A.N.: Hello everyone! So this is one of those ideas that I just went damn, this is mind blowing. It had so much potential that when the original author decided to join the life outside I had to adopt this idea from her. I kept this story in the spirit of her as much as I could but I do have a vastly different style that obviously colors my writings. So thank you INUJ.E.S.06, for your approval and your support in taking over this fic. I hope to do you justice and to be able to satisfy your loyal fans with my interpretation. Again, this is just one of those things that called to me so much that I couldn't write Jaded Eyes to my satisfaction until I got this down! Lol Now the pairing for this fic is undecided but it will be straight. I thought I'd do something new for once lol, please don't be shy letting your opinions and ideas be known. Frankly I'd love for some of my readers to throw some outrageous ideas my way so I could work with them! Its one of those Ideas that haunt your every waking moment…now on with the show!
Chapter 1- Winning the Mob
"Remember to Breathe." In. Out. In. Out. The calm before the storm, absolute calm was vital, no emotion, no expression besides those that were staged… and no fear. That was vital, no fear. Not that he knew how to be scared anyway, he didn't know how to feel a lot of things. Not that it held him back at all either, he could fake most of them and those he couldn't…well…he covered up enough to pass.
But there were things he had to remember, like he had to remember to breathe. A great showman must never be arrogant enough to forget the first rule, 'Don't get cocky you'll make mistakes.' So he chanted, "Remember to Breathe", before every show it was sort of his motto, something that kept him grounded. He took deep breaths, in, out, in, out and plastered a childish smile on his face before he stepped out into the spotlight.
He gave the crowd a sheepish expression as he waved and the Ringmaster's voice boomed throughout the stadium amplified by the microphone in his hands, "Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Nicoli Alessandro Maxamiliano! The youngest performer here a Circus Du Sortilège" The audience roared their approval while Harry blushed and waved back shyly accepting the praise, his entire demeanor perfect for his role. "He is only seven years old! Watch and be amazed as he performs his routine from over thirty feet in the air! He will be using NO NET! So please remain silent as to keep from distracting the performer!"
The spotlight followed him as he made his way to the ladder that would take him to the platform, it only took him a few minutes to reach it meanwhile the circus clowns were entertaining the crowd with their high jinks. A hush fell over the crowd as he stepped up to the wire, you could feel the nervous energy as every eye stared, transfixed, on the small boy thirty feet above the ground.
No one could hear Harry as he chanted his nightly mantra, "Okay, back straight, shoulders squared, arms raised high, feet centered…and as always…remember to breathe." He stood perfectly still for a moment, drawing the crowd in with nervous anticipation, most leaned forward and waited on baited breath for that first step out onto that thin wire. Harry didn't disappoint, he stepped out smoothly with the grace of a well-practiced move. His heart pounding in his chest as it always did during these times, bum bump bum bump bum bump.
The steady pounding was as reassuring as it was nerve racking, still none of this affected him as he went out 'freehanded' as usual seeing no need for a balance bar as most did. His body tensed as the music began, a loud baritone classic that would heighten the anxiety and thrill for the crowd. One foot was firmly planted while he raised the other and began what had become to be known as the 'Dance with the Devil'. In quick succession he twirled up and down while drawing out the fans from his belt, the first props in his act.
No one dared to say a word, as they watched him dance and twirl along the rope, fans out, the music reached its height just the queue Harry had been waiting for! And he leaped! Doing a three double back half spring in the air to land perfectly with one foot on the wire the other extended and hands held high. The audience roared, the crowd went wild but Harry continued on, oblivious to the multiple near heart attacks he had caused from his little stunt. Flipping upside down he let the fans fall to be caught by the clowns below eager to do silly tricks using them.
He walked perfectly straight on his hands, then the dance began anew, flips, leaps, twirls, spins, outfit shining, crowd roaring, and the enchantment had begun! Soon no one in the room wanted to let their eyes wander from the small form so high up in the air, the belt sash at his waist flew about, so it appeared as if he had wings. Then the finale came, the Ringmaster calling a hushed 'Drum-roll please', and the audience waited at the edge of their seats wondering just what this boy would do!
