Fanfic Time: Heaven, Earth and Hell, part 6

Continued from yesterday:

  “You didn’t.”

  “I sure as hell *did*,” Celia argued. “I *had* to.”

  “And what if you fell over sick or something?”

  “For God’s sake, Betty…”

  “You’re our chief animal handler. If something happened to you–”

  “It *didn’t* happen, okay? I just carried him from the tent to the goddamn trailer. I’ve done that with full-grown goddamn *Lions*, Betty!”

  Kurt, for the record, was asleep on the couch. A state which had little to do with the recent upheaval and a lot to do with a mild sedative slipped into his hot chocolate before Betty got there.

  “*Before* you got cancer, damnit! Cee, you’re *sick*.”

  “I’m well a-damn-nough to argue about it, Betty. I’m getting *better*, now.”

  “You’re still too sick to pull that sort of– of– stupid-fuck *stunt*. Jesus, Cee. I nearly shat myself when I heard what you did.”

  “He’s a *kid*, Betty. And underweight, to boot. Go on. You lift him and see.”

  Grumbling, Betty picked him up. “Jesus H…” She juggled him a little. “He’s lighter than he looks.”

  “See? I did *not* strain myself.”

  “Yeah, but I’ve seen how much he *eats*. Where does it all *go*?”

  “Burns it up again?” Celia shrugged. “He’s pretty active. Hell, I keep him off the sugar as much as I can ‘cause I happen to like my vintage suspension.”

  “Don’t even try to derail me, Celia Lauren Yale. This isn’t about him,” Betty put Kurt back down and turned on her. “It’s about you. You keep over-estimating what you can actually *do*. And every time you do it, I wind up picking up the goddamn spill.”

  “You’d prefer we sat on the cold ground all night?”

  Betty fumed. She did it so perfectly that smoke should have arisen from her ears. “…no. But that doesn’t mean you were in the right. Jaime could have–”

  “Jaime was busy with the horses after the fire. *Everyone* was busy after the fire; what with the police and the fire brigade and the gawkers, and let’s not forget those assholes the Wagners. Or whatever they want to call themselves, this week…”

  Betty harrumphed. A little elementary research at the town’s library's computers had revealed that the 'Wagners’ had several aliases and were wanted in various states for a myriad of small-to-middling crimes. If they had a real identity, it was cunningly concealed in amongst a myriad of other, nearly-real pseudonyms and false paperwork that had made tracking them and their crimes down an intricate and confusing art.

  And somewhere in there, they were wanted for questioning in Germany with regards to the willful neglect of a sick woman… and the possible abduction of her son. There was no photo of the son, but the image of the woman - Ada Wagner - looked almost exactly like Celia.

  It was the only international crime - or possible crime - that they were involved in.

  The son was called Kurt.

  For Celia, it was a co-incidence too strong to ignore.

  Kurt invaded her bed-nook, that night; seeking a mother’s comfort in the simple warmth of her body and the presence of her arm wrapped around his torso. He held her hand as if it were some kind of teddy bear.

  He also generated heat like nothing else. Since it was early spring, and winter still had a grip on her bones, she was glad of that extra warmth. And the drowsy, lulling purr he made in his sleep. Celia still found herself hoping that he wouldn’t need such comforting in the middle of summer.

  At least the sociopath was away in Juvie again, and Wagner the elder was busy sorting *that* out, rather than harassing the troop accountant for “the other books”. Working on Kurt’s psychological problems - until the next Wagner/Lamprey/whatever-they-called-themselves-related mishap would have to wait until tomorrow.

  _Sleep deep, and have healing dreams, little boy,_ Celia thought, working her other hand around to soothe her fingers through his hair. _One way or another, I’ll see to it that you get more than you could dream for._


  “Sustagex… weight gain powder… a little malt… what next?”


  Celia accepted the bunch from his mouth. “Bananas. Oh yes. Can't forget the bananas. How many, do you think?”

  No answer. He still wasn’t speaking. Even though the Wagners had come and gone again, he still wasn’t speaking. Not even a single 'Mama' since Wagner the younger had had his little “pep talk” with the poor kid.

  Celia peeled a banana. “One for you…” Her knife flashed, chopping it into smaller chunks for the growing mass in the blender. She started on the second. “One for me…” a third, “…aaaaannnnd one for the pot." Some yoghurt went in, as did a little extra cream. "Think it’s ready?”

