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The Circus AU

on Mon Dec 17, 2018 12:27 am
North Carolina
1947

She worked in the pale sliver of the moonlight, upright against the colorfully decorated wagon. Scenes in purples and blues have been painted in rich hues- dainty women flipping between trapeze, lithe tigers jumping through flaming hoops, an elephant balancing on a ball with her trunk outstretched to a ringmaster in cool turquoise, and an abstract crowd of onlookers. Peeled gold letters read SCOTT FAMILY FLYERS in big letters, curling around a curtained window that looked into the tight confines of a familial home. But the moonlight and the swirls of stars only shine on the girl with the pale brown braid as she hunched over herself, looking at the current mending of a pair of tights she received after the night's show. She carefully pushed up her wired framed glasses to rub the spot between her eyes. Performers, she thought to herself with a crease in her brows, Performers were the worst. So inconsiderate; she had fixed these exact tights only two weeks ago. It’s not like nylons grew on trees.

It was late. But that didn’t mean that the grounds were quiet. They had arrived at the top of the week and set up for a show only a day later. Besides the brilliant red and white big top and the rectangular side tent, there were over a dozen other structures dotting the area. From cloth and canvas tents to modern and sleek metal caravans, signs of civilization fill the empty space of the field. Not too far away, a mess tent glows with the light of a campfire, shadows dancing against the tall grass while its revelers tell stories and drink alcohol from thick brown bottles. Gruff voices turn light with laughter until there is a stall in the conversation. Lazy fireflies blink on the outskirts, illuminating the night even more to those trudging back to their makeshift homes without flashlights or the stringed bulbs of the midway that had turned cold hours prior. A contortionist yawns while making her way to the cream-colored yurt. The lion tamer makes his way over to a rusted truck and trailer, whistling a soft jazz standard. The show-folk were night owls, but everything had its limits. Even now, conversation dwindled and left only the songs of crickets, bullfrogs, and cicadas. Everyone was slowly making their way to sleep. The show did that to them- a hard night’s work translated to a calm nights sleep. Even the big cats and elephant had found peace in their pens- the owners refuse to cage them for anything besides travel, having built pens and tents that could hold the gentle beasts. It seemed everyone had found their calm for the night.

Everyone except the girl.

Even when she finished the tights, there were skirts and trousers and even socks that needed attention. And while she had a machine, the dexterity of her fingers was the only thing she trusted for costumes that she had slaved over herself. And she had built them to last and endure the rigorous performances. But those performers… were stupid. Or rather, they did stupid things. And while she did not expect them to land each trick perfectly, she did expect to be in the know of act changes. If she had known that Ginger was going to use a flaming hoop in her tumbling act, she would have made something flame retardant, using something besides satin, which now lay singed in a heap on her lap. While everyone else went to sleep, satisfied with how they had sung for their supper, Noelle Scott stayed up to fix. To mend. To transform.

But she still took a moment, laying her head back against the wagon, the softest sigh escaping her lips. Once she changed position, she was reminded of how tired she was. She had spent the evening running from working the ticket booth to tech with Sam, to a quick wrap up with her mother, to cleaning up the big and side tents, to now. Savoring the sweet night air was a small pleasure that she indulged in, for just a moment. A hand reaches to her mouth to place the needle between her teeth and then falls to feel the fresh grass underneath her palm, twirling up into her fingers. An old hat box is open with various sewing supplies- a multitude of thread, needles, and ribbons. A block of beeswax with many indents from years of use. Some fabric swatches and patches for everyday clothing. Her tools.

Noelle found her mind wandering, as it often did in these small moments of indulgence. Settling in the space around her, in the cool and symphonious night.  To zipping to earlier that day, watching her mother run rehearsals and practicing her act. To wrangling her little sister, chasing her through camp. The thoughts finally landed to her favorite place- the animal pens. Her darling tigers and lions that she had spent her childhood bonding with, nursing back to health. Leaning back against the brilliant orange fur of her Glenn, and pulling out a copy of whatever book her mother had found and just enjoying the life that they had carved out with a combination of blood, sweat, tears, and dumb luck. It wasn’t perfect but it was theirs. After almost a decade, they finally had a sense of stability. Granted, it wasn't literal stability- they moved every couple of weeks, have toured most of the east coast and have inched west over the past couple of years. But the best years of her entire life had been here, with these people, with her surrogate family.

Minutes pass before Noelle opens her eyes again. She reaches for the needle between her teeth and places it carefully in her makeshift sewing kit. She looked at the work done- the tights, the lion tamer’s jacket, the headpieces for the horses, pants, skirts, dresses… Not bad for a night’s work. Especially considering that the next day was dark for shows- just a day for training, mending, and rehearsal. After fixing any garment that crossed her path, she planned on spending the day following Sam and Steve around, maybe checking in on Jake. She shook her head, a soft smile on her face. That boy wore through clothing like no other. Outgrew too. Didn’t help that he was already 6’5”, he seemed to just KEEP growing.  It was a mystery, she thought with a silent laugh. Still, the boy knew how to make a delicious hash. Maybe that’s why Lazarus kept him around.

