A/N: Once upon a time I was sitting in my Sociology class in high school thinking about how cool it'd be if the Pandora Hearts characters were in a circus. I don't know how and I don't know why but a lot of people apparently liked this and I never understand because I JUST LIKE BLOOD AND CREEPY THINGS HOW WAS THIS A THING?
Which is why I still weep in confused joy when the series is given fanart, especially from beautiful people like Adri-chan, who drew a scene from Clockwork Circus! I swear, every time I publish a chapter for Tinker Toybox another fanart pops up, wah -bows profusely in gratitude to Adri-chan- I love you, dearieeeee –embraces- Did I mention this awesome human being also drew fanarts for my other Elliot/Leo fic Brutally? Check my profile for links! The love continues to circulate!
…And now for death and Hell. Enjoy -bows-
6th Hour: Descends from Shadows
No matter if they were human or not, Lily always had a habit of wanting to befriend everyone she met. Leo caught her going down to visit Arthur more than once since the day he came. Sometimes he accompanied her, and Arthur would always cast him wary glances, even when he smiled at Lily, albeit uncertainly.
Fiddling with various instruments that brought back bloody memories, Leo wondered if Arthur ever mentioned to Lily that he was going to be killed. All things considered, he didn't really think so. As far as he knew, Arthur seemed almost fond of Lily. When she wasn't on a torturous tirade, the young Crimson Faust was essentially like any other girl. Of course, instead of childish gossip about dolls or boys, Lily swapped macabre stories with Arthur – digging up graves, a first kill, how innards looked when festering and putrid… Both seemed fairly engrossed in such topics, Lily sitting cross-legged in front of Arthur's circle as she played with his hair.
No, Arthur hadn't seemed to bring up his impending doom to her at all, and it looked like none of the others – including Leo – were going to take up that talk with her either. For now, Leo thought it best to let Lily have her fun, especially when it occupied the revenant as well. Elliot didn't agree with that, but he hadn't exactly come up with how to bring up the subject to Lily either.
Things had gradually began to patch themselves up between Elliot and Leo. As the day for Ada's return, and therefore the day they'd descend to Hell, crept closer, Leo found himself restless sitting in his room and training. He couldn't stay this silent with Elliot for too long. Not now. Elliot apparently had the same intentions, and the two made up as best as they could with their swallowed-down pride. It had become an unspoken truth that the impending mission could kill everyone who went, even if no one tried to think of that. By nature, Leo wasn't a very optimistic person in the first place – and given the fight, it seemed Elliot was more realistic too.
For better or worse, the next few days could be their last together, and it clung like a large cobweb in the back of Leo's mind. The least he could do was not be a stubborn asshole during this time.
After what could be considered their making up, they went back to spending their time together – exploring the attic Lily had found, playing the piano and Elliot watching Leo train. If they could, they'd spend their meals together. Leo would've been more than welcome to have Elliot in his bed during the nights if it wasn't for Vanessa, who liked to steal her brother away whenever she could. She, at least, didn't seem pleased at the increased time they spent together.
The day Ada was to return, Leo had been in the middle of going outside to stretch out Jabberwocky when he noticed her already standing in the snow with Elliot. She was walking around, dragging her feet into the snow as Elliot was huddled in a single spot near Oz's grave. Crouching like that, he appeared so tiny beside his older sister, but then again, everyone else did too. Vanessa was the tallest person Leo had ever seen, looming over others constantly and only appearing to a relatively normal height when she squatted down. Her long, spidery legs - the reason behind her old stage name Black Widow - went on for several feet beneath her black dress, never technically taking a step as her strides were too lengthy.
She noticed the second Leo came out, her narrow blue eyes glaring all the more threateningly with her great height. They followed him as Leo carefully offered a small wave, making his way over to Elliot. It felt as though he was approaching some predator's favorite toy, and the thought was comical enough that he had to bite back a smile.
Vanessa seemed to give some sort of reluctant permission, scowling as she trudged through the snow again.
Leo plopped himself down beside Elliot. "Morning."
"What are you two actually doing out?"
Elliot nodded toward Vanessa. "She could only be in the room for so long without feeling cramped at some point," he said, quietly enough that the winter breeze covered his words from his sister. He rolled his eye. "I told her she should make use of being out here. I mean, there's no one to shove us back into little boxes anymore, so she should go out more often. I finally managed to convince her last night."
Leo looked at the slender form of Vanessa a few meters away. "She's really stubborn, huh?"
"Family trait," Elliot supplied with unusual lightness. "Plus some life circumstances."
"Can't blame her then." Leo shivered a bit, pulling his coat closer to himself. He looked pointedly at Elliot, who was wearing only a long-sleeved shirt and pants. Not even any shoes. Vanessa he knew was in her dress and a little scarf. "How are you not frozen over yet?" he asked critically. Neither sibling was even flinching away from the December chill.
Elliot blinked, looking at Leo in incomprehension. Finally his eyes roamed over the long Pendulum coat, the wool scarf and boots Leo had on. His brows raised a bit. "I dunno. I never got really cold before. Neither have the others so much. Probably because back in the circus, we couldn't really do anything for warmth." His head tilted a bit and shrugged. "I guess our bodies got used to it."
A scoff left Leo. "Remind me to undergo such prestigious training one day," he said, pulling his scarf up to his nose.
"Is it that weird?"
"Elliot, to be honest, I don't know what is weird for anyone anymore. If anything, let's assume that word has been slaughtered from our dictionaries. No questions asked - everything is normal."
Elliot quirked a half-smile at Leo's word choice. "Speaking of slaughtering, you came out here to train some more right?"
"Yes. Ada's coming by later this evening, so there's not much time to perfect some fighting skills."
"You nervous?" It was a serious question, and they knew it was a much sugarcoated one as well. Nevertheless, Leo smiled appreciatively at Elliot's concern, humming.