  Kurt batted at the lid.

  _Go whiz it, ma,_ Celia smirked at the memory. Whenever she was sick, Mom would make some kind of milky concoction that was half entertainment, half dietary disaster, and all sweet and delicious. The only difference now was that *this* concoction was medically recommended to help her body build itself up. It was so rich that she could only handle a small glass every other hour. Provided she took it easy.

  Kurt gulped the stuff down like his life depended on it. And, afterwards, he was *still* hungry enough to eat at least two full meals.

  He never gained an ounce of fat. If it went into anything, as far as Celia could determine, it went into growing and muscle tone, as well as the light sprinkling of shed fuzz they groomed off his body, daily.

  At least he was looking better, physically speaking. The last lingering signs of his former abuse were fading, even to her overly-critical eye. He seemed happier and more at home with himself. More relaxed.

  If only he’d relax enough to *talk*, damnit. Or at least shed some element of his animal act and let Celia know just how clever he truly was. It made her want to hug him and strangle him at the same time.

  Kurt watched the bits and pieces in the blender dance their way into a liquid state with a clear air of fascination and anticipation. He was, Celia noted, careful to maintain an animalistic posture as he leaned against the counter.

  It was only a matter of luck that she heard the knock on the door over the noise. “Oh, fudge-knuckles…” she muttered, turning the machine off.


  “Yeah, I’m coming,” Celia dodged around Kurt, who had decided to ankle as she tried to get to the door. It made her journey of a few feet more entertaining for sure. A peek out the peephole revealed a Fed-ex guy.

  _Paranoid, Celia. Paranoid._ But then, considering the effect the Wagners seemed to have on Kurt… paranoia was warranted.

  Celia opened the door. “Yes?”

  “Whoa,” said the Fed-ex guy. “Uh. Celia Yale?”

  She found her ID in her purse by the door and proved her identity. The Fed-ex guy handed her an envelope, she signed, and then it got stranger than what passed for normal in the troop.

  “Uhm. I also have a packet for uh… Kurt Wagner?” he pronounced it 'WAG-ner’.

  “Vaugh-ner,” Celia corrected. “I’m his guardian.” She signed for the extra envelope and bit the guy a good day.

  “Say, what *is* that thing, anyway?” he said, pointing at Kurt.

  Celia smiled, half to herself. “One of a kind.” She put the envelopes down under her purse, and returned to the far more important business of finishing the production of their nutri-shake.

  By the time she would come back to them, she would have far much more proof of his humanity than she could hope for.


  The mobile movie library had arrived. The sight of the reconditioned bus turned the entire troop upside-down as the whole crew rummaged through their collections for films they wanted to exchange or lists of ones they wanted to add to their collections.

  Celia was no different. She had a small pile of movies she was simply sick of, a new list of quasi-educational DVDs recommended for their mixture of tolerability and actual learning value along with decent levels of entertainment. After all, it would be months before anyone in the troop saw the mobile movie library again.

  She took Kurt because not taking him meant leaving him unsupervised in a cage. Unguarded - since the entire troop would be otherwise occupied - and more vulnerable than ever to the incursion of the Wagners. Lampreys. Shitheads.

  Celia smirked. Whatever name they went by, Kurt’s former tormenters were nothing more than shitheads. Therefore, that was what she would call them, even if it *was* only in the privacy of her own mind.

  Since the library was parked inside the 'backstage’ area of the circus, Celia decided to just let him follow her without the leash. It was one of the few freedoms she could lend him. Besides, Gary the movie van guy had once bragged that absolutely nothing could surprise him, any more. It was part of circus honour to take him up on that statement wherever possible.

  Gary, alas, didn’t turn a hair at Kurt’s appearance by her side. All that his presence earned was a raised eyebrow and an, “Interesting…”

  “I swear, you’re half-vulcan,” she drawled.

  Gary smirked as he tabulated her credit from the stack of movies she supplied. “Well, I gotta admit, I ain’t never seen one of *him*, before… but after a while? I guess I just take anything in stride.”

  “Damn,” Celia joked. “Where’s your educational section? I need something enhancing, tolerable, and entertaining all at once. And morale-boosting, too. No guys in stupid suits, if that’s possible.”

  Gary whistled backwards. “Now *that* takes some looking for. Babysitting on the side?”

  “Something like that,” Celia allowed.

