Jellie Carnival Summer Challenge

A/N: Spoilers for Season Three Finale; JELLIE friendship/angst, or pre-Jellie if you like?
Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I owned any rights to John Casey, we'd never leave the house!;D


He watches her, his keen blue eyes riveted on her every move, gesture, inflection. He knows she suspects him of it, like she suspects every facet of her life now. But she can't muster enough energy to keep her guard up every second of every day to, keep him – to keep all of them – from seeing how perilously close she is to falling. He knows it and knows she knows it, too. Knows that's the reason why, when she starts to slip and she's nearly toppling from the thin line of what she knows is really truth, it's his door she runs to. Ironic, since he's the one among them who's been lying the longest.

She's navigating the tightrope of deception that's been strung underneath her existence. It doesn't matter that most of that deception has been to protect her and those she loves the most. It's been lies from all of them, and now she's desperate to balance between what once she thought was and what now knows is her reality, hold it together when the very foundation beneath her feet has crumbled and gone.

He's got to give her credit, the lady's got talent, more in fact than many professionals he's worked with. There aren't many who could manage it with such grace and elegance. Despite everything that's been thrown at her, she keeps her head high, arms outstretched, carefully places one foot in front of the other when it'd be so much easier to just let go. But she fights for purchase on the wire, and it makes him admire her all the more. Because at the end of the tightrope, there's just more rope, and she can't ever get off, and they both know it, but she won't ever just lay down, and he won't let her.

She's a consummate artist at the performance, master of the 'normal girl, everything's fine go on about your business' act, amazing both spectators and the other performers alike by making it seem so easy. They'd never dream she's working hard as she can to stay up there, but he knows. It pains him to think of how she's learned her craft, first picking up the slack when abandoned by their mother; then later, still barely more than a kid herself, becoming the breadwinner, the caregiver, the source of normalcy after their father disappeared.

A sadness swarms over him at the notion that this – finding out everyone in her life has been lying for years – this is just another slippery spot on the rope. Just one more disappointment in her life, one more teacup stacked precariously on the end of the long pole.

But he's a pro, too, and now she knows it. It's not his first trip around the carnival. He knows the games are rigged, that there's a system to it all, that it's never as easy as it looks. Most of all, he knows how easy it is to slip up, what the price will be.

So he watches for the signs, for the shakiness in the line, for the tremor in her poise, for the parasol to plummet to the ground and her right behind it. There's no net here, no air mattress to soften the crash as the onlookers gape and gasp in horror, so he watches. Because when she falls – and she will fall, no matter how good she is nor how hard she tries nor how much he wishes it weren't so – when she loses her balance on that tightrope, he has to be there to catch her.

Because the show always goes on, and he doesn't want to imagine it without her in the spotlight.


To be continued in the sequel, Fire Eater, found here:


Reviews greatly appreciated! ;D