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18 October 2008 @ 03:08 pm
[fanfic] The Greatest Show on Earth (Volume 2, 1/5(?); PG)  
Title: The Greatest Show on Earth
Volume 2: The 'A' Sequence
Chapter 1: Afternoon
Author: tiptoe39
Rated: PG
Summary: Circus AU. Matt and Mohinder are getting closer, but that doesn't mean all's well under the Big Top. Volume One is here.



The afternoon before an evening show is always a madhouse.

The public begins to line up as early as two, even though the sideshow doesn't open until four. Local vendors prey on the lines, both food sellers and entertainers, and for the performers it is a good gauge of the crowd -- how alert they are, how receptive they will be to what they are about to see. Linderman doesn't like his group to mingle -- he wants the Big Top and everyone in it to remain mysterious -- but it is always a good time to peer out through the curtains and pick out favorites and targets. It's how Charlie chooses her targets for her act. Showmanship, after all, is half espionage.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, there are animals to feed and placate into going on with the act. There are humans to whom the same task applies. Heavy lights need toting back from their positions at the end of last night's show to where they start tonight's. Fresh sawdust needs laying. It's a million little details, like individual grains of sand that must be carefully sorted one by one and piled together before the dune can emerge. And it's a haven of confusion, loud and unruly. If everyone didn't know for certain what their job was and pitch in to get it done, the whole house of cards might tumble in one unlucky day.

Today, this involved a lot of coaxing and wheedling. "Jan, baby, what's wrong with you?" Matt pleaded, running his hands down the lioness's face in what was utterly failing to be a soothing motion. Jan snarled and nipped at his anxiously moving hands. Something had gotten into her today; Matt suspected mosquito bites, but it could have been a bad sausage all the same. Actually he suspected she was in heat, and Leona just wasn't a good enough companion for her. "Come on," he muttered, annoyed. "If I can come out of the closet after 39 years, you can sure as hell manage."

It was little asides like this that kept him going. Mohinder was wonderful and absolutely the center of his life now-- they spent time together to the extent that Nathan was actually getting jealous-- but after those first feverish kisses under the full moon's glow a few weeks ago, the bastard had barely let Matt touch him. And there was nothing like enforced celibacy to remind Matt every waking moment of what he was missing.

After all, Mohinder was beautiful. Beautiful and sexy and desirable to the extent that it would have made Matt uncomfortable in any other situation. He was constantly amazed at how badly he wanted him; he should have been disgusted, shocked at how a lifetime of experience had melted to the floor the first time he'd reached for Mohinder's hand and the tantalizing dark fingers had twitched and disappeared behind his back. From then on it didn't matter that Mohinder was the first man he'd ever wanted. It mattered that he wanted him, and he couldn't have what he wanted. Not even one little taste.

"I'm just not sure of myself," Mohinder had confessed after one deliriously happy day off. They'd gone around town like mad tourists, snapping pictures and getting lost on illegible maps, and Matt's heart had been happily hopping in his chest like a bunny. But when they wrapped it all up with a movie, Mohinder had shied away from holding his hand even in the darkened theatre. And afterward, a tense taxi ride back to the fairgrounds had ended in the back-seat confession. "I'm not used to being allowed to feel this way. It's illegal in India and I've been taught to not even think of it..."

"OK," Matt said. "OK, never mind. I get it. Don't worry about it. Take your time."

Problem was, he was taking all of Matt's time, too. And Matt wasn't getting any younger, any less infatuated, or any less horny.




"Oh, my GOD!"

The explosion of sound practically tore the tent apart. There was some flurry of activity outside, and then Nathan tore into the lions' alcove, his face bright red. "Oh, my God," he said. "Oh, my God." He stood there panting for a moment.

Amused, Matt lifted his eyebrows. "What about your God, exactly?"

"I saw him," Nathan said, remaining oblivious to the joke. "He's here."

Things were interesting now. "God is?"

"Or the closest thing to him." Nathan peeked back out through the curtain. "Damn, can't see through the opening there. Holy crap. What should I do? What could I possibly say to him?"

Janice roared, and Nathan jumped. "Well, I don't know what you want to say to God, but I can think of something you ought to tell me," Matt said. "As in, what are you smoking?"