When she stood, she felt her spine pop and stretch with her. How long had she been hunched over? Had to have been a couple hours at least, based on the soreness that reached her shoulders and neck. Definitely, time to turn in. Noelle stretched one more time, her pale skin hitting the pale moonlight, making her glow if only for a moment. She carefully grabbed the clothing, both finished and unfinished, as well as her kit. Very carefully, she stepped to the door of the long wagon, stepping into the compacted space. She was looking forward to curling into bed next to her sister, underneath the thick knitted blankets they had brought from Maine, that had followed them to New York, and to the circus.
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Re: The Circus AU

on Fri Dec 21, 2018 2:49 am
They had been following the caravan for a couple days now.


Silent shadows, they had stalked the colorful cars. Painted scenes of circus life made them so easy to follow, the security in numbers made the group lax in their security. Hardly any of them suspected that twin sets of grey eyes tracked their movements from the tall tops of the evergreens that surrounded them while bodies built for their environment move hand over hand through branches. They rest in the foliage hidden by the dark greens and deep shadows. One looks towards the other and a nod is exchanged before they drop in tandem to the softly pine scented forest floor.


Just like deer, she thinks as the two of them stalk towards the campground. Patience is key.


Bare feet pad gently over the dry needles, leaving hardly a trace in their wake. The broader of the two falls back behind the woman, letting her race ahead towards the dark circus campground. Her hand reaches for the nearest caravan and she grabs hold of the sturdy wood, pulling herself with a grace born of years of climbing trees. He waits in the corner below her, hunched low and pulling his frame tight. A flick of her hand, and the man moves forward around the caravan and into the now empty campground.

His hand reaches for the knife kept on his person, drawing the razor-sharp metal from its hiding place and into the warm night as they make their way to the largest of the cars. It’s a large wooden car, classic in its design. A wooden door at the top of a small set of steps separates the interior from the exterior; it’s been elaborately carved with intricate geometric patterns. A small, stained glass window is set into the top of the door, warm in color and done in those same patterns. The sides of the car are painted and carved in near equal measures in trailing patterns and birds of flight. Masterfully done, they flit across the flat planes of the car, swirling and ducking along an unseen breeze. A bronze lantern sits next to the door, illuminating the steps in soft light.


One calloused hand comes to rap against the thick wood.


After a long moment, the door swings open to reveal a white-haired man. Silver framed lenses flash in the light of the lantern as he leans out to see who had knocked.


A body surges forward to knock the man back into the car. His shout is muffled as the fall into the thick wooden interior. The young woman pushes into the space shoulder first as the white-haired man rolls onto the wooden floor with a wince. The young man follows, grey eyes gleaming in the dim light of the room. The knife in his hand is that same pale grey, flashing with that same light as he darts forward in soft candlelight.

Bright blue eyes widen as they catch the light of the knife and in one smooth motion, his body shift upwards in the span of a short motion. A sharp elbow catches the girl in the ribs, another movement throws her knife from her hand. She takes a step back, growls at him as her brother runs forward with his own knife and teeth bared.


The both hear the door open a touch too late. Neither of them had been expecting another person.


She turns to the very brief sight of a darkly skinned elbow. It fills her vision just a moment before everything for her goes dark, thoughts and consciousness forced to abort from the blow. The young man watches his sister crumple to the floor, knife flashing with deadly purpose before he too is knocked to the ground. The white-haired man walks over, leaning down to pick up the knife embedded in his floor. One brilliantly polished shoe toes at the larger man’s body, turning it over to reveal a young face pocked with freckles and crossed with lines deeper than his age would suggest. He and the woman are just a little gaunt, but oh.

Lord, oh, he thinks as his thumb swipes across his pale cheek. It comes back with a line of blood smeared against the pad. He turns to the other man with the knife loose in his fingers, eyes cunning and already working through an endless row of possibilities. They flick back to what he assumes are twins on the floor and he waits.


He wants to make them an offer.


-----------------------------------------------------------------------


Lazarus McKay considered himself a man of simple needs. He has his circus, his pride and joy. He has the performers and staff, the strange family he’s accumulated over the years. And he has his husband.

Lord, he loves Sam, he thinks as the four of them walk towards the one car he could trust with the hot mess he has on his hands. Sam has two dark hands in a vice grip on the two twins’ shoulders. They’re huge when they’re not trying to kill him, both pushing six feet and each as broad as a barn. Whip fast with a wild strength, Lazarus knows he could turn them into a formidable act. Something acrobatic maybe? Knives would be a great addition, he thinks as his cheek reminds him of the cut.

