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15 September 2008 @ 07:38 pm
[fanfic] The Greatest Show on Earth (Volume 1, 6/6; PG)  
Title: The Greatest Show on Earth
Chapter VI: Full Moon
Author: tiptoe39
Rating: PG for mooniness but no mooning.
Summary: AU. Welcome to the circus. The lion tamer meets the new act.
Author's Note: This is the final chapter of the first sequence in this fic. The story will go on. And on, and on. Much like Celine Dion's heart, but even more gay. ;-)

Never had the circus seemed brighter. Never had Hiro and Ando's foolish pantomimed road trip in a tiny car been more amusing. Never had the Trap Es, Eden and Elle, soared more gracefully through the air. And never, never, had Mateo Palazzo, the mysterious man who could read animals' minds, been more fantastic and spellbinding. He commanded the crowd's attention from the first flourish of his cape to the last crack of his whip. Janice and Leona shone like twin suns, leaping from pedestal to pedestal and roaring proudly. They could feel the happiness radiating from their master's every pore.

But when the intermission ended and the second round of death-defying feats began with a crack of the drums and flourish of whirling footlights, the dazzle seemed to dissipate. Something was different about the Jewel of India, Mohinder, whose act had been moved to the latter half of the show due to the excellent press he'd been getting. And there were a lot of disappointed faces in the crowd. For someone who'd been hyped as the ultimate in high-flying beauty and athleticism, Mohinder seemed sadly lukewarm. His motions, usually so relaxed and so extreme, were restrained, almost trepidatious. Spectators who knew enough to bring their binoculars to observe the high-wire acts could see yet another change: Mohinder wasn't smiling.

Matt watched from his cage and worried. Perhaps it was a bit of farsightedness he'd inherited from Mohinder, but he could see as clearly as anyone that his expression was blank, devoid of passion or showmanship. He seemed to be lost in thought, asleep at the wheel. There was nothing there but the palest pantomime of what would normally have been a breathtaking act.

When he was done, the hands lowered him to the floor and he walked past Matt and into the wings without making eye contact or saying a word. And it occurred to Matt at that point that maybe it was his fault. Maybe the shimmer had gone out of Mohinder because of him, because he'd dared to kiss him. If so, Matt swore to himself, he'd never touch him again. He'd never wanted to dull Mohinder's shine. What an act of murder that would be, to remove something so stunning from the world through his own selfishness! He sat in his cage, head in his hands, feeling Janice and Leona nuzzle him with their comforting fuzz short and soft against his face, and feeling like a heel.

When he looked up again, he caught sight of something odd. A balding man in glasses was standing just on the inside of the ring, scribbling in a notebook with a tight-lipped expression of disapproval on his face. Matt thought he looked vaguely familiar. The man seemed to notice his glance, and with a shine of reflected spotlights, those owl-like glasses focused their round fullness on him. Taken aback, Matt got to his feet. But the man didn't move. He didn't even stop writing. He just stared at Matt another moment, then lowered his glance again, nodding to himself.

Matt wanted to be suspicious, but his mind was so full of worry and even a little self-pity that he couldn't spare the gray matter. He had to talk to Mohinder. He had to make things right.

It was the second night of the full moon and yet again the grass of the fairgrounds looked like seaweed in an underwater den. The air was muggy enough that Matt wasn't sure a mermaid wouldn't swim through the air just above him, her hair streaming through the darkness and obscuring his path. He could feel the strands pulling at his face.

Linderman had praised him effusively tonight, and that had been nice, but Matt wasn't in the mood to hear it. He wanted to keep the ringmaster away from Mohinder, wanted to do and say anything he could to compound the man's misery with the sting of criticism. Because Mohinder had to be miserable. Why else would he have lost sight of his own performance? A man that conscientious did not slip into mediocrity for a passing bad mood. So Matt had engaged Linderman in a little bit of small talk, hoping to buy Mohinder some time to escape.

"So sir, what did you think of the new order of the program?" he'd blustered. "I think it was great to have Noah's act halfway through the second act, don't you? All that bang bang bang, and anyone who's asleep will wake up for sure."

"Why, Matthew," Linderman said, his eyes twinkling. "Exactly who will have put them to sleep in the first place?"

"Well, uh..." Matt stumbled. "The intermission, of course," he said with a hurried, rosy-cheeked smile. "After all the excitement of the first act, even waiting ten minutes will seem awfully boring in comparison."

