Spoken, Unspoken

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Thanks go out to Mad With Power, who betaed for me even after I vanished the last time I sent her something. *hugs*

Kurt stood facing the paneled wooden door to Ororo's room and put a conscious effort into calming the nervous lashing of his tail. You know she will not say no, he scolded himself. Why are you so nervous? Looking down at the folder he held in both hands and snorted to himself. You know it's only an excuse. That's why you're nervous.

At the sound of giggling Kurt's head snapped up just in time to catch a pair of female students hurrying down the hall. One of them glanced over her shoulder and snickered when she caught Kurt watching. His face heated in embarrassment, but he could only shake his head at himself. If this school is anything like the circus, rumors will be flying by dinner time.

Steeling himself, he raised his hand to knock on Ororo's door before anyone else could catch him hovering. "Come in," her lyrical voice called from within.

Kurt twisted the door handle and eased inside. "Guten Tag, Ororo," he said, carefully pulling his tail past the door's threshold, though he had barely crossed it.

Ororo pushed her chair back from her desk and the papers spread over it. "Kurt," she smiled and set down a red marking pen. "What can I do for you?"

"I am having some problems with my lesson plans for the new semester," Kurt confessed. It was true enough. He'd never trained to be a teacher, after all.

"Well, don't hover in the doorway," Ororo said gently. "Have a seat and I'll see if I can help."

Kurt took a few more steps away from the door. Ororo rose and moved to close it behind him, leaving her chair empty. It was the only chair in the room, but it didn't feel appropriate to steal her space when she'd barely left it. Kurt glanced back at Ororo, who raised an eyebrow and nodded to the bed. Of course, Kurt thought, and fought down a blush as he perched on the edge.

"I didn't realize you'd been having trouble," Ororo said as the door clicked shut. "You seemed to do all right last semester."

"All the courses I taught then were established," Kurt explained, watching her cross the room. So beautiful. So graceful, he thought, entranced. Since coming to live with other mutants he'd begun to realize just how rare it was for them to be at peace with their own nature. Ororo is a good model for them. And Ororo was also watching him, waiting for a little more explanation. "This is a new course," Kurt went on hurriedly, though she hadn't seemed impatient. "Introductory German."

Instead of reclaiming the desk chair, Ororo settled on the bed next to him, one leg curled up beneath her so that she could face him. "May I?" she asked, holding out her hand.

"Of course," Kurt said, and held out the folder he'd been clutching. She reached for the same edge as he held and her thumb brushed over his before her grip closed over the paper. An accident, Kurt told himself, but the twinkle in her dark eyes hinted otherwise. Unbidden, a tiny smile curved his lips.

Ororo turned to the folder she now held and flipped it open. Kurt studied her as she studied it. She'd tied her hair back in a ponytail today. Or perhaps that had only been for convenience while bent over the students' tests. Either way, the style exposed the line of her throat and the nape of her neck. Tiny white hairs floated there, too short to be caught up in the ponytail. Before he'd even realized it, Kurt caught his tail curving around to brush at the down.

Mortified, Kurt whipped his tail away just as it made contact. Maybe she was too distracted... But Ororo looked up at him, then cast a suspicious glance at his tail. He fixed his most innocent expression on his face. Would I do such a thing? he tried to project.

"That would be a lot more convincing," Ororo said, smiling, "if you'd moved a little sooner."

Kurt pressed a hand over his heart. "I cannot be held responsible for my actions," he said, mock mournfully. "I am at the mercy of a beautiful woman."

"Oh?" He nodded at the folder open on her lap and grinned when Ororo looked down like she'd forgotten it was there. "Of course. Just another minute."

Kurt went back to his own studying. She was sitting close to him on the bed. Perhaps too close? Kurt wondered hopefully. Good Lord. I could encircle her with my tail from here... Of course, Ororo's nearness could be entirely accidental. The residents of Xavier's school were, after all, used to defining 'personal space' based on four limbs of standard length and limited flexibility. Kurt's tail was longer than the average person's leg and was not constrained by long bones. He could easily touch someone who thought they were well out of reach.

