members, Kiro would hopefully be safe on campus. Safe, at least, from Lance, it seemed. But Kurt still found himself worrying again. The hatred in Lance's eyes, he couldn't recall ever seeing anything quite like that before. Not since he was in Germany, and one of the townspeople near his parent's farm had caught sight of him. He very nearly hadn't made it home, after the man had screamed at the "demon" and tried to shoot him with a rifle. That was the day Kurt learned how to teleport. There was something else, though, something he was forgetting. But trying to remember it was hard. Almost painful.. and it stirred more of that rage in him. A flicker which had stirred in him earlier, when Lance threatened his beloved angel..

"Kurt. Yo, dawg, you a'ight?" Todd asked, and Kurt shook his head as the memories disappated. "Ja, Todd, I'm fine," Kurt lied, his body trembling a bit, even with Kiro's touch beside him. No one at the table seemed to have noticed his reverie, except Jean, and after meeting her gaze, she gave him a brief look of deep concern before she smiled and gave a reassuring thought his way.

"Alright, well, I'm outta here, y'all just be careful. By the way, you're all geeks! Except you, Kiki, you're awesome!" He sneered at them, but he was soon smiling, particularly at Kiro, whom gave him a kind smile back and a wave, and Todd blew a kiss, making Kiro blush even more, and they watched as Todd hopped away, presumably to get some lunch for himself. "Guess it goes to show you, anybody can surprise you," Scott pondered, and took a drink from his soda, before immediately gagging. "Ugh. Flat. Gonna get a new one, you all want anything?" He offered, and Rogue and Kitty both asked for another drink as well, while hands went into pockets to find dollars and change. "Don't worry about it, guys, I think we all could use a cold one right about now," Scott said with a roll of his eyes, and Kurt in particular nodded, "Ja.. I could go for a whole case right about now," he said darkly.

Jean, however, sternly said, "That's about the last thing you need right now, Kurt." They all knew that Kurt had been drinking for years, though since he had come to the Institute he had been sober, for the most part. Occasionally he had gone out drinking with Logan, but it was always something of a hassle due to the difference in drinking ages between America and Germany. But in this case, Kurt knew that Jean was right, and the others seemed to agree with her as well. Despite himself, Kurt feigned a dramatic sigh, and Kitty giggled beside him. If Kurt was feeling well enough to make a joke, he couldn't be feeling THAT bad.

Scott chuckled and went over to the soda machines to get them some new drinks, while the others once again attempted to have a nice lunch.

------

"I swear, that little bitch is gonna get it," Lance snarled as they strode through the halls. They had just been dismissed from Principal Kelley's office after all of 20 minutes of getting yelled at, and had been suspended. Not that Lance cared. To the Brotherhood, a suspension just meant a free vacation. It wasn't like any of them cared about their grades anyway.

"Which one, huh?" Fred asked, his hands jammed in his pockets while they walked. Pietro had finally recovered from his "ballbuster" as Fred had taunted, and was walking normally beside them as he quipped, "The white one or the blue one?"

"That white one," Lance continued, shoving the doors open as they went out into the parking lot. It was about 1 PM, and lunch wold have just ended now. The halls had been empty when the trio had left the school earlier. "He tried somethin' on me when I had him, too. Tried to.." Lance explained, but then stopped. He wasn't sure how to explain it. As soon as he had touched Kiro, he had felt warm, a rush of.. pleasure. Pleasure, right down to his groin. And those violet eyes had looked at him. Almost like they were trying to seduce him.

No! He wasn't gay! He'd show him!! He thought he was a GIRL for crying out loud, that doesn't count!!

"Yo, Lance, what did he do? I didn't see nothin'," Fred continued as they began to make their way through the parking lot. "Yeah, is he one of them telepaths or somethin', like Jean?" Pietro asked.