Linderman threw back his head and laughed, a series of ho-ho-hos worthy of a Santa Claus in a movie. "You have a fascinating mind, Matthew," he said, wiping his eyes. "I wonder just what else goes through that mind of yours. Someday I will have to find out." He raised his eyebrows.

Then there was a swoosh of sound, the brushing aside of muslin drapes, and Linderman's smile vanished as he looked toward the shadows. "Please do excuse me, Matthew," he said absently, straightening up and shuffling toward the darkness.

It was abrupt enough a transition that Matt felt a prickle of nervousness shudder through him. He tried to follow Linderman out, but all at once those heavy drapes, the curtains that had been lifted out of place long enough to spook Linderman, fell heavy before him with a thud. When he lifted them again, there was nobody on the other end. Matt returned to his spot between the lion cages and frowned hard. He thought, but couldn't be sure, that he'd seen a flash of something before his way had been cut off. Something like twin moons, or the lenses of a pair of round glasses.

Now, he was walking back to his trailer in the muggy soup of night, the full moon singular and scorching above, confused. He felt like he'd fallen down the rabbit hole. For a day that had been one of the best he'd ever experienced, today had shifted abruptly upside-down, like an hourglass that had run out of time. Perhaps this exhilaration was meant to run out; perhaps this was the inevitable reversal. Matt was sure he was made of a set of deflated balloons. His limbs felt heavy, and his eyes drooped.

Mohinder was sitting on the steps to his trailer.

Matt was re-animated in a split second. His pulse fast-tracked blood to each of his near-dead limbs, and he went rigid. Oh, God, it was his fault, he was the one who'd ruined him, everything was right and wrong all at once, and he couldn't swallow. The moonlight was sliding like butter through Mohinder's hair. He was beautiful beyond all description. Matt's thoughts were everywhere at once. Admiration and guilt and fear, swimming in and out of his brain and twisting into a thousand dark shapes. He stood and stared. He couldn't speak.

"I was afraid of heights," Mohinder said quietly.

Matt started.

"No, not just heights," he clarified, getting up. Golden shards of moon glinted briefly in his eyes. "I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of reality. I followed my father's lead and spent my time learning about things in books, things like airplanes and lions and love. If they stayed in the books, they couldn't hurt me. But in real life, they could, and my father made sure I preferred them on paper."

He was moving toward Matt, and Matt realized he himself had taken a step toward Mohinder. The gap between them was closing without him willing it. They were like pieces on a ouija board, moving without any thought to the movement-- or moving, perhaps, because there was no thought to it. Driven by the tides of a larger consciousness.

Mohinder smiled sadly, casting his eyes downward and watching his feet move in a pair of nondescript black shoes. "He was a geneticist, and he trained me to be just like him. There was a time when I would have followed him anywhere. The research he was pursuing was fascinating, cutting-edge. Until it cost him my sister's life.

"My father changed then, and like any good son I followed his example. He taught me to have a heart of stone. He said it made him fearless. Looking back, I don't think that was the case at all. He didn't have a heart of stone so much as a stone weighing his heart down, and it ruined him."

"But not you," Matt murmured. Mohinder was so close now, and his cheekbones caught the light in a way that made his face look sculpted, unreal and smooth. Matt wanted to touch him, but more than that, he wanted to know more. "Why not?"

Mohinder smiled briefly. "Isn't it funny?" he said. "I could have stayed in science. I had a career lined up for me. I could have kept things in test tubes and syringes and vials, and never been out there, myself, facing reality. The truth was, I was scared to death of life, and it was so easy to blame that on my father rather than taking responsibility for my own phobias. I told him it was his fault, that he'd kept me locked in a tower ever since Shanti passed. I said to him that I was sick of controlled experiments. I wanted to do things rather than try things. Trials, games, all foolishness. Life was waiting. And I thought for sure I'd stop being such a coward once I had won my freedom.

"So I rebelled. And here's the irony: after all the gymnastics training and the horrible screaming fights and acting classes, perfecting myself so I could come here to do this, I'm no longer afraid of heights, but I'm still afraid of everything else. I'm a very cowardly man, Matt. I'm frightened of each new day that dawns. I'm frightened of each new person I meet. And I'm frightened of myself for becoming the kind of person who's this paralyzed with fear."

Matt stared at him, in awe of this sudden outpouring of honesty and trauma. How could anyone who spoke this candidly to someone he barely knew be a coward? He thought of reminding him of the momentous step he'd taken that very day, how he'd allowed the cats to touch him and move unfettered about him. But then there was a hand over his, and he lost track of anything but his erratic heartbeat.

