There were few acts, in a circus, that required a cleanup crew afterwards.
Even fewer that didn't have a set costume, because things always got ruined.
And only one where the performer should've died every night.
But just like the night before (and the night before that, and the one before that, even), one mute boy fell to his knees, emptied of organs by a tiny girl with a penchant for swords and high-heels-- and he fell asleep, in a pool of his own blood, on the final strains of their song, even as his murderer slayed herself.
His organs were sprawled across the floor, pieces of meat and bone and sinew peppering the sickening amount of blood glittering across the black stage. But the next song started, on cue, and Sir and Shem were out-- as they were meant to be-- to collect Jin and his pieces and take him offstage.
lights and sound
sound and lights
From the audience, a musician who didn't belong and wasn't at home, watched and felt and listened. Eilen had no business at Asile, other than the promise he'd made to a man who wasn't his friend.
Jin, who wasn't his friend, because Eilen didn't believe in what such a thing stood for, anymore.
Still, there he sat, keeping his word.
Right until Jin's organs painted the stage in the wrong color and sound; Eilen knew blood and stage blood and the differences between, refined in the sharp tang of betrayal, of an eight-year lover, of a brother, of gunsmoke in the air and on his hands.
For one reason or another, he couldn't keep his seat.
lights and sound
sound and lights.
Jin, safely carted backstage on a bloody cot made for such a purpose, weakly reclined, his eyes closing. Briefly, he pondered just shoving everything back inside quickly so that nanomachinery magic could be done-- but he just wanted to lay down for a second.
Except for the brief trails of Yan-Jing's voice moving the blood down his face.
There was vomit on the ground outside the tent flaps, but it didn't belong to eilen, noire, or bei-ge.
Head spinning and cigarette lit, the vocalist worked his way backstage; the circuses, he'd noted, were virtually identical in a great many ways -- related, tied together, bound.
Eilen hovered just short of backstage long enough to try to settle his thoughts; to separate the images of one dying lover from this performer on stage. He'd been seeing things again, of course.
Nobody could scatter their organs like that and live to tell the tale.
It wouldn't hurt to check, so, ducking in, check he did.
Met with the sound of that voice, Jin angled his head to look at the newcomer, quickly yanking a blanket over his exposed organs, to maybe hide something that couldn't be hidden.
Som simply watched the approach, not really capable of doing much else, at the moment.
It was real -- every crosswired sensation said that the stain slipping through the blanket was blood --
NO CAUSE FOR PANIC.
NO CAUSE FOR PANIC.
NO CAUSE FOR PANIC.
They weren't friends.
And Eilen had his cigarette.
Everything, therefore, was right in the world.
"WHAT THE FUCK --"
you need a doctor.
WHY IS NOBODY LOOKING AFTER YOU.
i've seen too many people die too want to watch this again, jin --
Silent, as always, the mute grabbed his friend by whatever wrist he could take hold of in his bloody palm and yanked him down to his level, with a strength that really didn't become someone injured so greivously.
His voice came as a hushed wheeze-- things like that tended to happen when you only had half a lung.
"...i'm... okay. It's part... It's what I do... here."
The smile he gave, in consolation, was bloody.
but at least there was no burning to be done.
"...shh -- don't talk ..." said bei-ge, who didn't get it.
NO CAUSE FOR PANIC.
" -- god, someone's got to get you a doctor --"
"I wouldn't worry about that," noted another circus performer, smoothing out the feathers of an unruffled AGNI. Avi smacked the piece of gum she'd popped into her mouth just a few minutes previous, shifting the bird to her shoulder. "Jin tosses his cookies every night. He'll patch himself up. Just wait."
"...what -- no, look, he's -- what the fuck is wrong with you people --"
"Chair." Avi noted, pulling up one, pushing it to just short of the vocalist's legs. "Sit." Commanded the whore, and whether Eilen did as a result of her tone or because he was so fucking confused was, of course, up to date. "He's not gonna die. God, you look like you've seen a ghost. Your nerves must be shit, buddy. Jesus, do a line."
"His blood and organs are everywhere," Eilen summarized briefly, sucking on the cigarette that felt like his only real connection to a world he was remotely comfortable in, "...but he's not going to die."
