Mixed Feelings

BY : Panduki
Category: X-Men - Animated Series (all) > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1182
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!


Kurt's breath caught in his throat as he felt the touch again. Flowing through him like a terrible, wonderful combination of liquid fire and electricity. Teasing every nerve, setting every hair on edge, making him shudder and moan. Those violet eyes gazed into his, and that sweet smile watched from.. down there.. as that hand continued to play along his belly. Butterfly-soft wisps of white hair pooled against his thighs as Kiro leaned down to rub his cheek against Kurt's erect length, throbbing hotly with barely-contained need.

"Oh.. oh mein gott.." Kurt moaned, his tail slipping up to curl around Kiro's nude body, even as his legs shifted along the bedcovers beneath him, needing to writhe under such exquisite sensation. Kiro's eyes were closed now as he slipped a hand around Kurt's engorged length, and Kurt's moans turned to pleading, begging Kiro to do it. A mixture of German and English flowing from him in a haphazard pidgin as it became harder and harder to form coherent thoughts.

Suddenly, he was inside Kiro's mouth. And oh god was it exquisite. So warm, so wet, so soft, the pleasure seemed to have only doubled. And how was that even possible? Kurt's mouth opened in a silent moan as he arched his back, feeling Kiro bobbing his head, suckling softly, that hand on his belly stroking him, rubbing him, petting him, then slipping over to seek his hand and hold it, squeezing affectionately. Kurt's eyes opened to look down at Kiro's, those violet orbs peering back up at him with such adoration, such love, such affection. A smile around his cock, as the albino boy bobbed faster, suckled harder. "Oh.. oh gott.. is.. its.. too much!" Kurt mewled, his other hand slipping down to Kiro's head, stroking the silky soft hair as he felt the boy go faster, harder.. the pleasure was nearly overwhelming him, spurring on the building release in his loins.

"Oh gott.. oh mein gott.. I'm.. I'm going to...!" Kurt gasped as the pressure built.

The sudden buzzing of his alarm shattered his dream, causing Kurt to bolt upright in his bed with a sudden gasp and a shudder through his body. Without thinking, his tail swept over and smacked the digital clock on his nightstand, silencing it. Kurt was gasping and panting hard as his heart slammed against his ribs. "Oh.. my.. god..." Kurt shuddered in the pleasurable aftershocks of his dream.

He had never. EVER. Had a dream that intense before. And the bulging erection in his painfully-tight boxers seemed intent on agreeing with him. It throbbed hotly, the front of his boxers already damp with pre. He had indeed been close, so very close. Perhaps it was a good thing the alarm had went off when it did. Wait a second, it was still pitch black outside the window. Kurt glanced over at the clock.

Huh? 5:30? He didn't need to be up until at least 7. He then groaned. Their training session on Saturday. Logan had wanted him in the Danger Room by 6 that morning. "Damn it.." Kurt muttered, and glanced over at the other bed several feet away.

Empty.

Kurt perked up, concerned. On the one hand, he was glad that Kiro hadn't been in the same room to see him.. or hear him.. when he was having one of -those- dreams. Especially about Kiro, of all people!! Considering how light of a sleeper Kiro seemed to be, Kurt found himself hoping that his moaning and thrashing around hadn't woken the poor boy up an hour ago, or whenever the dream had started.

Slipping out of bed, he grunted with pain and adjusted the front of his boxers, trying to give some relief to the straining erection within, and went over to Kiro's bed to feel the mattress.

It was cool. He hadn't been there for at least an hour.

Up by 4:30 AM? Kurt shook his head. Even on his most insomniac nights, he doubted he could ever top that. Was it a monastery thing? Or.. or was the boy still having trouble sleeping? Nightmares?

The thought of Kiro suffering more of them did wonders to cool Kurt's passions, and he made his way down the hall to take a quick cold shower to take care of the rest. There wasn't much point in getting back to sleep anyway, definitely not for just another hour of sleep. 'Though I might change my mind come finals week,' Kurt grumbled dejectedly.

The cold water felt horrible after such a hot dream, but Kurt gritted his teeth and dealt with it, running his hands through his fur and forcing that water to hit him right where it hurt the most. It still felt.. wrong, somehow, to have these sorts of feelings, even though it was getting harder and harder to deny the reality of them. He had feelings for Kiro. Feelings that definitely went beyond friendship. He felt.. that way.. about another boy. The way that he had only ever felt about girls before. Girls like Kitty, or Amanda, or even Boom Boom, once upon a time.

Even so, this felt.. different somehow. Deeper. More serious. More weighty. It was hard to explain, hard to put into words. As Kurt shut off the water and fumbled blindly for a towel, he turned the thoughts over in his mind, the towel flopping to the floor outside the stall. Once again, he found himself asking... what does it all mean? What will he tell his parents?

Should he even tell them?

Does it mean he needs to.. well.. -act- on these feelings?

The very thought of not acting on them hurt even worse than his erection previously had. How could he do that? Feel this way about someone, and just.. squelch it down? Would a loving god demand such a thing of his creation? Give them such a powerful, almost painful love, and then demand that they not act on it, for fear of eternal damnation..?

Kurt's breath caught in his throat, and he leaned his head against the cold tile of the shower, met by a small patter of cold droplets from the showerhead above. This was something that he had never done before. It was even causing him to question the very teachings he had earnestly believed in for his whole life. Even in his darkest, angriest, self-pitying moments, seeing the worst that humans had to offer for a tiny, demon-spawn boy like himself in rural Germany, had he never doubted the church so much, or doubted that they were right when they spoke of God's love.

But here, now, standing naked after a cold shower, after one of the hottest, most painfully-pleasurable dreams he had ever had, about a boy he had only known for a few weeks so far.. a boy whom he felt himself falling deeper and deeper for every day..

He doubted.

It could not be this way. Surely, a God who loves so much, could not ask such a cruel thing. Could not condemn such a thing as this love, this attraction, for such a gentle, beautiful being as Kiro seemed to be. And Kiro, he seemed to think nothing strange of his feelings for Kurt. But then, did he really have feelings for him? Could Kurt be sure that he felt the same way? It was so verdammt difficult to know, since he could never talk to him. Perhaps in time, when he could write in English. Or maybe the professor..

"Oh mein gott.. the professor.." Kurt cringed, and buried his face in his hands as he slid down the wall and sat on the floor of the tub. "What would the professor think..?" He mumbled into his hands, and surprised himself with a sniffle as the slow undercurrent of emotion finally began to bubble to the surface. Tears were stinging at his eyes, but he refused to let them fall. Not right now. Please, not now!!

He was still like that a moment later, when he sensed a presence in front of him, gazing down at him.

"Kurt? Are you alright?" That voice..

Kurt's golden eyes, glowing softly in the dim light of the shower, opened. He typically only turned on one light at the bathroom entrance, to warn someone he was in the shower. Kurt's sensitive eyes needed very little light to see, and he had often kept his room in total darkness during the night, until Kiro had joined him.

"Dr. McCoy?!" Kurt yelped, sitting up immediately. Only then did he realize he was still quite naked, and the towel he had taken off the rack forgotten where it lay on the floor. Immediately he huddled back on himself, his tail curling around his thighs as he stammered, "I.. I.."

"Hey, hey now, easy," Hank soothed, peering down at him with nothing but concern, hands lifted in a calming gesture. "I.. I heard someone in here, it almost sounded like crying. You're not usually up this early, Kurt. Are you alright?" He repeated his question.

Hank's eyes were calm. Non judgmental. They showed only concern. Hank never saw him as a demon, or a.. a.. ".. Hank.." Kurt asked, his voice barely above a whisper as he felt his eyes start to sting again. "Do you.. do you think I am a.." Kurt started, and felt the warmth of tears welling in his eyes, seconds before they began to trail down his cheeks.

"Stop it." Hank's voice was firm, but gentle. His arms, long and powerful, were suddenly around Kurt's body and under his knees, lifting him up as Kurt curled against the massive Beast's chest. "Whatever you're about to call yourself, don't. Don't ever do that, Kurt." He gently chided, even as Kurt began to weep in earnest. A plush towel found its way over Kurt's body, and Kurt felt the rush of cool air as they moved through the bathroom, back down the hall, and soon into his room once again.

Once down on the bed, he curled up on his side and shivered, though whether with cold or with tears, or some horrible combination of the two, was anyone's guess. Hank toweled him off as best as he could, muttering something about "Our damned blue fur, so difficult sometimes.." before he drew the covers up across Kurt's body.

"Just rest, Kurt. Don't worry about anything right now. Whatever you are, or aren't.. whatever some fool called you, or whatever you might feel like calling yourself." He commanded, his hand resting gently on Kurt's shoulder. All Kurt did was whimper softly in reply, and nodded, the maelstrom of emotions once again whorling in his chest.

"It sounds like you might not be in much shape to go to school today.. I'll let the others know you are ill, and we'll see about having your work sent home today." Kurt started to object, but Hank gently put a finger on his lips, "I know about you and Kiro,"

Kurt suddenly froze, panic seizing his whole body. 'Oh gott. Oh gott, nein. Nein nein nein!!'