He leaped! Straight off the wire, a cry rose up, some stood in collective fear as they watched his small body curl into a ball flipping down, twenty feet, fifteen, ten and then…he unfurled and caught the awaiting swing! The crowd couldn't even breathe as he gripped the swings handle to rotate back, forth, back, forth in a soothing motion. And then just as they began to laugh, clap, and smile off their nervousness he let go…arms spread and eyes closed as he fell back. There was a loud Whoosh as everyone sucked in a breath and Harry surprised them again!
Five feet from the ground he tucked in his arms to spin rapidly to the side and into the awaiting net that caught him as the crowd went wild, utterly entertained. The circus clowns used this time to do a bid getting him out of the net, clumsily and hilariously furthering the wind-down from a very high-tension performance. Harry did his part in this, shyly bowing to the applauding crowd and blushes at the appropriate times. Playing his role like the professional, he was, using the right facial expressions and gestures.
Finally he was allowed to leave the spotlight letting him release the slightly strained expression and relax his tensely squared shoulders. Harry was on his way to becoming a great showman but he still disliked the crowds and spotlight. Right now he was looking forward to a nice cold shower, some dinner, and his bed. He made it to his small trailer with no problems, no one paying him much mind as he weaved through the people and only pausing every so often to nod a familiar painted face or two.
Harry lived just off to the side; his trailer was the smallest and had no identifying marks on it as most 'Spotlights' did (they called the ones who preformed in the main tent 'Spotlights' 'cause the spotlight followed them). It had a small bed, a bathroom, and a furnace he could cook on if he was creative. He headed straight to the bathroom grabbing a large sleep shirt and a towel along the way. He took a quick ten-minute shower, got dressed for bed, and headed to his furnace to cook something up really fast.
He took a can of soup from under his bed and let the furnace heat it up while looking around for his elusive book, eventually finding it beneath one of his costumes. The Boss picked up a lot of 'strays' as she called them but as she so often preached 'just 'cause you ran away to the Circus don't mean you lose an education too'. To stay at Circus Du Sortilège you had to be talented, a good showman (or woman) and you had to pass high school. Harry happened to be gifted, in more than one way. He was insanely intelligent, an amazing actor and extremely talented in a variety of other areas.
Harry had joined the circus two years ago. Vernon had abandoned him when the circus had come to England and the ironic thing was that it was probably the best thing Vernon had ever done for him. The circus was his home in more ways than one, it was a 'freak show', it had a diverse group of people, it had animals and it had a wonderful education system. There were a lot of minors that ran away from home to the Circus most of them were talented enough to stay so Boss had long ago collaborated with an independent study program so that they could get an education.
The program was set up in such a way that if you were smart enough you could finish all your schooling in just three years if you really tried at it. Harry loved the challenge that it posed because he often found himself bored without something to occupy his mind which often led to him doing something to entertain himself…usually it was very dangerous. You see Harry had something most tightrope walkers strove for, no fear, none whatsoever in anything really. Most of the time it got him into more trouble than it was worth because there wasn't anything Harry wouldn't try up there…the Boss hated that.
So the program was a very good thing as it kept him occupied enough to keep him from doing stunts that would really give some people heart attacks to watch. Currently he was halfway through the high school curriculum with only 100 more credits to go, it was the American Version, and he found it to be a little too easy at times. There was a small knock at the door so Harry put down his chicken noodle soup can and his book to go answer.
Alexis was at the door. She was a tall, blonde, beautiful French woman that had taken an odd liking to him and Harry generally didn't really care. He found most of the older women working at the Circus took strange likings to him and so he just accepted it. "Ah, Mon Petit, You were dazzling tonight!" "Alexis, why must you always find reasons to come here?" "You wound me Mon Amore! I have no idea what you're talking about!" "Well, if you just wanted to compliment me you've done so now, will you leave me to sleep?" "Hmmmm, I may Mon Petit…" She gave him a sly grin, "IF you tell me goodnight properly!" He sighed, "Bonne Nuit ma Belle?" "OUI!" She kissed both his cheeks and skipped away.