Nathan's eyes refocused on him, and Matt saw him mentally striving to calm down. "Matt, yeah, right, hi. How are you?" Matt remained silent, waiting for Nathan to continue. "I'm sorry, but... um, Reese Reinhold is in the audience. I thought I saw him go through Niki's part of the tent. And when I checked with Ted he told me yeah, it was him, and..."

"Wait, stop, hold the phone or take a message," Matt said. "Reese who?"

"U.S. Senator Reese Reinhold. Dear God, Matt, I'm not even a citizen and I know his name."

The words didn't come from Nathan. Mohinder was standing in the opening to the tent, costumed up and looking especially sparkly and rather touchable. Matt swallowed and he was glad he was one of the few men in this particular outfit who didn't have to wear revealing tights.

He scoffed and turned away to hide his reaction, willing his pulse to calm down. "Sorry, boy genius, but haven't we already had this discussion? I don't read a lot of newspapers."

"He's a personal hero of mine," Nathan said. "When the whole scandal came out about the vice president's office, he was the first one to hold hearings about it. He's been a huge voice for constitutional rights."

Matt blinked. Janice sneezed. Mohinder stared.

"What?" Nathan said after a moment of this. "I'm not allowed to have personal heroes or something?"

"Constitutional rights?" Matt said, as though he wasn't sure what the phrase actually meant.

"Yeah, like my freedom to promise you with a knuckle sandwich if you don't stop looking at me like that," Nathan muttered. "Why did I come in here again?"

Matt laughed. "I'm sorry, man, but... no offense, but you do somersaults for a living. What do you care about constitutional rights?"

"I care because the law matters!" Nathan burst out, then waved his hand dismissively. "Oh, never mind, you two. Go hold hands or something." He stalked to the exit in a very convincing, if unintentional, imitation of one of Matt's big cats.

Mohinder spoke as Nathan passed by. "I hear he's very friendly and anxious to speak with constituents," he said softly. "Perhaps you should simply go up and introduce yourself."

Nathan stopped and stared at him for a moment. Matt could see the gears in his brain beginning to churn as the tumbler left.

"That was nice of you," Matt said, walking over to the entrance to meet Mohinder.

The blue-spangled shoulders shrugged. "I was merely repeating what I'd heard. You know, it wouldn't kill you to become a little bit more versed in the affairs of your nation."

"Because everyone wants to know how the local lion tamer feels about politics." Matt rolled his eyes.

"Well, I would certainly be interested to hear your views."

"Yes, but you're also interested in whether I eat enough vegetables and if I button up my coat on cold days." Matt grinned. "I've pretty much come to the conclusion that you're my mother."

Mohinder frowned. "I'm not your mother," he said, irritable all of a sudden.

"What's that about?"

"I'm serious." He was actually kind of pouting. "I don't want to be that, Matt. Please tell me that's not how you see me."

Matt sighed and stepped in front of him. The brown eyes burned at his own, but he squinted their fire right back. His hand went to Mohinder's wrist, and Mohinder gasped at the contact and tried to wiggle away. Matt wouldn't let him. "Then how should I see you?"

"Matt, let go..."

He paused. He'd had drawn up close to him, and in Mohinder's eyes Matt could see the sudden freeze of fear. Still, the breath on his face was so warm, the birdlike, petrified eyes so lovely. Matt felt a rush of warmth. He wanted to wrap Mohinder up in his arms, trap him in a kiss so ardent that he might never let go. He was beautiful and desirable and Matt felt feverish just looking at him.

Instead, he just pressed his point. "I'm asking, Mohinder. If you're not my mother, than what are you to me? Huh? What do you want to be?"

A frozen moment, warmth traveling through them both. The conduit between hand and wrist was channeling so much electricity it lit up the whole place.

Mohinder shook his head. "I have to go stretch," he said in a muted tone.

Matt let him go, a little shocked at himself for putting Mohinder on the spot like that. He'd sworn he wouldn't, and he hated the way Mohinder would shy away from him when his resolve broke down. But if Janice was going to make his life miserable for lack of someone to cuddle, Matt saw no reason he himself should take it lying down.