"I'm terrified," he admitted with more shivers. He danced around the topic as much as he could, never trying to see too much into the flashbacks of being lured into the forest by Oz, seeing parts of the demons on the other side in Hell. If he gazed into them too long, he'd start to feel nauseous. Just the after terrors of his nightmares recently were enough to make him woozy. He huddled closer to Elliot. Taking a bracing breath, he steadied himself enough to say, "I try not to think about demons a lot. I've never really seen one even though the man that raised me was one. I try to remember more of Glen than I do of the...things I saw. And recently, I see them in my nightmares, too. It's the same thing with the fire in Sablier except they're there, too, the demons, and..."
"I understand." Elliot reached out to pat his hand down on top of Leo's head. He even offered a smile. "Besides, you and the others got Xerxes with you. I don't think anything can take that man down."
The realization made Leo raise his brows. "You've been talking to him, haven't you?" Elliot's worry truly knew no bounds. It was comforting to have someone who cared enough to do that though, even after such a large fight about it.
Probably hearing the rising lilt in Leo's tone, Elliot hunched his shoulders a bit in embarrassment. "What? I can't talk to people?"
When he was certain Vanessa wasn't looking, Leo kissed Elliot's cheek in answer. "Well, I will admit, for all his shadiness, I trust Xerxes. More or less. Just with things like this," he chuckled, pulling away. "So what'd you talk to him about?"
"I was wondering about how things would be once you got down there. Like, if maybe there was some emergency exit if things got too bad and," he coughed, "went to hell." The pun earned him a punch from the raven.
"Of course he'd think that far ahead. You've known the man longer, Elliot; give him some credit." He assumed of course that meant Xerxes had gone over the plan more or less to the blond. The silver-haired man had said himself that he'd been thinking of ways to escape should such a time come. Transportation circles were surprisingly not fully out of the question. True, while they could hop from place to place around the world, Hell was a different realm entirely and could not be entered so easily. Xerxes, however, went over once more the bridging of worlds.
"If you can build the bridge, you can do anything," he had told Leo. "We're essentially doing the same thing with Arthur, keep in mind. He is our bridge to get to Hell. To bounce back, we'll need our connection from there to here." He hadn't mentioned what their bridge was exactly, but Leo had long since decided to leave such technicalities to Xerxes.
As for him, well - he had Jabberwocky. As long as he could still fight with his scythe, it would be fine. Leo got up at the same time Vanessa came towards them, now walking in her full stride, presumably to reach her brother all the sooner. She stood towering over the both of them, but she hardly acknowledged the raven-haired boy, which Leo thought to be just as well - she'd probably have something witty to say if he spoke a word to her.
"Elliot, I'm going back inside," she said. By which, of course, she meant that so was he.
It went over Elliot's head though and he waved her off. "Okay. I'm going to stay out here a bit longer." He craned his neck all the way up to look at her, but the comical look this gave him didn't take away from the unwavering gaze in his eyes that firmly addressed his sister. "I'll come back in later, Nessa. Just a bit longer. You go on though; don't want you getting frostbite."
Vanessa opened her mouth. And shut it. She gave Leo a withering look (the raven made sure to pointedly be interested in the snow beneath his boots) but nonetheless relented. "Fine. But don't take long," she finally said, in a scalding murmur quiet enough that he almost didn't catch it. Leo was half-surprised she didn't just use her long legs to give him a propelling kick backwards as she trudged back to the mansion.
In a familiar haze of purple smoke, Jabberwocky extended out and laid in Leo's hand. "Maybe you should go back," he offered, albeit half-heartedly. He didn't mind training in front of Elliot if the blond didn't.
Elliot shook his head. "Like I said, I will later." He scoffed a bit. "Geez, won't you two just let me do as I please? A thing called free will, that's all I ask you both to grant me. Abyss..." As Leo looked for a suitable place to start training, Elliot asked, "Wouldn't it be better to have a sparring partner? Are you planning to just hack at trees?"
"A lot of them are dead anyway," Leo defended. Way back during Oz's attack on the mansion, he had managed to burn down quite a few of the surrounding forest trees, leaving them as ashy silhouettes.
"Well, the demons won't be so dead, you know."
When Leo looked back, Elliot had fallen back in the snow. "Xerxes! Dammit, appear like a normal person, would you!?" The blond huffed and shifted away from the silver-haired man crouched there beside him. For once, it seemed like Emily wasn't with them, and his shoulders looked too naked, and Xerxes significantly less cordial looking without her. He fixed Elliot with a hopeless look before jumping to his feet.
"If you need a partner, I'd be more than happy to volunteer!" He said it in the same lilt he always had, but there was a definite gleam in his eye that, truth be told, made Leo a little nervous.
"You?" Leo searched Xerxes' person. "With what weapon?"
Smiling, the tip of his cane tapped into the snow and he pulled on the other end of it. In one practiced motion, a shining sword, thin and long, unsheathed itself from the sleek wooded confines of the cane. Leo gave it the appraising look it deserved yet at the same time he was somehow unsurprised that Xerxes would produce a weapon from it - or rather, that it had been his weapon all along.
The corner of Leo's lips quirked up in amusement. "You're serious. Okay then." He spread his legs a bit, getting into a comfortable stance, pointing Jabberwocky at the silver-haired man. "I've always been curious how you went about fighting."
"Don't expect too much," Xerxes said, tossing the sheath part of his cane to the snow. "I'm going to try to be fair to you. You're still a brat like the others, after all."
The two exchanged smiles, unwavering in friendliness even when the first two blows were given, both blocking in a fast sync. Jabberwocky's winglike blade was stopped by Xerxes' sword and shoved down near the snow. Impressive, but again, not surprising. Leo heard that taunt in Xerxes' voice but he wasn't going to rise to the challenge in words so much as action. In fights, words were unnecessary. Seeing how Xerxes moved was a lot more beneficial than hearing him speak. The silver-haired man actually chuckled in delight, as if reading Leo's mind.