One hand raises to knock at the door, hoping that the occupant he wants to speak with is in. Karen Scott would know what to do with the two glaring daggers into the back of his skull.


The sight that greets whoever opens that door is something strange, something not expected in the late evening hours after dark has fallen and the performers have headed to bed. The head of the circus, white hair slightly ruffled yet dress shirt, pants, and shoes untouched. A cut bisects his cheek and a small bit of the bridge of his nose. Bright blue eyes flash with something half quietly pleased, half exhausted. Behind him, his husband; a man of considerable size at six foot something. Dark skinned, long hair pinned in a messy bun, and still dressed in his oil stained work clothes. He has a tight grip on the two flanking him, their figures unfamiliar to any of the circus workers.

Twins, skin a dark tan and flecked with freckles. Their hair is a dark, curly mess; their eyes a piercing grey, challenging and wary of this new space and the deal they found themselves stuck in. Their clothes are old, tattered, and look handmade. Their eyes flick back and forth across the campsite they now found themselves in. They look unsure, untethered, annoyed, and rough. The two of them had come to kill a man, but now?


Now they find themselves in a tentative truce.


The door lock clicks, and they both find themselves tensing, waiting to see what existed on the other side of that door.



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Re: The Circus AU

on Fri Dec 21, 2018 11:31 pm
As the door clicked and open, it revealed a middle-aged woman with a long, ash brown braid that draped over her shoulder. She wears a silky, blue nightgown that has a delicate, faded floral pattern. And while age has been kind to her high cheekbones and modelesque features, time is shown by her deep smile lines and light crows feet, as well as the silver streaks in her hair. There was something in her stance and gaze that she has seen many things in her life, good and bad. She has lived a story and created something out of nothing. Yet, her own wide brown eyes were half open and her face stretches in a yawn.

“Lazarus? What in the he-“ She breaks off, blinking at the group in front of her. Of course, there was Lazarus McKay. The owner of the circus and, technically, her boss. While she was used to the man knocking on her door late at night with a new act that needed a be or a nice, warm welcome. But never with a cut on his face, and rarely Sam. The dark skinned man gripped the shoulders of two feral looking kids. They couldn’t be that much older than her own daughter, and while they were broad and strong looking, Karen looked past the glare and into the hollow hunger underneath. She noticed the gauntness of their faces. She frowned and kept her gaze o the wild looking twins. A Boy and a girl. It was a slow look of appraisal, of decision. Where would they fit? Would they fit? But her eyes soften at their uneasiness, their fear. These two have been alone for a long time, Karen guessed. They have most likely been relying on only each other. She sighs and steps out completely, the soft breeze ruffling her gown slightly. And, for a moment, she closes herself and loses herself in time.

Remembering her own hunger. How, for a couple years a long time ago, every scrap of food that was found was given to her daughters. How she had turned to selling her old clothes, her furniture, her paintings, anything. How it turned into selling apples and pencils and, lastly, flowers. Flowers that she had picked from random parts of the city, had arranged, and had her eldest daughter push and peddle while she pulled whatever trick she had. How many nights were filled with desperation and fear and hollow bellies. How she got out of there by the skin of their teeth, by a lucky break.

Karen opens her eyes, back in the present. Back with a slight predicament. Two hungry children who had been stuck in survival mode for just a touch too long. Who had found themselves here, where second chances were given. She grabs the doorknob from behind and closes the door quietly. Whatever was going to happen, it wasn’t something she wanted her daughters to listen to it right now. Her gaze falls back on Laz, quietly examining the cuts. They weren’t deep, but they were well placed. She leans against the closed door, looking between everyone in the group, communicating something different in a silent language only mothers and teachers know.

You’re okay. I’m here fer you. You'll be safe here.

Jesus, what did Laz get you into this time?

What’s your angle?

And finally, she speaks out loud. Her accent is familiar to the two older gentlemen; it’s something between crass and sophisticated. It’s carried over from an old life, a coastal one on the shores of Maine, the wife of a lawyer. The cadence is smooth as butter and pleasant to the ears, but there is a hidden edge from years of enduring whatever life had given her.

“Well? Who we lookin’ at here, Lazarus?”
--
Meanwhile, Noelle had been awakened by the soft rap on their front door. She stared at the ceiling, absolutely still as her mother began to move to the door. Unsurprisingly, staying still and not making any noise was very easy for her. She was used to not being noticed. After a while, it was just second nature. She slowed her breathing down to match her sister’s deep breath next to her. Finally, she heard the soft click of the door opening and her mother speak. And after that, the door closing behind her.

