Mixed Feelings

BY : Panduki
Category: X-Men - Animated Series (all) > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1257
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: Thank you for reading my story! Please read, enjoy (hopefully!) and review!




"That boy has been more trouble than he's worth, sometimes, I swear!" Came a muttered oath as a flashlight swept the trees, "Of all the times to run off."

"Calm yourself, Sister Lenuta," another voice from the shadows, soon followed by a friendly, albeit harried face as the woman's own flashlight joined Lenuta's in searching. "He's probably just frightened, you know how skittish that boy can be... Kiro!! Kiro!! Come along now, child, everyone is worried for you!" She called into the trees. Even with their flashlights, the darkness was cloying, helped in no small part to the mist that rolled off the mountains and hills around them.

"Honestly, Lucia, I wish the Reverend Mother would decide what to do with him! He's coming of age, already, and it's just not seemly to keep a boy within these walls." Beneath Sister Lenuta's harsh words, Sister Lucia could sense an obvious current of concern to her anger. She was genuinely worried about the boy. They all were. Unfortunately her worry took the form of anger, and Lucia didn't doubt that the boy would receive quite a tongue lashing if they did find him.

"Oh, don't tell me you're concerned for his well-being?" Sister Lucia teased, attempting to try and lighten Lenuta's mood a bit with a gentle elbow to her fellow nun's ribs, which was soon met with a hiss and a swat of her flashlight.

"Hardly! I just do not think our Lord would approve. We all have our vows to keep, and seclusion among our sisters is one of them," Sister Lenuta replied crisply as she resumed their search. There were only some two-dozen nuns in their abbey, and word had spread like wildfire among them once the two had left mother superior's office. All of them were out now, with the few flashlights that they had available, as well as lanterns borrowed from the atrium. The soft calls of the other sisters could be heard in the distance, trying to find where Kiro had gone.

Kiro's particular moods were nothing new. The boy had a gentleness that would surely make even a lamb take notice, but he was plagued with nightmares and bouts of depression, perhaps helped in no small part by living in the abbey among the Sisters. There were days, like this one, where he would simply run off, or wander into the woods and disappear for many hours at a time, sometimes not returning until the following morning. Or he would wander the halls with eyes downcast, as though lost deep within his own thoughts or memories.

The occasional trip out into town for supplies did little to assuage his moods, for the townspeople often treated the peculiar-looking boy with either a cautious distance at best, or a mild confusion and nervousness at worst. It was obvious he was quite different from the sisters who had raised him, and even the village elder had been unsuccessful in drawing even a peep from the boy the few times he had caught him alone to try and talk to him. Elder Beniamin, while a kind man who always seemed to have a knack to make the village children laugh at his jokes or teases, had had no luck at all in even getting Kiro to do more than smile, briefly, before hurriedly rushing to hide behind one of the sisters accompanying him (usually Sister Bear-gita). Sister Bergita had simply assured the elder that her "cub" was shy and meant no offense by his silence.

In fact, the boy had never uttered a sound. Not in all the years he had been there at the abbey. That, perhaps most of all, unnerved those who met him. Even in the midst of prayers, or at psalms, the boy would simply kneel. Respectfully, but silently, his head bowed with the rest. Or he would follow along as the sisters sang or chanted, his mouth silently moving while slender fingers traced the words in the book before him. He had always been a kind, gentle, and helpful lad, though, and whether within the library or out in the farm and fields, he had proven a valuable addition to their family.

"That, at least, is true.. he is certainly a teenager now," Sister Lucia nodded with a sigh, her mind taking a moment to travel across the years since the boy had appeared on their doorstep, little more than a street urchin in rags. Filthy and tired and starving, the very image of a stray kitten or puppy, with his peculiar white skin and hair hidden beneath a layer of dirt and grime. Once he had been bathed, his appearance had startled them greatly, looking almost like a boy born of an angel, and it was that reason that Mother Agatha had named him what she did.

"I should hate to think of him leaving us, though, after all of these years," Sister Lucia finally said, as she once again peered out into the darkness and the mist with another sweep of her flashlight.

"Well he could show that kindness by-" Whatever Sister Lenuta had been going to say was suddenly drowned out by the hard CRACK! of a rifle being fired in the distance.

Soon joined by another.

And another!

They weren't coming from the village nearby, but from the hills in the distance.

Still, if the fighting was already this close, a stray round or two was the least of their worries..

"Oh merciful heavens!!" Sister Lucia wailed, "The rebels!" She hurriedly clutched Lenuta's shoulders as the two nuns made their way back toward the monastery above, frantically calling for Kiro as they went. Around them, they could hear similar concerned calls from their fellow sisters, along with urging one another to seek the safety of the abbey walls.

But the boy was still nowhere to be seen...


-------


"Be advised, the professor has turned on the 'fasten seat belt' sign! Ladies, please prepare the cabin for arrival!" Bobby's cheerful voice called back through the Blackbird, soon met by jeers from said ladies, Kitty especially.

"Knock it off, Ice Cube!" Logan's growl interrupted the banter, though he was nonetheless glad for it as the team slowly began rousing one another in their seats. Grunting, stretching, and striding forward, he rested a hand on Xavier's shoulder to rouse the professor, "Chuck, we're almost ready to touch down."

The professor came awake after a moment's shifting, his eyes coming into focus on Logan's face. The burly Canadian was bristly, having foregone a shave earlier that morning, "Any new impressions?"

The professor shook his head, confusion on his face, "Not a thing, Logan. It is most peculiar. Even with Cerebro last night I was unable to actually narrow down on any mental signature, but I had thought-"

A strange sound met their ears, silencing the professor in concern. Then another. Logan immediately growled, recognizing the sound of bullets hitting the Blackbird's armor, "Somebody's takin' potshots at us, Cyke! How close are we to landin'?"

"Two minutes!" Scott called over his shoulder, his hands steady on the controls. The Blackbird's armor was more than a match for most small arms fire, and this was no exception. The impacts hadn't even registered on the ship's alert sensors. But he doubted it was just some bored farmer that had just taken shots at their plane, especially with the sky just beginning to brighten with the dawn.

