Disclaimer: I do not own Nightcrawler or the Szardos family. Please don’t sue me or steal my story!
A Heartfelt Wish
[i]It was pitch dark outside the cluttered trailer, and bitterly cold. An icy wind trailed its numbing fingers over Kurt’s nose and ears, making the young boy shiver despite his heavy coat. Inside the rusty old trailer, his cozy cot was waiting. He could picture its invitingly rumpled sheets in his mind, still holding the warmth left by his restless tossing and turning. But even as he hesitated, his back pressed against the dented, metal door, he could feel the forest waiting, beckoning him to lose himself within its shadowy depths.
Kurt knew he should go back. He knew his foster mother, Margali, would be frantic if she woke up and found him gone. But the thin walls of the small trailer were too confining this night, and his mind was too active for sleep. He needed the chill in the air, the feel of the dirt beneath his booted feet. He needed the darkness to shelter him from the gnawing ache in his heart.
Even without its leafy canopy, the bleak, wintry forest was dense enough to block out the worst of the wind. In among the shadowed pillars of the tree trunks, Kurt felt the stillness envelop him, soothing a tenseness in his shoulders he hadn’t even known was there. The frozen ground was tricky with sudden dips and raised tree-roots, and the overcast sky made the boy’s night-vision all but useless, but Kurt’s acute sense of spatial awareness allowed him to avoid any pitfalls. Besides, he knew the path well enough to walk it in the dark.
The merry tinkling from the mountain stream was quiet now, silenced by the ice that had frozen its surface in delicate ripples and swirls. Kurt climbed up onto the large, flat rock that jutted out over the motionless rapids and curled his long, spaded tail around his knees, hugging them close to his chest under the folds of his coat. Closing his golden eyes, the young boy rested his velvety, indigo forehead against the thick digits of his folded, three-fingered hands and began to pray.
Off in the distance, a dim, flickering light appeared among the leafless trees. It approached slowly, accompanied by the soft, low sound of a man humming an ancient tune. The sound drew Kurt from his thoughts and he raised his head in alarm, every sense suddenly on sharp alert. Cautiously, he backed off the exposed rock to crouch in the shadows just below. The man was close enough now for Kurt to hear his steady footsteps on the dirt path, to smell the sweet smoke from his torch. Closing his glowing eyes, Kurt held his breath, waiting for the stranger to pass. To his dismay, however, the footsteps stopped barely ten feet from his hiding place.
“Child, why do you hide? Surely you do not fear me.”
The man’s deep voice resonated in the silent forest, filling all the dark spaces with a peculiar warmth. Compelled by the gentle sadness of his tone, Kurt slowly opened his eyes, only to gasp out loud at what he saw.
“Who—who are you?” the boy breathed, feeling oddly terrified and exhilarated at the same time. The tall man smiled, his long, white beard reflecting the golden orange light from his scented torch. He was magnificent in a shimmering blue cloak and a strikingly tall hat. Yet over his shoulder, he carried only a simple, brown sack.
“Merely a wanderer,” he said, still with that same warm smile. “I have walked many miles and would welcome a chance to rest. May I sit with you?”
Kurt blinked, startled by the request. His foster mother’s voice flashed through his mind, warning him of the terrible dangers even the seemingly kindest stranger could pose to someone like him. But the bearded man’s eyes were warm and sincere, and they gazed on the young mutant without a hint of fear, disgust, or avarice. And so, after only a brief hesitation, Kurt nodded... [/i]
“Mama! Stefan! Jimaine! Wake up, quick!”
Stefan groaned at the sound of his young foster brother’s shrill, excited voice, mumbling grumpily as he buried his head under his pillow. Kurt frowned, pouncing on the older boy and snatching his pillow away.
“Wake up!” he insisted, leaping over to his foster sister’s cot and shaking her shoulder.
“Quit it, Kurt!” Jimaine snapped, shoving the younger boy away. “Get off! What the heck is wrong with you?”
“A Magi!” Kurt exclaimed, hopping up onto Margali’s cot with a creak of ancient springs. “Mama, Mama! I saw a Magi in the forest!”
“Wha…?” Margali yawned blearily, sitting up and scrubbing her long fingernails through her frizzy black hair. “Kurt? What’s wrong, honey?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Jimaine grumbled, shooting an annoyed glare at her brother. “Kurt had a dream and now he’s waking everybody up.”