A little later in the afternoon, after the crowd has wandered through the sideshow and gaped at all the craziness laid out there, the center of activity changes. The ushers are guiding people into their seats for the show, and the bleachers and food sellers are crowded with the heat of moving bodies and raised voices. Somewhere in the throng a baby is screaming. There are three languages being spoken in one conversation. Someone spills a soda and someone else scatters popcorn all over the sawdust. Pigeons pop in from the outside and feed on the disasters.

Meanwhile, backstage it becomes oddly calm. Prop checks and place calls are all taken care of; it's too early for warm-ups and instrument tuning. So there's a small oasis of calm before the five-minute call in which clowns and acrobats sit on the same bench and chat, sharpshooters and cannonballs size each other up, and exhausted sideshow actors head back to their trailers for a well-earned nap. The whole circus takes a deep breath before plunging headfirst into the main event.

Matt felt terrible. It wasn't as though he'd meant to confront Mohinder like that, but the whole thing was getting to be too much for him. He leaned back, closed his eyes, and tried in vain to reach across the tent with his mind and somehow sneak into Mohinder's. What must he be feeling right now? Had Matt blown his chances? All questions with no answers, Matt leaping from the trapeze and finding no arms there in thin air to catch his. Love without the aid of a net, and he wasn't used to it. Wild beasts were so much more manageable.

"Do you think he's sleeping?"

"Why should he be sleeping? He's on in a half-hour."

"Maybe that's why he's sleeping, dummy."

"Ow, don't poke me!"

'Shh, you're going to wake him up!"

A pair of tinny whispers, and Matt couldn't prevent a slow smile from spreading across his face. "Hi, girls," he said without opening his eyes.

"I told you he wasn't sleeping."

"Phooey." Then, out loud, "Hiya, Matt-Matt!"

He opened his eyes. "Matt-Matt? That's a new one."

Elle shrugged, raising her eyes to the ceiling. "Just playing around," she said. She was a slight, limber blonde in her early twenties who looked a good deal younger than that. She padded back and forth on the sawdust, growling playfully at the lions, who had better sense than to bother themselves with her. Her partner in high-wire action, Eden, stood a few feet back, her arms crossed over her chest. In their matching turquoise leotards, they looked like a pair of ballerinas just missing their tutus. Eden's boyish clump of dark hair belied her pretty face.

Matt grimaced as he rose to his feet. "It's better than Matthias," he said. "Or, what was last week's attempt, Holy Mattrimony?"

"I like words. Sue me." Elle stuck out her tongue at him.

"I think she's just trying to get your attention," Eden said gently. She was the mature half of the pair, and while Elle might have liked to play with words (in the same way Elle liked to play with big cats, splinters, and probably electrical outlets), Eden was good at them. She had a softly persuasive air to her, but there were times when Matt wasn't sure she always put that talent to good use.

"Attention gotten, then," Matt said, "so what did you want?"

"Who's the guy Nathan was talking to?"

"Hmm?"

"There's a guy in the front of the bleachers and Nathan went like halfway across the ring to go talk with them and they were talking for like fifteen minutes." Elle's words were a blur of light against his eardrums. "And I couldn't get over to hear and when Nathan left he almost ran and he was grinning and it was just totally weird and not very Nathan and I just have to know what that was about!"

She doubled over and panted, quite literally panted, after that explosion of sound. Eden put a hand on her back and rubbed small circles on it. "You know," she teased, "it might help if you gave Matt a second to answer." Elle's head popped up as though she'd just now thought of the idea.

Matt rubbed the back of his head. "You know, I think it's a congressman. Or something like that. I don't remember his name, but he was pretty excited to find out he was showing up."

"Damn," Eden said.

"Told you," Elle replied, looking triumphant. "I want a thin crust with onions and pineapple."

"You guys bet?" Matt laughed, checking his watch. Almost time to put on the cape and get lined up. He walked across the area to grab his whip from the wall.

"Eden was sure it was someone boring, like a cousin or a long-lost brother or something. But I knew it had to be someone famous. Nathan tries to be all serious, but he's totally got stars in his eyes."