  The interior of the mobile movie bus was cramped with shelves and arranged in such a way that one wended a serpentine path towards the back. Celia followed Gary along it in the happy mien of one who was anticipating something new.

  She didn’t even notice when Kurt left her side.

  The educational videos with more than a modicum of adult tolerability mostly involved the muppets. Something Celia had concerns over, what with Kurt’s own… physical uniqueness. She didn’t want him thinking that she thought of him as some kind of stuffed plaything meant solely for amusement - hers or otherwise.

  In fact, an appalling amount of kidvids were either too filled with saccharine or edging into territory, towards which Celia would rather not go. She eventually chose a few more acceptable options, including a couple of disks of Henson’s _The Storyteller_, if only for kicks.

  Celia reached down for a reassuring pat to Kurt’s blue-furred shoulder.

  Which was no longer there.

  Her heart went from zero to thirteen million feet high in a picosecond as she looked around for any hint of her so-far constant companion.

  “Kurt?” she risked.

  No answer.

  Of all his silences, this was the most terrifying.

  “Does he bite?” said Gary.

  “Not yet,” said Celia, already taking off for the back of the bus. _If those shitheads are tormenting him, somehow, I am going to fucking kill them and damn what state we’re in._

  Gary headed the other way. “C'mon, li'l fella… speak?”

  She found him in the classics section.

  *Holding* a DVD case in both hands.

  Looking at the back. No. *Reading* the back.

  Sure, she knew he knew how to spell his name, but that much elementary information was sometimes absorbed before true literacy began. He was actually literate. She could see his eyes tracking the words across the back of the case. His lips moved, very subtly, as they did.

  Celia *had* to see what absorbed his attention so. She bent down, trying to get a view of the title.

  “The Mark of Zorro?” she read.

  The effect was electric.

  Kurt shot straight up, landing on the ceiling with his tail-fur bristling and a shocked yawp escaping his mouth. The DVD case flew into the air, turning over and over like a parody of a cartoon before it finally obeyed the laws of gravity to descend with a soft clatter to the carpet. It took Kurt a handful of seconds to recognise her and land back down on the floor. Tail tucked down, cringing and still half fearful.

  She’d never even *thought* of raising a hand to him. “Oh, Kurt…”

  Then he sat up and begged.

  It was a pure strangle/hug moment, when she couldn’t decide between weeping and laughing, crushing him in a protective embrace or chastising him for thinking such lowly thoughts.

  “Aaaww… *Kurt*…” Celia sighed and picked up the case. “Of course we can get this. And anything else you like.”

  Caught, Kurt looked between the DVDs and her. He knew he couldn't pluck the cases out of the tightly-packed shelves and still maintain his act… and she knew he knew it, too.

  The biggest risk factor was Gary. If he saw anything unusual, Kurt could possibly go *backwards*, retreating further and further into the animal kingdom until he was completely lost.

  Celia improvised. “I found him, Gary,” she called. “He’s having a bit of a panic attack, so it might be wiser if you just stayed put.”

  “Gotcha,” said Gary. “And you’re cleaning any messes.”

  Celia knelt by him, and re-used words of evil for a good cause. “It's okay,” she whispered into Kurt’s pointed ear. “This can be our special secret.”

  He still looked torn.

  “I’ll protect you,” she vowed.

  His thick-fingered hands were surprisingly graceful and delicate when it came to extracting covers from the shelves. Even though his hands were steady, the rest of him clearly displayed his agitation and fear. Kurt stopped at four. _The Mark of Zorro_, _Captain Blood_, _Robin Hood_, and _The Count of Monte Cristo_. All ancient films. Hell, the version of _Captain Blood_ he picked starred Errol Flynn.

  Celia gave him a reassuring hug until he got out of the shakes. She could very cheerfully maim, bend, warp, spindle and mutilate the shitheads that had worked him over. In the meantime, though, they had to retreat to a place of safety in order to help him feel secure.

  He walked beside her so closely that he almost shoved her to one side as they travelled. Physical contact - in the form of her hand on his head - helped him from doing just that. Barely.

  It was no quirk of imagination that produced the low groan of relief when they entered their trailer… from both of them.

  _Sanctum sanctorum,_ Celia thought. Tomorrow, there would be another show. Today, however, had time for popcorn and old movies featuring guys with swords.


  “Knock knock,” said Betty as she let herself in. “Jaime told me Wendel said Julie said Tom said that Anje heard orchestral music coming from your trailer… so I’ve been sent to see if you’re watching anything depressing.”