“I did not so have a dream!” Kurt protested loudly. “It was real! I was out in the forest and—“
“Raaaaagghh!” Stefan cried in frustration, leaning half out of bed to reclaim his pillow from the floor where Kurt had tossed it. “Will someone make him shut up? I was asleep!”
“But this is important!” Kurt insisted, causing the springs of his foster mother’s cot to squeak and squeal in rusty protest as he bounced up and down on the thin mattress. “I saw a Magi in the Black Forest and he granted me a wish! He’s lost you see, and he’s been wandering for such a very long time, and since it’s almost Christmas, I--”
“That’s nice, honey,” Margali interrupted, clamping a firm hand on his leg to stop his bouncing. “It must have been a wonderful dream. But your brother’s right. Tomorrow’s Christmas Eve and we all need our sleep—especially if you and your brother expect me to drive you both to church in the morning.”
“But Mama…” Kurt whined, frustrated with his family’s complete lack of enthusiasm for his story.
“No, Kurt,” Margali said firmly. “No more. Not tonight. Go back to sleep now. You can tell us all about it in the morning, OK?”
Kurt sighed, clambering off her cot and stomping across the trailer to climb up to his own. “Fine,” he grumped. Despite his disappointment, however, the moment his head hit his pillow, the young boy fell fast asleep.
“I can’t believe it,” Jimaine said, rolling her eyes as she listened to Kurt re-tell his story about meeting the Magi to yet another group of semi-interested circus performers. “He’s still going on about that dream he had last night. You think he’d be tired of it by now.”
“Ah, let him alone,” Stefan replied, speaking through a mouthful of sandwich. “At least he’s not bothering us. So, what do you want to do after lunch? Have you wrapped all your presents for tomorrow?”
“They’ve been wrapped and ready for the last week. What about you?”
Stefan winced. “Well, I actually still need to get a few things…”
Jimaine stared in disbelief. “You mean you still haven’t finished your Christmas shopping? Stefan, it’s Christmas Eve!”
“I know that,” Stefan snapped. “And stop looking so shocked! It’s not your present I need to get after all.”
“Whose is it then?”
“Kurt’s,” Stefan admitted. “I couldn’t think of anything to get him! The only thing I know he wants for sure is a new TV set, and I could never afford that. So I’m stuck.”
“Did you think of buying him a book?” Jimaine said with a raised eyebrow. “That’s what I did. You can get a bunch of really decent books for less than a mark at the second hand bookstore in town.”
“Everyone’s getting him books,” Stefan sulked. “I wanted to get him something different.”
“Then what about tickets to the local Kino, or some comics?”
“Chester got him movie tickets, and comics are a kind of book!”
Jimaine looked ready to debate that last point, but at that moment, Kurt himself came over to sit beside her.
“You guys believe me, don’t you?” he said, approaching them from a completely different train of thought.
“About what?” Stefan asked, cramming the last of his sandwich into his mouth and washing it down with a long swallow of milk. Kurt shot him a dark look.
“About the Magi!” he exclaimed. “Nobody believes me about my wish! They all say I imagined it. But I didn’t! I swear I didn’t!”
“If that’s true, then just what exactly [i]were[/i] you doing out in the forest that late at night?” Jimaine asked with a disapproving frown. “It must have been freezing out!”
Kurt groaned, slamming his forehead down onto the lunch table in frustration. “I had to go out,” he said, peering back up at her through troubled, golden eyes. “I had to think.”
“You’re nine years old, Kurt,” Stefan said. “What have you got to think about that’s so important you have to run outside in the middle of the night and risk losing your fuzzy blue toes to frostbite?”
“Never mind,” Kurt mumbled, his golden eyes tight with hurt. “Just forget I said anything, OK! I don’t know why I wanted to tell anyone all this anyway. I should have known you wouldn’t believe me!”
“Come on, Kurt, don’t be like that,” Jimaine said, reaching out to grab her brother’s arm before he could run away. “We never said we didn’t believe you. In fact, Stefan and I were just now wondering what you’d wished for.” She shot a significant glance over to Stefan, who looked somewhat blank. “Isn’t that right, Stefan?” she prompted. Stefan stared for a moment, then smiled in sudden comprehension.
