Title: Gathering Storm
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Author's Email: librarie@...
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Rating/Warnings: G. Spoilers for X2.
Characters: Mainly Ororo and Kurt.
Setting: Post-X2, canonical.
Summary: When a Storm breaks, compassion becomes a delicate balance.
Disclaimer: Marvel and Fox create the characters that sell. Not me.
Notes: This fic draws very strongly on the moods I set in another story,
Thanks: To Rhiannon, as always. :)
"I'm sorry, Ororo," Professor Xavier said gingerly, "but Scott has asked if
you wouldn't mind taking over his mathematics class today. He is
and would like to have the afternoon to himself."
Ororo Munroe sighed heavily.
It had been nearly a month since the disaster at Alkali Lake. To be more
precise, three weeks, five days, and an odd number of hours. Scott could
probably calculate it down to the minute. After all, wasn't that why *he*
was the math teacher?
A month after they lost Jean, Scott was still skipping classes, haunting
his room like a ghost. Ororo was getting frustrated. She felt deeply for
his pain--understood he had lost much more than the best friend that Jean
had been to her--but he couldn't go on like this. Qualified teachers for
mutants were in short supply. Some classes were even being relegated, for
the moment, to older students like Bobby and Rogue; the rest were stretched
thin between the Professor, Ororo
and Scott when he chose to work.
Xavier was eyeing her intently, and addressed her thoughts without her
having to speak. She didn't think he had needed his telepathy to read her
mind just then.
"I know," he said softly. "I know this is difficult and tiring. But Scott
*is* getting better." He paused. "He's the walking wounded, Ororo. Losing
the connection he shared with Jean is as real as any physical injury. His
mind must heal at its own pace, just as his body would."
"I know that," Ororo protested faintly, angry at herself for feeling a
twinge of guilt. "It's just--there's so much to do. We need him."
"He knows that. And he's trying." Xavier gazed at her compassionately.
"I'll manage the class. You should rest."
Ororo shook her head, irrationally challenged by his offer. "No. You've got
classes of your own all day. I'll do it." She forced a smile. "I'll be fine."
The Professor's expression said that he didn't believe her. His eyes said
that he saw through her reaction of pride. His words, however, were of
acceptance. "Very well."
Her eyes lowered from his, Ororo nodded, rose from her seat in front of his
desk, and quietly slipped out of the room.
In one of the downstairs hallways, she found Logan and Bobby laying down
new carpeting. The old carpet, hopelessly peppered with blood and fragments
of shattered glass during Stryker's raid on the mansion, had been discarded
immediately--but it had taken them this long to work down to replacing it
on the priority list. Things like broken windows and the bullet-sprayed
kitchen had come first.
Ororo paused in front of Logan, regarding the hairy Canadian with a vague
sense of gladness that briefly overcame her weary depression. It might be a
while before they had him fit to teach any classes--outside of
self-defense, perhaps--but it felt good to have him around. It felt
*safe*. Even the kids were as comforted by his presence as they were
intimidated, knowing what he had done to the bad men who came into their
house to hurt them.
After she had stood watching him work for several moments, Logan looked up
at her, his questioning frown studded with the row of carpet tacks held
clenched between his teeth. Ororo couldn't help but smile at the image.
"You've never taught a math class, have you?" she asked absently, thinking
Logan's right eyebrow lowered, but the nails in his mouth limited his reply
to a reasonably polite-sounding rumble of "*Rrrmmph*?"
Bobby stifled a chuckle. Logan shot him a glare, and with a suddenly
petrified expression he swallowed his mirth, a thin layer of ice creeping
down the handle of the hammer in his hand.
"I thought not," Ororo sighed, and continued down the hall, feeling the
weight of responsibility press in upon her again.
Like a living shadow, Kurt Wagner moved quietly between rooms, building
maps in his mind.
It was late in the evening, and the school was quiet, so he felt confident
he would not disturb anyone as he practiced teleporting about the great
house. Each room he committed to memory, not just seeing but *feeling* the
arrangement of walls and furnishings. His acute sense of space and distance
had taken long years of practice to develop, both in teleporting and on the
Already a month at this remarkable place, and he was sure he had seen
hardly half of it. So much vast space within the mansion, with secret doors
and gaping lower levels that tickled his spacial-sense with curiosity. It
seemed it would take him an eternity to explore and memorize it all.
Satisfied that he had done all the measuring he wished for the night, Kurt
skipped back in rapid succession through the rooms he had explored, a final
test to settle his confidence that he could navigate them.
*Bamf*--here a library. *Bamf*--here an empty classroom. *Bamf*
The instant his senses solidified, Kurt's hearing registered a gasp and a
ruffling of papers, followed by a curse that made him blush--especially
because it was uttered by a woman. He turned to find Ororo frozen in place,
halfway risen from behind a desk, staring at him. Papers lay scattered
across the floor in front of the desk, and it took Kurt only an instant to
I'm sorry," he said swiftly. "I didn't know there was
Where exactly was *here*, anyway? After so many rooms, he'd lost track. A
quick golden-eyed glance about him confirmed that he was in one of the
office-classrooms, which--twenty minutes before, at least--had been empty.