"Speaking of stars, how are things going with your boyfriend?"

Matt sputtered. "He's not my boyfriend. And I shouldn't have to tell you that."

"Yeah, you shouldn't," Eden said, her voice low and teasing, "because he should be your boyfriend by now. What's the hold-up?"

He gave her a rueful grin. "I wish I knew," he said.

"He likes you."

"I know. But..."

"Sometimes," Eden said as Elle quietly played with one of the lions' toys in the corner, "it's hard to outgrow what we're born into. You're told all your life you're one thing, and it's pretty frightening to discover you're another. If I had to guess, Matt, I'd say he's probably scared."

"Yeah, I know that, too." Matt shuffled his feet, watching the sawdust make minute yellow clouds around his shoes. "But I just don't know how long I can go on waiting and being nonthreatening. At some point, he's got to decide if it's worth it. If I'm worth it."

"You're worth it, Matt," Eden said, dropping her head onto his shoulder in a show of friendly affection. "He'll make the right choice."

For a few seconds they stood, enjoying the pre-show quiet, the buzz of the audience in the big top seeming a thousand miles away. Matt's heart calmed its quivering and he felt almost completely at peace.

Then that peace was abruptly shattered.

Commotion was barreling like a gunshot round through the backstage corridors, in a jumble of angry voices and footsteps and animal noises. Janice picked up on the attention and began to growl low in her throat. Elle popped up excitedly and ran to the edge of the curtain to peer out into the fast-approaching hurricane.

"We're done talking about this!" Nathan was shouting, stomping through like an angry elephant. He waved his arm backward in a brusque dismissal.

"Like hell we are!" Peter was running to catch up to him, despite Linderman's and Claire's and Ted's attempt to stop him, to calm him. "You don't drop a bomb like that right before a show and then expect me to forget all about it! Do you even have a clue what you're talking about?"

"I don't want to hear this from you!" Nathan turned and roared at him.

Peter strode forward, and he and his brother stood chest to chest, glaring at each other. "Why? Wasn't this what you wanted? For me to learn my lesson? And now you do and do the same thing, and you expect me to just say OK, fine, Nathan, whatever you want? You've got a lot of nerve."

Nathan fought for control of his voice. "That was different. You were a teenager--"

"Don't give me that crap!" Peter shouted, shoving Nathan back a few paces. Nathan seethed at him like a wounded tiger.

"That... is... enough!" Linderman's tone was crisp and biting enough to cut through the rage-thick air. "Will the two of you kindly go outside and deal with this on the back lawn? I prefer not to have fisticuffs ensue under my tent!"

Slowly, silently, without ever taking eyes off each other, the siblings retreated through the back entrance. Linderman turned to his assembled performers, a sad spark in his green buttons of eyes. "I'm terribly sorry," he said, "But Miss Eden, Miss Elle, would you mind terribly doing an extended routine tonight? I'm afraid the Petrelli Brothers will not be performing this evening."

Elle saluted happily; Eden simply nodded, unsmiling. Matt looked back at his lions, wishing he could see through the draped fabric behind them. What on earth could have happened to shatter the stillness of this typical afternoon?

TO BE CONTINUED
 
 
The Soul is:: depresseddepressed
 
 
 
lea1-santomelea1santome on October 18th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
I was happy to see that Charlie has a small role.

Mohinder is afraid of his feelings toward Matt.

I do not know, but I think Nathan has a bit of jealousy.
Me puse contenta a ver que Charlie tiene un pequeño papel.

Mohinder tiene miedo de sus sentimientos hacia Matt.

No sé, pero pienso que Nathan tiene un poco de celos.
Sheila!: Alison Goldfrapp - In Love With A Strictmsbhaven on October 22nd, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
Whee!
Spondylus princeps: fangirlingmullu on October 23rd, 2008 10:15 am (UTC)
I forgot to leave a review for this.

I had missed a couple of chaps, and read it all a few nights ago... Oh, the magic. The lights, and the sparkle, and the excitement, and the moon, and the life on the road. I love your circus 'verse.

In fact, I have something to show my love... but I left it on the USB, somewhere around some place... *promises to upload when she finds it (and she bets you'll like it xDD)*