Author's Notes: My first entry for the OTGW-themed "Gnome-vember" event, for the prompt "Costumes." Inspired by some posts on Tumblr:
Wirt gave a sigh, half-tired and half-impatient, as he flipped through the library book.
It was about fashion, of all things. Not modern fashion or anything―Wirt didn't care about anything like that. It was an old book about the history of clothing styles in the United States and Europe. It was more interesting that he had expected. He was interested in art and architecture, but he had never really thought of fashion as the same sort of thing. He kept getting distracted reading about how and why the styles changed over the years.
But he hadn't checked this book out intending to read it. Mostly he just wanted to look through the pictures.
He paused at a photograph of some rich women from the early 1910s. He read some of the information on the opposite page, then looked back at the picture, straining his memory.
He was pretty sure that one of the ferry-frogs had been wearing that same outfit, though possibly in a different color.
Wirt pulled a piece of loose leaf paper out from under the book―a fourth of it was already missing, and now he tore off another chunk to bookmark the page. He leaned back in his chair, then flipped through the previous chapters, pausing at each picture that he had tabbed. The Puritan clothes in various colors, bringing back memories of Lorna's green dress. The Napoleonic jacket buttoned the same way as Quincy Endicott's. The "Gibson Girl" pictures that looked like Miss Langtree.
He liked the weird, old styles. And looking at the ones from the Unknown made him feel...nostalgic, somehow?
He felt strange admitting that to himself. He didn't really consider his time there to be happy. But as the weeks passed, his fear of that place was fading and the happier moments were easier to remember. He was glad to be home, but...
He glanced over to his wall, where he had taped up a picture that Greg had drawn at school. It was Wirt, dressed in the Halloween costume that he had worn during his time in the Unknown. Wirt stared at it for a second, then checked to make sure that his bedroom door was closed.
He slowly got up, pulling off his sweater as he made his way to the closet.
A moment later he stood in front of his mirror, fastened the Civil War-era cloak and put the over-starched Santa hat on his head. He put his hands on his hips and smiled at his reflection, feeling the same inexplicable thrill that he had felt on Halloween.
This outfit made him look good. Probably nobody else would think so...it was pretty ridiculous, really, and he still wasn't even sure what this was a costume of. Not a gnome, whatever Kathleen had said. If anything, he thought that hat made him look like a wizard. But the cape was more...adventurer? Or―
He had forgotten to lock his door, which suddenly flew open.
He jumped as Greg came into the room, without knocking, as he usually did.
"Hey, there you are! Whatcha doing?"
Wirt could feel his face turn red. "I―uh―I w-was just, you-you know―"
"Oh, you put on your costume again sometimes too? Let me go get mine!"
Wirt blinked as he ran off. A moment later he returned, dressed in his green suspenders and placing the old kettle on top of his head.
Now they both posed side-by-side in front of Wirt's mirror. He felt even more ridiculous, but it was that strange, wonderful kind of ridiculousness that Greg could bring out in him. The two of them looked so goofy that he started to snicker, but somehow he looked even better than before.
"I think we look spiffing!" Greg said. "Do you think we could go out trick-or-treating right now?"
"Greg, it's December."
"But we're spiffing!"
"Where did you even learn that word? It sounds like something that Grandma would say. I'm probably too old to go trick-or-treating anyway," he added, taking off his hat with a slightly mournful tone. "And I'm still not even sure what I'm supposed to be."
"You're a pilgrim."
Wirt smiled again, giving him a sideways look. "Yeah, but nobody's gonna get that. I don't really look like the ones in the Thanksgiving decorations."
"That's what my teacher said when I drew your portrait," Greg sighed. "She kept showing us these pictures that looked like Lorna."
Wirt paused, then went over to his desk and picked up the library book. "You mean, like this?"
Greg's eyes widened. "Yeah! But the ones in her book were all black and white."
"Well, this book says that the Thanksgiving Pilgrims wore others colors, too. See this green one? That looks more like Lorna to me."
Greg touched the picture as though trying to reach back into the Unknown. "I think about her and her weird aunt sometimes. I hope they found some nice Indians and had a nice Thanksgiving. With a turkey instead of people."
"I think they went over to Quincy Endicott's for Thanksgiving," Wirt invented suddenly. "Here, I found a suit that looks kind of like―"
There was a knock on the door, which was still ajar, and their mother poked her head in.
"Gregory! It's a half-hour past your bedtime, and you're not even in your pajamas yet!"
Greg looked down at himself. "Oops."
"What are you two wearing, anyway?"
"They're our Halloween costumes!"
Wirt felt himself blush again. "Yeah, we were just―you know, playing or...something."
Their mother made a face. She didn't like anything that reminded her of last Halloween, the night when she got a call from the police telling her that both of her sons had nearly drowned. She couldn't seem to understand why neither Wirt nor Greg regarded that memory with as much terror as she did.
Wirt wondered that sometimes, too.
Greg wouldn't go to bed unless Wirt promised to show him the rest of the book the next day. Once he was gone, Wirt changed into his pajamas. He suddenly felt like turning in himself, but once he was in bed he turned onto his side, staring into his open closet. He had carefully hung up the cloak, with the hat placed on the floor.
Was it even a real costume? He had just thrown some things together that he thought looked cool. It wasn't supposed to be anything. And yet, now it was a pilgrim outfit. But maybe that made sense. He didn't know what the costume was, because he didn't really know who he was, either. He'd been thinking about that a lot since he got home. Maybe that was why he sort of missed the Unknown; at the time it had felt like a lot of clueless wandering, but in retrospect it really seemed like it meant something, that he'd really...become a different person, somehow.
"But I don't think I'm done yet, either," he yawned, finally closing eyes. "Just because I'm home...doesn't mean that my pilgrimage is over, does it?"