Leo moved first, bringing his scythe up out of the sword's way and yanking Jabberwocky forward in an attempt to make Xerxes lose balance. In a fluid movement, Xerxes ducked and jumped back a step before lunging with his sword at Leo's opening. It had been so fast and practiced that despite Leo's reflexes, he was still cut shallowly in his shoulder, ripping the cloth of his coat.
There was never time to be too surprised though. Both of them were beginning to get serious now that a weapon had gotten the first taste of a successful strike. Leo's legs moved quickly to get out of the way of Xerxes' stabbing motions. The silver-haired man never attacked singularly, however. Every stab was coupled with a swift swipe as Leo moved out of range. Jabberwocky was still the longer weapon though, and Leo swung lightly, trying not to give Xerxes another easy opening.
Too many close calls happened. Leo's mind started focusing more and more on dodging Xerxes' attacks rather than trying to figure out how to counter. The silver-haired man truly was fast, and Leo's parries were beginning to get sloppy. Cursing under his breath, the raven adjusted his grip, jumping to the side and swinging Jabberwocky more powerfully at the same time.
Xerxes inhaled sharply, arching his back away from the blade. Leo missed. He was too open again. Xerxes took the opportunity without hesitation and brought his sword down. Elliot had shouted an alarmed protest and Leo stumbled into the snow.
He wasn't cut. Xerxes hadn't taken the strike. But as soon as Leo sat up, the cold side of the silver sword pressed beneath his chin. Leo would have to press forward just the slightest bit more to have the tip puncture him. He glanced up. Xerxes was grinning.
"Okay," he relented respectfully. "You're good."
Xerxes pulled his sword away, walking over to where he discarded the rest of his cane. A sharp metallic sound tore the air when he sheathed the blade.
Leo fell back into the snow with a deep exhale and sent Jabberwocky away. Elliot came over to him and Xerxes came back to loom over the two, looking quite pleased with himself. "How did you learn to fight like that?"
The manner of Xerxes' smile changed to something more mysterious. Just like that, he was back to his aloof ways. "It was required of me years ago to be such a skilled fighter for one in my position. Though to be sure, that was but a fraction of what I can do, even without magick or my 'strings'." He swung his cane over his shoulder, tapping it in the empty place of Emily's spot. "Although you weren't bad yourself, I would've thought you could be a bit, oh...better after having a demon to raise you."
Leo didn't take it as an insult; Elliot did though, hissing under his breath and glaring at the silver-haired man. Leo closed his Pendulum coat a bit more closely to himself. "I didn't even know Glen had a scythe until that night. When he taught me how to fight, he couldn't give me any demonstrations or anything - or well, he wouldn't, I guess. He taught me some basics and by the time Charlotte came around, she became the one to show me how to take down CM's."
"Shame, that." It was hard to tell if Xerxes meant Charlotte's death or Glen's inability to have properly taught Leo. The raven was personally sorry for both. "Well," continued Xerxes, "I suppose you adapted well nevertheless. You really do have good instincts, even in you're forced to think quickly. It will be the most useful thing for you in Hell. Adapting to things is always your greatest asset."
Curiously, and seeing that Xerxes seemed to be going somewhere with his words, he asked, "Then how have you adapted?"
Xerxes pointed to his eyes without a word, grinning.
Now Leo was truly impressed on top of shocked. "You're blind?" Amazing. Xerxes truly was amazing. Not only was he a skilled fighter, but despite his disability (which was hidden so well Leo wondered if it could even be considered that), he was an excellent close range swordsman and didn't restrict himself to long-range styles, which someone without sight would do. Normally. Xerxes was far from that though, Leo knew, and now even more so.
"I can't make out color anymore," Xerxes said, bending down. His fingers grazed over Leo's cheek. "And most that I see is a little more than some smeared mess. Not even a little blur. Mister Leo is like one mass of black to me."
Leo turned to the silent blond beside him. "Did you know about this?"
"Well yeah. When it came to trying to accept him in the circus, he showed me one thing to convince me he belonged." He looked over at Xerxes and seemed to be waiting for him to follow up on the statements. But Xerxes was isolating himself, rocking his head to and fro to an invisible tune and looking oblivious. Leo's eyes went back and forth between them, waiting for someone to start explaining. Elliot finally exhaled deeply and tapped his eyepatch. "He's like me."
"Well actually, you're like me," Xerxes corrected, still rocking his head and looking off into the forest. "My eye was taken first, if you recall correctly."
"Huh?" Xerxes had long bangs just as Leo once had, but his were parted to the side, the silver hair falling over almost the whole left side of his face. Come to think of it, Leo hadn't ever seen all of Xerxes' face - or rather, both of his eyes. His mind jumped to that night at Sablier, when Lacie had taken off her blindfold to reveal two mismatched eyes - one had been Elliot's, vibrantly blue with fresh blood running down it. The other had been a dark crimson color, one who's twin Leo was more familiar with than he thought.
Leo's throat went dry. "Xerxes, you mean that-," he stopped short, realizing too late he was talking to air.
Elliot groaned beside him. "This is exactly what I'm talking about when I say he has to stop that! Abyss, we need to attach some bells to him or something." He got up and wiped the snow from his pants. "Come on, let's just go back inside already."
"Um. Okay." Leo followed Elliot back to the mansion, albeit his legs moved of their own accord, his mind too busy working through the new information he had gotten. He understood why Elliot's eye had been taken, but wasn't entirely sure why Xerxes was in a similar state or how it happened, when he experienced first hand how powerful Xerxes could be. It troubled him deeply, the connection between the silver-haired man and the undead demon Lacie.