"Weren't you listening? That's what I just said."
Jin grimaced, biting his lip as he shifted this organ and that back into his body before he held the lips of the massive opening in his stomach shut. And even with one hand holding himself closed, the blonde managed a card.
...So I'm guessing you didn't like it?
Snarky to the brink of death.
".....so you're really going to be okay?"
Pulling the blanket away, Jin let the state of the wound speak for itself.
Sealed, and quickly quickly quickly fading.
That would be a yes.
NO CAUSE FOR PANIC --
(but this man needs coke, STAT.)
"....how is that possible?"
Jin simply shrugged, closing his eyes with a grimace as his body did the rest.
Sealing, stitching, joining, healing.
And Eilen, digging through his pockets for a tiny vial, quickly solved his problem with a snort and a sniffle; stopping one nostril and frying the other.
"........it's a good show."
One eye opened, then the other, and the boy on the cot grinned before he sat up, rubbing his stomach like it was still shifting, still moving, still being fixed. His crooked grin said everything from thanks to I'm glad you came to I'm sorry you had to see me like that. But with a pat on the shoulder and a nod of his head, Jin was off to the wings to check on where the show'd progressed to.
"...I probably shouldn't be back here." Eilen noted absently, sniffling back the drip; rocking back in the chair Avi had provided not so long ago. "Ciro guards the backstage like a fucking hawk until meet and greet."
Jin waved it off like it was nothing-- personal friends, after all, were snuck back all the time. Not that big of a deal. The Ringleader didn't seem to care so much, as long as it wasn't men hitting on his daughter.
Gesturing for Eilen to come, Jin grinned, pulling at the mid-traveller with a fist covered in dried blood.
The dealer's gaze locked on that bloody hand, on the stains he could just picture it leaving all over his attire -- regardless of wet or dry; and Eilen, shaking himself out of it, hated the fact that she still haunted him, even now.
He smelt her, in the air, with his eyes closed; but it all disappeared with another sniffle of drip as he moved to stand behind the Asile daredevil, peering over Jin's shoulder to the stage.
lights and sound
sound and lights.
Eventually, Ainsi's bit ended and Reve's came to spotlight-- and Jin opted that now was the greatest time to step outside the tent for a cigarette.
He tapped his companion with the butt of it and jerked his head toward the exit. Let's get out, for a few.
Nevermind that he was still covered in blood.
Nevermind his friend's drip
...like a bullet to the heart.
Outside the tent, Eilen tossed his own cigarette to the ground and closed his eyes.
i'm so fuckin' sorry, for you both.
"So this? Is this what's really got you sick?"
After lighting up, the blonde spoke, briefly.
"...something relating to it. I was involved in an experiment when I was a kid. Not much I can do about it now."
"I see." Eilen whispered in response, and maybe he didn't.
Or maybe he did.
"...I'm sorry I freaked out. It wasn't you."
"It's fine. I'm used to it." Bowed head, heavy drag. "It goes down like that, every night. Velouria was actually pretty nice about it this time. I guess you got lucky."
you shouldn't talk so much.
"Yeah," replied the synaesthete, closing his eyes, "....I'm sure I did."
"I have to stay, for bows," the fabled mute mused, nodding. "But we can do stuff after that, if you're free."
This time, it was L'ombra's Noire who was mute, nodding instead of speaking.
A cleared throat stopped speaking, and this time, a piece of paper was flashed, with those telltale scribbles.
You don't look so good. Are you alright?
"I'll be fine," Eilen promised, even though it wasn't like Jin was his friend --
LIARLIARLIARLIAR-- glancing back at the tent they'd abandoned. "You'd better get back, mm?"
I'll miss bows. What's wrong.
"Go to bows, Jin. It's nothing that won't survive the end of your show."
Brow furrowed, the kid snuffed his cigarette and turned, heading back inside to catch Velouria for their bows.
And Eilen, Noire, Chang Bei-ge, stayed outside to listen to and watch the applause from outside the tent, stretching out on his back to the feel of the pavement. Sniffling back the drip, distracted, and waiting for the coke to kick in and do its job, the vocalist closed his eyes and knew that if he thought about it hard enough, he could really convince himself that it was her who'd so heavily sponsored his panic.