"- I know you were planning on showing him around school today, but don't worry, ok? Scott, Jean, Kitty, Rogue, they'll all be there with him too. He'll be alright.."

Kurt let out a sudden sob, both of relief, and of shame for his terror at the thought of being discovered.. what was wrong with him?!

Hank did not seem to realize, however, and he just patted Kurt's shoulder once again. "I'll be downstairs if you need me, Kurt. And you know the professor is just a thought away if you need him, too. You'll be alright. Whatever's wrong, we're here." And with that, Hank left the room in a soft lumber of blue fur, muscle, and one of the gentlest souls Kurt knew. Almost as gentle as Kiro's..

"Kiro!!" Kurt gasped, and rolled over to look at the other bed.

Still empty.

"Where could he be..?" Kurt whispered, forcing down another shiver of tears. He had cried enough, hadn't he??

He angrily wiped his eyes and sat up straighter in the bed. But still more tears came. "Damn it.. damn it!!" Kurt growled.

Hank was right, Kurt realized bitterly. He was in no fit state to go to school today.

-------

"I thought I might find you here."

Kiro jumped up from where he had been kneeling, whirling around in a crouch.

"It's alright," Ororo said with a smile. "My word, you're as skittish as a newborn fawn sometimes."

The boy shivered a bit as the adrenaline soaked through him, and finally gave a sheepish smile before he bowed his head in a silent apology.

"You're up so early, it's still an hour or more before daybreak," Ororo said, peering through the shadows to the clock on the wall. Her gaze swept back to him, and her voice took on a gentle note of concern, "Is something the matter?"

Kiro paused, as if in thought, and started to shake his head, before he stopped, and then nodded. Ororo gave a wan smile, and reached over to gently touch his shoulder, "Nothing's ever simple, is it? With any of us..?" She trailed off as the boy's touch made itself known. A peculiar feeling, but not unpleasant, and one that made even Storm smile with it's dreamlike quality. "I can see why the orchids sprang up at your touch," she said with a chuckle, letting her hand fall away as she peered over at the alcove the boy had been kneeling in.

Professor Xavier had a fondness for many things. The arts, literature, philosophies, and yes, even religions. His approach to them was more cerebral and humanistic than faith-based, of course, but Ororo still sensed part of it was also the dedication, the discipline, the human will that went into them. To make such great works of art, sculpture, paintings, stained glass, cathedrals, all in dedication of an ideal, something that may not even truly exist, but that did not matter to those who believed in it for its own sake. "Hm, old habits die hard?" She asked, as her eyes fell on the small cushion he had placed there, in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary. And there, beside it, was the Bible he had brought with him from the monastery, open to reveal an intricately written page that may well have been penned by hand, countless years ago.

Storm suddenly felt bad for interrupting what may have been the boy's morning prayers. She knew little about how monastics conducted their lives, but she had learned, in her brief discussions with one of the English speaking nuns at Kiro's abbey, that a large part of it was prayers all throughout the day, at different times. Some, indeed, even starting long before dawn, depending on the season. A life of such discipline, dedication, and devotion. Ororo could scarcely imagine such a young boy, especially a teenager, living a life like that. Had he been forced into it..?

The thought made her want to clench a fist. But when she looked into those violet eyes, saw their gentle gaze back up at her, she sensed her error. No. He had not been forced, at all. He had wanted to be part of it. To join his "family," and help them in their service. Even if he had taken no vows, himself. Even if he, perhaps, did not truly belong in such a place. That kind of selfless generosity in one so young caused Ororo's throat to choke a bit.

His touch was there, on her arm, and his gaze up at her was now one of concern at her silence. "No, it's alright, little one," Ororo assured him, even as that warmth once again flowed through her at his touch. Gentle, warm, pleasurable, even. Like a soak in an exquisite hot tub, with the scent of carnations all around. Enough to make her sigh at it. "I was just thinking, perhaps a little too much." She looked down at him, and gently guided his hand back down to his side. "You should perhaps-" She paused when the grandfather clock nearby chimed the hour. 6 AM.

She heaved a sigh, "Well, perhaps there's no point in going back to bed now, is there?" She asked with a smile, one that was returned by Kiro and met with a shrug of his shoulders.

"Well, don't go blaming anyone else if you start dozing off in the middle of class," Ororo chastened, even as she helped him gather the cushion and his Bible, and began to steer him toward the kitchen for an early breakfast. "As if I'm one to talk," Storm muttered cursing her own early-rising tendencies. "How are you at making an omelette?"

-----

"Aww, man! Seriously?" Kitty gasped when she heard the news. "He must be so bummed! That was, like, something he was totally looking forward to!"

"Yeah, Ah wonder what's got him? Maybe he caught sumthin' durin' y'all's walk yesterday?" Rogue brainstormed, glancing across the table at Kiro, who seemed just as confused as they were, and shrugged, grabbing another forkful of omelette. "Man, these eggs are amazin'," She complimented, drawing a blush from Kiro as he averted his gaze.

"Did you, like, see him this morning? Did.. umm, you try touching him? Did it not work? Is he okay?" Kitty prodded, noticing that Kiro, like them, was still in his nightclothes. At Kiro's shake of the head, Kitty blinked as realization dawned, "How long have you been down here? Trouble sleeping again?" She asked, her voice softening with concern.

"Ah dunno how ya do it, man," Rogue mused, "If Ah have just a couple'a days of bad sleep, Ah'm a zombie, and Ah end up crashing for like twenty hours no matter where Ah am, or how loud Ah snore."

"Tell me about it," Kitty teased, before ducking just in time to dodge a strawberry from Rogue.

"Hm, but if ya've been down here since.. like, midnight or whatever.. maybe ya could check on Kurt when ya get dressed? See if he's okay?" Rogue suggested, peering at Kiro hopefully.

"Well, like, obviously he's not okay, or he'd be going to school with us!" Kitty pointed out with a roll of her eyes, though her voice lowered as she peered down at her cereal, "Though now I'm wondering what's wrong. Hope it's not another one of those stomach bugs like he got a few months ago."

"Oh gawd, don't remind me," Rogue grumbled, "Ah still have nightmares of him *bamf!*ing into the hall in front of the bathroom like, 'Oh mah gawd, move! Ah'm gonna hurl!' and me not getting out of the way in time.."

Kitty couldn't help it, she burst out laughing. "Oh god! That almost happened too, didn't it? I remember you shouting at him after you jumped out of the way and he ran past you to the bathrooms!"

"Whadya think gave me the nightmares?!" Rogue groaned. That had been before Kurt had had his own bathroom put in his room. Not quite for the same reason, but it served a similar purpose.

"Hey, guys, you about ready to get dressed?" Scott asked as he stepped into the kitchen. As ever, he was already dressed and seemingly ready to jump in the car at a moment's notice.

"Yes, dad," Rogue grumbled, but began to tidy away their dishes as the other two stretched and rose from their chairs. "Ya hear 'bout Kurt?" She asked on her way to the sink.

"Yeah," Scott nodded, frowning, "Hank said he thinks he'll be fine with just a day's rest, but whatever it was, it sure came on pretty sudden. I mean, I just talked to him and Kiro last night before bedtime, and he seemed fine. Downright ecstatic.."

"Yeah, strange." Rogue agreed as Scott left the kitchen, and her eyes went to follow Kiro as the boy made his way up the stairs, part of her wishing she could go up and check on her brother.

----

"Okay, Kiro, just like on the Blackbird, remember? You never go anywhere in a vehicle like this without wearing your seatbelt," Scott spoke as he leaned over Kiro to help him with his straps. The boy's scent was pleasant, it reminded Scott of camping, almost. And the shampoo he used was a strange mixture of sandalwood and lavender, perhaps one he had borrowed from Kitty..?

Kiro had gone upstairs to change into his school clothes, and been back down in just a few moments, but when Scott and the others had asked him how Kurt was doing, he just shook his head and mimed someone sleeping on their pillow. Kiro had chosen not to awaken him, and that was probably for the best.

"Hello? Earth to Scott? Ya okay there, cap?" Rogue drawled with a prod to his side from the backseat.

"OW! Ah, yeah, sorry. Just had to, um, check something," Scott fumbled as he made a show of needlessly straightening one of the straps to lay flat along Kiro's chest in the passenger seat. A slow ghost of a touch across the backs of his fingers was enough to make Scott shiver with pleasure, but he clamped down on it with a purse of his lips and slid back into the driver's seat.

"Alright! Here we go. You girls ready?" He asked as he buckled his own seatbelt.

"Ready!" Kitty whooped, Rogue flashed a thumbs up, and Jean just rolled her eyes as she sat behind Scott, though even she was grinning at how excited Kiro seemed to be. Excited by something the rest of them, it seemed, merely tolerated. School, and the ride to it.