Xerxes Break... Who exactly are you?
The day passed too quietly for a looming dark occasion.
Later, Leo, Doug, and Fang all went out to spar each other some more, with Xerxes joining the fray every now and then. The raven appreciated his presence there; it brought up their morale significantly. He had gone back inside when Xerxes and Fang started talking magick with one another and holed himself up in the piano room. Elliot was already there and the two went on practicing a song together. At some point the twins had come by with Cheshire and fell asleep under the spell of the pouring melodies.
The day continued aging.
When the sun had started to set and the shadows began to grow longer, that heavily-expected knock echoed throughout the mansion. Leo stopped playing. Elliot stopped moving. The twins and Cheshire roused from their lazy sleep and time narrowed down to that single second of that knock's sounding.
The music room's door opened and Echo poked her head inside, her eyes focusing intently on the floor. "Mister Leo, Miss Ada has just arrived. Mister Doug went to get her."
"Ah, okay. I guess we should go see her then." Leo left the others in the room, but after going halfway down the hallway with Echo, he could hear them follow, the twins chattering in hushed tones.
Ada was in the same room as before, Reim dutifully there beside her with his hands over one another on his lap. Doug looked out of place in the room, and even sitting down across from them, he noticeably hulked over their forms. No one was saying a word so Leo broke the ice, clearing his throat. Ada's face lit up at spotting him. "Evening. I hope it wasn't too much trouble to come here." He bowed his head a bit and took a seat beside Doug.
"Not at all! It was harder than I thought waiting for this day," Ada confessed, smiling as cheerfully as ever.
Some whispering caught his attention. Leo noticed Echo hadn't come into the room with him and was lingering near the open door with Elliot, the twins, and Cheshire. "Ah, Doug?" Leo leaned forward to peer into Doug's ever-drawn-up hood. "Can you go get Fang, Xerxes, and Sharon? And close the door while you're at it?" he added in a lower voice.
Doug didn't even nod, silently getting up and leaving the room with the sweeping of his over-sized Pendulum jacket. The man was of few words by principle but when he did talk to Leo it was usually to hush the raven-haired boy's nonsense. Lately though he seemed to be speaking even less, being in what Leo was surprised to see a rather brooding mood. He suspected it had to do with the loss of some of their family. Doug certainly didn't look it with his large form and snakelike eyes, but he was a deeply caring person.
They waited until the others arrived before deciding to get to the matter at hand. By that time, Xerxes was doing most of the talking. Beside him, Sharon looked anxious. Emily, resting on Sharon's lap, also had an oddly nervous gleam in her button eyes.
"So you will help then?" Ada cried happily, her large emerald eyes positively sparkling. It startled Leo to see such a bright reaction for a mission like this.
"That's right," Xerxes said with an agreeing smile. He had come into the room with nothing in his hands but now he was tapping a wrapped lollipop against the corner of his lips.
Ada was wriggling in her seat as she turned to the man beside her. "Oh, this is wonderful! Isn't it, Mister Reim?"
Reim nodded, but he was gazing directly at Xerxes. "Have you come up with anything then, in terms of not only preparation, but arriving to our destination as well?" he asked, expression unwavering in its seriousness.
"That we have, on both accounts," Xerxes returned in such a manner it was as if he had taken Reim's question for mockery of his efforts.
Although still looking excited, Ada calmed down enough to pay attention to Xerxes' words then tapped a finger to her cheek. "Amazing. I've been searching through every information faucet I have to find a reliable method to Hell and yet I came up empty," she said, voice soft in awe for the silver-haired man. Her eyes ran over him, trying to place him.
"Emily helped greatly, you know," Xerxes pointed out. "Practically conceived the whole idea herself, she did."
The doll's head lifted at that, the stitches of her sewn smile stretching. "Ever hear of revenants, girly?" she crowed.
"Oh!" After expectantly moving their attention to Sharon, both Ada and Reim stared down at the doll nestled in her arms. Rather than seeming alarmed like Reim, Ada nearly glowed with amazement. "Oh my! Miss Emily is you!"
"Pleased to meet you!" Emily said with a bow of her stuffed head.
"Uwah! You're so beautiful!" exclaimed Ada in glee. Leo almost laughed at her excited reaction, which he was sure was one Emily had never gotten before.
"Isn't she just?" Xerxes said, obviously just as pleased. "Emily was the one who suggested we use revenants as our transportation guide during our little trip."
Reim pushed his glasses up a bit. "By which you mean you're going along too?" he asked, seeming skeptical.
Nodding, Leo said, "Everyone in the room with us is going. They're all more than capable of handling the descent."
Reim still didn't seem convinced, his eyes roaming from one person to another with that critical look of his. He gave a particular look of disapproval to Xerxes, who was noisily unwrapping his lollipop. At first, the silver-haired man seemed totally oblivious to the look he was receiving, but after giving his piece of candy a loud suck, he pointed its red sphere at Reim. "I daresay, with that look it's almost like you don't want me to go."
"After visiting the mansion previously, I took some liberties in investigating the members of Pendulum. And you're not one of them, nor are you a Crimson Faust," Reim said matter-of-factually. His brows arched as if daring anyone to contradict his research claim. "You and this young lady here - and your, er, doll - don't have the crimson robes that Pendulum members wear, and you fit no profile here."
"That's because the three of us don't belong here," Xerxes answered simply. "If you had done some more digging, you'd find that we were once a part of the Clockwork Circus."
Ada had jumped a bit, leaning forward. "You were with Oz?"
"Indeed. Quite the charming...boy." Brat, Leo knew he wanted to say.
"But that means you're a circus performer. What can you do?" Reim asked.