A page rustled as Ororo flipped through the file. "Kurt," she said, frowning and tapping the page, "this is almost entirely in German."

"I know," Kurt said, a little sheepishly. "I was getting frustrated. I hoped that switching would help me think, but..." he raised a helpless hand.

"Well," Ororo slid along the bed, so close now that their legs pressed together. Kurt's mouth went dry as she tilted her head and smiled at him. "You'll just have to translate for me, then." She moved the folder so that it rested half on her leg, and half on his, and pointed to where she'd left off.

"Ah, Ja, of course," Kurt stuttered and looked down at the page. Please, please let me not look as unsteady as I feel, he prayed silently. After a moment the page actually came into focus. So did the stripe of warmth along his leg and the spot on his arm where Ororo touched him as she leaned over to read. Kurt forced himself to track the text with one finger while he read aloud, pausing only occasionally in his translation.

"Kurt, stop," Ororo said, though he hadn't even reached the end of the page.

"A problem?" He turned to look at her and momentarily caught his breath as he realized how close his lips were to her cheek. To his disappointment, she straightened up almost immediately.

"Yes." She paused, searching for a diplomatic phrase. "I know you never trained as a teacher," she said, "but don't you remember what classes were like when you went to school?"

Kurt laughed, strangely flattered. "How easily you forget, mein freund."

Ororo's brow wrinkled. "Forget what?"

Kurt indicated his appearance with a sweep of his hands. "What school would have taken me? Can you imagine any such place where I would be safe from the cruelties of the other children? Even teachers." He shook his head. "My family was not willing to take the risk."

"Oh," Ororo said, surprised. For a moment Kurt thought she might apologize, but thankfully the words never came. "How did you get your education, then?"

Kurt grinned broadly. "I didn't just perform in the circus. I grew up there." Ororo nodded. He'd mentioned that before. "So everyone in the troupe had a hand in teaching me. I suspect," he said impishly, "I learned some things my mother would rather I hadn't."

"Every child does," Ororo said dryly. "As for this," she closed the folder and tapped it. "Why don't I give you a few of the lesson plans I made up for my French class? You can use them as a template."

"Ah, that would be good, thank you," Kurt said, a little regretfully. He'd have to go now. He watched Ororo rooting around in a filing cabinet for a moment. Then a thought struck. "Ororo?" She turned and waited for him to go on. He scratched the back of his head, then spoke a little hesitantly. "Do you think the students will lose respect for me if they find out? I don't even have high school."

"Lose respect?" Ororo laughed. "Kurt, you grew up in the circus and managed never to attend a single day of class. Those are probably the top two fantasies of every child in this school. Maybe in every school." She shook her head. "Believe me, the minute that gets around you'll automatically become the coolest person in residence."

Kurt smiled back at her for a moment. Another possibility occurred to him, and he sobered. "And you? Have you lost respect for me?"

Ororo's smiled gentled from amusement into affection. "Kurt, you survived what had to be a difficult childhood," she reached out and touched his cheek, the tips of her fingers sliding down to linger on his jaw for a moment. Kurt caught his breath and pressed into the momentary caress. Ororo paused and shook her head. "A difficult life - and emerged with a brightness of spirit I've never seen before. You have all my respect."

"I'm glad," Kurt said softly, standing.

Ororo just smiled and held out the folder, now a little thicker than it had been before. "Come by later if there's anything you'd like to discuss," she murmured. "Anything at all."

"I'll do that," Kurt promised, heart racing as he returned her smile.

Outside of Ororo's room, a couple of students were lingering. As he emerged, their eyes widened and they leaned together, whispering furiously. Rumors, Kurt thought, grinning to himself. My next class is going to be shameless with their suggestions. I trust they will be flatteringly scandalous.