  “Ssshhhh…” Celia hissed, pointing.

  There, on the floor in front of the TV, Kurt was eating popcorn.

  Not like an animal.

  Just like a regular kid watching their favourite film.

  “Oh wow,” she whispered.

  “His bathwater was tepid,” said one of the monochrome figures on the screen - Kurt mouthing along. “Poor Lolita. I fear her married life will be the same.”

  Kurt laughed under his breath.

  “He *smiles*,” Betty squeaked.

  “Sshhh!” Celia took her into the quieter side of the trailer. “Look. I know it’s goddamn cute and all, but we *can’t* let him know we know. Every time he crosses the line and we know about it, he goes completely backwards again.”

  “Now that’s just a damn fucking shame,” Betty said. “He thinks he's not allowed to enjoy himself? I swear, the next time I see those asshats the Wagners, I’m gonna–”

  “Ssshhh.” Celia checked over her shoulder.

  Kurt showed no sign of acknowledging Betty’s outburst. He was deep into the movie.

  “Just– just *let* him enjoy, okay? And if he catches you, just act ignorant.”

  “Oy veh…” Betty sighed. “No wonder you’re the best for this job. You live off of catering to psychoses.”

  “What? So you have a valid way of *forcing* him to relax and enjoy himself?”

  “That’s a cheap shot and you know it, Cee.”

  “It’s only cheap 'cause we both know it’s right in the bullseye," Celia whispered. "If I had legal proof one way or the other…”

  Betty reached over to the medical result envelopes under Celia's purse and handed them to her. “Like these?”

  “Oh, fucksacks, I completely forgot those.” Celia took the one with Kurt’s name on it and tore it open. A moment’s searching for meaning… "Oh boy. You are *not* going to believe this.“

  Betty peered over the side. "O *positive*?” she blurted. “His blood group’s O positive?”

  Kurt heard, and dived into his hiding spot under the knitted blanket on the couch.

  Celia sighed and went into mop-up mode. “It’s okay, hon. It’s *good* news.” She turned a light on and showed him the papers. “You remember that blood they took? They did some tests on it and… look. It says right here you’re not an animal.”

  Betty craned her neck to have a look. O+ blood group, immunised against all the childhood diseases, a recommendation to give him a tetanus shot when they could get to a doctor, since they found only the faintest trace of immunity in his system. Red blood cells counted high, indicating an athlete in training… and apart from some lingering symptoms of starvation, everything was normal across the board.

  Normal for human.

  If Kurt *was* an animal, the lab would have sent them a what-the-fuck letter and an indication of his species. Or a ballpark guess.

  “Human,” said Betty. “And entitled to every human right there is.”

  Celia reached for the collar. “I’ve never *been* so glad to get rid of this fucking thing.”

  Kurt’s hands trapped hers. “No?”

  “What? *Why*?”

  Four quiet words. “Sir will kill us.” And for the first time ever, he flinched away from her touch.

  Celia looked about ready to cry. “Kurt?”

  “Let him think,” said Betty. “I reckon it’s a big revelation for him.”


  Celia sighed as she let herself out of the shower. Betty was right, of course. Kurt needed time to sort things out in his head. Having someone pester him into a decision was the last thing he needed. Even a well-meaning someone such as herself.

  Wrapped in a towel, she reached up to swipe some lingering moisture from her head… and encountered stubble.


  Okay, so some of it was soft and slightly on the pathetic side, but it was actual hair on her actual head. Celia wiped the mirror off to have a good look.

  She actually had peach fuzz.

  Her momentary elation was quickly swallowed by the fact that no sympathetic magic had turned her hair another colour - like the auburn featured in the locket Kurt had given her. It was still a very uninteresting and almost ugly uck-brown.

  She could only cover it for so long, before Kurt saw and had his fondest illusion shattered.

  Dare she maintain such an illusion by dying her paltry crop auburn?

  Could she stand the upkeep of such a lie?

  Was Kurt even ready for whatever she decided?

  Ready or not, here it came.

  Kurt was worth more than lies, no matter how comforting those lies were. She should have corrected him at the first 'Mama’. She should never have let him persist…

  But he’d *needed* her to be his Mama. And she was acting the part *anyway*.

  A soft gasp. A tiny, “…nein…” and Celia knew it was already too late.

  He’d seen.

  He knew.