A ringleader with a pair of secrets worked her way through the enemy's camp, every reluctant step a silent footfall in dark circus grounds.
She was headed to the trains, but that voice caught her attention at the tents before she could go so far.
Ban. Ban. Ban.
Silent, Ciro slid into the tent, and hid herself in the audience that wasn't there for this practice, fixing her eyes on her daughter's work on circeaux with a smile that wouldn't hide itself from her face, despite all worries and cares.
"Ila-- you're straining; you're shaking the ring. Loosen up--"
because I'll catch you, if you fall.
"Daddy! It's hard to keep it still!"
Arched back and pointed toes, furrowed brow and clenched fists.
It was almost smooth, almost perfect, almost the best
but not quite.
"Just don't think about it, Jian-yi. Close your eyes."
Almost. Almost. Almost.
"Daddy-- Mom's here."
At that introduction, Ciro gave a sheepish smile, turning her eyes from daughter to fiancee to lift a hand in greeting.
"Sorry -- perhaps I'm interrupting? You look beautiful, Jian-yi."
"Thank you..." the girl murmured, staring at her mother's descent as her circeaux turned and turned and turned and turned.
"Ciro." The ringleader turned, with a smile on his face. A surprise was a surprise, after all, and seeing his soon-to-be-wife's beautiful face was always the best of them. He greeted her with arms open to the incoming winds that had for so long been absent. "Chéri, je t'aime tant."
She sucked her stomach in, just in case.
Curling up in the arms she was safest in, Ciro smiled and lifted her lips up to steal a faint kiss from her lover before beaming up at her child.
"...I missed you both ..."
The daughter of the pair rolled out of her hoop and hit the net with a bounce, lying on her stomach to observe the mother and the father that resided below her.
"It's good to see you-- L'ombra's breaking, hm?"
He stroked her hair, her jawline, and placed a thumb on her chin so he could look at her more squarely,
a fond examination
if there ever was one.
"We are." Replied Ciro smoothly, who had everything and nothing at all to fear from so penetrating a gaze. "I thought I might stay, if it was alright with you both ..."
She turned her head, looking up to find her daughter's eyes.
"...perhaps a fresh pair of eyes could help you, belle? I'm awful at circeaux, myself. Too flighty."
"I know what's wrong," the girl murmured through pursed lips, chewing on the inside of her cheek. "I'm afraid of the fall-- so I shake, when I perform. I always shake, even with hand balancing; but it's more apparent now, since everything I do gets effected by it..."
Ban looked at his daughter, then back to Ciro. "It's why I put her on circeaux. To smooth her out."
"...I see," said the other ringleader, from that arms that kept her warm.
"It's easy to be afraid of falling, when you've never flown." Ciro murmured quietly, glancing up again. "...is it the impact or the failure, that worries you?"
She suspected she knew, but didn't say.
"You know what it is, mom." The terse reply was accompanied by a smile and a laugh, as the girl turned to look back up at the spinning ring. "I think I'd be too nervous, knowing you're watching me."
The father simply shook his head. "She's coming along. Only been doing circeaux since a year before we started rehearsing Tordre..."
"Ah, but I've watched you a hundred times when you haven't." Ciro replied, with a swift little smile. "And couldn't have been happier with the performances I've seen."
"You guys are waaaay too nice." Turning her head to look through the netting, the girl's smile widened as she flipped out of safety and landed, keenly, on the ground. "But thanks, mom." A swift hug, for a swift smile. "Thanks for coming."
Ban watched the exhange silently, a fond smile crossing him for both mother and daughter. "Have you eaten, Xin-yan?"
Such contact with her daughter was rare, a precious treasure, and brought the sort of happy smile to Ciro's face which suggested that her cares were almost completely set aside.
almost. ...tell him everything...
"Mmm... before I left. But I could, again, if you wished."
"You shouldn't eat if you're not hungry," the older said, chidingly, running a hand through Ciro's hair once more. "But if you'll eat it, I'll cook it."
"What, Ban?" Ciro teased, a smile on her face that didn't quite reach her eyes, "... should I be worried, that if I fatten up, you won't love me anymore?"
should I? should I?
"My Mother used to say that men that cooked were rare things indeed. I think I'll let you, if only for amusement..."
"Of course not, Xin-yan. I'll love you no matter the shape you're in, because you'll be perfect-- whatever may come." Score one for Ban! Perfect answer, for the win!
Ila simply rolled her eyes, and strolled out of the tent and toward the train, wanting to get a shower before a late night dinner.