"Allllrighty then!" Scott roared out and gunned the engine, revving the sportscar a few times before they backed down the driveway. A smooth shift and spin of the wheel had them whipped around to face the gates, and soon enough the car was barreling down the road toward Bayville and Bayville High. Even driving at a steady speed of about five above the speed limit, Scott could tell beside him that Kiro was gripping the armrest in a white knuckle (wasn't that redundant with him?) grip, and felt himself slowing down as a result. He didn't want to give the poor kid a heart attack on his first day of school!

"So Kiro, have you ever ridden a car before? This looks like your first time!" Scott called over as they drove.

A shake of the head was his reply, which sent Kiro's hair flying back into Kitty's face, who giggled, "Ack! Kiro! Watch it!"

"Well, I'm glad I got the opportunity to pop your cherr-"

A sharp kick at the back of his seat made him jump, and very nearly tap the breaks, "ACK! Jean!"

"Scott! Watch your language!" Jean warned, ice in her voice.

In the rear-view mirror, both Kitty and even Rogue had surprised expressions at Scott's choice of words.

Well, come on. It was a perfectly innocent expression, wasn't it?

He couldn't possibly mean it the other way. Not with Kiro, who was now peering out the windshield with an apparently innocent grin.

Right?

Scott gulped, and tapped the accelerator.

---

"They should be here any minute now, I'm sure," the professor assured Principal Kelley, as they waited just atop the steps to the high school's main entrance. He and Ororo had returned to the Institute late last evening, and both of them still looked as though they could use a few more hours of rest. But the Professor's eyes were alert, and he seemed quite anxious to see how Kiro would do on his first day at school.

Sure enough, there they were. Scott's red sportscar turned off the road with him at the wheel, and the sportscar rolled smoothly into the parking lot with a solid twenty minutes to spare.

Still not quite at the exact time they had originally planned, but close enough to be excused, especially considering how careful Scott must have been driving with such an unaccustomed passenger in the car.

The professor's gaze leveled on Kiro as the boy fetched his schoolbag from the trunk and somewhat awkwardly shrugged it onto his shoulders. He was so unused to many things that the other students did so effortlessly. Was this all a mistake? Was he not ready?

The professor felt a small inkling of doubt gnaw at his nerves, but just as quickly felt it melt away as Kitty and Rogue were there at either side of Kiro, helping him adjust the straps for comfort and Kitty even lending him a hair tie (Don't they call those .. scrunchies, or some such?) to help tie his inordinately long hair back into a neat ponytail. His skin shone with what some might be fooled into thinking was perspiration, if the air weren't so cool. Given his sensitivity to sunlight, the professor had thought it better to take no chances, and insisted the boy wear sunblock on his face and hands at least, even for the brief trip to the school and back home again in the afternoons. Otherwise, the lambswool sweater he wore would protect his arms and chest.

'Although,' the professor mused, 'Given that his healing powers have emerged now and seem rather potent indeed, would a sunburn really be more than just a momentary inconvenience?' It was another mystery to ponder.

"Well, you certainly weren't kidding when you said the new student had a.. unique appearance," Principal Kelley observed as he stood beside the professor and Ororo, hands on his hips. Ororo couldn't resist a small smile. It seemed everyone had that reaction with Kiro. Was he a boy? Was he a girl? A little of both? Neither? Was his beauty beyond such ill-fitting titles? Who could say?

But the three watched as Rogue, Kitty, Jean, Kiro and Scott made their way across the parking lot, soon joining the small flood of their fellow students who had also carpooled over and continued to file past the three of them as they mounted the steps and entered the school.

The steady repetition of "Good morning, Principal Kelley," was a constant as the three waited, though as their students got closer, Charles couldn't help smile a bit as he overheard quite a few whispered comments about, ".. that new girl..?" "No way, that's gotta be a boy.. right?" greeting their ears.

Finally, Scott paused in front of them, "Good morning, Principal Kelley. Professor, Ms. Munroe!"

Charles nodded genially with a smile, "Good morning, Scott. Good to see everyone made it here safely," the professor said, clearly intending it as a compliment, one that Scott reluctantly accepted with half-hearted grin. "Well, I didn't want to scare Kiro too much," he murmured by way of explanation, but quieted as the professor raised a hand.

"I'm afraid, however, we cut it a bit too close, and time has already run out. Scott, why don't you and the others run along to class. Myself and Ororo will accompany young Kiro to our meeting with the Principal, and we'll see that he has some help to get wherever he needs to go today, since young Kurt has taken ill." The professor seemed so certain, but Scott had a small feeling of unease once again.

Nonetheless, at a stern glance from Principal Kelley, he nodded, "Sure thing, professor. See you later today, Kiro!" Scott said with a pat on Kiro's shoulder (shiver). Rogue, Kitty and Jean likewise said their goodbyes and encouragements, and hurried after Scott to get to their classes before the morning bell.

As Principal Kelley turned to lead the way, Kiro fell into step beside Professor Xavier's wheelchair, with Ororo close behind them, "Well then, here we go," the professor said encouragingly to him, hoping he sounded more confident than he felt.


-----

"Well, that's quite a long way to travel for an education," Principal Kelley remarked, leaning back in his chair as he looked over the rim of his glasses at the young .. boy? In front of him. "I had almost thought him related to you, Ms. Munroe, given your hair," he added with a bit of a sheepish glance.

At this, Ororo chuckled, a warm sound that helped dissolve some of the tension in the office, "Oh, certainly not. But I can't say I would mind having a son, or another nephew, like him. He's quite the gentle soul," She explained, seated beside the professor's wheelchair while Kiro sat somewhat stiffly in the other chair on the professor's left.

"He certainly seems that way. Rather quiet, though. Are you afraid to speak, young man?" Principal Kelley asked, frowning a bit when he received only a shake of the head from Kiro in response.

"Ah, it's not that he's afraid to speak, Mr. Kelley. He simply cannot," the professor gently clarified, steepling his hands beneath his chin. "When he was rescued from the fighting in Romania, the sisters who had cared for him explained that he is a mute. Though whether by choice or by some trauma, we don't yet know. But, I would request your patience and understanding in that matter, among the rest," Dr. Xavier added, his gaze firm as he regarded Principal Kelley for his reaction.

The Principal adjusted his glasses and nodded, replying with an apologetic smile, "Ah yes, I am sorry, Kiro. I did not mean to offend you. But that may cause some difficulties in your classes, you understand. I also remember your professor mentioning that you understand English well, but you have difficulty reading or writing in it?"

At this, once again, Kiro nodded. Though his violet eyes lowered in a small indication of embarassment. Shame? Charles's hand on his arm helped to soothe him though.

"It's quite alright, Kiro. I was actually going to suggest taking part in our Intensive English Program. We have some other foreign students here at Bayville High, and I believe even young Mr. Wagner from your Institute also took a few classes there during his first year, just to help polish his English skills," The Principal explained, and at the mention of Kurt, Kiro perked up noticeably.

Charles nodded, a smile tilting his lips, "Ah yes, I had hoped what I had heard about your program was still valid. The teacher is Ms. Harrison, correct? Fortunately, Kiro seems to already have quite the headstart in that regard. The classes in reading and writing should serve him well."

"The program has been very well received," Principal Kelley remarked as he leaned back in his chair, "So that is certainly an option we can enroll Kiro in. Though, that brings me to my last question: I understand this is still on a tentative basis?" He asked, regarding Ororo, the professor, and Kiro in particular with a critical eye.

"I'm afraid so, Mr. Kelley," Charles nodded. "You must understand, young Kiro has spent most of his life in a monastery, the equivalent of being home schooled, and has had very little interaction with others his own age, let alone attending school regularly and having to learn, read and write in a foreign language. It will doubtless be a challenge for him here, and I am prepared to have him instructed at the Institute instead, in case it turns out he would rather do so."

At this, Principal Kelley nodded, "But, you're leaving the ultimate decision up to him?"

"I think that would be best," Professor Xavier replied, "He is quite an intelligent young man, mature beyond his years, and I think he could handle figuring out such a decision for himself."

"What sort of time frame did you have in mind?" The Principal asked, "I just want to avoid any potential hassles with the Department of Education, in terms of his records and transcripts," he added, to clarify.

"Understandable," Ororo nodded, "So, you'd rather not have him as a 'temporary' student for too long?" She asked, receiving a nod from the principal in reply.

"Mm, well, I would rather not pressure Kiro to decide before he is ready, but would a couple of months suffice?" The professor suggested, glancing over at the nearby calendar. Today was November 5th, a couple of months would essentially give Kiro the opportunity to attend until the Christmas holiday break, should he chose to do so.

Principal Kelley followed the professor's glance, and nodded, "That was about what I had in mind, Dr. Xavier."

"Excellent, shall we plan on that, then? Kiro?" The professor asked, and Kiro took a breath, perhaps to calm his nerves, before nodding with a brave smile.

"Good, then it's settled," Principal Kelley nodded.