"Nah, he's worse. He's like, some kinda.. fag temptress or somethin'.." Lance said, in almost a murmur, trying to reconcile the feelings he had gotten from Kiro. It was pleasure, no question about it, and his hard-on had been almost immediate, even as he just wanted to smash the little faggot's face in. He hated him. And yet, he also wanted to pin him down and..

'No, no fuckin' way..' Lance felt the conflict rising in his chest, along with a flicker of hatred. All he knew was that he wanted to hurt that little albino, even as he wanted to.. he gulped as his thoughts took an even darker turn.

But then, why not? If the little bitch seemed to want to seduce him so badly.. why not give him what he wanted? Lance sneered, the thought growing and solidifying in his head. Beside him, though, Fred cringed, "Whoa, you mean, like.. he tried to get in yer head or somethin'? Make ya.. gay?" He seemed both disgusted and afraid.

Lance whirled on him though and almost shouted, "I ain't gay, Fred!! You've seen me with Kitty, for fuck's sake!" Beside him, Pietro darted backwards in a blur, as though expecting the ground to start rumbling. It was only a tremor, though.

"Yo, Lance, I didn't say nothin'!" Fred retorted, and shook his head, "Sounds like you were tryin' to do the world a favor though. What ya gonna do with him?" He asked as they once again fell into step.

"I'm gonna hurt him," Lance said with finality, almost whispering.

"I'm gonna hurt him REAL bad," he repeated, his voice dripping with hatred. Behind him, neither Fred nor Pietro could hear him, but they could clearly see he was not thinking happy thoughts.

Lance checked his watch. 12:49 PM. Still plenty of time.

------------

"Yeah, we're sorry, guys," Roberto said, breathless as he finished jogging up to them in the parking lot. Scott, Jean, Kitty and Rogue were standing beside his car, while Kurt and a couple other students from one of his classes were chatting nearby. Kiro was nowhere in sight, but Kitty had explained that Ms. Harrison had probably given him some extra assignments for her English class in the morning ("She's been, like, really impressed with him! He's done awesome so far, she probably had him check out some books in the library to take home and use for assignments, y'know? Same stuff Kurt did a little bit of. That's probably where he is.").

"We heard about that craziness in the cafeteria, but Bobby and I got held back in gym and Sam and Ray had to run laps too. They called Coach Grey a goat-fucker," he admitted, and Kitty snorted in shock, "What?? Like, seriously? Why'd they do that?"

Bobby had finally joined them as well, and he shook his head, "'Cause Grey said that Sam and Ray were the weakest basketball players he'd ever seen. Ray said, 'Well at least I ain't a goat fucker like you!' and Sam agreed with him. Made the whole gym crack up though, so it was totally worth it," Bobby said with a proud smirk.

Scott just facepalmed and shook his head, before he looked around. Classes had been let out about 20 minutes ago, and the parking lot was filled with students, at least those who weren't taking the bus. "Huh, well, where are they?" He asked with a raised brow.

"They were still running laps after we were dismissed," Roberto admitted with a chuckle, giving Bobby a high five beside him afterwards.

"Whoa, they musta really pissed ol' Grey off!" Rogue observed with a grin.

"Yeah, sounds like it," Scott admitted, folding his arms across his chest. "Well, they're probably done by now. I'll hang back and give them a ride home once they're done showering and changing over. Why don't you guys get back to the Institute?" He suggested as he looked around. "I was going to wait for Kiki anyway, so I might as well wait for them too.

By then, Kurt had rejoined them, his expression a strange mixture of relief and irritation. "Well, Mrs. Keating gave me some extra-credit work to do to make up for the quiz I bombed last week," he admitted, "But it's 'work' alright. Gonna take me all night I think. And I've got that term paper to work on too for American History." Beside him, Scott cringed and rested a hand on his shoulder, "Sounds like you've had a full day, then," He sympathized, and nodded. "Hey, Kurt, why don't you head on back too? Get an early start on stuff? I'll hang back and wait for Kiro and the rest and bring them back in my car."