Soon enough, however, the team was jostled as the wheels touched down, and a firm command from Logan sounded through the cabin: "Alright, kids! Keep your heads down when we get outside. I think we might meet more than just scared villagers today. Plain clothes and incognito unless stuff goes down. Let's not cause any panic." Around him, the X-Men nodded. All were wearing their uniforms under regular winter clothes (as well as Kurt, who also made sure his image inducer was projecting properly) and had been carefully briefed on being as discreet as possible.
 
As the team began to disembark into the small wooded clearing barely a half mile from the village, and the Blackbird's active camouflage was engaged, Kurt again felt worry twisting his stomach into knots. For the third time in as many minutes, he checked to make sure his image inducer was functioning. He then made his way over to help the professor out of the Blackbird with a quick teleport.

------

"Listen, I do not know what manner of tourists you are, but this is an extremely dangerous situation-" the old man once again spoke, his tone carrying a note of authority along with a thick but understandable Romanian accent. Every villager they had spoken to previously (or attempted to, before finding several who did speak at least some English or German) had simply told them to speak to "the elder."

Viscri was a small village, compared to most towns and cities they had been to, but for the Transylvanian countryside it may as well have been a bustling town. "We understand the danger, sir, believe me," the professor politely interrupted, before continuing, "We are not here to sightsee, I assure you. We have come out of concern for one of your townsfolk. My name is Professor Charles Xavier, from the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters in the United States. We-" The sharp peal of distant gunfire from the hills interrupted the professor, sounding almost like fireworks, as a round of gasps and frightened muttering came from the villagers around them.

The town square, such as it was, was unusually full of people for such an early time in the morning. The sun had risen about an hour ago, but was still not above the distant mountains, leaving Viscri shrouded mostly in a dim, overcast and misty morning light. By Charles' estimate, it was a little after 8 AM, local time. The X-Men were gathered in a somewhat orderly huddle around the professor and the town elder, concerned faces looking about at each one of the villagers around them. So many of the people here seemed middle aged, or at least adults. There did not seem to be any children around, let alone teenagers. Who was it that they were here to recruit?

The elder spoke quickly and sternly to the villagers around them, and after some repeated commands in Romanian, there was a small flourish of activity as the townsfolk retreated to their homes or into the nearest storefronts. With a weary sigh, the elder, Beniamin ("Call me Ben, please"), continued, "I have never heard of this 'Institute,' or you, sir. Please explain why you are here? Are you come on behalf of the government, to protect us?" The man seemed hopeful. His eyes were bright, despite his wrinkled, tanned face, and the thinning, grey hair atop his head was closely cropped in what may have once been a buzz-cut, matched by the well-groomed beard that helped to ward off the morning's chilly air. He was dressed in a curious mixture of formal and informal attire. Blue jeans and sturdy workboots languished beneath a collared shirt, tweed work jacket, and a scarf around his neck.

"I am afraid not, sir," the professor spoke once again, steepling his hands beneath his chin, "We are not here at the behest of your government. Perhaps I should explain, we are a school for gifted youngsters, young men and women who display certain.. abilities or talents, particularly those that might be unusual or alarming. We believe that such a person is here in your village, and would like very much to meet with them and their family."

The elder's eyes became downcast, and he shook his head, "You must be mistaken, then, professor. What children were here, have all been sent away by last week. None would care to risk losing their loved ones from those savages," He growled with a toss of his head towards the distant hills, were the sound of rifle fire could once again be heard. He had explained that scattered groups of soldiers (typically just local militia groups and the Romanian equivalent of national guard detachments) and rebels were playing a game of cat and mouse in the mountains, though the regular military was still woefully lacking in a presence in the area, and many villages thus far had already been claimed by the rebels as bases.

At a shake of the head from Jean, however, the professor continued, "We believe this one is still here, sir. Might there be any other youngsters you could think about who live here? Whose families have not sent them away to relatives in other towns or cities?"

At this, the elder was about to shake his head, but then paused. A sudden flash of memory came across his eyes. The professor and Jean both perked up immediately, the broadcast being easily picked up by them.

Violet eyes. Violet eyes beneath the hood of a black robe, that had a bright, almost peculiar gleam when they caught the light. They belonged to a scared, but hauntingly beautiful face, framed by long tresses of white hair. The elder was looking down at the girl, or was it a girl..? And trying to speak to them, just introduce himself, and get them to say their name. But they said nothing and ducked shyly behind one of the nuns they were accompanying around town, a large, portly woman with a friendly face, who gently hugged the smaller robed nun and whispered something to her...

The elder whispered something in Romanian, and Kurt, who had been hovering at the professor's elbow, blinked, his accent much more noticeable as he spoke, "Wait.. I recognize that word: Monastery. Could they be at the monastery?"

"The sisters," the elder began, rubbing the back of his head nervously, "Are a very kind sort. They took in a young girl some years back. Nobody knows where she came from, really. I've only seen her a few times over the years, when she came into town with some of the nuns for supplies. She's not a novice or a postulant, that I can tell.. she just lives there with them. Never said a word in town. Odd looking girl, but seems nice enough, if a bit skittish." He sighed, then continued, "The abbey is very old, was built centuries ago. Good, strong stone. We may have to bring the townspeople there for safety soon.. if you'd like, I could take you up there. Maybe the Abbess could help you."

At this, the professor smiled. Finally, progress! "We would like that, Ben. Please lead the way."

With that, the elder set off, with the professor following behind in his wheelchair and the rest of the team in close pursuit while Logan brought up the rear. Quite an odd assortment of teens, so out of place in this little town that had apparently sent all of its children away for their safety.

Meanwhile, the distant rumble of gunfire seemed to draw slowly closer..

------

"No, I still have not seen him. Ah, Sister Camelia, did you have any luck in the barn? Perhaps up in the loft?" Mother Agatha was once again in her office, somehow managing to radiate an aura of calm, discipline, and faith, even as her brow was creased with worry, so different from the smiles and laughter that had typically left lines on her face before.

Sister Camelia steadied herself against the doorway, short of breath from her hurry, and straightened up before responding, "I am afraid not, Reverend Mother. Nary a sight or sound, even in his usual hiding spots."