As soon as she was gone Harry grabbed some wipes and cleaned his face, before he went back to his books. The great thing about living with a traveling Circus was that you tended to pick up languages, especially if you started as young as him. The Circus traveled the world, (one of the few left that did), and so they had a wide range of people working here. They all spoke English of course but they also spoke in their native tongue …Harry tended to pick them up as he went along. He already knew French, Russian, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Gaelic, Japanese, and Korean. That was only the tip of the iceberg at the Circus as there were still Arabian, Indian, Portuguese, Chinese, Mongolian, Bulgarian, German, and Latin speakers here (Though the Latin one was self taught and it wasn't his first language like the rest).
He was in the process of learning those as well, and the funny thing was he was the only one in the entire Circus that actively tried to learn the home languages of everyone. It was part of the reason he was so well liked as everyone else had decided to use English as the universal language when they needed to communicate. Harry had never been altogether 'normal' so he fit in quite well and got along with most everyone. Sure, he faked half the things he did because he needed to fit in but he thought he was doing well enough at pretending to have emotions.
Humans were something Harry had never been very good at figuring out. Now animals, THERE was something he could relate to! Animals weren't hindered by emotions like people were; they relied on instinct. Animals Harry could talk to and understand it was all about survival with them just like him. Killing was necessary to eat, just like sleeping and mating all necessary biological functions nothing that needed to be overcomplicated. However humans thought differently so Harry acted accordingly; wearing a mask in public was a very wise thing to do in a hostile environment.
He was…irregular, he knew and accepted this; accepted that he saw the world in a way no one else did and that was perfectly okay with him. He had always been alone, would always BE alone in a sea of people trying to survive long enough to achieve freedom or until he died…whichever came first. Existence was a funny thing for Harry, he just was, no need to over do it with romantic notions of a greater purpose. He lived, and he would die…simple, clean, something Harry appreciated as a constant in his life.
He wasn't ambitious, saw no reason to be, he just liked knowing things so he strove to know everything he could possibly learn and this worked well for him. He was already ahead in his studies, in fact he was sure he would be done with his high school credits by next month, and it was just something that satisfied him. Much like standing on a thin rope thirty feet above the ground where a fall would mean certain death satisfied him, it made him FEEL alive like nothing else did. The pounding of his heart, the adrenaline pumping through his veins and the crowd roaring in his ears…now that was life.
Realizing he wasn't going to get anywhere with his books tonight Harry decided he would clean up his trailer then head off to a much deserved sleep. A brief look around told him that it was nearly spotless though the laundry people had dumped his costumes, very carelessly onto the floor and they had messed up his tidiness a bit. After everything was perfectly clean, everything was straight and nothing was out of place anymore he slipped under the covers to sleep.
He woke the next morning at seven as usual and began to get ready for his day. As he stepped out to the quiet of early morning he contemplated his life and the many things he learned while living in the circus. The thing about living in a traveling caravan, like this one, was that everyone had a story, and many were much more tragic than his own. Even the Boss had an interesting story to tell, Anita used to be a Manners Mistress for a very prestigious Private school in Spain up until about fifteen years ago.
She had been young when she had started to work there, only twenty and fresh out of college having graduated early with honors. She had worked there for seven years, long boring years she liked to say, and then one day she found herself in love with one of her students. He was eighteen, past the age of consent so it wasn't all that scandalous when they started their secret 'sordid affair'. It began well, no one knew and they had been so very much in love at least that's what Boss had thought.
Then a year into their relationship the school found out, the parents had been furious and Boss had been fired right off for it. That hadn't mattered much to her at first, she was in love and so they had hatched a plan to run away and elope. However, her lover never showed up at their meeting place leaving her high and dry with not so much as a 'Chio'.