-----

"Alright, lemme see, American History with Mrs. Bradley, Science with Mr. King, Math with Ms. Clark, hey, Jamie's in that class I think! And English with - huh, Ms. Harrison? I don't remember her.." Kitty pondered as she glanced over Kiro's schedule. Despite the boy still being unable to read, at least in English, the professor and Ororo had been able to enroll him in at least a few classes, to get a feel for high school. He had additionally been enrolled in the Intensive English Program, which placed a mark on his record in the school system. Any curious teacher would then see that he was a refugee from Romania, and therefore would need extra care in his instruction.

"Oh wait, Ms. Harrison? That was the same gal that helped Kurt out with his English, remember?" Rogue chimed in, hunching over to peer at the schedule alongside Kitty.

The three were seated in their usual corner in the cafeteria ("It's like a refectory, Kiro, just.. umm.. bigger!"), going over Kiro's schedule together while they waited for the others to show up. Kiro had been busy in the school office all morning, ensuring his paperwork was all in place and properly cross-referenced with State Department records. Kiro, no last name (at least not yet) and now a temporary student at Bayville High. The looks he had gotten in the halls, and even now in the cafeteria, were somewhat unnerving. The male students, particularly Duncan Matthews, seemed to be torn between approaching him, or quietly sneering at him, and the rumors that he was one of "those" students from the Institute certainly didn't help matters any. Now that they were relaxing for lunch, Kiro had let his hair down from the ponytail, and it spilled down his shoulders and almost to the seat beneath him as sat with the girls at their table.

"Oh yeah! Kurt had nothing but good things to say about her, I'm sure you'll love her, Kiro," Kitty gushed when she finally remembered. But at the mention of Kurt, her expression fell, "Man, I wish he was here today. I know he wanted to show you around," She slumped onto her forearms on the table.

"Aw, cheer up, Kitty! We can't all be .. whoa.. who's this?"

"Oh gawd.. Lance.." Rogue fairly hissed as she straightened up in her chair. "What the hell're you comin' over here for?" She demanded of the mullet-sporting teen troublemaker. The Brotherhood mutants had been fairly good about leaving them alone for the past few weeks, but Rogue knew that it was always just a matter of time until they got bored and decided to cause trouble.

"What? Can't a guy say hi to a pretty girl? Especially one who seems to be friends with his ex-girlfriend?" Lance teased, earning a glare from Kitty in the process, who fumed, "Like, wow, Lance - really?"

Kiro, for his part, just looked up at Lance with a curious, but friendly expression. Apparently he had not yet been warned about the Brotherhood. And Kiro always seemed to be nice to everyone, even the boys at the school who had been giving him a hard time so far.

Another voice, however, was not so certain, "Whoa, dawg, you sure about that, man? That's, um, a really pretty face and all, but .. uh.." Todd fumbled as he hopped over beside Lance, straightening up to inspect Kiro where the albino boy sat flanked by Rogue and Kitty. "Ain't dressed like no girl, that's for sure," he concluded. "But then, neither do you," he said with a grin at Rogue, who quietly flipped him the bird.

"Hey, you got a name, pretty eyes?" Lance, it seemed, was undeterred, and he leaned over the table to peer down at a now-blushing Kiro, who averted his gaze, the movement causing a shimmer through his pure-white hair. "Lance!! You are unbelievable!" Kitty yelled, her face flushed with anger.

"Alvers, don't you have some other place to cause trouble right now?" Scott pressed, approaching from behind Lance and Todd, accompanied by Jean Grey, both of whom could notice Lance's posture over the table, and Kiro's flustered look.

"Whoa, talk about a cockblock, yo! I'm outta here!" Todd snarked, immediately hopping off toward the table where Pietro was sitting, chugging an energy drink.


"You really don't wanna fuck with me today, Summers," Lance growled, a subtle tremor beneath their feet making itself known.

"Alvers, we are really not in the mood for your shit," Scott warned in return. "We have a new student here, and you are definitely not the kind of first impression I would want on my first day in school."

The tension was palpable, and Lance seemed about ready to take a swing at Scott, right there in the cafeteria.

"Mr. Alvers, would you come over here, please?"

Principal Kelley stood in the nearby hallway, his expression hard.

Lance sighed and rolled his eyes, before leering back over at Kiro, "Guess we'll have to wait until later, gorgeous. Be seein' you." And with that, he was off to see whatever the Principal wanted.

"Ughhh.. that absolute CREEP!" Rogue shuddered, "Ah swear, Kitty, what did you EVER see in that guy?"

Kitty just sat there, fuming silently. They had broken up only a little over a month ago, a couple of weeks before Kiro had joined them, but it seemed Lance had wasted no time reverting to his "anything that moves" womanizing ways. "Definitely nothing that's there now, that's for sure and for certain," Kitty muttered bitterly.

Scott and Jean had finally joined them at the table, both managing pleasant smiles now that Lance had gone. "Well, first day at Bayville High, huh?" Jean said brightly, flashing an encouraging smile to Kiro, who had finally recovered from his blush and nodded in return. "What do you think so far?" Scott asked, glancing over his shoulder to see if any of the others from the Institute were going to join them.

Kiro wiggled his hand in the "so-so/alright" gesture, and Rogue laughed, "Well, that's a damn sight better than Ah thought of my first day here!"

Jean mused, "Probably would have been a thumbs up if it weren't for those creeps." At this, however, Kiro shook his head, and seemed lost in thought. Gently, Jean reached over to touch his shoulder, steeling herself for his touch's effect, but gasping nonetheless at the low undercurrent of pleasure that swept through her. While she touched him, however, she reached over to his mind, "knocking" politely.

'Kiro? Is everything alright?'

There was no reply, at first, nor even a feeling of consciousness, and Jean had worried that Kiro had closed himself off again. But the professor had mentioned physical contact being the key to reaching his mind, hadn't he?

Wait, there it was. She felt Kiro's mind: a curious, deep, calm lake of thought. Or was it more like a river? With a steady, gentle lapping of waves?

There was no talking from him, not even in his mind. Though perhaps this was expected. After all, if he had been a mute his whole life, he had no "voice" that his mind new, even to speak without vocal cords in his head. Most people used their own voices, naturally, but Kiro, it seemed, had none. Could he perhaps use someone else's? It was a curious thought.

But Jean sensed her answer as an impression, a raw emotion, a quiet smile and a meeting of the gaze. He was alright. At least, as 'alright' as he could be, under the circumstances. A little nervous, somewhat overwhelmed by everything, but happy to have their support, and grateful for all of their encouragement.

'Well, we're here for you, Kiro. Remember that,' Jean reminded him with a gentle squeeze of her hand on his shoulder, before withdrawing her touch.

Though their conversation had taken only a few seconds, the others at the table seemed to know what had just transpired. Perhaps due to the blush on Jean's face. Scott, fortunately, managed to avoid teasing her about it, and instead leaned over to ask permission to look over Kiro's schedule.

"Man, one o' these days Ah have GOT to see what the big deal is about y'all touchin' him.." Rogue muttered.

-------

"Aww, what's the matter? Little girl wants her book back? Little FAG more like!" Duncan laughed raucously as he held the heavy, leatherbound book above his head. Duncan was almost six feet tall, towering head and shoulders over Kiro, who seemed on the verge of tears as he again reached fruitlessly for the book.

Not just a book. His bible. His bible that he tried to never be without!

"Yeah, you ain't foolin' anybody, you fucking queer," one of the other football players taunted with a shove to Kiro's chest, sending the boy staggering backwards into the school's outside wall.

They were outside, just after the last class had let out. Kiro had come out here to read, and to wait for the others to finish their study groups and practices before they could return to the Institute. But that was when Duncan and the other boys with him had found them.

There had been quite a lot of talk today about the "new girl, no wait, new boy?" on campus. The one who didn't talk, and had white hair and pale skin that would even make that Rogue girl jealous. One look at Kiro up close had been all the confirmation the boys needed to make their assumption. Long hair? Feminine build? But dressed like a guy, and barely any fight in him at all? Total fag.

"Almost fooled that Alvers kid, you saw that shit earlier?" One of the boys, a tall black one with close cropped hair, sneered. "Would've loved to see the look on his face when he found out. But hey, maybe he likes the freaky-lookin' ones too!"

Duncan laughed again, and gave Kiro another shove as the boy made another fruitless grab for the book, looking now on the verge of tears. "Wow, you really ARE a little bitch. What's in this book anyway, huh? Love poems?" Duncan taunted, continuing to hold it away.

Kiro shook his head in reply, causing a tear to fall down his cheek.

"Why don't you just give the young man his book, Mr. Matthews?"

A new voice, one he didn't recognize.

Kiro looked around, and spotted the woman about twenty yards away, walking toward them at a smooth pace.

She was about five foot eight, and had a solid build to her, like a gymnast or acrobat, visible even through the conservative navy blue business suit she wore, her knee length skirt revealing a pair of well-honed, shapely legs beneath. Her skin was tanned, and her pure black hair was done up in a neat style kept above the collar of her suit, and a simple pair of golden hoop earrings adorned her earlobes. Her eyes, however, were a deep, penetrating green, and their full force was directed at the three jocks who seemed to wither under their gaze.