“Yeah, that’s right,” he said. “What was your Christmas wish, Kurt? Some comic books? A new practice sword, maybe?”
The young mutant suddenly looked deeply uncomfortable. “It doesn’t matter,” he said, averting his eyes from his foster siblings. “It’s impossible, anyway. I just took a chance because I thought…I thought maybe the Magi might…”
“Wait, Kurt…are you crying?” Stefan said, suddenly concerned at the hitch in his brother’s voice. Kurt straightened at once, rubbing at his eyes with both hands.
“No!” he exclaimed. “No I’m not! I just…I don’t want to talk anymore!”
And with that outburst, Kurt jumped up from the table and dashed out of the tent, leaving Stefan and Jimaine to stare after him in bewildered concern.
“What do you suppose is really eating him?” Jimaine asked after a long moment.
“Whatever it is, it seems pretty serious,” Stefan observed with a frown. “Do you want to go after him?”
“No,” she said, gathering up her plate and cup and rising from the crowded table. “Not yet. I have a better idea. Come with me.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Do you have a better idea how to find out what’s bothering him?”
“No,” Stefan admitted.
“Then what’s your problem? You’ve never objected to using mother’s spell books before.”
“Yeah,” Stefan acknowledged. “And I’m not objecting to it now. I’m all for eavesdropping—at least on principle.”
“Then what’s the matter?” Jimaine demanded.
Stefan crossed his arms over his chest, peering down at his younger sister through openly skeptical black eyes. “I don’t know if I trust your magical abilities enough to let you perform an invisibility spell on me,” he told her. Jimaine glared.
“Is that so?” she snapped.
“Yeah, actually. It is,” Stefan replied. “How can I know you won’t mess it up and turn us both into chickens or something? I, for one, am not willing to go through life as a plump, clucking bird just because Kurt’s having another one of his moods.”
Jimaine scowled. “Come off it, Stefan! When have I ever made a mistake that bad? Never, that’s when. Besides, it’s Christmas Eve and this is the perfect opportunity for you to find out what Kurt really wants. Moody or not, he deserves more from you than a crummy IOU in a box!”
Stefan sighed. “But what if he, like, wants to be Zorro for a day or go back in time to meet Robin Hood or something stupidly Kurtish like that?” he protested. “He did say he’d wished for something impossible.”
“And what if he did?” Jimaine retorted. “We’ve got a magic book, don’t we? We might not be able to grant him his exact wish, but I’ll bet we can come awful close.”
“Come on, Stefan,” Jimaine pleaded. “Kurt’s been moping around for weeks now, and it seems like Christmas is making it worse, not better. He really has me worried. I mean, it’s not like him to be so grumpy all the time.”
“Yeah, I know.” Stefan sighed. “Oh, all right. Do your spell. But I warn you, if we end up dead because of this, I’ll kill you.”
Jimaine wrinkled her nose at him. “Oh, ha,” she said. “Now shut up and get over here. In order for this to work, we’ll both have to read it out loud.”
Stefan raised a dark eyebrow, but did as he was told. “Kurt,” he said, shaking his head as he caught sight of the length and complexity of the spell Jimaine was pointing out. “I sure hope you appreciate all the trouble this wish of yours is putting me through!” Honestly, he added silently in his mind as he and his sister began to read the difficult words, I wouldn’t do it for anyone else.
Cloaked in a magical cloud of invisibility, Stefan and Jimaine swept into their cramped trailer like a gust of wintry wind. Kurt glared at the swinging door and hurried to slam it shut, dashing back to the warmth of his cot just as the commercial break ended. The family’s ancient television set was propped up on a pile of boxes in the corner. Although it sported an elaborate, hand-made antenna of bent coat hangers and masses of duct tape, the black-and-white picture was fuzzy and the characters were trailed by shadowy ghosts of themselves as they moved across the screen. Still, despite some sharp, intermittent background static, the sound was reasonably good and, with a little patience and imagination, the story could be followed quite easily.
Stefan and Jimaine sat down as quietly as they could, not quite sure what to expect. Kurt was curled up under his blanket with his golden eyes fixed on the fuzzy screen and his plush, indigo teddy bear, Herr Flaumig, held close in his arms.