"You did something wonderful for me today, Matt," he said earnestly. "You made me brave enough to face my fear. I'm grateful to you for that." No smile, just serious eyes, and the double-edged sword that was the word grateful.

"Tonight..." Matt heard himself croak out the word, and he cleared his throat. "What happened tonight? What was wrong up there?"

"Nothing," Mohinder said. "Nothing was wrong. I know I may have seemed off, but..." He dropped Matt's hand, paced a few steps away from him, and looked up at the moon. A breeze gently picked up a few strands of his hair, and Matt was reminded once more of that imagined mermaid, floating loose and ethereal through his consciousness.

"I was thinking, the whole time," Mohinder explained. "I was thinking not about an image or a performance but about something inside me. Something that you've helped me find. It was the first time I've looked that far inside myself, and while I didn't like everything I saw, I was surprised to find that I liked the part of myself I've found since I met you. I'm sorry to be so blunt, but this is a revelation."

"No, no, you're fine," murmured Matt, moving despite himself. Mohinder was achingly beautiful in profile, chin tilted upward and the slight beginning of a smile on his face, and Matt thought he would die of wanting if he didn't take him in his arms. He put a hand on Mohinder's waist, feeling warmth and strength there humming like a battery, and tried to pull him in.

But Mohinder would not turn. "As much as I'm grateful, though.... I'm not sure I'm ready... for what you want from me."

It was like a crush of cold water onto Matt's face. He dropped his hand and backed away, stammering. "Look, it's not what I want from you. Well, it is, but it's not about me, Mohinder. It's us, what I think that we could..."

"I want it too."

And as abruptly as the cold had come, the heat flushed back. Matt had to extend his hands to steady himself. The universe was playing loop-the-loop with his senses. "What?"

Mohinder looked at him. His face was lit with the beginning of a smile. "I do," he said. "I want it too.... but I'm still so frightened. Of everything."

Matt looked down and saw an abyss where his feet had been. He was sure he was flying in midair, swimming in dark and unknown waters. But the image gave him inspiration. "Look, for what it's worth? For me, it's like that trapeze. I know it's sturdy, you can tell me it's sturdy, but it's still not enough to make me not scared. So I could stand here and tell you it'll be all right, but in the end, it's still going to be frightening. And if it's too frightening for you, nothing I can say will change that."

His voice gained volume. Now he felt as though a chorus of voices were behind him, bolstering his every syllable. Confidence filled him. "But if you think you can take a chance, I'm telling you it's safe. I won't let you fall, I won't hurt you. Or at least I'll try like hell not to hurt you. But it has to be your decision. Because I can only say so much. In the end, you decide. You say yes or no."

Then the inspiration was gone, the moment was over, and Mohinder's face was blank. Matt's hands lagged limply by his sides. His head dropped. The grass looked impossibly blue in the dimness. Mohinder's shoes were black sinkholes in the dirt. There was no return.

Mohinder's hands slipped into his.

He was being pulled forward before he knew it. Was Mohinder going to kiss him? But no, he was tugged close enough to feel breath on his nose but no closer. Mohinder's eyes were full of moonlight.

"I want to say yes," Mohinder said. "I desperately want to say yes."

He was truly smiling now, revealing perfect pearl drops of teeth. Matt's heart did a double backflip. It was starting to sink in now, that this amazing world-changing sensation he'd been living under for the past several days was not just a crush or idle fascination. It was mutual-- of course it was mutual-- had anything ever felt so good that wasn't meant to be? He wanted to howl at the moon in sheer joy.

"But..." His gaze dipped, and Matt thought he might be looking into those black holes of shoes and that strangely blue, moon-drenched grass. "But I have time, don't I? To figure this out? To make sure? I don't have to rush into anything, do I?"

The singularly amusing thought occurred to Matt that Mohinder might have the same hang-ups he did. "What, what do you mean?"

Their hands were still folded together. Now Mohinder squeezed his palms insistently. "I want to know everything about you," he said earnestly. "I want to talk to you every day. Can that be enough? For a while?"

The sincerity in his voice was like a flood of warm air. Matt blushed. "Yes," he heard himself say. A smile was itching its way onto his lips. "Yes, anything you want. Anything you want to know." He was leaning forward, stroking Mohinder's fingers with his thumbs, bending those gentle arms upward to rest their joined hands against his chest. Mohinder wasn't shying away, but he wasn't moving either. He was just answering Matt's smile. The silence between them felt full of sound.

"You should get some sleep," Matt said finally, lamely. "I woke you up early this morning."

