Wonderland was empty without Alice.
Everyone could feel her absence, and everything was affected by it. Why had she left? To where did she go? There were no answers. She simply was gone, vanished, before any of the Roleholders could do a thing about it.
It was the season of April when the circus came around again, and it was a miserable time for Ashe.
White Joker directed the circus performers, correcting their mistakes as they ceaselessly practiced. Ashe threw herself wholly into the routine, her brow dripping, her hands slick from sweat, but still she performed harder and harder than she thought she could.
"Where's your brother?" White asked, looking around carefully.
She stopped and wiped her brow. "He's avoiding practice, is what he's doing." She gritted her teeth.
"Strange. He doesn't typically avoid these things...usually it's you."
"I'm sure he has good reason to not be here."
"Unlike you. It was hard to drag you here this morning. I don't think you quite understand that you belong to me. You and your brother are mine."
She dully watched him. "Of course I know. I always know. You remind me every time I turn around."
Before practice ended she managed to slink away when the he wasn't looking to find her brother. Besides she never listened to the Joker. Not completely.
She slunk between the circus tents, the bright colors of the circus tents passing her by. She moved crouched, like an animal, long blonde hair tumbling messily around her arms. There was something feral, wild about her.
A lot was strange about her, but strangest of all was her eyes; one was red and the other blue, a trait she shared with her brother.
She breathed heavily from the earlier practice and held her hand to her chest. Nothing beat and nothing ticked there, no heart or clock. Emptiness.
It was just a reminder that she was not totally of Wonderland.
Her mother had been the foriegner Alice Liddell and her father had been a Roleholder, Ace. The combination created children that were outside of the game, outside of Wonderland. They were not Roleholders, nor one of the faceless, nor anyone.
The darker half of the Joker, the Black Joker, called them the Nobodies.
"You have no purpose or part in this game, you worthless idiot," the Black Joker had told her once. "The only thing that gives you any purpose is this circus, and that's why you won't run away. It was part of the deal."
She had made a face. It was a deal she had no part in.
Her father had been the executioner of the Joker until he realized the job was never going to free him from his role. So he made a deal with them: he would trade his children for his freedom.
It was why she hated Ace so much. Not everyone was aware that Ace even had children with Alice. Certainly Peter wasn't, but the Prime Minister could barely work up the care. He was devastated by the loss of Alice more than anyone else.
To most Roleholders she and her brother were simply anomalies: non-Roleholders with faces. Only Julius knew that they were more than just circus freaks, but he was too lost in his work to tell anyone.
She saw a group of giggling girls and immediately knew her brother was in the middle of the crowd.
"Why, yes, I can play that song," she heard him say as she got closer.
She momentarily stood in the crowd to watch what he was doing. There he was in the middle of the group, his eyes downcast. He had blonde hair, like her, and an easy smile that attracted people. He held a violin on his shoulder. "I can play that song just for you, beautiful," he said, pointing at a random girl.
When he saw that random girl was his sister he immediately froze.
"Ah, Ashe! Why, hello there! I was just-!"
Hands on hips, she pointed a finger at him. "Bryon, don't you have better things to do than woo poor, innocent girls with your horrible music?"
He adjusted himself in his seat, setting his violin back in its case. "I'm actually a decent musician. All the ladies say so."
"Oh please," she said. "I nearly got in trouble with the Joker. Do you know what happens when we get in trouble? Yeah. So could you put a little bit of effort into not missing practice?"
A girl latched onto her brother's arm. "Aww. Don't take Bryon from us! He's been so entertaining."
Ashe smiled humorlessly. "I advise you to let go of him right now."
"No! I love Bryon!"
Ashe drew a small knife from her sleeve.
"What power do you have over us?" The girl's eyeless face watching Ashe. "You may have a face, but you have no real power. So go ahead and try to kill me."
Ashe's grip tightened on the knife.
"Ashe," Bryon said warningly, pushing the girl behind him. "You can't kill every person who crosses you."
Yes you can, she thought. Her brother had a very…humanistic view of people. It was a result of what little their mother had been able to teach them before she left. None of it stuck for Ashe, but her brother took it to heart.
She grasped her brother's hand and yanked him up. "Come on! I'm not getting punished by the Joker just because of you. Leave these little tarts behind."
Despite the protests of the girls Ashe drew her brother away.
He sighed. "You're right. I should practice more. The Circus is soon."
Ashe snorted. "I couldn't care less about the circus. If I wasn't scared of punishment, I wouldn't waste my effort there."
"There's not much else we can do."
"Oh yes there is. I won't be here forever." She watched him, her eyes transfixed. "I'm not staying tied to the Joker."
"Uh, huh." He watched her in disbelief. "You've already tried killing him. It never works. You're an unthinking, blunt instrument, sister dear, and you do things without thinking or planning."
"If you're strong enough, you don't have to think." She smiled. "You just do." She shrugged. "And I'm the sort of person who does."
