Thanks for the reviews! Hope you enjoy the next chapter.
(All rights belong to Cirque)
Rowan stormed up to the red curtain, rummaging in the folds of velvet for the gap that would lead her back to bed. She couldn't find it...that bloody man! This was his doing! Her temper at simmering point Rowan whipped around, a snarl forming in her throat, but the sight that met her eyes froze her temper. She had turned in time to see the Trickster drop to his knees, his face a mask of shock and pain, white eyes sightless as they rolled back. Rowan darted forward, catching him before he fell forward. She gripped his shoulders, keeping him upright as she hunkered down in front of him,
"Woah woah woah! What's wrong?...talk to me," she said, slipping into fire fighter mode as she took hold of his chin, trying to get him to focus on her,
"Come on buddy, come back to me...Trickster!," abandoning medical protocol she shook him sharply. His gaze sharpened and he looked at her, trembling under her hands. Rowan put her palm to his cheek, he was cool and clammy. The Trickster closed his eyes, leaning into the touch, groaning quietly. Rowan didn't understand, he had gone from a physical manifestation of pure energy to being as weak as a new born kitten in the blink of an eye.
"Tell me what's wrong so I can help you"
He opened his eyes, tried to speak then just shook his head. He seemed completely exhausted. Rowan looked around. Kooza seemed completely deserted, there was no one to help her but she was damned if she was going to stay kneeling on the stage for the rest of the night. If she could get him inside the tower, get him to a bed or something then she could try and examine him properly.
"Can you stand?"
For a moment he didn't move then he took a deep breath and nodded. Rowan hauled him to his feet, letting him lean on her for support. This was progress at least. Said progress was short lived however as after a few shaky steps the Trickster suddenly sagged, becoming a dead weight as he passed out. Rowan cursed as she caught him, his tall frame enveloping her. For a moment she was stumped as to what to do then she twisted allowing the Trickster's unconscious body to drape across her back. She bent forwards, hooking one arm around his arms, the other she hooked behind his knees. Grunting with the effort she stood straighter, carrying him in an old fashioned fireman's lift. The bells in his hat jingled inappropriately as she walked with slow measured steps, making sure her grip was firm and concentration on keeping her balance. As she approached the curtains they parted for her and the stairwell was more brightly lit than usual. When she reached the upper floor Rowan stopped. She had no idea if the Trickster had a room, he seemed intensely private and until about twenty minutes ago he had never spoken to her or even had much to do with her. Apart from the odd and nonsensical explanation she had gotten from the clowns she had very little knowledge about how Kooza and its inhabitants operated, other than the man currently draped across her shoulders was in charge. There were no other doors on this corridor apart from the one to her room and the Trickster was getting increasingly heavy. She had no choice. She kicked to door open and laid him as gently as she could on the bed, removing his jacket and tie and loosening the top buttons of his shirt before removing his hat exposing short deep brown hair. Rowan conducted a quick physical. Trickster's breathing had slowed but his pulse was still high but she had no idea what counted as normal, she wasn't sure if he was entirely human. He was still cold to the touch so she pulled the blanket over him before perching on the end of the bed. In the quiet she fought to stay awake, her head in her hands whilst behind her the Trickster slept quietly. Rowan sighed lying back, her feet on the floor, her head level with the Trickster's knees, sleep fuzzy and warm on the edge of her consciousness.
A timid knock at the door brought her awake. Sighing Rowan stood and opened the door. The Innocent stood outside surrounded by other Kooza residents. Rowan looked back at them bleary eyed as they tried to see around her,
"Yes he's here, but no one is to bother him ok? He's under my care until I deem him fit, understand?" she watched them all nod, the trapeze artist however glared hotly at her from behind the shoulder of the lead Chirivari.
"Good, he is asleep at the moment, I'll keep you updated," Rowan went to close the door when she caught sight of the expression on the Innocent's face, his eyes brimming with tears. She hesitated for a moment then took him gently by the shoulder and took him inside, the look she gave the others making it clear that no one was to follow them and shut the door. Rowan followed the boy across to the bed where he just stood and looked down at the prone figure. She watched as he reached out to touch the Trickster's hand but he stopped and wiped his eyes instead.