Xerxes' lips twitched in annoyance. "You two are the ones in need of bodyguards. I am one. What can you do?" he retorted, straightening up into a confident position. When Reim didn't answer, Xerxes exhaled triumphantly. "Hmph. I don't much appreciate such a condescending tone from someone so useless." He sucked on his lollipop some more, and Reim looked positively shocked.
"We'll be able to explain everything if you'll come follow us!" Sharon cut in, already rising to her feet. Still cradling Emily to her, she hastily walked across the room, beckoning the others urgently. "Come now, the sooner the better, yes?"
"Pleasure to meet you by the way, Miss Ada," Fang greeted to her once everyone was out of the room. "You too, Reim. My name is Fang. I see you know Doug and Leo already. I hope to be of great help during this mission."
Ada beamed up at him, clapping her gloved hands together. "The pleasure is mine! I'm so grateful to each of you for agreeing like this. I know this will be quite dangerous."
"Which is why, if I may ask, what it is a young lady like yourself doing planning such a journey? Leo explained things, but I'd like to hear from you."
It was like she was about to delve into one of her favorite subjects in the world with how she lit up even more. Leo tuned the two of them out as Ada began explaining, focusing instead on Sharon who was whispering furiously to Xerxes. No doubt it was about his comment to Reim earlier. Leo decided to tuck the experience away as a reminder not to irritate the silver-haired man.
The minute he caught the voices rising up from the staircase on the other side of the door, Leo's insides clenched. He led the way with the lantern, and sure enough, once he stepped foot in the dungeon, there Lily was, chattering away with Arthur. The revenant was nodding at her words, but it was obvious from his expression he wasn't paying attention - immediately his eyes snapped up to meet Leo's when the raven-haired boy entered.
Lily looked up too, stopping mid-sentence to take in the crowd that just came into the dungeon. "Hey guys, what are you doing?" she greeted, completely carefree.
Why now? Leo glanced at Fang. The man was no stranger to Lily's time with her new friend, and his lips settled in a grim line. "Lily, what are you doing down here?"
"I wanted to talk with Arthur. I hadn't finished this story I was telling him yesterday. Oh, Fang, you were there too though! Want to help me out? I can't remember how you killed that CM at the elementary school, but it was really cool! When I turned back around, there was just a line of blood all over the walls!" she exclaimed excitedly. Not seeming to notice she wasn't going to be answered, her large blue eyes caught Ada and Reim lingering at the rear of the group. "Oh, are those the people you're going to go with to Hell? Hi, I'm Lily!"
Although Ada was smiling as she waved, she seemed to have caught on to the atmosphere and wasn't speaking.
"Hey, Lily?" Leo said, gesturing for her to get up. "Why don't you go play with the others? See, Arthur, he's," he couldn't tell her, "he's coming with us. And we need to leave as soon as possible, so..."
She pouted, but nodded in understanding. Leo was more than grateful for her lack of questions. "Okay. I should've known he'd go with you when you brought him here. Is it really that secret of a mission though? Arthur would never tell me anything about it." Her pout turned into a scowl and she huffed with dignity. Hands on her hips, she shot up and started going up the stairs. Turning back, she said, "Don't leave just yet though. You know the others will want to say bye before you go. Okay? We'll wait at the front door."
"Okay, we promise then," Leo said to satisfy her. He watched as she grinned and hopped up the stairs, humming to herself. He couldn't bring himself to stop thinking of how cheerful she was, even as Xerxes went on to explain Arthur's purpose to Ada and Reim.
"Are you really okay with this?" Ada was talking to Arthur. He'd been silent throughout the explanation, and between the dirty red strings of his hair and sunken eyes, he already looked very dead. He tilted his head up a bit to meet Ada's eyes but didn't answer.
"We should really go. Night's going to arrive soon," Leo said. He didn't want to hear Arthur's answer again. His impending death was just bothering Leo more and more as the minutes wore on. As Xerxes broke Arthur's circle and bound him once more, Leo swept his eyes over the room, filled with all sorts of torturous weaponry. With a shrug, he told Ada, "It might not be very effective compared to what we'll be up against, but do you want to take anything with you so you at least feel safe?"
She offered a small smile. "I feel safe enough with everyone here."
Leo stared at her. She wasn't necessarily dressed for combat, but it was miles better than the frilly dresses from before. Her attire was a short, long-sleeved black dress and knee-high boots that seemed suitable enough for walking and possibly running - they didn't have heels, at least. Black stockings covered her legs, thickly laced like the gloves on her hands. She had nothing on her person he realized except for the book-sized bag strapped over her. Whatever was inside it - which couldn't be much - Leo hoped it was something that could protect her.
Of course, now he felt the need to look over at Sharon. Her dresses had never been as fancy as Ada's but she hadn't gone out of her way to wear anything different either. Sharon noticed him staring and smiled, lifting up the hem of her skirt to her knee. There were straps around her leg, and there, held in place, was the familiar machete she and Elliot had used that Halloween night. She smiled and smoothed her skirt over, looking pleased with herself.
As she said, Lily was there at the front door when they emerged out of the dungeon. Echo was standing there too, shifting her weight every few seconds and still not looking up from the floor. Hovering behind her were Elliot and Gilbert, who was wearing a black cloak to hide his wings. He looked at Leo until Ada came closer, and his eyes widened slightly at the sight of her, of what Leo knew he was thinking was the last trace of Oz. And she did look so much like him.
"Everyone else didn't want to come out," Lily explained to Leo quietly so that the others wouldn't hear.
"It's okay." And because he wasn't entirely sure if he'd be able to do it again, he tousled her short hair. The unsure way he did it painfully reminded him of Glen. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ada had introduced herself to Echo, Elliot, and Gilbert, the latter seeming to engage in some quiet conversation with her afterward. Leo wasn't going to interrupt that, so instead he offered a small wave when Elliot walked over to him.
"So this is everyone," the blond said, surveying the small crowd. His brows were furrowed deeply, and he was looking straight into Leo's eyes. "Are you ready then?"