He patted her on the back. "Just try not to kill anyone, okay? The last Circus was a disaster, what with you trying to shoot the Joker in the head and all."
"Oh yes, I remember. It should've worked." She watched him, grinning. Her smile was like a mask she couldn't take off. It disconcerted him slightly, but he was used to it.
"And Black punished you good for it." He gripped her hand. "Come on."
"One day not even fear will keep me back. I will burn this place to the ground."
"Not yet," he said. "Please not yet."
Something dark crossed her face, but she said nothing more. They walked back hand-in-hand.
"Carrots?" Blood said. "Truly, Elliot? After all these years you still cook carrot dishes? You know how I feel about them."
The table was laden with the stuff: carrot pie, carrot cake, and whatever else Elliot could stuff the vegetable into. Elliot beamed proudly beside it, signaling for Blood to sit.
Blood had no intention of getting anywhere near the disgusting food.
"I like carrot dishes."
Both men turned to look at the source of the voice.
It was a short young woman, her long black hair up in a loop on the back of her head. Her small lips were pursed.
She sat down at the table, grabbing a napkin and placing it into her lap. Blood watched her from below his characteristic hat. A wrinkle ran over his brow. Other than a few small wrinkles, he had aged well. The women said he had aged handsomely. Even the little gray there was in his hair only went to make him look more mature rather than merely old.
"Now, if you are done complaining about the dish selection, we have things to discuss, father. Namely, we need to talk about our expenditures. I don't know what to do about the twins. Should we tie them to the front gate to get them to stay at their post? Would that work?"
"I can shoot them," Elliot said.
She rubbed her temples. "No. You might kill them. Then we'd have the messy business of replacing them. It's never easy killing Roleholders. We'd be messing with the Game."
"I'll allow you two to deal with that," Blood said, standing up. "I need to get away from the stench of these…orange dishes."
"You can't possibly be leaving me to do all the work again," she said, her hand fixed on her cheek. She watched him leave with a sinking feeling in her stomach. "…or he can. Damn it. Why am I always left to do everything!"
Elliot sat, heaping a portion of carrot cake onto his plate. "Because Blood doesn't like crunching numbers, and you're the best one at math around here."
Lilly was always keenly aware of one fact: everything she had was because of her father. She remembered looking into the mirror as a child to see her faceless visage stare back, but Blood would not have a faceless daughter. It was simply too embarrassing for him.
So one day, as a birthday present, she became one of the Roleholders. She had no idea how he did it or what he gave up to do it, but she knew the price was steep. It showed he had power enough to influence the game. Even to someone as stubborn as her that meant something.
"Just because I'm the only one around here who can add two and two together doesn't mean I should be the only one who ever works."
Elliot patted her on the head. "It'll be okay. I'll help you."
She smiled wearily back. Elliot had raised her more than Blood ever did. Blood was never a hands-on parent. He was the sort who came around and threw presents at her during the holidays and retreated back into doing whatever it was he did. Usually it was womanizing, to which she turned a blind eye and tried to ignore.
She was positive her mother was some faceless servant who had somehow managed to last long enough to have a child. She didn't last long enough to raise that child. Lilly didn't really care. Her mother was just another faceless woman, after all. She barely mattered in the grand scheme of things.
"The Circus is coming up soon," Lilly said, writing something on a piece of paper. "Let's hope it's not as exciting as last time."
"I don't know," Elliot said. "I thought it was kind of interesting."
"When Ashe tried to shoot the Joker?" she snorted. "Stupid girl. Doesn't she know it's a waste of her time to try and fight him? She and her brother get on my nerves."
"My pleasure to annoy you," said a voice that was distinctly not Elliot's. She didn't even have to turn to know who it was.
"Ashe, what are you doing here?" Lilly said. "Don't you have somewhere else to be? Preferably far away from me as possible."
"But I'd miss you!" She said mockingly, reaching around the back of the chair to hug Lilly who squirmed within her grasp.
"Are you here to see my father? Well, he's not here, as you can see. So go away or I'll have Elliot kill you."
"My, my, I see you're still the same old unlikeable Lilly you always are." Ashe smiled. "Give this to your father and tell him the task is done."
She tossed a sack at Lilly and immediately Lilly knew it was a clock. Then Ashe turned and left as swiftly and quickly as she had arrived.
When she wasn't with the Circus, Ashe was an assassin. The rules of the game didn't apply to her since she was outside of them and she could pretty much do whatever she wanted. If you paid her well, she would do anything-absolutely anything-you wanted.
She was an invaluable asset to the Mafia who made use of Ashe's services to take down particularly troublesome targets. It angered Julius, of course, and in turn made Ashe clash with Ace often. Everyone always knew when Ashe got into a fight with Ace, because the girl barely made it out alive each time.
"Just another troublesome creature in my life," Lilly muttered, adding something together on her accounting sheet.
Before anyone reviews asking me to keep writing smut, yes, I still write smut. I'm just taking a break. The next fic I write will be either Nightmare, Peter or the Jokers.