A/N: I came across this story while flipping through one of my old writing notebooks, and thought I might as well upload it, since I like it very much. You can think of it as a sequel to Liama in the overarching Cirque-fic canon, as well as just another example of my love of inter-show continuity. It was originally intended as the beginning of a much, much longer fic which I very much doubt will ever get written, but I hope you can still enjoy what's here.
"'Ey, Bird. Catch."
Green Bird snatched the apple out of the air and bit into it – Pink Lady, one of her favorites. "Do you want me to go get a knife or two? You could make apple pie in midair. I hold out the crust, you drop apple slices into it, we bake it in the toaster while you balance it on a pole."
The juggler glanced down at her – she was standing on the counter and juggling eight apples and a pineapple. She would have thought the pineapple would present a problem, but he seemed to be doing all right. "I think you fail to understand how this works, Bird. I'd probably end up trying to cut the knife with the pineapple. Knife and apple pie doesn't sound very good to me."
"Okay, throw me the pineapple then." She caught it with both hands against her chest, stumbling backwards a step. "Where'd you find this?" she asked, inspecting it. It was just about ripe.
"In the cupboard. Wait..." He looked down at her. "We were supposed to be getting lunch, weren't we?"
She giggled. "Oh yeah... right."
It had been a couple months now since the Green Bird and the juggler had been real friends. She'd thought that he was self-absorbed, only barely glancing at her as she played assistant to his act, but in reality he was about the nicest guy she'd ever met. Her first friend here apart from the clowns, which were more like toys than friends. It was an enjoyable experience. She was glad to have him, even if it did mean dodging the occasional apple.
"Hey!" she protested as one of them bounced off her hat.
"Sorry." He poked through the cupboards, paying to mind to her a she scrambled around on the floor trying to pick up all the fallen apples. "Okay, so nuts for the Nuts, bread and peanut butter and jelly and electric blue stuff in tubes for the Skippers, baguettes and canned soup of any kind for Pierrot, raw meat for the Titan..."
Green Bird wrinkled her nose. "Raw meat?"
"Apparently. So claims the Princess."
"But doesn't it need to be refrigerated?"
"These are weird cupboards, Bird." The juggler's voice was somewhat muffled, as he had his entire torso inside a cupboard, only his legs sticking out. "What is this? Do I want to know? It's in Japanese. I will say this, in Koo– in the last job I had, they never sent me for lunch on expeditions into cupboards inhabited by octopi. They never sent me for lunch at all, actually. If I disappear into here, will you come after me with a climbing rope?"
"Yeah, okay." One of the perks of hanging out in this place, she thought, was all the skintight bodysuits everyone wore. She stared at the juggler's back half with interest. "Want me to hold onto your legs?" she offered.
"Um, I think I'm okay... yeah, maybe, actually." Quite a bit of grunting and squeezing, and "Okay, you can let go now. Or pull me out, if you don't mind." The other half of the juggler reappeared, a bit cobwebby. He was holding a couple jars and a tin of something, and there was a large paper-wrapped package under his arm. But the most puzzling items were the inch-thing, foot-long tubes of blue, plastic-looking gel. Green Bird took one from him and examined it. "What is this?"
"The Shippers eat it. It's probably why they glow in the dark. It certainly does."
"Yep." The juggler ran a hand over his hair – it would have been through had his hair been longer. "Princess can go get this stuff herself the next time she wants to make lunch for everyone."
"She'll get someone else to do it. She's bossy."
"Not at all like you, right?"
Green Bird stuck her tongue out at him and took the rest of the blue tubes, because a juggler is not the same thing as someone who can carry one hundred and fourteen different grocery items at a time without dropping anything or breaking the raw eggs, and started toward the door.
At which point all the lights went out.
"Juggler?" she called into the blackness, feeling somewhat freaked out.
"Power outage?" his voice called from somewhere behind her.
Electricity crackled from the ceiling to a drying rack to a cabinet handle before grounding itself semi-painlessly in Green Bird's shoe.
"Um..." the juggler said.
She backed up until she was standing next to him, navigating by the light of the balls of electricity rolling along the tops of the cabinets. He had dropped his foodstuffs, and his hands coiled and uncoiled concernedly. She found her own hand sneaking into one of them.
"Now?" he said, and he wasn't talking to her. "Really? Why?"
"What's going on?" she asked him, worried. The ceiling was lightening with blue sparks, looking almost like the surface of a pool above them, readying itself for someone – or something? – to jump in...
Lightning, or electricity like lightning, flashed so brightly that they were momentarily blinded. The complete darkness returned. And out of complete darkness, as if from very far away, a glowing, sparking figure walked toward them slowly.
Bird found that she was squeezing the juggler's hand so tightly her fingers hurt. "What is that?" she whispered.
"That," he whispered back, his attention focused on her but his eyes not leaving the approaching figure, "is my former boss."
The figure stood in front of them, a tall human-shaped being, standing imposingly with its legs apart, sparks trailing from its fingers, regarding them with an expression of vague menace. Green Bird unselfconsciously hid behind the juggler.
And the lights switched on again, and the creature turned into a tall, handsome young man in a striped suit and intricate face markings, whose sinister expresssion was gone in an instant and replaced by a grin of delight as he took a step forward and punched the juggler happily on the arm. "Jongleur! Prartha satsye a kavashe!" He and the juggler started talking a mile a minute in some language Green Bird didn't understand, as she stared at two of them with her mouth open in shock.
There was a three-story-high round tower sitting in the middle of the pantry. She was sure it hadn't been there before. Admittedly, it was a strange pantry, about two hundred feet square and prone to random shifts in layout and location, but even so, a three-story-high tower was just not something one could easily overlook. She stared at it, half expecting it to disappear again if she glared at it hard enough, then stared at the young man in much the same way, and tugged on the juggler's arm. "Juggler! Who is this guy?" she hissed at him.
The young man turned his attention on her, his head tipped to one side and his lips parted slightly, examining her with slight amusement, as if she was an interesting sort of performing animal he had never seen before. His irises were completely white, throwing his pupils into sharp contrast. They drilled through her, pinning her in place. She might have let out a little squeak of terror.
"I have many names, little one," he said in perfect Noubian Cirquish. Her furious blush stayed paralyzed at the bottom of her throat, along with the rest of her.
Then he smiled, his eyes still holding hers but releasing her from paralysis. "But you can call me the Trickster. Who are you?"
"This is the Green Bird," the juggler said, putting an arm around her waist – the most physical contact she'd yet had with him of that sort. She looked up at him, mutely grateful for the escape from inevitable tongue-tied-ness. "So called because she is neither green nor an actual bird, apparently."
"I see." The Trickster smiled with the corner of his mouth and nodded at Bird. "I expect you two are wondering why I'm here with the bataclan," he said, watching them closely. He watched everything closely, Bird could see.
"Well, now that you mention it..." The juggler produced three tiny balls from somewhere and juggled them with the fingers of the hand which wasn't around Green Bird's waist. He didn't like to ever stop juggling for too long. "What's going on, Trickster?"
"Well, I think I'd like to discuss it with your leader, or organizer or emcee or overseer or whatever you have here. You have two singers, right?"
"Yes. And a Prince and a Princess, but they're really the violinist and a cleaning lady. The Pierrot oversees everything and the Nuts really run the place, but I wouldn't try talking to them."
"All right, the singers then. Lead the way."
They went off down the corridor, the lunch materials forgotten. After a bit, the Titan came along and ate everything except for the tubes of gel.