Fucking long-legged, lying bitch, who, even in death, wouldn't do him the courtesy of convenience; because even then he knew -- It'd been Jin he was worried about.
shut the fuck up.
Why was he acting so weird?
Why was he tweaking so bad?
Why was he shifting around like he couldn't sit still?
Most people would've thought it was cool, to be able to toss your guts around-- especially those people who didn't believe in friends.
Nothing to be shared between dealers.
Nothing to be shared between criminals.
After bows, the blonde trotted back out, hoping that Eilen had stayed where he'd left him, oblivious to whatever emo-train the other was riding.
And, indeed, for whatever reason, the vocalist had; sprawled out on the pavement with hazy pupils set to the sky.
"I had a girlfriend, in Macau. Except not really, because you can't really have someone like that when they're a lying fucking bitch," Eilen and his cocaine explained, "...so I had a not-really girlfriend for eight years, in Macau. And then I shot her. In the stomach. Just like that."
and then she said she was pregnant.
but i bet she was lying --
bitch better have been lying.
"...and since my head's all wrong, I still think she's here, sometimes, when she isn't. That's all."
nothing more to see here, ladies and gentlemen --
move on to another sideshow.
Jin's hands rested on his now sealed abdomen, giving it a look over as Eilen said what he needed to say.
There are a million things I could tell you in return, but some things are better left buried in the sketchbook pages they're burned into.
There wasn't anything Jin could say to something like that. Sorry dude? Well, shit, that sucks, dude? I hope you feel better? Go sleep with Avi, she'll make you forget about it?
None of it worked out.
So Jin, still silent, simply opted to sit next to his friend on the ground, looking up at the sky with a muted air of calmness.
"Yeah, you're right." Said Eilen, and his cocaine, even though Jin hadn't said a word. "It shouldn't matter, now."
It shouldn't affect the present, but it had, as though the mudblood had swept forward from the past and entangled her fingers into Jin's thrown intestines herself.
He tried, unsuccessfully, to forget about it.
"....besides, that probably comes in pretty handy for you, huh?"
Jin smiled, wanly. Nevermind the fact that Eilen was pretending he was talking so he could answer himself. Nevermind the fact that it probably should matter now.
He nodded-- an affirmative. "Got me a long way, bounty hunting."
Got me absolutely nowhere, everywhere else.
"Yeah, well." Eilen sighed. "Maybe you're lucky. Most people only get one real shot at survival before something sweeps down out of the sky and knocks a hollowpoint through their skulls."
Then again, maybe you aren't.
I don't believe in luck, either.
He would've liked to think he didn't believe in anything, but such a philosophy was, in actuality, almost impossible to practice in its entirety. Ironic, that nobody had yet managed to live in a world where nothing was of worth without striving to assign such somewhere, somehow.
"It's a good show. But I said that already, didn't I?"
The mute nodded once more, falling silent, now.
He smiled, anyways, and grinned, anyways, and went about his business
because that was the name of the game called Asile and the show always went on.
The silence fell in awkward intervals, splitting the blades of grass between them like sword-practice mastery-- and even with the lingering sounds of the crowd's exeunt, Jin couldn't find a single thing to distract him.
....I'm sorry, thought Eilen, who found that it was best to stop talking, thus preventing the wealth of exceedingly stupid things he had to say from tumbling out of a pair of decidedly closed lips.
Yeah, Bei-ge. It'd be nice if you were less of an idiot.
There was a decision made.
And a silence broken, by a voice that should've kept quiet.
"I gotta show you something. Let's go."
The vocalist didn't ask questions, merely slipping quietly to his feet and looking about the circus grounds which weren't his own.
"Lead the way."
To the cars,
to the cars,
to the trains.
He walked at a brisk pace that was a bit quicker than his normally relaxed gait, and nudged open the door to his car with his foot, stepping inside.
Up into the vista dome.
Hidden under one of the couches.
Tied shut with leather cord.