Ororo relaxed somewhat, and with a sigh she straightened the rest of the
way. "It's alright, Kurt. I guess I'm just jumpy." Then she stretched--not
with the feline grace that would have looked natural in her, but with the
wince and scowl of someone who felt much older than her years. She began to
move around the desk, ostensibly to pick up the papers she had scattered
when Kurt appeared.
His conscience smitten, he hastily sprang forward and began to gather the
papers for her. He recognized them vaguely as completed history tests of
some sort, but did not look at them closely. He didn't want to be seen as
"Never mind," Ororo said wearily, slumping against the edge of the desk and
staring down at him. "They're all out of order now, anyway."
Perhaps they were, but at least now they were neatly bundled into a single
stack, which Kurt lifted and set atop the cluttered desk. "I'm sorry," he
repeated, his head lowered contritely.
"Just what are you doing in here, anyway?" Ororo asked--but Kurt detected
no anger in her tired voice. Merely uncertainty.
practicing," he answered inadequately. "To learn the rooms. You
know? So that I can move safely here
Oh." He paused at her dubious look,
and hastily added, "I mean, if I need to. I don't want to frighten anyone
the way I just did."
Slowly Ororo's frozen expression thawed into a smile, and she shook her
head. "What you do isn't half as startling as what some of the kids do.
We're just not used to it yet." Her smile faded as she looked down at the
stack of papers waiting to be reorganized and graded. "I'd better get back
"Are you alright, Ororo?" Kurt startled himself with the sudden question.
He wasn't quite sure why he had asked it; perhaps it was the way she
looked. The shadows under her eyes, the tension in her face.
She looked equally surprised, and a bit disconcerted. "I'm fine." With
another, much more forced smile, she turned and sank back down into the
uncomfortable-looking desk chair.
"It's late." Kurt gripped the edge of the desk with his three-fingered
hands, leaning forward slightly. "You can surely do this work in the
morning. Why don't you go to bed now?"
"Would you just leave me alone?"
Kurt started back slightly, but any hurt the words might have caused was
negated by Ororo's expression, as she gaped in surprise and dismay at her
own outburst. Seemingly out of reflex, her hand reached out for his. "I'm
sorry. I didn't mean it like that. It's just
I have so much work to do."
Leaning closer again, Kurt tightened his hand around hers. "I think you
have done more than your share already."
"There's no one else to do it." Ororo withdrew her hand from his, to run
her fingers through her long ivory hair. "Scott can't pull himself
together, and Logan has no responsibility. It's just me and the Professor
left to do everything now."
Kurt gave her an innocent smile. "What about me?"
She stopped tugging restlessly at her bangs and leaned her head on her
hand, giving him a doubtful stare. "We're not teaching Sunday school, you
This time, the stab of hurt lingered, and Kurt turned away. It seemed so
often that Ororo saw nothing in him but his faith; she had only to look at
him to see it written upon his skin. A humble heart guided him--but he had
a clever mind as well. His beliefs did not limit his thinking. Yet Ororo
did not understand that. She had seen past the color of his skin, but not
past the sacred symbols he had inscribed there.
After a moment he felt a touch upon his hand, and heard her voice, soft and
apologetic. "I'm sorry."
He turned back to her, his moment of frustration melting away at the sight
of her face--so beautiful, yet so unhappy. Tilting his head, he blinked his
yellow eyes. "I only want to help you."
"You *have* helped." Ororo abruptly rose from her chair and stepped over to
the window, gazing out into the night. The sky had been clear for three
days now, a sign that she was coping better lately--or perhaps the storm
simply raged on within her now. "You've helped by talking to me. Everyone
else is too worried about Scott to notice me."
Kurt closed his eyes for a moment. Oh, he had done so much more than notice
her. He was aware of her the moment she stepped into a room. He felt as
though he wouldn't need to see where he was going to teleport himself to
her side, anywhere, at any time. That was what it was to feel *safe* with
someone, and he hadn't felt that in a very long time
A distant rumble of thunder caused the window panes to shudder, and Kurt
"It's only that you have deceived them," he said softly.
Ororo turned sharply from the window, her slender figure backlit by a flash
of lightning that filled the sky beyond. The thunder rolled and faded away,
as Kurt stared steadily into the luminous white eyes of Storm.
He didn't think she knew they had changed. He wondered if she was aware
that it happened at all.
"You wanted to be strong," he said quietly, rising from the corner of the
desk. "So you pretended that you needed no one. Are you so surprised that
they believed what you wanted them to?"
The empty whiteness of her eyes slowly faded, as they darkened to their
natural state. She squeezed them shut, and the rain began to fall--but not
from the rapidly dispersing clouds outside. For the first time since the
loss of Jean Grey, Ororo shed her own tears, glistening droplets of
moisture spilling down her cheeks as she hung her head.
"Oh, Liebling," Kurt crooned softly, moving forward to take her into his arms.
When he embraced her, he felt the tension go out of her body. She buried
her face against his chest, and her body shook with silent sobs, the warm
wetness of her tears soaking into his shirt. He held her, laid his cheek
against the top of her head, and stroked her hair. He whispered soothing
words in both English and German, for seeing her in pain upset him too much
to keep his languages straight.