Daughter and mother were similar in that regard, as Ciro's eyes, too, completed an upward circle before fixing themselves on the disappearing figure of her child.
"....I've started planning our next show."
"I'm afraid I'm far too divided between options to even consider planning, just yet." Ban's eyes closed, before he assessed the stage and the nets that needed to be torn down; the circeaux that was displaced from the wings, and the spinning Ila had left it with. "But I suppose such things will be affected by upcoming events."
"And which events would those be?" Asked the younger of the pair softly, and it could've just been smalltalk.
(but it wasn't.)
"You've normally made up your mind by now."
"Touring schedules might have to be altered, all things considered..."
"What things considered?"
"The marriage," the man said, with a tired smile, his hand finding the small of his fiance's back. "We have many, many things to decide."
Ciro laughed, because she should've known that was it -- after all it couldn't be something else, the sort of something else that he didn't know about.
"...oh, of course. Ban, I..."
"...what do you want to do?"
"We'll either tour together, or put the circuses back together, I would assume," Pai Ban-bao stated, as he started to walk toward the tent's exit. "I'll have to see, in the next couple of months. I think, though, that both of them are too large to put back together."
"...yes, I suppose it would prove difficult, having two of everything."
"And perhaps such a shift would be difficult to make in the first year, regardless?"
"I think it would be."
A silent moment, a strident pause.
"We'll just have to let them get used to the idea."
"Okay." Replied the younger ringleader, at least partially relieved -- having not been ready, just yet, to relinquish the reins of something she'd built with her own hands; but just as unprepared to spend time without him.
"....I want to ask you to promise me something."
"Of course. Anything."
Drinking wasn't a habit-- it was his lifeblood.
"...How about I start that when we start touring together?"
"How about you start now, so I can stop worrying about whether or not your liver's going to make it through the life of your next child."
She'd said it, alright. Ciro was halfway smiling, halfway pouting, halfway about ready to cry, pregnant woman-style.
"............and you're lucky I didn't ask for cigarettes, too, you bastard."
Stunned into silence (nothing seemed to be capable of fitting).
SO instead of saying anything at all, the taller, older, stronger of the pair wrapped the little woman in his arms, and asked:
"...Did you just say what I think you just said?"
"That depends on what you think I just said, don't you think?"
There were no words for how happy one ringleader could've been, and even fewer for how happy he was with another ringleader in his arms.
His lips were on hers, and there was no room for breath (or anything else, for that matter) to come between them.
Je t'aime. Je t'aime. Je t'aime.
Ciro threaded her fingers through his hair, memorizing its texture; held her body against his just-so and slid her hands ever so slowly down his neck, to his shoulders, clinging to what was safe.
"I love you, Xin-yan."
"I love you."
The smaller woman lifted a hand, pressing a finger to his lips, before she shook her head softly, slowly.
tell him everything.
"....uncle made me promise, that I would tell you. I was very sick, with Bao-Xin..."
"It'll be fine. It'll be perfect-- just like you. I'll send for a specialist, from Beijing..."
You won't be sick, and youwill not suffer.
"...we've already sent for one." She whispered, softly, nuzzling into the strength of his chest, listening for that heartbeat.
trying not to cry.
"I think it was ..... I was very unhappy and under a lot of stress. It couldn't have helped."
"...if you tell me it'll be okay, I'll believe you."
because I always, always do.
"I'll be here. I'll be there-- with you-- whenever. I love you, Xin-yan." A kiss to the forehead, a desperation struck by alarm at the idea of another death in the family.
"Anything you need-- anything you want."
"Just tell me," Ciro whispered, frightened, just a little, by the very desperation that both parents felt; fingers curling in the fabric of his shirt,
tell me tell me tell me
"...that it's going to be okay."
"For as long as I live, everything will be just fine, Xin-yan," the happy father-to-be said, lips to the bridge of his lover's nose. "I promise. I promise. I promise."
r e l a x e d,
because he wouldn't break a promise to her.
"...merci, mon amour."
"How long will you stay? For the rest of the week?" He relegated himself to walking hand in hand, side by side, as they exited through the center aisle and made their way toward the traincars.
"As long," Ciro whispered, tilting her head against his arm as they walked towards home, "as I can."
Everything would be fine, she knew, because he had promised and would make it so.
(a perfect person could do such a thing, and that's what he was.)
"....I love you."
Contemplating names, and shows, and this beauty at his side, and the revision of his alcoholism, the man's reply was a simple smile.