At first, it seemed the two siblings were wasting their time. They stared at Kurt, Kurt stared at the TV. But after a few minutes of watching the ghostly figures float around in static, Kurt began to talk.
“You see, Herr Flaumig,” the boy said, pointing to the screen with a frown. “They always run away. Just because the Munsters happen to look a little different, those two men ran right through the door! And the TV audience laughed and laughed!”
He sniffed, burying his face in his bear’s soft fur. “It’s not funny, Herr Flaumig. I know. And it’s just made worse because the Munsters don’t think they’re any different from anyone else. They think they’re just a normal family because they have each other. They have relatives all over the place and a family history to show just how many others there are like them in the world. All those people screaming and running away don’t mean anything to them because they know they’re not alone!”
Kurt sniffed hard, blinking his eyes fiercely to keep back the stinging tears. But he couldn’t control the hitch in his voice, or the agitated lashing of his tail.
“It’s just not fair,” he said. “Everyone seems to have a family except for me. I’d give anything to be able to look around and see other people who look like me. But I can’t. I’m the only kid who looks like me in the whole entire world and no one seems to get it. Not even Mama!”
He sniffed again, wiping his streaming eyes on his sleeve. “I told the Magi,” he said, squeezing his bear even closer. “I told him everything, and he didn’t think I was ungrateful. He said it was only natural I should feel so lonely, especially at Christmas when so many families are coming together. But I can’t help being guilty, Flaumig. I love my family here so much. I shouldn’t feel like this! But I can’t help it, Flaumig. I just can’t help it! I’m sick of being unique and special! Why can’t [i]I[/i] be the normal one for once!”
As Kurt fell into his pillow, giving himself completely over to his tears, Jimaine reached out an invisible hand to tap Stefan on the leg. Pulling gently on his hand, she led him from the trailer and out into the clear, cold light, where they slowly became visible once again.
“Wow,” she said, her eyes downcast and her voice subdued as she leaned her back against the trunk of a nearby tree. “Poor Kurt.”
Stefan sighed and ran a hand through his tousled, black hair. “It’s the same old problem, isn’t it,” he said. “Kurt wants to be normal. You can’t really blame him, I guess.”
“No,” Jimaine agreed. “But how are we supposed to help him? That Magi of his was a nice dream, but what’ll happen when he wakes up tomorrow morning to find he’s still blue and fuzzy? He’ll be devastated!”
Stefan looked thoughtful. “Maybe…” he started, then he stopped and looked away. Jimaine frowned.
“Maybe what?” she asked.
“I think I know a way to help him,” he said, a slow smile starting to spread over his face.
Jimaine tilted her head. “How?”
“With a Spell of Illusion,” Stefan grinned. “I saw it as you were flipping through Mom’s spell book. It’s, like, three or four pages in front of your invisibility spell.”
Jimaine’s eyes widened. “Oh, I get it!” she exclaimed with a grin of her own. “[i]We[/i] can grant his Christmas wish! Stefan, that’s brilliant!”
“I know,” Stefan smiled, his dark eyes gleaming with anticipation. “But we’ll have to work fast, and we have to be sure no one spots us…” He looked thoughtful for a moment, then snapped his fingers. “Got it! After tonight’s feast, when Kurt’s asleep. We’ll do it then.”
“Great,” Jimaine nodded. “It’s the perfect present! But, Stefan…how will he know it’s from you?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Stefan smiled. “We can tell him the truth once the spell wears off. Until then, I can always get by with an IOU in a box!”
The Szardos Circus’s annual Christmas Eve feast was still going on when Stefan and Jimaine snuck out of their trailer. Margali had sent the three children to bed about an hour before, but they’d had to wait for Kurt to fall asleep before they could leave. With a quick glance to the dancing, laughing, singing adults gathered around the bonfire in the clearing at the center of their winter camp, Stefan and Jimaine made a mad dash for the forest, vanishing into the blackness before anyone could notice they were gone.
Unlike their foster brother, the two Szardos children were not familiar with the narrow, forest path and it wasn’t long before they began to feel a little frightened. The shadowed tree trunks seemed to be watching them, and their gnarled roots seemed to be reaching out to grab their ankles. They had only made it about halfway to the stream before Jimaine pulled on her brother’s arm.