She found out later his parents had threatened to disown him if he continued to see her and that the pampered boy had chosen money over her. Heartbroken, Boss couldn't find work anywhere as the school had black listed her and soon she had lost everything, her home, her job, her love, everything. Eventually, she found work balancing the books for the prior owner and making sure everything looked up and up. That had been Twelve years ago, somewhere along the line the other boss had retired and given the circus to Anita. That had been the best thing that could have happened to the old, small, rundown circus because Boss had turned everything around.
She had turned a small local Circus into a worldwide wonder, hiring the right people and doing what it took to make it a success. Her tale was a story of success and maybe just a touch of tragedy as she never fell in love again, having sworn never to expose her heart like that again. There were more saddening tales too, like Alexis' the beautiful French acrobat. She wasn't one to talk about what had happened to her before she had joined up with the Circus but one night in a drunken stupor she had told him.
She was the daughter of a bridge builder in her country, her mother had died when she had been young and her father had raised her normally at first. Then one night when she had just turned twelve he'd snuck into her room, and many nights after that to do what no father should do to a little girl. He had appeared the doting father to everyone else but her, giving her gifts and paying for her to take gymnastic lessons. Harry thought that her father had felt guilty for doing that to her so he had tried to make it up in other ways…while still taking what he had wanted from her.
When she had turned fifteen her father lost interest in her, so he loaned her out to some of his 'friends' for the right price of course. That had been the last straw for Alexis, she had begun to save up money years ago and after a week of being 'loaned out' she had made a break for it. She'd joined up with the circus not long after that, becoming a Trapeze artist and she had never looked back. Alexis never wanted to be with another man after what she had gone through, reasonably enough, and was currently dating the Tarot reader, a woman named Jasmine.
Now Jasmine's background wasn't the best either, she had the burn scars covering her back and part of her arms to show for it. When she had been ten her drunken, trailer trash mother decided it would be a good idea to whore her out for some extra cash. She made the mistake of giving her to the first offer she had gotten, which happened to be a psycho serial killer (that got caught years later). His M.O. was lighting his victims on fire to watch them burn, mostly whores. Jasmine was the lucky one, he got interrupted and the paramedics had managed to save her. She had run away after she had gotten out of the hospital and had never looked back.
Frankie, one of the clowns, was on the run from the Mafia…no one was entirely sure why but then again no one really wanted to know…just safer that way. Stephan, Alexis Trapeze partner, was gay and had been disowned by his rich pretentious family when they had found out. He had a very extensive formal education he was never going to use and was the one teaching him to speak Latin…mostly so he wouldn't forget the language he had worked so hard to learn.
Joseph, an animal tamer, had been in the Military (Black Ops) he didn't like to talk about the things he'd seen and done but sometimes Harry could hear him screaming at night (his trailer was near Harry's). Akira, the 'magician', had been a street rat that had tried to pick pocket Boss on their first tour of Japan and instead of going to jail he got a job. He was very good at his slight of hand tricks and was very entertaining when he was in the 'zone'. Annabelle was a gypsy fortuneteller, and a medicine woman. She had run away from her 'village' when her father had arranged for her to marry a man she did not love.
Isabella and Ciro, the elephant riders, were lovers who had run away to elope a few years ago. Their families were in a feud, so they were a regular modern day Romeo and Juliet story but without the bloody ending (there was still time though). They were happy enough and liked seeing the world outside of Italy. They told the greatest stories about what they'd seen and done since they had joined, Harry liked to listen to them at times.
Kain, the Ringmaster, had once been a top Stock Broker in the American market. His work had kept him away a lot from his family and one night he hadn't been able to make it home. Kain had come home the next day to find that his young wife and twin daughters had died in their sleep from carbon dioxide poisoning. The fireplace had sprung a leak in the middle of the night, it had been a terrible accident but Kain had blamed himself. For a long time he had just wallowed in his misery and self-pity. However, one night he had come across a drawing the twins had done that depicted them as Ringmasters in a circus and he decided right then he would do what his daughters could not.
