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Stories by Harper

"A Man in the Garden"
A talk with a man at Mystique's funeral leads Nightcrawler to reconsider his relationship with his "mother."


The characters belong to Marvel and no money is made from their use.
I'm sure there's further etiquette about these intros. This is where I'm supposed to threaten you for feedback, isn't it? "Will threaten for feedback." Catchy. So write me at if you're intimidated enough or if you like the story. Or if you have constructive criticism; won't turn my nose up at that.

A Man in the Garden

"You wore your Sunday best."

Kurt glanced around at the deep, unfamiliar voice, barely keeping his tail from whipping in agitation down his pants leg. He'd taken refuge in the empty church to be alone, not to have his company sought out by those who wanted to offer condolences he felt ill-suited to accept. "Yes."

The man was slim and of medium height, and that was all he bothered to note beyond the dusting of silver hair. "She was afraid you wouldn't come. Or that you'd use an image inducer to hide yourself."

Oh, so this was yet another of those who felt as if an inside track had been granted to them. As if the woman he spoke of was the sort to offer true confidences to anyone. "I thought it was most appropriate to come as," a gesture with a three fingered hand at his own form, "myself. Considering." And now the man could feel free to leave. Yes. Leave. Just like that. Turn and go away.

A shift, then the man settled into a pew across the aisle, perching on the very edge of the seat and not looking very comfortable in this environment. "Not a bad service at all, was it? Lots of familiar faces."

"Excuse me, I didn't catch your name." Kurt made his voice as close to cold as he could manage at that point, which wasn't as much as he would have liked. Being here at all was strange. Being here surrounded by the faces of men and women he'd fought at various points in his career was beyond that. He was simply too tired to manage frigidity.

A hand was offered. "George Hanran." Accepted and shaken, then dropped. "Never thought it would happen, did you?"

"Truthfully, Mr. Hanran, I tried not to think about my ... about Mystique much at all." Harsh words to say at someone's funeral. Cruel words. "It's not very Christian of me, is it?" he asked wryly, more of himself than his audience.

Hanran sat back, comfortable arrogance in his posture. "Forgive and forget? Is that what you're trying to resolve? Don't bother. She didn't want your forgiveness."

Kurt's yellow eyes dropped to stare at his hands, resting limply in his lap. "Maybe if she had wanted it I would have been able to find it." Quickly now, one hand raised to dash a thick finger over his eyes. A few rapid blinks. He looked up to stare at the crucifix hanging over the pulpit, seeking whatever strength it might offer him. "How did you know her?" he asked to distract himself. He was probably talking to yet another thug. Certainly no one he needed to open up to.

But Hanran ignored his question. "There were things I know she wanted to say to you. About who she was and what she wanted for you."

"She had years in which to say those things." The flatness of his voice surprised him and he forced himself to look at Hanran, trying to remember the charity of spirit he found in his faith. "I'm sorry, mein freund. It has been a long day."

"I know." Hanran had the most remarkable eyes, Kurt noticed now, absently. Not their color, which was an unglamorous brown, but the intensity and the grief in them. As if he were more truly in mourning than anyone else Kurt had seen at the funeral. "Tell me, Kurt: do you ever wonder why men are taught to fear the snake in the garden?"

"Separation from God," he answered automatically. "When Adam and Eve ate from the tree at the serpent's behest they lost their place in Eden."

"Eve listened to the snake. Adam listened to Eve. But the tree was called the Tree of Knowledge, wasn't it? So knowledge can turn a good man away from what is ... right. What good men believe is right. Can't it?"

"Some say that," Kurt agreed distantly, his heart not really in the discussion. "Some say that with any knowledge gained some innocence is lost. That's part of why children are so precious; they haven't yet seen enough to lose all hope in the rightness of the world."

"So sometimes it's best ... not to know." Hanran nodded, slowly. "Even if that knowledge could change so much for you."

"What are you talking about?"

Hanran stood. "I'm sorry for ... your ... loss. But if you continue to make her proud of the man you are--"


"--then perhaps it's worth it." A small, tight nod. "Goodbye, Kurt."

He could have stopped the man. With a word or with physical restraint he knew he could have stopped him ... but didn't. Cryptic references were sometimes the accepted means of communication around the more shadowy individuals Mystique had known. He could hardly have expected to escape them here.

Proud of him. Hanran had believed she'd been proud of him.

Was Mystique capable of having pride in her son when his whole life was about being different from her?

He stared at the crucifix again, thinking of the phone call that'd carried the news. The hollow grief on Rogue's face when she picked him up from the airport and hugged him tightly, the way he'd wanted to kiss her forehead in a brotherly gesture to soothe her, but couldn't. She'd had to identify the body herself before she could arrange to have it cremated. It must have been so very hard for her to say goodbye to the only mother she acknowledged.

'But if you continue to make her proud of the man you are...'

A frown lined his forehead. Hanran had hardly seemed the sort to speak of the continuing existence of the soul after death.

'So sometimes it's best ... not to know.'

Dead. Rogue had said there were enough bullet holes to kill Logan, even.

Rogue. Rogue had said.

"Nein," he murmured, shaking his head in dazed disbelief. "She wouldn't..."

The sorrow on her face. The catch in her voice as she told him.

Yet not a tear. Not one. Single. Tear. And Rogue knew how to cry.


'Tell me, Kurt: do you ever wonder why men are taught to fear the snake in the garden?'

Why men are taught to fear the snake.

The crucifix bisected the wall. He'd prayed more than a few times for his mother's soul. Feared that death had found her spirit in hell, if there truly were such a place.

"Apparently," he told the cross, "I was a bit premature in my fears." He stood, tail wrapping around his leg in a spiral as he made a little bow to the symbol and what it meant. "Now if you'll excuse me ... I need to go see a woman about an apple."




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