“I think this is far enough,” she smiled nervously. “Want to get started?”
“Yeah,” he said, his dark eyes darting anxiously around the trees. “Let’s get this done quickly and get back to bed, OK?”
“I’m with you on that,” Jimaine said. “This forest really creeps me out sometimes. It has such a weird vibe, you know? Like maybe it holds some magic of its own.”
“Oh, there’s no maybe about it,” Stefan said. “But come on, we’re wasting time.”
Stefan flicked on the flashlight as Jimaine opened the ancient book and started flipping through the thick, hand-written pages. She had just found the spell and was reaching for the flashlight when, suddenly, she felt a strange chill run up her spine. Spinning around, her eyes opened wide and she let out a short, startled shriek. Alarmed, Stefan spun too. When he spotted what his sister had seen, his jaw dropped.
“Oh my God,” he gasped, clamping an astonished hand over his mouth as he stared openly at the tall, bearded figure standing before them. “He was telling the truth!”
“Merry Christmas, children,” the Magi said, his deep eyes twinkling beneath his hat. “I take it from your reaction that you know who I am?”
“You’re Kurt’s Magi!” Jimaine exclaimed, hugging the book to her chest. “One—one of the wise men who…”
“Who brought gifts to the infant Jesus in the manger,” Stefan finished, completely awestruck. “You guys were the ones who started the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas!”
The Magi chuckled behind his beard. “That’s right,” he smiled.
“But…but what are you doing here?” Jimaine hadn’t really meant to ask, but the rather rude question just blurted out of her before she could stop it. Stefan gave her a nudge, but the Magi didn’t seem to mind.
“As I told your little brother, I’m a wanderer. I’ve been wandering the world for many, many years. It just so happens that tonight, I am here.”
Jimaine crinkled her forehead at that explanation, but the Magi shot her a look that told her not to press further. Instead, she asked, “So, did you really grant Kurt’s wish?”
“I did,” the tall man nodded. “It will take effect the moment the boy awakes on Christmas morning and will last until he falls asleep on Christmas night.” He tilted his head. “But you seem disappointed, child. Tell me, what’s wrong?”
Jimaine winced. “Well, it’s just that, um, you see…”
“I don’t have a present to give Kurt tomorrow,” Stefan broke in, his voice strong but his eyes slightly averted. “And Jimaine was trying to help me out.”
“Ah,” said the Magi, reaching into his plain, brown sack. “Then I believe I can help you. Here.”
Jimane and Stefan took the two, small parcels the Magi handed to them and held them under the light of the flashlight.
“But, sir,” Stefan frowned, confused. “These presents are addressed to us.”
“What you find in there will mean more to your brother than all the toys, movies, and comics in the world,” the Magi smiled. “But you mustn’t open them until Christmas morning.” He winked at their skeptical expressions, his dark eyes sparkling merrily. “Trust me.”
“But then, what is Stefan supposed to give Kurt?” Jimaine asked. Stefan nudged her again, but she was insistent. “No, you have to give him something,” she hissed firmly.
“Quite right, quite right,” the Magi agreed, reaching into his sack again and handing Stefan a small, flat box.
“What is it?” he asked.
“A book, of course,” the tall man replied with a knowing look. “And next year, don’t put off your Christmas shopping until it’s too late. I won’t be here to bail you out.”
Stefan snickered and shoved the slender package into his pocket. “Yeah, thanks,” he said.
“Now it’s late and it’s cold and I need to get going,” the Magi said, glancing through the tangled tree branches to a large star glowing brightly to the east. “There’s someplace very important I have to be. Have a wonderful Christmas, children.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jimaine and Stefan chorused. Then they watched as the tall man turned and strode into the night, slowly blending with the surrounding shadows until he, and his star, had completely faded from view.
TO BE CONCLUDED! It's very almost done! I just wanted to be sure to get most of it up while it was still Chirstmas!
Have a great holiday everybody! :D
[Edited on 29/4/06 by Rowena]
"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice and somewhere else the tea is getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do."
~The Doctor, Survival
"There's no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes."
~The Doctor, Robot
"If this isn't civilization, why am I standing in a bomb crater?"
~Hawkeye Pierce, M.A.S.H.Rowena Zahnrei's Stories: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/526713/Rowena_Zahnrei