Camelia was tall and thin, her skin dark from many years spent working outside. She was more at home in the fields and among the farm animals than she ever was inside the monastery walls (leading Bergita to playfully tease her about joining the Franciscans instead of their abbey), but the call to faith was ever strong even with her. Her grey eyes were weary, however, and her brow creased with worry. Unlike many of her fellow sisters, she was still fairly young, barely in her 30s, yet she had taken to her vows with hardly a second thought once her time as a postulant was done, and had soon become one of the most humble and devout of their number. She watched Mother Agatha's face worriedly, even as she moved to needlessly brush a stray wisp of brown hair under her wimple.

"He has run off before, but never during such a dangerous time.. what manner of fright could have possessed him?" Mother Agatha asked with a sigh as she straightened up from her chair. Beside her, Sister Bergita touched her arm. "That incident earlier.. it still troubles me, Reverend Mother. Perhaps he is.. gifted somehow?" Bergita asked, a ponderous tone in her voice as she once again looked down at where the wound on her hand had mysteriously been healed.

Mother Agatha nodded, her brow furrowed in worry. She beckoned Sister Camelia forward before continuing, "I sensed something from him, that he was very worried about something. You know how he talks with his eyes instead of his mouth or hands, that little one. I just fear that he may have mistook our surprise for something else."

The distant sound of gunfire was heard once again, and all three sisters crossed themselves in worry. It was then that the soft sound of the monastery bell could be heard, though this time not to sound the release from morning prayers. No, it was another attempt, perhaps, to call Kiro home to them. Mother Agatha bowed her head and sighed, before she softly began to pray, "Heavenly Father, please watch over our little Kiro and usher him home to-"

The sound of knocking on the abbey door startled the mother out of her prayer, the three nuns raising their heads as one with a confused look that immediately turned hopeful. "Kiro!!" All three said as one as they hurried from Mother Agatha's office to the abbey's main door.

------

"How many people live here, Elder Ben?" Kurt asked as they gazed up at the sturdy stone walls of the monastery. It was an old structure, the man had explained, built many hundreds of years ago by one of the royalty. It was not like the large, palatial cathedrals that one was used to seeing in larger, metropolitan areas. This building seemed almost like a medieval bunker or fortress, built just as much to safeguard the inhabitant's bodies as well as their faith. Even the larger stained glass windows on the chapel had bars outside of them, and the rest of the windows were narrow, scarcely large enough to fit one's head through.

"Oh, a couple dozen I think? We tend not to come up here too often, out of respect, y'know. Sometimes we have groups of tourists or students, but only at certain times of the year, and always announced in advance," The elder explained as they milled around at the door. They were waiting for the bell to sound, he had said ("You shouldn't interrupt them during their morning prayers, especially since we need them now more than ever."). Once the bell had begun to ring, however, the elder went over to the large, heavy wooden doors and lifted one of the knockers. They were old and rusted, made of what looked like sturdy iron, and the man grunted with the effort of lifting one, before he delivered three stout knocks onto the metal plate beneath.

While they waited, the professor turned to gently warn the teens behind them, "Now remember, everyone: This is a house of worship. Please be on your very best behavior, as these women are likely unused to having a large group of teenagers around." Ororo at his left nodded, fixing Bobby and Roberto in particular with a cool gaze, soundlessly warning them against any mischief.

To their credit, both boys seemed duly chastened, and Bobby even piped up by saying, "Hey, c'mon, even we have to draw the line somewhere, yeah?" This brought some nervous chuckling from the rest of the group, but all talk soon ceased as the heavy doors slowly swung open.

Standing there, looking quite alarmed, were three nuns. One small and elderly, but with a clear air of authority around her, and on her right was a large, portly nun who fixed the group with a discerning but friendly gaze. To the elderly one's left stood a tall, willowy woman who seemed much younger than the rest, about the same age as Ororo, who gazed at them all in silent confusion. They were wearing plain black robes that looked to be made of sturdy woolen cloth, and cinctures of black rope around their hips that had rosaries braided into them, and all had the somewhat familiar-looking wimples on their heads, except curiously these were all black as well. Their faces were kind, though now they showed confusion, and clearly seemed to all be asking the same question, 'Who on earth are these people?'

Their expressions softened, however, at the sight of the elder, and the elderly nun began to speak to him in Romanian, asking a question with a pleading look to her eyes, as one hand went to the sturdy cross that hung around her neck, unique among her sisters, which looked to be made of polished black wood, or perhaps even black iron.

Her question earned a firm shake of the head from the elder, who asked a concerned question back. All three of the nuns looked very sad and confused, and shook their heads in return. The elderly nun then said something else, and Beniamin gasped, and then crossed himself briefly, before nodding and responding in kind.

The X-Men all watched, silent and respectful, though confused as well, as they clearly were wondering what was being said. The elderly nun, however, stepped forward and addressed them in heavily accented, but still understandable, English. "Blessings upon you, travelers. Welcome to our humble home. Please, enter freely and leave some of the happiness you bring?" Kurt couldn't help but smile at the sound of the familiar blessing, one that even his adoptive mother often used during the rare occasions they had guests at their cottage. Upon sight of so many teenagers, she seemed confused. "Is it a tour group? Surely not now?" She asked with a concerned gesture toward the sound of distant gunfire as it once again drifted down from the hills.

"Not at all, sister," Charles spoke as he rolled forward, greeting the three nuns with a kind smile and a nod of his head. "Please allow me to introduce everyone. I am professor Charles Xavier, head of the Xavier Institute in America. These are two of my fellow instructors, Ms. Ororo Munroe and Mr. Logan. The children with us are some of our students, who have come to help."

"'Help?'" The portly nun beside the elderly nun spoke, "Help with .. what?" She asked, a confused look on her face as her gaze hovered over the students, before she covered her mouth and gave an apologetic bow to the elderly nun. She, too, spoke English, though her voice seemed a little less certain than the other, and her words had a peculiar pronunciation.

The elderly nun nodded with a kind smile to the portly nun, before she turned her attention back to the professor in his wheelchair. "Please forgive Sister Bergita. We have had a very trying morning," the elderly nun spoke, before she nodded and continued. "I am Mother Agatha, you've already met Sister Bergita, and this is Sister Camelia," she spoke, gesturing to each of the sisters in turn as they were introduced, both of whom bowed kindly.