"No, you didn't," Mohinder reminded him.

"Oh. That's right. I didn't." Matt could hear his voice shaking. "Well, anyway. It's time-- time for bed for me, at any rate. So, um, see you tomorrow?" He pulled one hand out of Mohinder's grasp, turning away slightly, but the other hand wouldn't budge. He looked over at Mohinder. Who was blushing and peering at him from beneath demure, downturned lashes.

"You... you can kiss me goodnight if you like," he said in a small voice.

It took a few seconds of paralysis before Matt had the good sense to take Mohinder up on his offer.

And all at once Mohinder was sliding around him like water, was sighing into his mouth with a voice like rain. His mouth open and eager and giving, those long limbs around his neck, limber fingers tangled in his hair. Matt turned them both with a rush of strength in his arms, not realizing until he felt the cold bite of metal that he'd pushed Mohinder up against the side of the trailer and was devouring his mouth with the intensity of a wild animal having cornered its prey. Only this time the prey was willing and supple. Mohinder cried out loud, mumbled his name into his hair as Matt sunk hot kisses into his neck, pressing against him in a way that made it very clear just what this kiss was doing to him.

Then the full moon glinted off the painted metal and slammed Matt in the eye, and he could see as though he were peering down at himself his own flushed cheeks and roaming hands. He cried out and backed off in sudden panic. "Oh, my God," he said, struggling to find the breath to give his words any force. "Oh my God, I didn't mean to.... I wasn't going to.."

Mohinder was leaning against the side of the trailer, hands on his upturned lips.

It didn't much matter. "Mohinder, please don't think that I've got no control. I swear I'll hold it together next time--"

Now those hands were on his lips. This time Matt had the good sense to stop talking.

For an endless moment, Mohinder kissed him gently. They clung to each other like vines twining in the moonlight, brought together and blessed beneath a full and mysterious disc of gold that brought people from darkness into light.

"Goodnight," he whispered, and then he had slipped into the darkness.

Matt looked up, a grin slowly spreading over his face. The skies were clear and bright.

And he howled at the moon.


...of VOLUME 1: the "F" Sequence.

Farsighted - Fearless - Foreboding - Flirtation - Full Moon
NEXT: The "A" Sequence.
Attraction? Ambition? Avarice? Acrobatics? Alienation? Apprehension? Only time will tell...

lea1-santomelea1santome on September 16th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
Girl have the strange obsession with the full moon, are you a woman she-wolf?

It was beautiful.

Chica tienes la extraña obsesión con la luna llena, ¿eres una mujer loba?

Ha sido hermoso.
Tiptoe39tiptoe39 on September 16th, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC)
ga, thank you so much for commenting! my fic was lonely :D

and i love the full moon!! :D

Edited at 2008-09-16 09:08 pm (UTC)
blackdoggy1 on September 17th, 2008 12:33 am (UTC)
Awww...at first it was kind of sad, but it ended up so sweet. Really great.
Tiptoe39tiptoe39 on September 18th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
thank you honey! i know, this fic has taken a deep turn i never expected...
(Deleted comment)
Tiptoe39tiptoe39 on September 18th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
awwww! you give such great comments!! and yes, i love wordplay too :-)
savage2003 on September 17th, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC)
Oh I like the word volumes, very much.

Loved Mohinder here, so troubled and in love and cute.
Tiptoe39tiptoe39 on September 18th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
yes, the poor baby, he needs some lovin'. ;-D
teecub on September 18th, 2008 12:03 pm (UTC)
AWESOME! Okay, that rocked! I'm a giddy mess now - a giddy mess dangerously close to being late for class, but still! I LOVE IT! Mohinder's confession, Matt's fear, the kiss - oo, and Matt's ending howl!!!! <3 Loved it! Man, as always your writing = BEAUTIFUL! *Snugs!* Okay! Class! <3
Tiptoe39tiptoe39 on September 18th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC)
eee, so glad you liked!! have fun at class!! :waves:
saavikam77: Matt/Mohinder - Minesaavikam77 on February 2nd, 2009 01:37 am (UTC)
Heeeeeeeeeeee!!! ^_^ Oh, boys... I'm so glad Mohinder didn't just run away from them, even after all he confessed about being terrified. And how wonderfully ironic that he was dealing with the same hang-ups as Matt. :p

I have to say, I absolutely loved the characterization throughout this, with all the cast. Everyone was just dead on, and little shout-outs to canon made it all just perfect. ^_^

*applauds wildly*