Isaac, the feline Trainer, was an orphan and had been constantly passed around from foster home to foster home since he was a baby. Because of this Isaac had lost touch with reality a bit and preferred to stay in his own head. Isaac was a grown man now, at twenty, but he acted like a small child most of the time. Boss had picked him up when he was ten, and had set him to learn under Hans. Isaac was innocent by nature and constantly had a smile on his face. However, many doubted he was 'all there' since he constantly talked of things that couldn't possibly exist. Harry thought he was entertaining.
Baki and Banu, the gunslingers, had been bank robbers once upon a time. They had gotten away with a lot of money before the feds had caught up with them. However, they could never find any hard enough evidence to convict them and so they had pretty much gotten off Scott free. Turns out that all the money they had stolen they had given away to people who actually really needed it, modern day Robin hoods if you will. No one wanted to testify against them and so here they were dirt poor, happy as clams, performing in a wandering circus.
Each person working here had a story, a tale to tell and every one was just as interesting as the last. Harry liked discovering their stories and, if he had been inclined to, he could have written a book filled with them…it would have been a best seller. Here there was a little bit of everything and it was interesting, to say the least, growing up surrounded with such a diverse group of people. He had only been in the Circus for two years but he'd seen more of the world than most did in an entire lifetime.
He had been with them for their recent tour of Europe, and Africa, now they would be moving on to Asia, Japan, the Caribbean, then they'd take the states by storm. Harry hadn't seen England in nearly two years and wouldn't be seeing it again until he was at least nine…it was a fair tradeoff though. He went through his morning work out routine before taking the ladder up to his tightrope to practice some new ideas. Harry wanted to get this done before everyone else began to start their day, as the Boss would have his head if she caught him doing some of the things he did.
That was the benefit of being a light sleeper, Harry hardly ever slept and when he did it wasn't for very long. The Circus ran late, closing sometimes at Three in the morning but it wouldn't open until Four in the afternoon giving the workers plenty of time to rest before prepping. The others usually were up by eleven, to practice; to cook, to repair things, to groom animals or some of the many other necessary tasks needed to keep the place running. Harry was one of the only ones to get up so early, besides him, Joseph got up around the same time and so did a few others. As a result it was relatively peaceful in the morning and there wasn't much to disturb his concentration when he wanted to practice some of his more dangerous stunts.
The fact that Anita didn't wake up until eleven and wouldn't see him doing it was just an added bonus. It was ten before he was satisfied with his practice and jumped down the usual way in order to avoid climbing down. He liked feeling like he was flying when he was falling, something he never would admit to anyone and probably never would. Anyone who knew him knew that Harry loved his job; he loved being so high above everything and everyone.
He made his way back to his trailer just as everyone began to trickle out of theirs to begin his or her own day. Harry took a shower, dressed, made a snack, ate, and began to do his schoolwork. Harry wasn't 'on call' until seven p.m. so the day was pretty much his to do whatever he wished. Most days he spent completing his growing pile of schoolwork, others he spent mingling with the workers learning whatever they had to offer.
Harry had picked up some of the oddest talents over the last couple of years due to his habit of learning whatever anyone was willing to teach him. He had learned hand-to-hand combat skills from Joseph, he was learning swordsmanship from Ru Shi, Boss forced etiquette lessons on him (she WAS a former Manners Mistress), Tina (a makeup artist) was teaching him hair dressing/make-up, and the list goes on. He might have not been able to really 'feel' anything but that never stopped his thirst for knowledge of any kind.
Acting was one of the many skills he'd picked up while living with the Circus having found that most people where disturbed by his emotionless persona. So he'd hidden behind a polite, friendly façade that allowed him to blend in with the crowd and kept his real personality under wraps. It wasn't that he wanted to fool everyone it was just that most people where very disturbed when a child his age never smiled or laughed. Besides Harry had learned a few very important life lessons in the Circus, the most notable had been from Kain the Ringmaster. On his first opening night he had taken Harry aside and told him something Harry never forgot.