At this, Professor Xavier gave a hint of a blush at his error in addressing her, and nodded his head before apologizing, "Ah, please forgive me, Mother Agatha."

The reverend mother gave a shake of her head and a kind smile, "Quite alright. But yes, what is it you are here to do?" Her brown eyes swept across the group, making more than a few of the students, the especially mischievous boys in particular, squirm a bit under the intensity of her gaze. She may have been elderly, and the mother Abbess of this nunnery, but she was still clearly a vibrant and very intelligent woman. Kurt alone seemed at ease, and fascinated, even, by her and the other sisters.

"Well, the Xavier Institute is a School for Gifted Youngsters. We take in young men and women from all walks of life, who have... unique.. talents or abilities, that may be difficult to control. Abilities that may be unusual, sometimes even dangerous or destructive. We help them learn this control, and use their talents for good," Charles explained, continuing as the nuns nodded, "We believe that there may be one such young man or woman here who might be in need of our guidance, and we have come to offer it, and a place at our Institute, should they wish it-"

"- They are here to take Kiro away?" Another voice could be heard saying from inside the monastery. "What is the meaning of this?" The door opened a little wider and a fourth nun poked her head out to glare at the assembled gathering. Her eyes were bright blue, behind a pair of spectacles, and her gaze was stern. She seemed almost as old as the reverend mother, but looked about ready to jump out and clobber the lot of them with the cane she leant on.

"Sister Margarita, please," Mother Agatha spoke, raising a hand in a placating manner, "We still have not found Kiro yet. I think any decisions or discussions would have to wait until that problem is at least solved." She and the other sisters parted slightly to make room for the new nun, Sister Margarita. She looked to be about the same age as Mother Agatha, and her eyes were quite pale, almost an ice-blue color, as she looked around the group with clear suspicion. Her face was weathered and wrinkled, and she was bent slightly as she walked with her cane, but she still carried the air of a woman who commanded some form of respect and dignity nonetheless.

Margarita gave a soft huff and leant on her cane before nodding respectfully to Mother Agatha's words, "As you say, reverend mother." Her English, too, was heavily accented but understandable.

The professor's surprise at so many of them all speaking English must have shown on his face.

"Viscri gets its share of tourists, professor, uncommon though they may be," Mother Agatha began, smiling kindly at the assembled X-Men, "And one of the things our abbey is known for is the study of languages. I have lived in eleven countries and can speak seven of them. Though now, of course, this is my home," Mother Agatha spoke, with no small measure of pride in her voice.

"Very impressive, Mother Agatha," Charles said, steepling his hands beneath his chin once more. "I could not help but overhear: One of your sisters has gone missing? Kiro, was it?" He asked respectfully, his eyes looking back and forth between them. Out of respect, neither he nor Jean Grey were attempting to read their thoughts, but they both could sense deep undercurrents of concern wafting from them, and worry.

At the professor's questions, all four of the nuns shifted visibly with that worry, and the mother superior nodded before answering, "Little Kiro. Not exactly one of our sisters, but a part of our family all the same. I found Kiro almost ten years ago today, right where you are standing now." The mother superior pointed to the cold stone blocks beneath the professor's wheelchair, "Almost starved and barely wearing anything except rags and mud." Her brown eyes averted their gaze from the professor's as she stood looking out across the small, wooded hill that the monastery stood on, as more gunfire could be heard echoing in the distance from the taller hills and mountains around them. "This morning, Kiro came to see me in my office, but something.. happened. It startled him.. and he ran off."

"Him..?" The professor asked, puzzled, as he looked up at the elder. The elder, too, seemed quite confused.

Clarification was brushed aside, however, as a particularly loud rifle crack sounded nearby, and Mother Agatha soon ushered them all inside the abbey's walls, before speaking quickly to the elder in Romanian. After a quick nod, the elder hurried out the door and soon took off at a brisk trot down the path back toward the village below.

When the mother rejoined the group of X-Men and students in the center of the large, main entry hall, she nodded, "Elder Ben has gone to gather the villagers. We will offer them sanctuary here until the fighting has stopped. I simply pray that those rebels do not come to our town like they have so many others."

"Have the authorities been notified?" Professor Xavier asked, glancing over as Logan cuffed one of the boys, Sam, on the shoulder to keep him from messing with one of the wall lanterns.

"We have tried, but it is difficult. You must understand, we do not have electricity or running water here at the monastery, and the only phone in town has been dead for over a week now. We sent a rider out to the next town over, but.. we have not heard from him yet." Mother Agatha was clearly worried, and Jean stepped forward to gently put a hand on the abbess's shoulder. "The military has regular patrols out in the hills around us, and that is who you probably hear fighting the rebels now, but with all the mountains around us their radios probably can only contact those within their own units nearby."

"Don't worry, reverend mother. We will help however we can. Perhaps one of us could send word to the authorities? Perhaps in the city of Brasov?" Jean spoke, her eyes drifting over to Ororo, who smiled, as though having the same idea.

"That would certainly be doable, and all the better done quickly," Charles assented with a nod, "But please, be extremely careful, Ororo. And as discrete as you can." The professor added, with a subtle nod towards the nuns.

"Of course, professor," Ororo responded, and with that, she was out the door. The only hint of her power as she took off into the air was the small gust of wind that blew inside as the door shut behind her.

"Now.. about Kiro," the professor continued, turning his chair back towards the four nuns...

------

"You mean you haven't sensed anything at all?" Logan asked, the two continuing down the narrow hall that housed the sleeping quarters the nuns used, Charles rolling along beside him.

"Not a thing. It is almost as if he has mastered the ability to shield his mind, even without being taught to. Or perhaps he is just naturally gifted in that area," the professor mused as they went, counting the doors until they came to the second-to-last door on the right. "Ah, here we are. The fourteenth room on the right. This should be Kiro's."

Logan had tried to track the missing teen's scent earlier, but there were simply too many scents at the abbey to be able to tell which was his. The scents of the sisters, their clothing, food, the farm animals nearby, the smell of incense, the musty scent of old books and papers, the old stone and wood all around them, it was all almost a gibberish in his mind. It was a bit like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack, without first even knowing what the needle looked like. His request had certainly raised an eyebrow from the mother superior, perhaps because of the professor's assurance that Mr. Logan could somehow find Kiro by using an item of Kiro's clothing. But she had nonetheless acquiesced and told them where to find his room.