"Hey," she said quietly, wrapping an arm around his shoulders, "he's ok, just sleeping at the moment"
The Innocent nodded, he reached out again and this time before he could pull back Rowan took his hand and placed it on the Trickster's. The Innocent gently traced his fingers along the gold staining on the older man's hand. Rowan shook her head, the Trickster did nothing but poke fun at and intimidate the boy yet here he was showing the most tender concern.
"Come on sweet heart, you can come and see him later"
Opening the door, they found the lead Chirivari still waiting outside. The Innocent gave Rowan a waist height hug before the Chirivari ushered him away, smiling at Rowan over his shoulder. She headed back to the bed and sat back down.
Trickster opened his eyes. Pale morning light was filtering into the room. A room that wasn't his...this was Rowan's room. On the bedside table he saw his hat, jacket and tie and his stomach twisted in a tight knot...what had happened? His last memories were a complete blur, a kaleidoscope of pain and concerned blue eyes. Movement by his legs caused him to lift his head slowly from the pillow. He smiled. Rowan was curled at the bottom of the bed, asleep. Her head was resting against his legs. For a moment he watched her sleep, then he frowned as he noticed the tension across her shoulders. She moved again, whimpering softly in her sleep and he could feel the coldness emanating from her. Rowan was dreaming and from the vibes he was getting it wasn't a good one. Trickster gently placed a hand on her head and her dream flashed into his mind. Images of smoke and flame, of broken, bloodied and burned bodies and of a bald, almost skeletal woman lying motionless in a grey bed, her eyes hollow and dead. He removed his hand as if burned and the images faded. He was appalled, all those terrible things, how could somebody's mind conjure up such images?
"Don't like what you see?"
Rowan was watching him carefully from the bottom of the bed, her expression carefully neutral.
"They are such awful dreams"
Rowan laughed bitterly,
"Dreams? I wish...they are memories Trickster, everything you," she paused for a moment, "saw...I lived through"
Trickster sat up straighter, running a hand through his hair. Rowan could see he didn't quite understand.
"Its my job, I cut people out of cars, drag them out of burning buildings, my crew and I rescue people...sometimes we're too late, or there's nothing we can do in the first place," Trickster turned to her,
"And you want to go back to that?"
He shook his head in disbelief,
"The good parts outweigh the bad"
"I don't see how"
"Gratitude Trickster," Rowan said, a smile coming to her eyes, "The gratitude in a mother's eyes when you reunite her with her child, of someone when you save their home, or when you removed them from their destroyed car...an awful lot of my work is very rewarding"
"The woman in the bed...that memory hurts you the most," it was a statement of fact not a question. For a moment Rowan looked shocked, then she stood and walked over to the window.
"My mother," she said quietly, "she died five years ago...cancer," a hand was laid gently on her shoulder,
Rowan looked at him out of the corner of her eye,
"Wasn't your fault"
"In Australia with his new family, he left before she died," she turned to him, "are you alright? You took a nasty turn last night"
"Do you not think you should rest? Have a bit of down time?"
"I'm fine thank you Rowan...I need to be up and about"
Rowan regarded him critically for a moment,
"Your call," she said simply and moved past him collecting her uniform. The Trickster watched her as she fished her boots out from under the bed,
Rowan looked up at him,
"I know you wanted to go but stay for a few more days, your colleagues won't even notice that you've gone," he added quickly as she opened her mouth to argue,
"Trust me, when you do go back it'll be like you never left. Stay a little while longer...it will be good for you"
Rowan sat back on her heels,
"As if I never left?," she watched him cross the room, replacing his tie and hat,
"Ok," she said, "I'll stay, on one condition"
Trickster raised an eye brow,
"Spend some time with the boy, don't frighten him, just interact with him. Deal?"