I'm leaving Elliot behind. I might not come back. I might die. He managed to suppress a shudder from the demon flashbacks. Leo did the best thing he knew how to do when his heart started racing too fast in fear - he pretended it wasn't there. He put it in its box and buried it deep inside him, and instead turned to where his confidence in darkness lay. Glen told him many times he wasn't supposed to lose control, he wasn't supposed to become some animal ripping apart flesh and crave to consume the basest life essence inside - heavy, beating and red.
For the mission in Hell though, Leo could think of no side better to release than his animalistic one.
When he finally did manage to find his thoughts again, Elliot was giving him a concerned look. Leo offered a smile. "Ready as I'll ever be. I'll be back before we know it."
Elliot didn't seem too reassured. He reached out to grip Leo's hand. "I don't care if it means going down there for nothing, if anything really bad happens, get out of there. The truth or whatever doesn't deserve your life to get to it." He squeezed Leo's fingers, and the raven haired boy was ready to tease him, but that was before he saw Elliot's face. It was as if he'd cry any second, but the deep furrow of his brow showed how hard he was trying not to show such sadness. Leo's smile softened and he squeezed Elliot's hand back.
"I promise," he said. And he meant it. No greater risks than necessary could be taken there.
"Alright, if we're quite done with our good-byes, let us be off then," Xerxes loudly, gaining everyone's attention. "The sooner we get started, the better. I already have the transportation circle drawn but we'll need to leave now."
Lily was hugging Fang and Doug and demanding for them to tell her all the stories of what Hell was like. Gilbert seemed to be saying his goodbyes to Ada. Echo, who had been silent throughout, finally came up to hold on to Leo's sleeve. She wasn't looking down at the ground anymore, and her blue eyes stared him down in worry. He patted her hand. "We'll be back, Echo. I still have a lot of books to read you. So both of you be good and watch over the others, okay?" he said as Lily hopped up beside Echo. "While me, Fang and Doug are gone, you'll be the ones protecting the house. I know you'll do well with that."
"Yessir!" Lily exclaimed dutifully as Echo nodded. Xerxes had already opened the door and was leading the others outside. Before he had moved a single step however, Leo was grabbed again, this time by the youngest Baskerville. Her mod had shifted completely, her large eyes welling up with tears. "Hey Leo? You all will be okay, right? Because...Oz alone was scary and really strong, you know? And...Charlotte was really good at fighting but still..."
"That's different," Leo said, but he wasn't entirely sure if it was. He patted Lily's head. "But we'll be fine. No one will..." He bit his tongue. No. He might not be able to keep such a promise, and saying it would be reckless. He smiled down at Lily. "No one will die."
That put a reassured smile back on her face. She waved enthusiastically to him as he stepped up behind the group. The transportation circle was already glowing with everyone inside it, the magick radiating tangibly in the winter air.
"We'll be taking off for Sablier," Break said from within the center of their group. "It's a barren place and away from prying eyes. We'll be fine to travel there and open up our portal. Take care that you're completely within the circle. If this is your first time traveling by magick," he smirked, "I do hope you're not the queasy sort."
Their circle shone brighter, the rise in power making their clothes fly wildly in the artificial wind. When Leo looked back at the mansion, Lily, Elliot and the others were standing in the open door frame. A little higher up, movement caught Leo's eyes. Curtains had rippled and parted, and even in the darkness he could make out all the others that were staring out their window at them, hands pressed on the glass, some with wide eyes.
The circle's glow swallowed them. Leo couldn't see anything.
Elliot couldn't sleep.
He had the sinking suspicion he wouldn't be able to as the hours went on and Vanessa was calling him to bed. She usually slept with her body folded in on itself so that she could fit on the mattress. He'd never heard her complain about that and assumed she liked the position, being constantly pulled into her warmth through the night as they slept. That normally gave him enough comfort - back at the circus, they had separate cars; the last time he had been able to sleep through the night with Vanessa was probably when he was just a child. The Clockwork Circus really was just one long nightmare that they all had resigned themselves to. Most mornings Elliot woke up convinced that he was still locked inside a cold boxcar and would have to start falling all over again.
His stitches hadn't torn in weeks. The only time he ever had to be patched up again was when Sharon noticed that his threads were getting looser from movement. It was a bit odd not to have his body parts taken apart on a daily basis, and sometimes he would consider cutting off some of his stitches just to have something fall apart again. Things should be in a constant state of falling apart - there was a certain stability in that. But the new life at the Baskerville mansion that the freaks had - it was worth getting to know a new kind of stability. One that meant something more of a safe home. An actual bed to sleep in.
Elliot glanced over at Vanessa, her breaths quiet and even as she slept soundly. The ornate clock hung on the wall showed that an hour had passed while he'd been laying there waiting for even a sign of weariness to hit him. He exhaled deeply through his nose, staring up at the high canopy of their bed, acutely aware of the fact that there was something missing in the mansion; that it, despite its large size full of others sleeping in their beds, was undoubtedly six individuals emptier.
The reminder, constant and never-leaving, made Elliot struggle for want of sleep once more. Knowing it would accomplish nothing but another hour of restlessness, he let out a frustrated breath and straightened up, rubbing his face with his palms. He really needed to get out for a while. The others had sort of swarmed around him and made him busy nearly the moment Leo and the others left with Ada. Although he appreciated their sentiment all the same, he still needed a moment to himself to sort out his overwhelming thoughts.
With this new sense of purpose, he watched over Vanessa as he carefully got out of bed. The door opened silently and Elliot slipped out into the hallway. His feet led the way to a destination he wasn't particularly certain of, even when he was sure just going around the mansion wasn't going to help him. Not when this was where...