The rest of the students were out helping the nuns search for Kiro directly, both the abbey grounds as well as the countryside outside, as well as help prepare the abbey to receive the townspeople who came for sanctuary. Mother Agatha seemed convinced that Kiro had not left altogether. After all, he had done this before, she said. But he had always returned by the next morning. That, however, was what worried her. What if by next morning they were surrounded by a group of vicious rebels who wanted to use their town as a base of operations? Or just start killing all of them outright, like some of the rumors they had heard?

Professor Xavier had received a promise, however, that upon first sight or meeting of Kiro by any of the students or nuns, he would be notified immediately so that they could have everyone back inside the monastery walls as soon as possible. Townspeople from the village below had already begun to trickle into the monastery, most bringing little more than the clothes on their backs, some horses or donkeys, and several days' worth of food or other supplies to add to the monastery stockpiles in the basement.

"Mmph. Like a prison cell." Logan observed as the two opened the small wooden door and peered into the chamber beyond. It had indeed been referred to as a "cell" by the nuns, but Charles had explained to Logan as they walked down the halls that that was how monks and nuns lived in monasteries, each with just enough needed to survive. The room was quite small, indeed. Logan had seen walk-in closets that were larger than the room they now stood in. A small bed (that smelled as if its mattress was filled with hay) with a foot-trunk resting against it, was off to the side, neatly made, and against the opposite wall was a small desk with a simple wooden chair tidily pushed beneath it, and it had several books and a candle with a stand resting on its smooth, clean surface. One was clearly a Bible, but the rest were not. All, however, were old, thick, leather-bound affairs. The floors, walls, and ceiling of the room were all of plain stone, utterly barren. No curtains were on the small window, barely five inches wide and ten inches tall (almost more like an archery slit than a window), and no paintings or posters hung on the walls. Only a crucifix hung above the head of the bed, and another hung above the door to the chamber.

"Not right for a kid to be livin' here, though," Logan observed further, and Charles had to nod in agreement. What must it have been like for the boy to live in a room such as this? To say nothing about the monastery itself?

Yet as they entered the room, he got his answer in a vague series of dreamlike impressions, from years of habitation. Long nights spent awake, tearfully gazing out the lone window as painful memories threatened to consume him. Rainy days spent reading, in between joining the sisters at their prayers or tasks. Long hours spent helping out on the farm, robed against the harsh light of the burning sun, that burned the sensitive albino even after only a few minutes in it. Bathing alone in the bath chamber downstairs, or out in the river, during the night. Solitary walks through the halls, the basement, the cloisters.. the woods outside.. always in silence. Never speaking. Not a sound.

"Chuck, found somethin'." Logan's words broke through his thoughts, as he saw the Wolverine crouched by the small trunk at the foot of the bed, holding what looked like a nightshirt (or perhaps a tunic?) from the opened trunk containing many similar garments. The man took a careful series of sniffs, and then nodded. "Got his scent."

"Good, let us return to Mother Agatha's office, that was where he was last seen this morning," Charles reminded him, as the two left the little chamber and shut the door softly behind them.

-----

"You mean to say that you speak Latin?"

Mother Agatha was clearly impressed, which made Kurt blush all the more even through his image inducer. "Well, n-not exactly speak it. But I understand a lot. My parents and I are Catholic, so a lot of our services are in Latin, so I had to learn it if I wanted to know what was being said," the two spoke as they walked side by side. Kurt was surprised to find himself so at ease in this place. Of course, it was mixed with a tinge of paranoia that his inducer might fail and give the poor nun the fright of her life, which he desperately did not want to happen, especially after how kind she had been to all of them.

They were walking out near the barn, continuing the search for Kiro, and the more Kurt found out about Kiro, the more he found himself empathizing with the other boy. Rogue had gone inside to perform another check of the barn, saying "Maybe a fresh pair o' eyes'll catch sumthin' that ain't been seen yet," while Kurt and Mother Agatha wandered in the small barnyard outside to check around the field, surrounded by a small group of chickens and a pair of curious goats.

"I wish Kiro would return soon, I think you two would become fast friends. You remind me of him.. so friendly and quiet. Well, he is quite a bit more quiet," Mother Agatha added with a soft, but sad, chuckle.

'You have no idea,' Kurt thought with a cringe, remembering how much of a party animal he tended to be, especially on the weekends. He doubted he could ever live in a monastery like this full time, but he had to admit, the sisters had all earned his respect. It was one thing to be Catholic and attend services once a week, it was quite another to pledge yourself utterly to God and spend every day living in contemplation of it and service to Him. "Kiro is not a .. um.. nun, obviously. Is he a..?"

"Monk? Oh heavens no," Mother Agatha laughed, a kind laugh that creased the skin around her eyes. "As much as he devotes himself to his studies and prayers, you would think so. Nor is he a postulant or even a novice. But I know his heart is elsewhere, and I have given more and more thought lately as to where else he should be.. we have so little here, especially for a boy who is now a young man." She sighed, "Though, we are rather fond of him. He's like a son to all of us." She paused, before turning to Kurt and asking earnestly, "Do you really think your professor might be able to.. help him?"

Her question was faltering, and it warmed his heart to hear so much concern in her voice for a child who was not hers by blood. "The professor has helped me more than I could ever say," Kurt explained, pausing to take her hand in his, gloved though they were. "Our abilities.. our powers.. can be frightening, to ourselves but especially to others. They call us 'mutants' in America, and if it weren't for the professor," Kurt trailed off, remembering his own life in Germany. Barely able to leave the house without being robed head to toe in a similar fashion as the one photograph they had been able to find of Kiro had been. "I would not have been able to lead a normal life at all. I am sure we can do the same for Kiro. And I know I would love to meet him, too!"

Mother Agatha nodded, "When we find him, at least," she replied with a flinch at another round of distant gunfire from the hills around them.

Rogue rejoined them soon after, likewise flinching at the sound of guns going off in the distance, "Somehow I doubt those're firecrackers..." she said darkly, and reached down to gently pat one of the goats as it sniffed her jeans. Kurt nodded tensely, noticing not for the first time that even Rogue seemed genuinely unnerved.