"Ms. Harrison?" The black student mumbled, and he backed away from where Kiro was standing.

"Oh, uh, yeah. Sure. Here you go, kid." Duncan immediately acquiesced, as though he had just helped someone fetch a book from a tall shelf. The picture of smug indifference.

Ms. Harrison stopped within arms length of the three boys, all of whom were taller and bigger than she was, but clearly seemed to have the impression that she could, and possibly would, kick their asses from here to across the football field if they made the wrong move.

"Good, now why don't you report to Principal Kelley's office now, gentlemen? I'm sure he will be delighted to hear how three of his star football players spend their spare time, especially with a new student half their size?" Her words were as icy as her gaze, and a shiver passed through them as they saw her waving a cell phone in the air. They had been caught. Big time.

"Yes ma'am." Duncan finally muttered, though the glare he sent Kiro's way was a dire warning. The other two did the same as they hunched their shoulders against a sudden cool breeze and trudged across the grass toward the main office.

----

"Well then, here you are. Kiro, I presume?" Ms. Harrison asked, and the sudden change in both her voice and demeanor was so startling that the albino ended up gawking at her instead of giving any kind of a response.

He looked so funny, in fact, that Ms. Harrison couldn't help but laugh. "Oh, I'm sorry. I've got a 'kill switch' sometimes. Comes from my days in the military. My name is Harrison, Margaret Harrison. I believe I am scheduled to be your English teacher in the mornings, Kiro?" She introduced herself with a smile, extending a hand.

Carefully, Kiro took it, giving a gentle shake. Ms. Harrison's expression changed, and she peered at him curiously, "Hm, what's..?" It was as if the cold air were no longer there. She felt warm, not only warm, but pleasantly warm. Like being wrapped in a warm quilt fresh from the dryer. Like stepping into a sauna after being out in the snow. And her ankle, it no longer twinged from where she had twisted it earlier. 'Damned heels.' And then the pleasure started. It was unexpected, and startled her, even as it made her tremble a bit.

With a small gasp, she released her hand from his, and peered at him in shock. "Oh, you.. you must be from the Institute," she said in a soft whisper, rubbing her hand where he had touched her. "Of course you are! I had forgotten about that earlier today." She grinned and shook her head, "One of your fellow students, Kurt Wagner? Do you know him? He was under my wing for a couple months, back when he first arrived."

The mention of Kurt made Kiro smile brightly, and he nodded in reply to her. The boy's smile was so cute. Lovely, really, like the rest of him, "Hm, you're quite the looker, just like Kurt," Ms. Harrison teased good-naturedly. "If only the riff-raff would leave you alone," She scowled in the direction of where the three jocks had just entered the main office.

"Well, anyway, I was hoping I'd see you around campus, Kiro. We're supposed to have class in the morning, but you were still busy in the principal's office until almost lunchtime, and I thought we should at least be introduced beforehand." She smiled kindly, and Kiro found himself smiling in return. She reminded him of Sister Lenuta. Tough, and stern, but kind.

Leaning forward, though, the woman surprised him with a whisper, "I know about the Institute, and about the.. unique talents, you students have. Kurt in particular, with both his forms," she added with a fond smile, "I just wanted to let you know, if you ever need another friend on campus, just come to me." Leaning back, her voice resumed its normal volume as she continued, "I'll have you reading and writing in English in no time, don't you worry."

Off to the side, Kiro saw several students stepping out of a nearby hall and into the sunshine, soon followed by many more. It seemed that the clubs had finally let out as well.

"Looks like it's time for you to get back to your friends," Ms. Harrison observed, helping Kiro secure his bible back in his schoolbag, receiving a grateful nod from the boy in return.

"Oh! Hey, there he is! And that's Ms. Harrison!" Jean could be heard saying, and soon after, she approached from the crowd with Scott and Kitty close behind.

"Good to see you again, Jean, Scott, Kitty!" Ms. Harrison greeted them warmly, and received similar greetings in return, "Yeah, it's been a while!" Kitty replied, leaning up to give the teacher a hug.

"Wait, Kiro.. have you been crying?" Jean asked quietly, upon noticing Kiro's face, or perhaps the aftereffects of his emotional state. After looking around furtively, she leaned in close, asking in concern, "What happened?"

"It's alright, Jean," Ms. Harrison replied, her voice firm once again. "Just that boy, Duncan, and his friends doing what they do best. I put a stop to it."

"Oh, great," Scott grumbled, and immediately peered over Kiro's face, "They didn't hurt you, did they? I swear, if they even laid a finger on you-"

"Scott! Like, chill, ok?" Kitty chided, though there was a slight edge of a giggle to her voice, "No need to be all Sir Lancelot about it. Sounds like Ms. Harrison gave them hell, already."

Ms. Harrison nodded, though she smiled and said, "Nice to see that young Kiro here has such good friends." There was a warmth in her voice that was almost as tangible as a campfire. "Just like when Kurt first came here, I remember how you all brought him into the pack."

Kitty grinned, "I know, right? It's like, Kurt all over again, except from a different country, and now Kurt's got a chance to see it from the other side!"

A small bubble of laughter swept over the group, while they waited for Rogue to catch up to them.

----

"Kurt?"

Hank's voice called through the door, shortly after his soft knock.

Kurt hadn't come down for breakfast, or lunch for that matter, and the others would soon be arriving home from school in another couple hours. Hank was a big believer in the recuperative power of sleep, especially for a troubled heart, but he also knew that it was quite unlike Kurt to miss even a single mealtime, let alone two in a row.

After a moment, Hank was about to try the door handle and take a glance inside, but he heard the soft sound of footsteps before the door clicked, and came open to reveal Kurt. His long indigo hair was mussed, and his fur was rather matted from sleep, but his golden eyes seemed to be more or less awake.

Hank peered down at him with a kind smile, "How are you feeling, Kurt? Any better?"

The blue elf looked back up at him in return, and Hank was relieved to see him smiling, "Ja, I am.. better. I'm sorry for-" He was stopped by the rather large hand placed over his mouth by Dr. McCoy, who fixed him with a stern, but friendly gaze. "That's enough apologizing, alright, Kurt? I know you've been having some.. difficulties lately. I don't know about what, and that's not my business, unless and until you decide to make it that way, ok?"

Kurt smiled once again. It was a relieved smile, "Ja, thank you, Dr. McCoy. I.. um, I might want to talk to you, or ze Professor, or.. um.. both.. I just, I'm not sure right now about things."

Hank raised a brow inquisitively, but nodded, "Well, it's clear that there's something on your mind, alright." He said, giving Kurt a toothy, gentle smile. "Well, whenever you think you're ready to sit down and talk, if you need to, you know my door is always open. And whatever it is, it stays between us, or between you and the professor, you know that, right?" Hank's eyes were so kind, and so understanding. Kurt didn't deserve him. He swallowed and nodded, his expression changing subtly.

"I.. I do know, Dr. McCoy. And it means so much, thank you."

Hank started to respond, but was caught off guard by Kurt's sudden hug. He smiled and returned the hug as well, pausing with some concern as he felt Kurt's back pop beneath his arms, several vertebrae in a row. "Oh goodness, are you alright?"

Kurt groaned before replying, "Oh, ja.. that felt sehr guht." Hank laughed, "You really HAVE spent the day in bed, haven't you? My word, Kurt. Get down to the kitchen and get yourself some food before you starve!"

The burly Beast gave Kurt a good-natured shove toward the stairs, and Kurt giggled, "Jawohl, Dr. McCoy." As Kurt went scampering down the hall, still in his nightclothes, Hank watched him go with a smile. Whatever had been on Kurt's mind that morning seemed to no longer be bothering him quite so much. Good.

"Perhaps tomorrow he'll be able to finally accompany Kiro to- Oh, wait.. Kiro! I wonder if he's thought about my offer?" Hank mused to himself, as he turned and made his way down the hall, going over some lesson plans in his head..

-----

"Kurt, it's good to see you up and about," the Professor's voice drifted into the kitchen as Kurt sat at the table, in the midst of polishing off a second sandwich.

Kurt said nothing for a few seconds, not wanting to be rude, and finally swallowed his bite before he spoke, "Ja, I'm sorry, professor, I guess I just-"

"Kurt," the professor said, and Kurt could tell from his kind smile that he knew that the blue elf was trying to fib. Kurt stopped, and looked down, his tail curling in shame.

"Listen, I hadn't meant to listen in, but you were broadcasting some.. troubling emotions, early this morning."

Kurt felt his heart sink. His blood running cold.

"Relax, Kurt, please. Don't be afraid. Jean wasn't awake at the time. And I blocked them out once I sensed that Hank was there helping you," The professor assured him, reaching over to gently touch his arm.

Despite his assurances, Kurt found himself having trouble breathing, and it was only when he heard the soft sound of clinking that he realized his hand holding his glass of juice was trembling. He quickly set it down and clasped his hands together on the table-top.