One.

Two.

Three.

Noelle slowly sat up, careful not to wake her sister. She didn’t know why, the girl slept like a rock, always had. Growing up with a circus, she had slept through people cheering, shouting, fighting, and moving at all times. But Joy slept soundly through it all, her short ash brown hair mussed all over her face, her freckled face moving with her deep breaths. For a moment, her cute button nose twitched and her angular eyes scrunched, but they quickly reset to a relaxed and deep sleep. Noelle wasn’t as lucky, any disturbance woke her up. It usually was just a drunken argument between two performers that ended with them passing out. But this? This seemed interesting. New acts usually came during the day and in McKay’s caravan. Noelle made a choice, looking around.

It was a long interior and tight, but with the help of some amazing organization skills, the room felt both cozy and larger than it actually was. The walls were painted a soft blue that really opened up the small space. On one side of the caravan was the bed- a little larger than a twin with handmade knit blankets and quilts both from the present and past. Along one side was ‘kitchen’- a squat ice chest with a beautiful pale wood façade, a small gas stove and oven with two burners that Sam had rigged for them when they first arrived, and some matching counter space. On the stove top was a soup pot from earlier that day- due to the show and how late everyone would be out and eat, Jake had given the Scott family some dinner to heat up. Inside all of the cabinets are ceramic plates, bowls, and mugs. Also on the stove top was a turquoise kettle that was chipped at the spout that was well-used and well-loved. Following the wall was a simple wastebasket, and then a cream, L-shaped booth-style square dining at the corner of the room. The table was fixed to the floor, much like all the furniture, and is also made out of pale wood. On the other wall was a comfortable blue sofa with a plethora of blankets and pillows that made it out as a bed, where the matriarch of the family slept. Adjacent, tilted at a jaunty angle, was a high backed armchair often used for reading, entertaining, and family meetings. It faced the couch slightly and had a basket of scrapbooks and photo books next to its legs.

The last piece of furniture was a well-maintained sewing machine- it was probably older than Noelle and maybe took a couple fingers of woman stronger than she, but it was a formidable foe to any other. Noelle had tamed this beast- she supposed it was a talent she had. It was black and curved with a needle that glinted murderously and a floral scene painted on the body. The foot pedal below the wood desk was well oiled and polished. On either side of the machine were piles of mended clothing and torn clothing. There is a metal rack flushed against the wall, where spectacular costumes are hung. Some are simple body suits made of brilliant colored fabrics, suits with bright gold buttons and intricate patterns, and big, showgirl skirts and tops that were hand stitched with dazzling rhinestones and jewels. They were an accumulation of old costumes of performers past, new pieces that needed to be delivered, and concepts she was playing with. Everything as durable but delicate, industrial in strength but personal in design.

Noelle slowly inched off the bed, her feet hitting the woven rug, toes stretching. She raised herself to her full, willowy height- the moonlight from one of the 4 windows hits her skin with a pale glow, highlighting the curve of her cheek, the profile of her nose. She reaches to a small bedside table that stands at the foot of the bed. As opposed to the one at the head of the bed, whose bedside table was a mess of drawings and paper dolls, the one Noelle reached for was way neatly packed with a small stack of books and a pair of wire circular glasses. She takes the glasses with nimble fingers and places them carefully on her nose. After, she moved so quietly past to the other end of the wagon, her feet making a little sound between the few rugs that covered the wood floor. She looked a little silly with her homemade candy striped pajamas and frayed braid, but she was determined to find out what was going on.

Once she reached the door, she carefully climbed up on the couch, standing to reach the high window at the top. She pushed aside the simple, lacey curtain and peered outside. Her eyes flick between her mother, who was standing with her hands on her hips. Then Lazarus. They were talking about something. Something pressing. It was rare to see this from him- usually, he was so calm and collected. And while he was still cool in his demeanor, the cut on his nose and cheek told a different story. Finally, her eyes hit Sam. He was holding two savage looking people. A boy and a girl, broad as anything, similar enough that they had to be siblings. They couldn’t be much older than her, but their faces were drawn with… something. Not age, but time. Hard time that Noelle saw on her own mother’s face on late nights that were softened by whiskey and reminiscing on a time that Noelle tried to forget. Their hair was wild and tangled and Noelle was pretty sure she saw a couple leaves dangling at the ends. They wore clothes that were torn and stained with mud and blood. She followed their eyes, which flicked all around in stimulation overload. Was this a new act? Wildmen? There had to be something more here. From both ends. From McKay- he didn’t get out of bed for just two bear children. And the siblings- they had the glare in their eye that showed some sort of purpose. She wondered who approached who. How these vastly different people met.

And why Sam was grabbing them so hard.
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Re: The Circus AU

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