Kurt immediately looked doubtful, but Scott's expression reassured him, and he sighed, "Ja, you're probably right. I need to get this stuff done. Please get everyone home safe, ja?" He asked, and Scott nodded with a smile, replying, "Don't worry about it, Kurt. Just focus on getting that work done, ok?"

"Alright, alright, captain!" Kurt said with a wry smile, and nodded, "Ok, how are we getting back?" He asked with a curious glance. Jean tapped her head with a wink before saying, "Ororo's on the way with the school van, remember? She's the one who usually takes the boys to school anyway."

Kurt cringed, and nodded, "Ja.. I hope she doesn't have too many questions about what happened today," he admitted and rubbed the back of his neck. "I doubt I'll enjoy having to tell that particular story again."

"Well, looks like you'll find out one way or the other," Scott observed as he nodded towards the large black van that was pulling into the parking lot, "Grab your bags, guys!"

-----------

"Okay! Looks like you just need one more book, what did Ms. Harrison say was the last one?" The librarian, Mrs. Williams, asked. She was black, tall and thin, and her greying hair was kept neatly short on her head, giving her almost an ascetic appearance. She had a friendly, almost bubbly personality, and Kiro had taken an instant like to her, as she reminded him of the nuns back home, with her genuine love of the books in her care. He had spent about 40 minutes helplessly wandering around the library and trying to find the right books, when she had noticed him and offered her assistance. At her question, however, Kiro shrugged at her helplessly, and she blinked before she chuckled, "Ohh yes, I'm sorry. I keep forgetting that you can't speak, young man."

After the boy grinned and raised his hands to reassure her, he proffered the small note that Ms. Harrison had given him. His English had been progressing, albeit slowly, and Ms. Harrison thought he was now ready to try and start puzzling out individual words from books. Nothing too complicated, but enough to begin a serious effort at expanding his written vocabulary knowledge. He was to rent five books from the library; a novel, a history book, a biography, an almanac and an anthology, and pick 10 words from each to define in either Romanian or Latin. Ms. Harrison thought it would be a nice challenge for him, as well as an experience for her. She had also encouraged him to try and read the books as well, using his limited knowledge of written English and fluency in Latin ("Remember, Kiro, English gets a lot of its vocabulary from Latin and Greek. I'll bet that there are more words out there that you recognize than you might realize! Give it a try!").

"Hm, an anthology. Well, here's one right here," she mentioned, reaching behind the counter to grab a small book and offer it to him, "Grimm's Fairy Tales. Not exactly the most up-to-date story collection, but a timeless classic nonetheless!" She suggested, and Kiro found himself grinning and nodding as he added it to his small stack. "Alright, Kiro, we normally rent these out for a week, but I'll give you two just in case, ok?" She said, and Kiro gave a bow of gratitude. "But you seem like a bright young man and I'll bet you can have those back to me before the deadline, regardless," She added with a wink, and Kiro blushed as she stepped behind the counter to scan the last book and then print out a receipt for him.

Once his books were safely in his backpack, he thanked Mrs. Williams with a smile and a polite bow, before he shrugged the pack onto his shoulders and headed for the door. The halls were empty outside the school library, and Kiro realized with a frown that it was later than he realized. The sky outside had already begun to turn orange with sunset. A small tinge of fear gnawed at the back of his mind as he made his way down the hall toward the front office, anxiety quickening his steps. Beside him, a row of windows faced towards the back field and the distant treeline.

It was his rush that caused him to not even notice when a foot stepped out from the corner he just passed, causing him to stumble and fall onto his face. Logan's training just that morning simply hadn't been enough to overcome his surprise. The pain of hitting the floor momentarily stunned him, just long enough for someone to grab his hair from above and shove a wet cloth against his mouth and nose. The smell.. was so... strange......

Kiro's body went limp and his eyes drifted closed after just a couple of seconds, and with the cloth still pressed against his face, he was hefted up and carried out a nearby side door into the field outside of Bayville High.

The halls were still empty, and now eerily quiet.



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