Leo never did fix the knob to his door. There was an obvious attempt with the tape that at least kept the splintered wood together, but the screws were still loose and the knob was still lopsided. And so the door hung ajar. Elliot pushed inside.
The entire mansion smelled like Leo - old books, something herbal, and beneath that, if Elliot was honest, blood. But here, in his room with his bed and clothes and books, the scent was stronger, and Elliot breathed slowly as he quietly sat down on Leo's unmade bed. The messy state helped, even the book on the nightstand with a marker inside it. Those kinds of things made promises. His hands tangled into the sheets idly as he looked around the room. Bringing up the subject of him spending the night with Leo was always an awkward subject with Vanessa, especially when he knew she'd flat out reject the idea and would guilt him into not leaving her. Elliot had never laid down and slept in the same bed as Leo before. He smiled a bit at the other three books buried beneath the sheets, wondering if Leo slept with them still there. Elliot wasn't going to put it past him.
It was only when the silence began to stretch that he realized the grandfather clock wasn't making a sound. Elliot got up to inspect it in the dim light. Leo had made such a big reaction when the clock had started ticking, even when Elliot hadn't even noticed it was broken. He tapped the round face. "Hunh…" Well, whatever. He went into Leo's closet, not feeling very guilty about the long purple scarf that he took out of it – sharing clothes was one thing he had done a lot with the others back in the circus. Elliot wrapped the cloth around his neck slowly, having not worn something like this since he was little.
When he figured he had put it on properly, Elliot walked out the room and descended the flights of stairs as quietly as possible. Going out the great front doors would make too much noise so Elliot maneuvered carefully in the darkness for one of the back doors. Well, as carefully as he could with one eye. Things like depth perception and distances were something he still needed to perfect, and he was painfully reminded of it with every bump on a door frame or table.
No one was stirring inside the mansion so far as he could tell, but the place was rather large. Either way, there was no one there to stop him as he quietly opened the back door. A wintry draft flurried into the mansion, bringing in some stray flakes of snow. Elliot crept out into the night and took some steps away. His feet were bare, but as always he didn't feel much of the cold as he stepped out into the snow. It was certainly there and present, but it held no piercing bite to him. He just passed it off as another abnormality his body had.
Well. Whatever worked. He brought Leo's scarf up his nose, inhaling the raven's scent with every breath as he stepped through the snow. He didn't know in particular where he wanted to go, if anywhere at all. Right then, wandering sounded as good as anything. Hands in his pockets, he walked up and past Oz and Charlotte's graves, giving them little nods in greeting as he passed them and headed a little further towards the edge of the wood.
He wasn't particularly certain what was beyond the trees, and he became acutely aware of how little he had known of the outside world in many years. A sort of primitive fear took over him, and he retreated back slightly, walking just along the clearing's border but still weaving through some icy trees.
And Elliot thought. Leo had done it after all. He and the others were probably making their way to Hell right then, if they weren't already there. Elliot licked his lips, tasting a bit of the cotton material in the process. He didn't know when Leo would be back... If he ever comes back. Elliot's remaining eye narrowed a bit. Oz's demon form had been the most terrifying thing he had ever seen in his life. And yet Hell was full of creatures far worse than that.
He shivered, picking at the material of the scarf. He had faith in Leo's fighting skills, especially after he witnessed the exchanging of swings between the raven and Xerxes. He trusted in Leo's instincts, the sort that he didn't have. The sort that would prove useful in such life-threatening fights, like the ones that happened back in Sablier...
Elliot couldn't help but frown from the blood-stained recollections. He had been so...useless in Sablier. He could finally see that. Lacie had taken him from the ruined circus and then brutally stolen his eye away from him. He'd even been Jack's hostage. And even though he had fought off Cannibal Marionettes, he had never assisted in a fight when it mattered.
And even now, Leo's the one down there with the others to protect Ada. I can't even protect him. He can go to places I can't because of his powers as a Crimson Faust. Elliot stopped walking for a moment, letting the small snow flakes tangle in his hair as he looked down at his hands, pink and wet from holding on to branches. He pulled back one of his sleeves, showing his threads beneath. All I have is this stupid body. Leo may not be human either, but at least his freakishness helps people…
All his life, Elliot had been helpless and used in some way, just like the ragdoll his body was. He went from owner to owner, presented like some new toy to play with. It started back at home with his doctor, and went on when he and Vanessa were brought to the Clockwork Circus. For years he acted as entertainment for all curious enough to watch a teenaged boy fall and break into pieces.
Until Leo. Elliot remembered that night so clearly, falling just like always from his tightrope, never reaching the other side. He had closed his eyes, waiting for it to pass, already feeling disconnected from his body. That was before some boy on a flying scythe had plucked him off the air, and for the first time Elliot didn't reach the ground in pieces.
From that, up until now, it was just Leo trying to protect him, protecting others like he had all his life, no matter the twisted form his protection took. He could still fight. And Elliot?
...I'm still just the useless ragdoll I've always been.
Frustrated, tired, and suddenly full of self-loathing at his own powerlessness, Elliot let out a growl, swinging a punch as hard as he could into a nearby tree. "Goddammit!" he cursed. Another punch, the cold wood scraping his knuckles.
"Dammit, why can't I protect him too!? Why did I have to have this body!? Why? Shit! Fuck! Shit shit shit!" Elliot punctuated each curse with another blow to the frozen tree until he even felt the cold enough to numb him, just a little. When he stopped, he was breathing heavily, frustrated tears pooling around his eye.
Leo was right... He was right...
Elliot let himself fall this time, crashing onto his knees pathetically. "Dammit..." His fingers slowly curled in the snow and he curled up, Leo's scent still strong around him.