"Sketchbook." Eilen noted observantly -- feeling, just a little, like a small child who'd just identified an object in passing and wondering what, really, was quite so special. He sincerely doubted, however, that Jin would place such emphasis on any item without a meaning, without depth of one sort or another. That was the nature of artists, really.
Creating meaning in a world with none.
"What about it?"
"You tell me. Take a look." Jin tossed the bound book to the awaiting cokefiend and flopped onto the couch without a second thought. "It's just a bunch of pictures-- but there's a letter at the end."
Might explain a thing or three.
It took a few minutes, to untie the cord, to pore over the pages -- over not only the faces but the linework, the artistry in each detail, the little traces of Jin here and there.
He paused, just before the end, turning to look over at the last page; watching the colorwork change before each hastily scribbled character.
(so much shit.)
"We come from a million years of tragedy. Nothing new here; nothing new at all."
The inside of his cheek was hastily chewed, his eyebrows knitted in a concentrated effort to
"Why are you apologizing?" Eilen asked, delicately closing the book and resting a hand on the back cover.
....you said I reminded you of him.
"You have nothing to be sorry for."
Not, at any rate, to me.
"It just sounded appropriate." The blonde grinned, a little, eyes flashing up to finally touch base. "But I guess appropriate's not always right, huh?"
Maybe I was saying it to him
But that's not right, either.
"Yeah." Eilen murmured, quietly. "I guess not."
He took one last look down at the sketchbook and carefully handed it over. "Here."
The silence took an awkward tone, again, as Jin started binding that sketchbook up again, tying it so no one would get it open without a fight to the fuckin' death.
"I should just toss this out the window, during the next jump. Or maybe I'll burn it."
"You really think it'd help?" Eilen asked quietly, digging for a cigarette, which he lit. "I wish I was so fortunate..."
Flipping over the half-emptied pack, he offered Jin one of the same.
"Then again, there's probably part of me that doesn't want to forget."
"It's not about forgetting," Jin managed around a cough, the bloody sputum falling to the cover and the spine of the faded sketchbook.
"...it's about moving on."
"Don't talk." Eilen replied, almost immediately. "You shouldn't, and I've been indulging you, I guess. But I don't want to hear it if it's going to make you sicker."
As if to punctuate his friends words, the rendered mute stood and vacated the vistadome, book in one hand and lighter in the other.
Up to his feet and down the stairs, the vocalist caught the mute's wrist, putting his hand on the sketchbook.
"Don't burn it. Your sketches are beautiful."
(it struck him, slightly, like ruining a symphony.)
Jin could not, for the life of him,
bring himself to look back.
"...it's for the best."
"Stop it, already. If you don't want it around anymore, I'll hang on to it for you. Keep it in a safe place until you're ready to take it back."
The dealer had no idea why he was even bothering to volunteer.
"I can tell it means a lot to you. Don't ruin something like that."
And he thought
Why are you doing this?
You know you remind me of him,
and we were fucking fags.
Why're you doing this now,
when you know what went down?
So much shit.
But after thirty seconds in that pregnant pause, the daredevil let the other man have that sketchbook-- took his hands off it completely.
"Thank you," replied Eilen to the silence he'd been given, tucking the sketchbook under an arm in favor of taking a fresh drag from his cancerstick.
...I don't think you'll regret it.
...but then again, i might be wrong...
All Jin could wonder at was
What is he thinking?
What is he doing?
Why is he doing it?
What's going on?
Why do I care so fucking much?
"I'm tired," the blonde replied, brows furrowed and frustrated as he turned away. "You should probably get back."
"Yeah, I guess I should." Eilen replied, letting a fresh train of smoke drift up to the sky.
"It's a good show," said the vocalist, for the third time, " -- I guess I'll see you around, huh?"
"Yeah. I'll see you."
Just downcast eyes and a confusion that he couldn't meet up with.
Eilen wasn't satisfied with the ending, in desperate need of rework and revision.
(the words were all wrong).
But a cigarette and a sketchbook of loves that weren't his were enough for one night, given the vocalist's tendency to avoid making friends (on the run, as he was). Bei-ge turned away and lifted a hand in farewell as he left.