"Kurt, I know that something is troubling you. I haven't seen you like this in a long time, not since you first came to the institute. But this seems worse, somehow. I just wanted to reiterate what I'm sure Hank has told you already," Charles said, his voice calm, gentle. "If you need to talk, I'm here to listen. We all are. And help, if we can."

"Ja, but I don't know if it is something that -can- be helped, professor, that is.. what worries me." Kurt explained, his golden eyes downcast.

"Nonetheless, the offer is open, Kurt. Always. And in strictest confidence," The professor told him, the hand on his arm squeezing reassuringly.

"You keep that up, professor, you will spoil me," Kurt warned, but the Professor was pleased to see him smiling again, that playful gleam in those golden eyes.

"Perish the thought. But that's nothing that a few rounds with Logan won't cure," Charles teased in return, Kurt giving a mock look of horror before breaking down in chuckles.

"Now, please, keep up with your refueling, you've still got some catching up to do after a whole day without," Professor Xavier gently chided, and Kurt nodded in reply, his hand already reaching for the other half of his sandwich.

----

"Wait, you mean, like, being a nurse?" Kitty asked, immediately getting an image of Kiro in the stereotypical nurse's outfit and giggling hysterically at the thought. Beside her, Jean blushed and then laughed, Kitty having apparently broadcast the image unwittingly.

"Yeah, that's basically it- hey, what's so funny?" Rogue asked, smiling despite herself at the two other girls.

"Nothing, I mean, like, I could totally see that. Hank was serious, wasn't he?" Kitty answered, still trying unsuccessfully to stop giggling.

"Mmm, I could imagine worse things to see when I wake up in medbay from a bad game of mutant ball," Tabitha crooned as she came out from the hall, apparently having overheard the three's chat in the rec room, and brought a hand to her head in a playful gesture of swooning, "Oh, Nurse Kiro, won't you take gooood care of m-EEP!!"

"GET HER!" Kitty had called, just before Jean, Rogue, and herself all made to pounce Boom Boom and start tickling. They had limited success, but they were only halfheartedly trying anyway. Tabitha had mellowed out considerably from her initial capers. She was still quite a firebrand, but now at least knew how to act disciplined when the need was genuine.

Once they had all had their fun, the four of them flopped onto various seats in the rec room while they continued the wait for dinner. "So lemme get this straight, the doc's got the new boy down there in the lab doing OJT?" Tabitha asked, tossing a beanbag up and down in her lap.

"Basically," Rogue answered with a nod, "Hank's apparently been thinkin' about having him work down there as an assistant. Ah mean, ya gotta admit, his healing powers would really come in handy, 'specially in an emergency."

"Seriously. Like, a portable on-demand Logan-healing-power-thingy!" Kitty quipped, earning her flat looks from the other girls that soon dissolved into more laughter.

"Still, though, I wonder what kind of training he's getting. Is he learning the conventional medical stuff? Even though his powers would make it kind of.. moot?" Jean pondered, while she flipped on the television with her mind and started browsing through the channels.

"Huh, good question," Tabby agreed, her thoughts turning to the medical lab far below.

-----

"Excellent, Kiro! You certainly do seem to have a gift for this sort of thing," Hank said proudly before he pressed a series of keys and brought up a new display. "Alright, now this is the Circulatory System. Like a circle, round and round, how your heart pumps blood all through your body, and your lungs give it oxygen. You see here we have the heart," he pointed, "The lungs," another point, "The esophagus..."

It had only been about 30 minutes so far, but Dr. McCoy was impressed. Not necessarily with the boy's prior knowledge, which had been little, but rather, his eager desire and ability to learn more. Their lesson today had essentially been basic human anatomy and physiology, going over the various organs, body systems, bones and the like and how they interact with one another, on a very general level. Almost like a high school version of Human Bio 101.

Hank had been concerned that it would be a little overwhelming, but he needn't have worried. Kiro seemed to take it all in stride as Hank lectured, nodding regularly and pointing to various organs or structures on the screen as the Beast asked periodic questions. He hadn't smashed any records, but what he had displayed was an earnest, genuine thirst for knowledge, and seemed to share Hank's hope that this might make his powers more effective, or perhaps help in the professor's efforts to learn more about his unique abilities and how to possibly control, or even focus them.

"Now, the nervous system is the-"

*BAMF!*

"AGH!" Hank jumped out of his chair and even Kiro nearly fell out of his as a cloud of sulphur popped into existence and filled the room with its rotten egg smell, to finally reveal Kurt perched on one of the gurneys. "Kurt, for the love of everything sacred, what did we just discuss the last time you did that?!" Hank exclaimed, Kiro trembling from an adrenaline rush at the sudden shock.

Kurt, for his part, looked duly apologetic as he grinned at the both of them, but his apologetic demeanor immediately shifted to excitement as he saw what Kiro and Hank were doing, "Ah! So it IS true! You're taking Kiro on as a helper?"

Hank let out a slow breath, feeling his heart slooowly decrease it's rate to a level that would only be described as "fast," before responding, "Yes indeed, Kurt. Kiro has agreed to become my glamorous assistant," he teased, making Kurt laugh.

Kiro looked between the two of them, somewhat confused.

"Oh, don't worry, Kiro, it's a.. umm.. a pop-culture thing, I'll explain later!" Kurt reassured him with a grin and a wink, and Kiro smiled in return, returning the wink before those violet eyes settled on his. Kurt wasn't sure why, but the gesture, the expression on Kiro's face.. suddenly made him remember his dream from earlier that morning. That really hot dream. His breath caught in his throat, and he felt himself blushing beneath his fur, thankfully not wearing his image inducer.

"Kurt..?" Hank's voice, a note of concern evident. Kurt realized he and Kiro had been gazing into each other's eyes.

"Vas?? Oh, um, sorry. What was it?" Kurt asked, shaking his head quickly to clear it.

Hank regarded him with a thoughtful look, his gaze noticing the lingering eye contact between him and Kiro, before he repeated, "I asked if you had come for any other reason? Did you need something?"

Kurt blushed again before responding, "Oh, no, sorry Dr. McCoy, I did not mean to interrupt. I just didn't see Kiro upstairs with the others and started asking around.."

The Beast chuckled. "Well, worry not, for once our wayward monastic was not in seclusion," he teased, gently, and Kiro gave a self-deprecating look to both of them in an apologetic reply.

"Ja, and I am glad," Kurt beamed, *bamf!*ing over to join the two at Hank's desk.

"Well, I think perhaps that's enough of a first lesson for tonight. I don't want to overwhelm you, Kiro! Especially since you'll also be attending classes at Bayville for the time being?" Hank said, tapping a few keys deftly on his console to close down the interactive anatomical map that had been displayed on the computer.

Kiro nodded, though there was a subtle flash of trepidation in his violet eyes that Hank barely caught, before it was replaced with his usual, gentle smile.

Hank's brow quirked, but after meeting Kiro's gaze, he decided that perhaps now was not the right time. "Ah, yes, I'll have to ask you later how you're doing, Kiro," Dr. McCoy continued, giving his own kind smile in return. With a grunt, he eased his burly, blue-furred body up out of the chair, surprised with a small series of pops from his spine as he did so. "Ack!"

Both Kurt and Kiro gazed up at him with surprised expressions, which Hank returned with a sheepish grin. "Sorry, guess that's what I get for spending most of the day hunched over a lab station," He explained, gesturing over towards one of the diagnostic tools which had a large tray of samples next to it. Regular blood tests from the students, maybe? Or one of Hank's many "projects" that he always seemed to be working on at some point or another.

"Ja, well maybe a neckrub from Kiro would do the trick?" Kurt prompted with a playful grin, causing Hank to startle and Kiro to give a mute gasp, followed by a silent giggle.

"Much as that would be heavenly, Kurt, I doubt I'd.. er.." Hank paused in his words, rubbing the back of his neck. If he hadn't had the same thick blue fur that Kurt did, the fact that he would be blushing almost purple was readily apparent, which only made Kiro "giggle" even harder, and now even Kurt was laughing.

"Alright, you two!" Hank growled, though he was grinning, "That's enough teasing at the old doc's expense. I bet it's almost time for dinner upstairs, why don't port yourselves on up? I'll be along in a while."

Kurt nodded, reaching out to slip an arm around Kiro's waist. It was so natural. It felt so right, and the warmth, the pleasure from Kiro's touch flowed through him, deepening his smile, "Ok, Dr. McCoy! Ready, Kiro?"

Hank watched the two with a raised brow, something clearly on his mind.

Kiro nodded, clutching onto Kurt with his own arm and looking mildly nervous, as he always did when Kurt ported with him. It was something that most found disorientating, for obvious reasons, but with a warning, it wasn't too bad, Hank had found.

With a puff of smoke and a *bamf!*, the two boys were gone.

Hank, alone now in the medbay, folded his arms across his chest thoughtfully. "Hm.."

----------

"Well, like it or not, it's your turn to cook dinner tonight, Roberto," Ororo chastened.