-----

The sun had just begun to peak overhead two hours later when the professor flinched in his chair with a grunt of pain, "Agh!!"

Beside him, Sister Lenuta was startled from her task of organizing their supplies, "Profesor? Ce e?" she asked, reaching over to touch his shoulder, though the professor was both too startled by the sudden influx of thoughts as well as too ignorant of Romanian to understand her. Within his mind, he replied, 'Jean, please calm yourself, tell me what's wrong?'

'It's Scott! He's been shot! Professor, please, we need help!' Jean's voice was frantic, and with it came a barrage of images. Scott, slumped against a tree with a hand pressed against his leg, trying to staunch the flow of blood. Thankfully it had not pierced his femoral artery, but it was still bad enough that he could barely walk, and was bleeding steadily.

Scott's voice was there, talking to Jean aloud, but knowing the professor was listening in, "I think it was a stray round from the rebels out in the hills, it's too dangerous for anyone else to be out here, professor! I think we should call the rest of the students back inside!" His voice was tense with pain, but even then, the professor felt a swell of pride for how Scott was conducting himself.

'Wise decision, Scott. Stay where you are and keep applying pressure to the wound. Help is on the way,' the professor sent to him and Jean mentally, and shook his head at Lenuta's concern. "I'm alright, sister, but there has been an emergency that needs my attention. Please excuse me," he assured her, and once again concentrated.

The professor was just about to call the team together when Jean's mind touched his once again, her voice full of astonishment. 'Professor.. I think we found Kiro. Or rather, Kiro found us.'

-----

Less than twenty minutes later, the team had all assembled and were able to locate Scott, Jean, and Kiro just as they neared the Monastery's outer walls on foot, with Logan arriving shortly afterwards from the woods nearby and grumbling something about "the kid walking all over Hell and half of Romania" that morning.

Not only was Scott walking without any problems, he seemed almost chipper, a spring in his step that typically wasn't seen without spending some 'quality time' with Jean Grey. He was even smiling and laughing when he saw the team rushing down the path towards them, and greeted them all with a wave.

They had been already making their way back toward the monastery grounds when they were intercepted by the rest of the team, sick with worry even despite the professor's assurances that "help had already arrived." Kurt had even *bamf!*ed back to the Blackbird to grab a trauma kit beforehand, giving the nuns a sudden demonstration of his powers.

Even forewarned, it had still been a surprise to the good sisters, and the professor had worried that poor Lenuta might faint from shock. As soon as they had caught up with the three, the professor had urged them all to get within the safety of the monastery walls as soon as possible. And so they did.

But now, it was their turn to be shocked. None could deny that Scott had been shot, and it had been a nasty wound. His jeans leg was soaked with blood, and the ugly hole had torn through his thigh with just an inch to spare from a lethal area. How, then, was he up and walking at all, let alone so cheerful? And able to RUN with the others into the monastery's gates and up to the stout stone building of the main abbey?

"Well, we have her to thank for it," Scott said with a grin, jerking a thumb back towards the small, robed figure that had been walking along behind him and Jean as they moved through the trees to the main monastery door, meekly averting their gaze from the group beneath the hood of their black robe. They were short, barely standing five feet tall, and seemed quite shy.

"Her..?" Jean prompted, raising a brow. It seemed Scott hadn't been paying close attention. Scott wasn't the only one, as several of the X-men began asking the same thing:

"Her..?"
"Wait.. what?"
"But the sisters said.."

That was when Kurt took the opportunity to approach "her," offering a friendly hand in greeting, "Umm, salve! Mihi nomen est Kurt! Es Kiro?" He asked in Latin, though it sounded somewhat awkward in his German accent.

The robed figure nodded, and reached forward and took Kurt's hand, the shadows beneath the hood failing to conceal a shy smile on Kiro's beautiful face in return, and the soft glimmer of strange, but lovely violet eyes as they caught the light. Kurt, meanwhile, looked down at his hand with a curious look, "Was ist.. das..?"

Soon, Kurt let out a giggle, and hunched over slightly as the giggling continued, "It feels.. wunderbar!" Just when it looked like Kurt was going to collapse in a fit of giggles, he straightened up and withdrew his hand before he looked back at Scott, then returned his gaze to the robed figure. "You speak English, right?" Kurt asked, and grinned broader when he once again received a nod in return, "Kiro, please, don't be shy. Come say hello! It's okay." Kurt gently touched the robed figure's shoulder and drew them toward the group, unable to restrain himself from a squirm and another giggle, making everyone rather curious.

Logan peered over at the small black robed person, resisting the urge to make a "jawa" joke as the small boy joined the group standing before the monastery doors. Kiro stood perhaps five feet tall, even including the top of their hood, and the black robe's thick woolen fabric was loose enough on him that it was difficult to tell what sort of build the boy had underneath. It was his face, though, and his eyes in particular that caught Logan's attention, and that of most of the students. He was not immediately sure whether he was looking at a beautiful girl or a boy. If he hadn't had his nose to rely upon, he would have been genuinely confused. 'Huh, an honest-to-god trap. That's a new one,' Logan muttered mentally.

When Kiro stepped into the shadows of the monastery wall, safe from the sun, he reached up to draw back his hood, and the entire group of students, even Sam and Bobby, let out a hushed gasp. Kurt blushed visibly and said something in German, then immediately covered his mouth. Roberto even let out a wolf-whistle, which soon earned him a swat upside the head from Rogue. "Cool it, Casanova."

The attention was not lost on Kiro, who seemed tempted to immediately put his hood back up. But Kurt's gentle hand on his shoulder and encouraging smile (once he had recovered from his initial shock upon seeing the other boy in full [albeit in the shade] daylight) gave him reassurance, and he turned to the group with a friendly wave and a smile. He said nothing, though, which was not lost on the group. He hadn't said anything since they had first seen him.

Scott broke the silence first, "Hey, Kiro. What's wrong? Kitty got your tongue?" He teased with a friendly grin.

Kitty blushed and mumbled, "I wish..." Before she flashed Scott a glare.