As her sobs began to die down at last, he put his arm around her shoulders
and guided her to the loveseat at one side of the room. She curled up at
his side, leaning against him in silent need, and he continued to hold her
until her tears had finally faded to weak sniffles. Then he gently pried
her away, lifting her chin, and wiped the dampness from her cheeks with his
large gentle fingers.
She stared into his eyes with a touching expression of wonderment.
"You don't need to pretend to me," Kurt said softly. "When you need
let it be me."
Then something extraordinary happened.
Ororo looked at him, as though she were seeing him for the first time, and
pulled him closer. Her lips met his, soft and sweet and trembling, and
stole his breath away.
It was the purest, most innocent, and most perfect moment he had ever
Kurt hesitantly returned the kiss, holding her more tightly as his tail
curled around her waist. Her fingers trailed through his dark hair, tracing
the point of his left ear as her hand cupped his face. Pause for a breath,
and then she sought another kiss, harder and more heated.
Her hand moved down his cheek, his neck, to his chest, and he felt a tug at
the buttons of his shirt.
It wasn't innocent anymore.
With a soft gasp Kurt flinched away, placing a staying hand over hers. His
heart was thumping madly in his chest, and his blue skin felt hot and too
tight. He fought an intense urge to teleport across the room, to give
himself distance from the heat of her nearness.
The hurt confusion in Ororo's eyes did not help at all. He sent up a silent
prayer, and took her hands in his. "I'm sorry, liebchen."
She blinked and shook her head slightly. "I
"That I want
*this*?" Kurt closed his eyes for a moment, trying to still
the swell of pain in his heart. Oh, how he wanted--deeply, desperately
He drew a breath to steady himself, and looked up at her again. "It would
not be love."
The pain of losing her friend Jean had left emptiness in Ororo's heart, and
Kurt knew she was looking for something to fill it. Throwing herself into
her work had not succeeded--and neither would empty passion. What she felt
for him was not love, and without that, to surrender to lower impulses
would only hurt them both. Regardless of his beliefs, he valued her
friendship far too much to damage it for the sake of one night of comfort.
As her friend, he could give comfort continually, if only in smaller ways.
Ororo was staring at him with glazed and bewildered eyes, and Kurt suddenly
wondered how long it had been since she last slept. It dawned on him that
she might be so exhausted, she didn't even know what she was doing. Would
an alert and wakeful Ororo have shown him tears?
No, of course not. It was vanity to think that she would bare her soul to him.
So many sins in so short a time.
Feeling a pang in his heart, unsure whether it was for her sake or his own,
he drew her close against him. As he had before, he held her like a child.
He caressed her cheek and her hair, and in his own tongue he prayed for
them both, in little more than a whisper.
Gradually her body relaxed, and he knew she was asleep. With slow and
careful movements, he gathered her into his arms and lifted her, without
waking her. Then, because he knew the sensation of teleporting would
disturb her, he silently carried her out of the room.
Down the hall, Logan was sitting at one of his favorite lurking-spots, the
window at the top of the staircase. On seeing the unconscious Storm in
Kurt's arms, he raised an eyebrow with a quiet snort, but said nothing.
Kurt smiled shyly and passed him by, headed for Ororo's room.
Finding the door shut, Kurt twisted the knob with his tail, and smoothly
shouldered it open. He stepped in and laid Ororo on her bed.
As he was tucking her in, she made a small sighing noise, and her eyes
opened halfway. "Kurt?"
"Sleep now, liebchen." He bent down to kiss her lightly on the forehead.
Another sigh, and she turned her head, sinking easily into the depths of
slumber. Kurt padded silently to the door, but before shutting it, stood
for a moment gazing at her sleeping form. He wondered how much she would
remember in the morning.
Closing his eyes, he thought of that first kiss, and knew she would
Perhaps that would not be so bad.
With a wry smile and a shake of his head, he soundlessly shut the door, and
walked down the hall to where Logan sat. Receiving the acknowledgement of a
brief nod, he stood beside the Wolverine for a moment in companionable
silence, likewise looking out at the night.
"Do you know what it feels like, Logan
to want to take care of someone?"
Logan uttered a nearly inaudible sound which might have been a distant,
rueful chuckle. He turned from the window where he so often kept vigil, his
watchful amber-hazel eyes meeting Kurt's solemn yellow ones. For a single
moment, there was so much pain in that gaze, filled with reflected memories
of the one Logan had not been *able* to take care of; the one whom he had
loved, and lost.
Then his head tilted slightly, and something more speculative came into his
eyes, appraising and seemingly approving. He glanced down the hall toward
Ororo's room, and gave Kurt a bitter smile.
"You're a luckier man than I am, Blue. Take care of her."
Kurt smiled sadly, inclined his head, and walked on, toward his own room.
He had some serious thinking to do. Mainly on the subject of alternative
forms of penance--because if tonight was typical of what it meant to take
care of Ororo, he would have no more unmarked skin within a week.
© 2003 Jordanna Morgan - http://www.jordanna.net