They were outside the rec room, and dinnertime was in about an hour. Plenty of time to fix the meal that she had in mind, that is if Roberto would stop his whining about it.

"Aw, man! Why do we have to keep doing this?" Roberto sighed with a roll of his eyes, earning him a stern glance from Ororo.

"Because the Professor has insisted that you not only learn about your mutant powers, but also life skills as well. Even simple things like cooking your own meals, for a change?" Ororo responded somewhat tartly. These discussions were getting somewhat tiresome. "Besides, what's the problem? You've already done this several times."

"Well, yeah, but that was easy stuff! Like burgers and fries!" Roberto pointed out, causing Ororo to sigh, "Oh trust me, I know. That's why tonight you're going to actually cook a REAL meal, something delicious AND healthy for a change. And, if he agrees, you're going to have help, too," she hinted, causing Roberto to look at her quizzically.

"Huh? Help? Who..?"

"Myself, Sam.. and Kiro."

Roberto gulped. "Oh. Him." He wasn't sure whether he felt dejected, shamed, or just plain nervous.

His little "joke" yesterday evening had been a topic of some debate among both the students and the staff. Disagreements, and even arguments, were nothing new between the students. Any family had those. But "teasing" of that nature was bordering on discrimination, and the Professor had been quite clear when he heard about it: That was not to be tolerated.

They were all, however, Institute students. Whenever possible, conflicts should be resolved peacefully, and amicably if possible. And Charles seemed to think that this could be used as a learning experience.

Ororo had to admit, however, that she was not looking forward to it any more than Roberto was. "Yes. Him. He has a name, Roberto." Roberto had, in her opinion, an unhealthy dose of machismo that had once again reared its ugly head. They had butted heads on this matter a few times in the past, and while Roberto to his credit had gotten better, particularly in his conduct towards the female students and staff at the Institute, it seemed this was once again an area where they would have to set him straight.

The boy shifted under her gaze, his words coming in a sudden rush, "He makes me uncomfortable, Ororo! There's something.. off about him. I dunno if he's a-" Ororo's eyes flashed, and Roberto flinched, ".. um.. well, you know, for real or not, but I, I don't like the way he looks at everyone, or acts. It's, weird."

Ororo sighed, exasperation clear in her voice, "In case you hadn't noticed, Roberto, you're at a boarding school full of 'weird' people, present company included. And part of living here is learning to come together for the greater good, both as an X-man and as a simple human being, even with people you may disagree with or be uncomfortable around. You don't see Kitty or Rogue or Mr. Logan trying to vote you off the island because of your conduct last night, do you?" She pointed out, in a rather rare moment of pop culture reference.

Roberto shrank back, and nodded, "Ok, Ms. Munroe."

Storm nodded, her expression somewhat opaque. "I expect you and Sam in the kitchen in five minutes. We'll get started then."

As Roberto hurried off to find Sam, Ororo turned and began her search for Kiro.

A rather brief search, as it turned out. Just as she came to the entrance of the rec room..

*BAMF!*

"AGH!! Heavens above, Kurt!!!!!!" Ororo's surprised yell echoed throughout the halls, followed swiftly by Kurt's apology.

-----

"Alright then, Kiro. I'd like you and Roberto to knead the bread and then form it into those rolls, like I showed you," Ororo directed, before she returned to the stove where Sam was stirring the large pot and periodically adding ingredients to the thick, creamy soup.

"Sam, remember, not too fast. You want a swirl, not a whirlpool," Ororo reminded him, receiving only a nod and a "Yes ma'am," from Sam.

The boys had been almost completely silent as they worked, and the tension in the kitchen was palpable.

Kiro of course was as silent as he ever was, but Roberto beside him seemed almost like a shaken champagne bottle about to bust its cork. Every once in a while, their arms would brush as the two boys worked and Roberto flinched away from the touch every time. Whether this was due to Kiro's unique powers, or due to Roberto's own discomfort with the other boy, or some combination of the two, was anyone's guess.

Ororo had been back at the cutting board only a few moments, chopping onions and carrots to add to the pot, when it happened rather suddenly:

"STOP TOUCHING ME, YOU BICHA!" followed soon by the clatter of a chair being tipped over. Ororo turned just in time to catch Kiro being shoved into the refrigerator, connecting soundly with his shoulder. His violet eyes were wide with surprise and his dough-caked hands were held up in an obvious effort to shield himself from a follow-up attack, which he clearly anticipated, and it looked as though Roberto was about to deliver.

"Roberto!!" Ororo snapped, stepping towards them, which caused Roberto to whirl towards her, his eyes flashing with barely-contained anger, "He kept touching me, 'Ro!!"

Kiro stood with a pained expression, though Ororo doubted it was because of any injury. His hair had been let down earlier when he was back home, and while most of it spilled in a beautiful white waterfall down his back, a few white tresses hung down across his face, doing little to disguise the hurt and.. yes.. fear, in his eyes.

"You two were working side by side, making bread together. What did you think might happen?" Ororo asked pointedly, doing her best to restrain herself from outright yelling at the boy in return. This was clearly not going well.

"That's no excuse for him to touch me! And he kept smiling at me like a puta!" Roberto said with a scowl, hatred and disgust flashing in his eyes as he looked at Kiro once more, causing the albino to cringe and huddle lower against the fridge, averting his gaze from Roberto's face.

"That's ENOUGH!!" Ororo finally shouted, stunning the boy into silence. Her eyes flashed as she glared at him, and her words were suddenly quiet, but their chill was enough to make the hot-headed Brazilian boy shiver as she said, "You will apologize to Kiro, and then you will finish cooking dinner with Sam. I'll discuss this.. latest little incident with the professor and we will decide what to do later. Roberto?"

Roberto had turned back towards Kiro, and while Ororo could only see half of his face in profile, the conflicting emotions on his face were clear. Anger, disgust, confusion, and an unmistakable current of fear or nervousness. Clearly, Roberto hadn't been lying when he said that Kiro made him feel uncomfortable.

Sam, meanwhile, had had enough sense to remain completely quiet, trying a little too hard to stay carefully focused on the stew pot in front of him as he continued dutifully stirring.

"I.. I'm sorry," Roberto apologized, though one could be forgiven for thinking it was a confession extracted under torture, for how forced it sounded.

Ororo cleared her throat, and Roberto jumped slightly before repeating, "I'm sorry, Kiro."

Kiro's violet eyes were still sad, and afraid, and he inched forward from where he had been huddled against the refrigerator with careful, skittish steps, as though afraid Roberto might lunge at him suddenly. His head bowed meekly, the smaller boy extended a hand towards Roberto in an offer to shake hands.

Roberto hissed, his voice almost dripping with venom from the disgust in his words, "No way!"

The hand was withdrawn as though he had been burned.

Ororo sighed. A handshake, it seemed, was pushing it a little too much. "Very well. Kiro, why don't you wash your hands and then head out to the rec room? Roberto, Sam, and myself will continue cooking. We'll call for everyone once the meal is ready," Ororo said softly.

Kiro nodded and carefully stepped around Roberto to get to the sink, the Brazilian trembling visibly with anger. A quick handwash later, Kiro paused to touch Ororo's arm, looking up at her with gratitude, and Ororo smiled, whispering, "Don't worry, it'll be okay. Run along now."

With a flash of his white hair, the boy was out of the kitchen, leaving Storm with Sunspot and Cannonball. "Alright, gentlemen. Back to work."

------

"Oh Ah heard alright, along with the rest of the country! Ah didn't even know 'Berto knew those words!" Rogue hissed to Kurt, stepping into the rec room alongside him to join the majority of the students while they waited on dinner. The commotion in the kitchen had been audible even in the upstairs hall, Roberto's shout especially, and Storm's soon after. Excitement mingled with worry as a few brave kids cast furtive glances down the hall toward where the kitchen and dining hall were.

Rogue looked furious, and Kurt equally so, his tail lashing in agitation. Rogue had just about had to bodily restrain him from porting down there to try to help. As it was, she laid a comforting, gloved hand on his shoulder. "Hay, bro, relax!! Storm's in charge down there, it'll be fine!"

"Like, wow, I can only imagine what Storm's gonna do to Roberto," Kitty thought aloud, huddled on a beanbag cushion with a magazine she was no longer reading.

"Bet it'll be even worse than one of your slaps, Kitty!" Jamie called over, causing a small titter of nervous laughter through the room, and a blushing Kitty to grin.

A small murmur followed, but soon Rahne twitched her nose and announced, "Hey, I think it's Kiro!" from where she had been perched on the sofa arm beside Jamie.

Sure enough, Kiro soon appeared in the doorway to the rec room, pausing immediately upon sight of a dozen or so of the Institute kids all staring at him. He shifted nervously.

"Hey, Kiki, it's okay!" Bobby called over, using one of Kiro's nicknames that had stuck over the weeks. The feminine quality of the name hadn't been lost on them, but it seemed fitting somehow for the beautiful albino.

