by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Thanks go out to kaly, of course. You're so good to me, even when I forget to tell people that...

Kurt spent a long time preparing for his first class. It wasn't a new class, as the Professor had half suggested. The students had to finish those that had been interrupted before new courses could be added to the curriculum. Which meant that Kurt was going to be teaching the last two months of Jean's mathematics class.

He didn't need to prepare a lesson plan. Jean had been well ahead. But that didn't mean he took any less time getting ready. These students had lost a teacher, a mentor. Many of them would still be grieving now, more than a week later. He had to be sensitive to that. They might resent him for replacing her. They might resent him for other reasons, as well.

Perhaps it was best that there was little about him to remind them of Jean. Still, he stood for a long time in front of his closet, deciding whether or play up his differences or conceal them. It was Professor Xavier's suggestion that he might help teach the children tolerance that decided him.

So he chose two of the newer garments instead of the uniformly worn and over-large clothes that constituted his old wardrobe. A white dress shirt and cinnamon brown pants, both fetched from an ordinary mall, thanks to Ororo. He'd had to sew a hole into the seat of the pants, but otherwise they fit quite well.

For a moment Kurt debated rolling up the sleeves of the shirt, but eventually ruled against it. He went barefoot, of course. There wasn't a pair of shoes in existence that would accommodate his feet, though at one time he'd gone through dozens of styles, searching.

Glancing in the mirror, Kurt had to grin at himself. Shoes! That would be the last thing they'd notice.

Running a hand briefly through his hair, Kurt gathered up a sheaf of papers and a box of chalk. The halls of the mansion were quiet at the moment. Everyone was still in the previous class. The room Kurt would be using was empty, so he laid out the papers on the desk at the front. Should I write my name on the board? he wondered for a moment, and then snorted at himself in amusement.

There was no bell, but as the hour ticked over students began filing into the room. One by one they would turn and catch sight of him, their mouths falling open in little O's of surprise or amazement. To their credit, there was no horror there, though Kurt did catch a moment or two of fear. Two of the students recognized him from the rescue and smiled. He smiled and nodded back.

And then, of course, there were the whispers. Most of them too quiet to hear, but one or two rose inadvertently loud.

"Who is that?"

"Never mind who, what is that?"

"Geez, the professor's really digging up all the freaks..."

Kurt ignored the comments. He'd been expecting them. They'd been following him for most of his life, but they always died down eventually. It just took time. Or distance, Kurt couldn't help reminding himself, but he wasn't planning on running. Yet.

When the last desk was filled, Kurt spoke. "My name is Kurt Wagner. I will be teaching you mathematics for the remainder of the course." The oblique reminder that Jean would not be there subdued most of them, though it had been unintentional. "I understand you were just beginning trigonometry."

He lifted a piece of chalk and turned to write on the board. A hushed gasp told him that the students had just caught sight of his tail. "Cool..." one boy breathed. Kurt grinned to himself and raised the chalk, only to realize he hadn't brought the paper he'd need to copy from. Not bothering to turn, he lifted it with his tail and brought it around in front of him.

"Oh, neat," another student murmured. Kurt's smile widened even as he began writing.

Of course, it was a given what would happen the first time he asked for questions. Every hand in the class shot up. Still, he folded his arms and shook his head sadly. "Either I am not a very good teacher," he said, mock mournfully, "or you are not asking about trigonometry." A few students actually chuckled. None of the hands went down. Kurt pointed to a boy near the front of the class.

The student didn't even make an attempt at tact. "Were you born like that, or did it just kinda...happen one day?"

"I was born as you see," Kurt said calmly.

"And your parents didn't, like, wig out?" a girl asked, wide-eyed.

Kurt had to work at his smile for that one. "Ja, I suppose they did," he said. "My adoptive parents found me floating down the river, so it is not likely that my birth parents reacted well."

"Oh." The girl looked really sorry and kind of shrank back into her seat.

"It is okay," Kurt waved dismissivly. "My adoptive parents are good people. I love them very much, and they took very good care of me. I cannot regret having them."

Most of the hands had gone down, but one girl was still hanging on. Kurt nodded to her. "So," she asked, "what did you do before Professor Xavier found you?"

Kurt brightened. "I was in the Munich circus." Everyone laughed, apparently thinking he was joking. Kurt shook his head. "I was! They called me the incredible Nightcrawler," he said, and swept a bow, "and I was their best trapeze artist." A few new hands went up, but Kurt shook his head. "I am thinking you are not asking about trigonometry," he said, smiling. "We must get back to the lesson."

All but one of the hands went down, but when Kurt warily nodded to the boy in the back, the question really was about trig. Kurt answered as best he could, and the lesson went on.

I don't think teaching is going to be as hard as I feared.