Further attempts at conversation, however, were halted when the doors were opened behind them, and the mother superior immediately rushed out with at least a dozen nuns behind her, all crowding around Kiro and the team with a sudden rush of conversation in Romanian. Jean nearly found herself overwhelmed, both with the flood of emotions from the group as well as the sudden influx of thoughts. Worries, relief, questions. It was all so much!

The professor finally restored some semblance of order when he appeared in the doorway behind them, and said, with a stern command to the X-Men, as well as a gentle warning to the sisters, that they had perhaps best be getting indoors, and stay away from the windows, lest someone else suffer the same fate as Scott.

Only once they were all inside and the doors safely barred did the questions begin again in earnest, both from the X-Men as well as from the nuns.

"But you said he was shot! Look, look there at the blood! Wasn't that a mortal wound?"

"How is he walking?"

"What has happened? How did he heal so quickly?"

"You said our little Kiro did this? How? When?"

Kiro, for his part, looked about ready to bolt again, and it took both Mother Agatha and Sister Bergita side by side to usher him to one of the benches in the atrium while the rest gathered around in whatever chairs, benches, stools, or comfortable floor spaces were available (with most seats given up for the nuns, at the professor's gentle bidding).

"I'm not sure how, professor.. but Kiro found us out there. I guess he was in the same area, and we just got lucky," Scott continued to explain, experimentally running a finger along where the wound in his leg had been. His jeans and uniform beneath were still caked with blood, but the skin itself was quite whole. It was remarkable. Scott still seemed in awe, even more so now that they were inside and he had a chance to examine himself at relative leisure.

"I was in so much pain and bleeding so much, that I wasn't really focused on anything except trying to stop the blood from flowing," Scott said, a subtle tremor in his voice betraying how scared he must have been. Jean, beside him, clutched his arm and there was a telltale shimmer of tears in the corner of her eyes. "But that was when I felt Kiro there. She- ahem.. he.." Scott hastily corrected himself as he visibly blushed, ".. was there beside me, and put his hands on my leg. I thought he was just trying to help me apply pressure, but then I felt warm. Really warm, like, jumping into a hot tub. And the pain was just.. gone. It melted away. Then, I.. er.. felt.. well, really, really good, let's just put it that way." Here, Scott blushed again, but there was a different tinge to the blush. After clearing his throat, he shook his head, "But.. um, anyway.. the bleeding stopped, and when she-.. er.. he.. pulled his hands away, the wound was just gone, like it was never there. I wasn't even sore or anything, I felt incredible. Up and walking, and running, like that," he said with a snap of his fingers.

There was murmuring among the students, and the professor nodded his head softly, his gaze then turning to Logan, who returned it. It seemed they had another healer in the group. Except this time.. "So, the kid can heal anyone he touches..?" Logan asked, his gaze leveled on Kiro appraisingly. Kiro met Logan's gaze, and blushed visibly. He had stolen occasional glances at Logan while Scott had told his story, and also at Kurt, though this was the first time they had held prolonged eye contact.

Kiro shifted a bit under the intense gaze, his blush deepening, as he finally lowered his violet-eyed gaze, as silent as ever, to stare at his bare feet. He was barefoot inside the monastery, and had left the simple rope sandals he wore at the door when he entered. If he was bothered by the cold stone under his feet, it didn't show.

"It would seem so," Mother Agatha mused, reaching up to gently touch Kiro's shoulder, "It seems the Lord has given you quite a gift, my child. Fitting for a gentle one such as you." She shivered a bit at the warmth and power from his touch, even stronger now than it had been this morning. It seemed that his powers had awakened in earnest.

Logan was about to make a remark, but a stern look from the professor stifled it to little more than a grunt. "Nevertheless," the professor continued, "It seems we have at last found the person whom we were looking for. Kiro," Charles spoke, as he rolled forward smoothly on his chair to pause in front of where Kiro sat on the bench, flanked by Mother Agatha and Sister Bergita. "Has anyone had a chance to tell you why we have come here?"

The boy gave a confused look, and shook his head. He then looked at Mother Agatha and made a peculiar hand sign, illiciting a chuckle and shake of the head from Mother Agatha, "No, they are not tourists, Kiro. Most certainly not."

"Right, so quit actin' like one, Sam!" Logan scowled as he once again grabbed the teen boy's arm and pulled him away from an alcove nearby, "ACK! Hey, Logan, I wasn't doin' nothin'! Honest!"

"Ahem, well, yes, Kiro, we are not tourists," the professor broke in politely, drawing attention back to himself. "I am Professor Charles Xavier, of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. That is Mr. Logan, one of the teachers at the Institute," he added with a gesture to Logan, who nodded respectfully, "And these," he gestured to the various teens around them, "Are some of our students. You've already met Scott Summers, Jean Grey, Kurt Wagner, Rogue, Katherine Pryde ("Just call me Kitty!").." Kiro followed the professor as he introduced each of the students in turn. The violet-eyed albino favored each with a kind smile, particularly Kurt, Scott and Jean, though the sheer number of them seemed to intimidate him, and the professor got the distinct impression that the boy was wishing he could shrink into his robes right that minute. Clearly he was unused to being the center of attention.

Kurt seemed to notice it as well, and spoke up, "Um, Professor, perhaps it might be a better idea to have 'the talk' in the reverend mother's office? Just the few of you?" He offered hopefully, and the relieved look that he received from Kiro warmed his heart, earning Kiro a wink and a grin in return from the Nightcrawler.

"A wise idea, I think. I sense that Ororo is on her way back as well, and she has good news," The professor announced, turning to the students with a smile, "Everyone, please go back to assisting the Sisters here in their tasks and preparations. Logan, if you wouldn't mind supervising?"

"I'll keep 'em outta trouble, Chuck," the burly Canadian responded.

"Very well then. Reverend Mother, Kiro, let us proceed to your office."

Kurt and the rest watched as Kiro was led, hand held by Mother Agatha, down the hall to her office. While they left, Sister "Bear"-gita politely excused herself as well and went with the rest of the sisters back to their various tasks, preparing the monastery and helping the villagers get settled, most of whom were thankfully already gathered within the Abbey's chapel.

The door to the mother superior's office had scarcely closed when Logan barked, "Alright, runts, let's make ourselves useful. Cyke, take half the crew down to the basement and see how the sisters are doing with the beds and food supplies. Half-Pint - you're with me, Elf - ..."