Kiro, for his part, didn't look too convinced, though he took a nervous step forward before he was joined by Kurt and Rogue, with Kitty following close behind. "What happened? Are ya alright?" Rogue asked with a concerned drawl, looking Kiro over. His delicate face, violet eyes, pale skin and rivulets of pure white hair had unnerved her at first with their haunting, androgynous beauty, but the more time she had spent with him, the more she had grown attached to the gentle boy.

"Ja, did Roberto do something?" Kurt asked as well, concern obvious in his voice as his golden eyes peered down at Kiro and his tail lashed behind him in agitation.

Kiro just shook his head to both questions, a pleading expression on his face as he looked around at the three, and at the room as a whole.

"Hey, I wouldn't want to talk about it either. Besides, I'm sure we'll hear from Mr. Casanova soon enough," Amara pointed out from where she was leaning against the recliner Rogue usually sat in, and the other team members nodded.

The dull roar of chitchat, games, and the television soon resumed, and after a moment's reassurance from Kitty and Rogue, Kurt gently touched Kiro's arm and drew him aside to a corner of the room, "Hey, are you.. um, are you really ok?" Kurt asked quietly, a tremor in his voice both from the pleasure of touching Kiro as well as noticing that without intending to, his tail had curled gently around Kiro's calf.

The albino, however, simply gave him a kind smile and wiggled his hand in a "So-so" reply, receiving a nod from Kurt and a concerned squeeze on his arm in reply, as Kurt said, "Well, if there's anything I can do, you know you just have to ask me, ok?" He smiled and rested his other hand on Kiro's shoulder as he added, "I really care about you, Ki..." his voice trailed off. It was rather quiet in the room around them, he just noticed.

Kurt blinked, finding that conversation around the room had seemed to pause, and he looked over his shoulder to notice that there were many pairs of eyes on the two of them in the corner. He gulped, dropping his hands from Kiro's body as his tail slipped away from the boy's leg as well. "Um, what?" He asked nervously, as the others continued to stare, even Kitty and Rogue.

A grunt from the hallway, however, immediately caused all eyes to look there instead.

Logan, dressed in a black leather jacket, t-shirt, jeans, and boots, with a fine coating of road dust, clearly fresh off his bike, stood in the entrance to the rec room.

"Somebody wanna tell me somethin'?" He asked with a sweep of his eyes across the room, causing several students to shift uncomfortably.

"Jus' Roberto bein' Roberto again," Rogue spat with a glare, and Logan growled.

Kitty hastily chipped in, "Storm's got him, though, it was his turn to cook dinner, and Ororo asked Kiro to help out-"

"- oh for the love of," Logan muttered. Though after a few seconds, he sighed, "I guess I can see what she was goin' for, but yeah, that's just askin' for trouble. Elf? Ghost? You two ok?"

Logan's nickname for Kiro caused some to smile. The Wolverine's habit of nicknaming everyone at the Institute was treated with almost uniform affection. It was one thing that brought them all together, Logan had a nickname for all of them.

This, however, brought everyone's attention back to the two in the corner, still standing together.

Kurt, though, flashed a thumbs-up and grinned toothily, "Ja, Herr Logan, just plotting some mischief to get back at Roberto!" He hastily lied. Kiro, beside him, just blinked in confusion, ruining the illusion somewhat.

A small ripple of chuckles went through the room, however, and it seemed most of the students were satisfied with that answer to their earlier puzzlement at Kurt and Kiro having what looked like, to all eyes, a "couple's chat" in the corner.

Logan clearly wasn't fooled, but after catching Kurt's eye, he gave a lopsided smirk and nodded, before he said, "Alright, Elf. But I need to have a word with you later." Logan's tone was surprisingly kind, but Kurt still couldn't help but feel a bit uneasy. Nonetheless, he soon had a grin on his face and flashed another thumbs-up, "Jawohl!"

The appearance of Storm at Logan's elbow drew the room's attention again, and she nodded to the rec room with a somewhat strained smile, "Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes. Jamie, Rahne, Bobby, please start setting the table. Jean? Could you let the professor and Scott know?"

A small buzz of activity soon followed as the Xavier Institute family began to gather its members and settle down for the evening meal. Usually things were somewhat casual and informal, but every now and then, about once a week on average, the professor felt it was important to sit down and break bread together as a family, a sentiment shared by Ororo and Hank.

"Oh yes, Dr. McCoy!" Ororo remembered, peering around, "Kurt, would you mind popping down to the medbay to fetch Hank?"

"Right away, 'Ro!" Kurt grinned and soon vanished in a puff of smoke, causing Kiro beside him to cough softly and wave a hand.

"Somethin' happen in the kitchen?" Logan murmured as he and Ororo stepped out into the hall together, and Ororo nodded with a pained expression, "Let's just say things didn't work out quite like the professor and I had hoped they would," she confessed.

"Well, nothin' new from this crew," Logan muttered gruffly, tossing his head toward where some of the new mutants were engaged in a bit of horseplay even as they tidied up the rec room before they joined the others at the dining hall.

------

"I understand that Mondays are often the least favorite day of the week, everyone," the Professor said from his spot at the head of the table. It had taken some doing, but finally all of the mutants at the Institute had arrived, and they now each sat at the table with the meal waiting in front of them. Untouched, as was customary until any and all important announcements were made.

It looked to be a fine, but simple, meal. Thick creamy chicken and dumpling soup, with rolls, mixed vegetables, and also a tray of vegetarian friendly entrees for Kitty.

"But I thought we might set aside the stress and at least come together tonight as a family. As many of you know, young Kiro had his first day at Bayville High today, and I'm pleased to announce that he will be attending regularly for the foreseeable future, at least until a decision is made as to whether or not he will be enrolled permanently by Christmas time."

Scattered applause and cheers were heard, and Kiro smiled bravely from where he sat in between Kitty and Kurt.

"Scott, I also understand that you have some good news?" The professor prodded, causing Scott to give a sheepish grin and reply, "Ah, well, it's not really anything special-"

"-B.S." Logan quipped, causing Storm to gently swat his arm.

"But, pending a high enough GPA, I've got a scholarship and acceptance into M.I.T. after I graduate. I just got the word today from Principal Kelley."

A stunned silence went around the table, soon followed by a chorus of reactions from the students:

"Wow!! Awesome, Scott!"

"Way to go, Cyke!"

"Kickass!"

Kiro also applauded, after a hasty whisper from Kitty explained the significance of M.I.T. "Like, a super-prestigious school!"

"Indeed, quite an achievement, Scott! But remember: you still have at least another full year ahead of you to prove yourself, so be sure to keep earning those high marks," the Professor said, though there was a clear undercurrent of pride in his voice, echoed by Hank beside him as the Beast asked, "Have you chosen a major yet, Scott?"

"Not yet, Dr. McCoy, but I was thinking of Engineering or Physics," Scott responded, earning a toothy grin from the Beast, who responded, "Considering how much you love cars and the Blackbird, that doesn't come as a surprise at all."

"Well, then, I know everyone must be starving, and I understand we have Roberto, Sam and Kiro to thank for tonight's dinner," The professor nodded. If he was aware of the unpleasantness in the kitchen earlier, it certainly didn't show. Most likely he was, but Charles had a clear philosophy that any such unpleasantness had no place at the family dinner table, and he seemed intent on holding to that ideal.

"Would anyone care to say a few words?" The Professor offered. While he was not altogether a religious man, many of the students at the Institute were, and the professor often encouraged them to share their blessings or customs with the others at the Institute, should they choose to do so.

Kurt, in a mild surprise, raised his hand. Normally, the blue elf kept his Catholic faith mostly to himself, quietly attending mass every Sunday and praying only in the privacy of his room. The professor's brow raised, but his smile was kind, "Of course, Kurt. The floor is yours."

"Thank you, Professor. Please, let us pray."

Around the table, heads were respectfully bowed, even Logan respectfully lowering his gaze.

"We come from many places around the world, many different families. Some big, some small, some rich, some poor, and everywhere in between. When our powers emerged, we all knew what it was to be afraid, and to have others be afraid of us, too. But in spite of it all, here we are. One family, under one roof, breaking bread at one table, side by side. Whether by the grace of Almighty God, by sheer luck, or by a combination of both, I am so grateful to have all of you as friends and family, old and new. I humbly ask that God bless us, bless this meal, and continue to hold this house and our family together through good times and bad. Amen."

The silence around the table was heavy with emotion, for several seconds. But soon, murmurs of "Amen," followed Kurt's prayer, and heads were raised once more, many of them with a soft shimmer of tears.

"Kurt, that was... beautiful," Ororo said, her voice quiet, almost choked.

"Can we eat yet?" Jamie asked, and soft laughter flowed around the table.

"Yes, of course. Tuck in, everyone," The professor ushered, and with a soft clatter of silverware and dishes and a rumble of conversation, the meal began.

Beneath the table, Kurt's tail gently curled around Kiro's leg, and Kurt smiled as he felt Kiro's hand seek his on his lap for a gentle squeeze.



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