*Swish Thwack*

Jimaine and Stefan had been caught feeding the animal while everyone else in the camp was sleeping again. Their mother Margali had warned them that instead of being forced to muck the elephants for a month; they would be forced to do it for a year, and neither one would receive any training in magic during that time either.

*Swish Thwack*

The animal however.was not so lucky in his punishment.

*Swish Thwack*

Kurt threw his head back and howled as the whip streaked across his blue furred back once more. It echoed and twisted into that of an animal's wail, and everyone who watched his whipping guessed it would be so since he was in fact nothing more than an animal in their freak show.

With a groan, he slumped forward, the ropes binding his wrists over his head biting deeply into his skin. He looked up at Jimaine for one final moment before he fell into blessed blackness. *** Kurt had been found beside a riverbed; obviously having rode down the current all the way from the falls that started it off. Margali had taken one look at the baby and had known exactly where to put it to make more money for her and the circus.

The animal trainer raised the child for the first few years of his life. At first, he was given clothes and treated almost like a human, but when he became old enough to make a good attraction, his clothes were taken from him and he was placed in a cage with some straw and a water dish.

He had wept and lashed out the first year in the cage, causing him to be beaten often so that he was trained to never speak to those higher than him. He learned that it was not wise to try and speak to the people, who came to stare at him, because that made them laugh and say such things such as, 'Look how they trained it to speak!'

As he grew older, he became more like the animal they wanted until he finally was all animal, prowling his cage naked and snarling and baring his fangs at some of the children who gawked at him.

He would have become a complete mindless animal had it not been for the priest who had come to see if the animals were being treated fairly. Margali had shown Kurt off as a demon that was treated as well as could be expected. The priest had taken one look at Kurt and asked to be alone with him, despite the fact that he was snarling and hissing at him, his tail flicking side to side rapidly.

Margali had refused at first, saying there was no need to look the demon over and besides; how did she know he wasn't going to do something to harm him? In truth, she was afraid Kurt might slip up and speak to the priest.

But Father Whitney had been adamant about speaking to Kurt and she finally gave in to his demand and she left the two of them alone to speak to one another.

"Hello." Father Whitney said kindly to Kurt, his eyes going with the rest of his smile this time. Kurt only hissed at him and when he went to go closer to the cage, Kurt had lunged and banged against the bars, slashing at him with his claws.

"Now now." Father Whitney said gently, taking hold of Kurt's hand lightly. "We shall have none of that." Kurt howled and pulled, trying to get his hand out of the priest's. He banged his tail and feet against the cage wailing loudly.

"If you wish for me to let go, tell me to do it." Father Whitney instructed. Kurt stopped thrashing about and he crouched there, his outstretched hand in the priest's, as he looked the man over. He licked his lips and thought hard to try and remember the words from long ago.

"Let go.please." He said softly, his voice rough and harsh from not being used in such a long time. Father Whitney nodded and he let go of Kurt's hand. With his hand free, Kurt huddled to the farthest corner of his cage and he looked at the priest with mistrust plainly written on his face.

"You're not a demon." Father Whitney said simply. "If you were, you wouldn't be held back by a cage not dipped in holy water constantly." He ran a finger down one of the bars and showed it to Kurt. "Not even a drop on this cage."

Smiling faintly, Father Whitney dug into his pocket and he took out a small leather bible. He slipped it through the bars and looked at Kurt.

"This is for you." He said. Kurt looked at the object curiously, but he didn't want to be near the priest so he stayed where he was.

"Don't worry. I'm not going to hurt you. Here." Picking up the book, Father Whitney held it out to Kurt. In a flash Kurt snatched the book away and he went back to his corner, looking at the strange object for a moment, turning the pages with the scribbles in it.

"What.this?" he asked, looking up at Father Whitney.

"It's a very special book." Father Whitney explained gently. "Do you know how to read?" he asked, tilting his head to one side.

"Jimaine and Stefan.They promised to teach me.soon." Kurt said, turning the pages more slowly, squinting at the words on the thin pages. He looked up as Father Whitney held out what looked like a necklace with wooden beads and a metal cross in the middle. He poked it gently with his tail, looking at the priest for an explanation.

"Rosary beads for praying." He explained as Kurt took them with his tail.

"Praying?"

"When you have learned to read, read that book all right?"

"All.right." Kurt nodded, looking at the priest. He placed the book and beads under his straw bed and he went into a crouch, his tail swaying from side to side as Margali came back in to see if the priest was quite finished. He said he was and he left, sharing a slight smile with Kurt before he left.

When they were done with performances for that day, Kurt had pawed at Jimaine's leg, looking at her with pleading eyes until she got the message at last.

That night, Kurt learned how to read the Bible.

After that, Kurt relearned that he was a man and not the animal Margali claimed he was. He still acted like one when people were around him, baring his fangs and whatnot, but at night when Stefan and Jimaine snuck out to be with him, he acted and spoke like a man, laughing softly and eating actual warm food instead of the slop he was given in the day time.

They had thought that they were being so sneaky and quite during their visits with Kurt, but it turned out that the walls had ears and loud mouths, and Margali soon learned that the Nightcrawler was able to talk and act like a man and less of the advertised monster she wanted.

She waited until Stefan and Jimaine were with Kurt until she sprung the trap and caught them eating with Kurt, the cage door open so that he could sit between them. Haus the strongman held Kurt tightly by his arms, ignoring his wild struggling as Margali went through his cage and found the Bible and rosary beads.

"What are these?" she demanded, jabbing the objects in his face. Kurt kept his mouth closed and he looked at the ground, giving up his struggling with Haus. He yelped softly as she grabbed the fur on his chest and twisted it.

"Look at me when I'm talking to you!" she snapped, narrowing her eyes dangerously. He looked at her with watery eyes, and his tail fell limply between his legs.

"Where did you get these?" she repeated.

"The priest gave them to me." He said weakly, looking at the ground again. He winced as Margali broke the rosary, the wooden beads scattering at his feet. The Bible was hurled into a fire and he was dragged outside with Jimaine and Stefan protesting behind him.

His wrists were bound to a high hanging branch and he was whipped, his howls echoing all over the forest. When he finally lost consciousness, he could hear someone saying something about an American in a chair coming to the camp. ***
When Kurt opened his eyes, he found himself lying on the ground, the ropes used to bind his hands still on. He narrowed his eyes to clear up his vision and he was surprised to see that he was looking at a chair with wheels. Two feet were in front of him, and he saw that whoever was in the wheeled chair, they had a blanket over their lap.

"Hello Kurt." The American said. Kurt raised his head and he saw that the American was bald with sky blue eyes that comforted him by just looking at them. The American leaned forward and he held out a hand.

"Come with me, Kurt. You won't have to worry about cages anymore." He assured him.

Smiling slowly, Kurt took his hand and left the circus for good.