------

"So, he would return with you to the United States?" Mother Agatha asked, her brown eyes leveled on the professor's as he sat across from her. Kiro between them formed a sort of triangle, all sat in front of the reverend mother's desk in her office, and the boy's violet eyes flicked back and forth between the two as they spoke, ever silent ("He hasn't ever said a word, you know, not to me or to anyone else.. I'm not sure if he even can..").

"Indeed. He would live at the Institute in Bayville, New York, with the rest of the students, many of whom you have just met. He could also enroll in their local High School as well, or continue being.. erm.. home-schooled, if he wished," the professor explained, favoring Kiro with an appraising look. The boy's silence did bother him, some what, as did the inscrutability of his thoughts. Charles yearned to know what the boy's opinion was on all of this. The last thing he wanted was to cause him any distress.

Despite the situation, however, Kiro seemed quite calm, and his violet eyes were keen and alert as they watched the two discuss his potential future. Charles got the impression that the boy was quite intelligent, and mature beyond his years. It both impressed and concerned him. Growing up in a monastery can't have been easy. After all, had he really had much of a chance to be a child? To run and play? Make friends? Perhaps he had some catching up to do at the institute.

"I am curious, reverend mother. While we're on the subject of.. education. Do you have any idea as to his age? I wonder what his appropriate grade level might be in the school," Charles asked, fixing the boy with an appraising gaze. His delicate, beautiful features made it a bit difficult to put a number to his years, all the professor could guess was that he was indeed a teenager, perhaps 15? Hank would probably be able to make a better determination than he, perhaps studying the boy's teeth or other physical attributes, but unfortunately their other blue-furred friend was back at the Institute, "minding the store" while they were away and also keeping watch over the students still there this weekend.

"I'm afraid I do not, professor. Nor does he," she replied sadly, echoed with a nod from Kiro. "As I told you, I found him at the door of our monastery, he was a small child then. Perhaps.. 5? Such a small thing. That was ten years ago, almost to the day, on All Hallow's Eve." She smiled and gave a shrug of her shoulders. "That is what we have considered to be his birthday."

The professor nodded, and gave a soft chuckle, "Halloween night, then. Not quite what comes to mind at the phrase "Trick or Treat," does it?"

At this, Mother Agatha shook her head and chuckled as well, and Kiro shuddered in his chair. No, not shuddered. The professor looked closer. Giggling. He was giggling.. yet no sound came out? 'Curiouser and curiouser,' Charles thought to himself.

Once their chuckles had died down, Charles smiled and continued, "Ahem, well, as I was saying about the Institute, he would live among his fellow students, each given their own room, or the opportunity to share rooms if they wish..."

-----

"Well, that's the best damn news I've heard all day," Logan grunted as Ororo finished, but that soon earned him a death glare from the woman, "Right right, sorry, no cussin' in a church.."

"As I was saying, the army will be here with a detachment within the next hour, so the villagers and the monastery will be quite safe. It's still a good thing that they decided to hunker down in the monastery for a while, but it looks like the protection will be unnecessary," Ororo concluded, drawing out a series of relieved sounds from the gathered X-Men, nuns, and villagers alike (those who could understand English, anyway). The sense of gratitude was palpable, and Ororo soon found herself the victim of a borderline swarm of villagers all assuring her of their thanks for sending word to the authorities.

So preoccupied were they that Logan was the only one who noticed that the professor and Kiro had returned, with mother superior close beside them. The professor's expression was carefully neutral, but Logan detected a low undercurrent of excitement from him that had him fairly certain of what the outcome had been.

The professor cleared his throat to get their attention, before he announced, "Everyone, I have some good news, please gather the students together in the refectory."

The refectory, or dining hall, was actually about the same size as the dining hall in the Xavier Institute, though far less opulent. The long table was a sturdy wooden affair with a worn patina on its surface that spoke of many years, perhaps even centuries, of steady use, flanked on either side, and at the head and foot, with sturdy but simple wooden stools, benches and chairs. The soft flow of impressions from the room was fascinating, and both the professor and Jean had to pause for a moment's appreciation upon entering the hall, before waiting for the rest of the students to arrive.

Soon enough, the students were all assembled and a quick head count confirmed that everyone was here ("Especially you, Bobby!"). The professor's chair was at the center of the room, near the fireplace, which had a small fire kept burning (which in fact was never allowed to go out) and Kiro was at his side, when he spoke, "I am pleased to announce that this mission has been a success. Young Kiro here will be joining us at the Institute as a new student."

At this, a cheer went up from the students, especially Kurt, Scott, Jean, Kitty, and Rogue, while Ororo and Logan applauded, nodding in approval. A small chorus of welcomes soon followed:

"YEAH! KIRO! KIRO! KIRO!"
"Welcome aboard!"
"Good to have you!"

"However, I would like to point out that Kiro does come with a unique set of.. circumstances. He has spent most of his life here at the monastery, so he will doubtless be unaccustomed to life at the Institute. I would urge all of you to be patient and forthcoming with him when it comes to how things are. Even something as simple to you as hot running water and a lightswitch might come as quite the surprise," the professor explained, fixing each student with a careful gaze to impress upon them the seriousness of his words.

"Now, with that being said, I will be working closely with your teachers, as well as the authorities like the State Department, to see what can be done about having Kiro given refugee status in the United States," at this, Kurt perked up, as did Ororo and Logan. They seemed to know immediately what that meant, as the professor continued, "Because Kiro was a foundling here, he does not have any documentation to follow him. No driver's license, ID, birth certificate, or at least none that we know of. This imposes a unique set of challenges. But do not worry, Kiro," The professor smiled up at the boy, "I am quite confident we will have you established soon, and writing home regularly to your family here."

Kiro seemed overwhelmed, and swayed on his feet for a moment before Kurt, at his side, reached out to steady him with a friendly touch to the shoulder.

The professor extended a hand, and smiled, "It is my honor and privilege to welcome you to the Institute, Kiro."

Kiro took the professor's hand, and that was when the professor got his first taste of Kiro's unique abilities.

The result was, shall we say, hilarious.

"Oh mah GAWD.. is the professor .. blushing??"

Rogue said it best.



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