"The most important thing Harry isn't that you do well," Harry had tried to protest as that went against all logic and logic was something very important to him. "No listen to me Little one, doing well doesn't matter, what matters the most in this world is winning over the mob." He pointed behind him to the awaiting audience that was buzzing with noise in their seats. "You could be the best Tightrope Walker in the world but it wouldn't matter if the mob hates you! Remember winning them over is half the battle; the crowd is a fickle beast Harry so every move you make has to be made just right flare. If you mess up, play it off with your boyish charms and they'll love you for it. Remember Harry, win the mob…"
That was one lesson Harry never forgot, it went way past 'winning the mob' it was the lesson behind those words that had given Harry something he would use for the rest of his life. It wasn't about 'winning' people over it was about how well liked you were, popularity was very important. If people liked you, if they had no reason to hate you than life was so much easier for it. The one surrounded by enemies, was surrounded by strife…. So Harry was perfectly polite, never too friendly and never to cold, was how he kept himself well liked among the people that made up his world.
By four o'clock Harry had already eaten lunch and had begun to warm up for his performance that night. He took a jog around the Circus, as it wasn't that busy yet, and ended up near the big Cat pens. He stopped when he spotted Joseph talking to Isaac the Feline trainer and went up to them to see what was going on. "Hey Joe, what's all this then?" he asked with his friendly little smile firmly in place.
Joseph looked haggard today, he probably hadn't gotten much sleep last night but he still mustered up a pleased grin when he saw Harry. Isaac was as energetic as always and seemed to be bouncing on the balls of his feet hiding something in his arms as he did so. Joseph wasn't in the mood for games though and gruffly answered, "Cilia, the Tigress had cubs last night and this cub," Isaac finally showed a small sickly looking baby tiger the size of his palm, "is one of four. It's the runt…we don't think he'll make it though."
Harry wasn't very affected by this as most small boys would have been but something about that tiny cub pulled at him. It wasn't emotional, no; it was more of an understanding. They hadn't thought he'd make it in this world either. He hadn't been wanted, he had been too small and he'd been as weak once too. So Harry made a decision and held out his hands to Isaac, who passed him the small thing right away, a little smile on his face. "I'll take care of him. Maybe it'll help, but if it doesn't he was going to die anyway." Joseph nodded in understanding and turned to speak with Isaac about how they would go about raising the other cubs, which would do what and so on.
The performance that night was as death defying as the last, and Harry walked away to thundering applause once more. Jasmine was waiting for him just outside the tent holding the small tiger cub in her hands, her costume of billowing robes hiding the small thing from view. "You were wonderful tonight Harry," Jasmine said in a small breezy voice as she handed him the cub. "Soon people will come just to see you perform," she smiled a little at him and brushed his hair from his forehead. Harry allowed it and soon enough she was walking off to return to her stall to duel out fortunes to the masses.
Harry headed off to his trailer but stopped along the way to pick up supplies from Isaac so he could care for the cub properly. The Circus was thriving with life, painted clown faces grinned at him as he passed. He could hear the ringing of metal against metal as the sword duelist put on a show; heat licked at him as he passed by Jerry the flame eater. Julie was balancing on a rather large ball as she juggled knives to an enraptured crowd.
Whispers greeted Harry as he passed by the reptile pit. Abhay, the Snake Charmer, was playing with a poisonous king cobra much to the horror of the crowd. Cindy, the contortionist, waved at him as she folded herself up into a box for Akira's trick on stage C. Bobby, the giant man, was booming with laughter as Thomas the monkey boy swung from his extended arm. Everywhere one looked there was something to capture the eyes, ensnare the senses, some performance that played on the heartstrings, and the people loved it.
People came to the circus searching for the strange and unusual. It made Harry think of what Akira had once told him, when he had asked him why the masses were so easily fooled by his tricks. 'It is not that my tricks are hard to see through…it is that they come to be fooled and so they are…' The people come here to see freaks, and here they found them in a plenty. Taking his eyes from the various performances Harry looked to the small cub cradled in his arms and wondered how his life would have turned out had he not lived here. The very thought made him cringe and as he made it into his trailer he forced such thoughts from his mind.