The night wind blew eerily, whispering. His hair blew in its cool gust, the scarf flailing above him in distress. With every hard breath, Elliot got the feeling of being absolutely and utterly alone. Slowly, his hands moved from the snow, crawling up to loosely hug himself. Elliot had been torn up in every sense of the word before - but he would rather be put under the knife again then be subjected to the unbridled pain that was his bleeding insides for a second more. He couldn't believe his own patheticness, and tried to will himself to move, but he stayed curled up in the snow, frantically wondering over and over again why things had to be like this.
The wind was picking up, and with a terrifying shock Elliot realized the wind was whispering - there, right at his ear:
"Come with me."
Elliot yelled out, getting up but only slipping in his frantic movements. He searched all over, trying to decipher shadows in the trees. "Who's there?" he called tentatively.
There was nothing but eerie silence in reply.
Aware of how hard his heart was hammering, Elliot tried to gather himself. He slowly got up, backing away from the trees and toward the mansion. When a few more seconds had passed and nothing still happened, Elliot tried to convince himself it was some nightmare vision. But it had sounded so real... The wind had come alive and spoken to him, he was sure of it. It had sounded like no one he knew though, not even Leo, who he had been thinking desperately of. Elliot frowned deeply, instead trying to shake the invasive whisper away. He really did need to sleep, and staying out here too long might really freeze his feet over...
"Come with me, I said. Come with me, young man."
"Who are you!?" Elliot shouted, turning around. No, this wasn't his imagination. There was someone there. And if Elliot had to take a stab at it, he'd be willing to bet they weren't human either.
A few meters from him, the shadows in between the trees shuddered. Elliot panicked, wondering how many of whatever the hell were around. Was he surrounded? The shadows twitched collectively and melted down, creeping over the snow. Elliot remained rooted to the spot, eye darting around on the off-chance a suitable weapon was nearby. There wasn't; just a small branch half-buried in the snow. And the shadows were advancing upon him. Elliot grabbed the stick anyway, the frost shaken off as he brandished it as surely as a sword.
At that moment, the shadows had gathered to a point and were forming something, a figure rising higher and gaining more form and color until it was a man that stood in front of Elliot. His lips were spread wide in a cordial smile for the blond, and amusement danced from the one eye, lavender and luminous, that Elliot could make out in the darkness of night. Only the barest hints of the man could be deciphered in the moonlight, and though Elliot couldn't find a weapon on him through the dark cloak he wore, as a man who appeared from shadow, he was a dangerous threat.
Elliot got into what he thought was a fighting stance, holding out the frozen branch to the intruder. The shadow man raised his brows in surprise, his shoulders shaking in laughter. "What on earth do you plan to do with that?" he asked. His lips weren't moving, but there was no question that it was his voice that Elliot heard, his laughter that echoed in the air. His voice, no longer carried in the wind, was a smooth lilt, yet somehow it still sounded like his lips were right beside Elliot's ear. The blond suppressed another shiver as the man came forward. He slapped at Elliot's wrist like the blond was a disobedient child. "Come now, put away your toys. I've come quite a long way on serious business, so I'd like you to pay attention."
Elliot shifted back, still holding onto the branch. "Get the hell away from me. And get away from this place!" he warned.
"Huh? Such a face for a child to have." The man wasted no time this round, snatching the branch with a loud protest from Elliot and tossing it to the side. "Now then, won't you listen? As I said, I came on important business, but if you're not going to listen then I waste my time on you."
It was a fair distance away from where they stood to the mansion. If the stranger held malicious intent, there was no way Elliot would be able to run back. Elliot regarded the man severely. "When are you going to answer my question and tell me who you are?" he said in a low voice.
"That's not important right now. Though if you must insist on knowing how to refer me," a wide smile played upon his lips, "then you can think of me as your benefactor. You see," he began to pace around the blond leisurely, his long cloak dragging against the snow, "there's something I've been entrusted with, and I won't be able to accomplish it without your help." Elliot hadn't moved from his spot, but he felt the man's gaze on him, tracing chills up his spine.
"I think you got the wrong guy," Elliot said with a dry laugh. "I'm just a freak. You're wasting your time, so just crawl back to the shadow you came from."
"You're going to make me leave without hearing me out? Even when it concerns Leo Baskerville?" An assured smirk had been curling Elliot's lips before hearing that. "See? Got your interest now, don't I?" A finger, long, pale and bony tapped against his cheek and Elliot squirmed away.
Glen and Lacie and Jack were dead. No other person should know about Leo or the others. Then again, Elliot didn't know everything about Leo's life. He didn't know what enemies or allies the Baskervilles might've made before he came to the circus. But Elliot was still hesitant, unsure if the man was friend or foe. What Elliot did know though was that, even if just for a word or two, if it concerned Leo, Elliot had to hear out the man. His eye still narrowed, the blond tilted his head down just slightly to show he was listening. "What is it?"
Looking pleased, the man explained. "There's a demon that used to live here, one I was acquainted with. Of course, he went by a different name back home. To you, he was the individual known as 'Glen'." The man continued walking, turning dramatically to look at the lonely mansion. "Well, he's passed now. Though I'm sure you of all people know that."
Elliot could still remember the last struggles of Glen Baskerville as he fought off death. He could still remember how stiff the man had gotten, his chest falling for the final time as he thought despairingly how he'd tell Leo.
"As it is," the man went on, "there are some loose ends I need to take care of in Glen's place. One of them is the safety of his foster child, Leo. Who has made the the decision to descend to Hell, if I remember correctly?" He made it sound like it was an effort to remember, even when he looked back at Elliot knowingly.
"You're the omniscient being here, you tell me," Elliot growled back, his jaw setting hard.
The man didn't deny the sardonic accusation. "Bit of a dangerous place Down There, isn't it? I should know, I live there, you see."
"You're a demon?"
The man's hair, silver-shining in the moonlight, flew ominously behind him. "Do you have any idea how dangerous it is in that place?" he asked. "It's a struggle just for demons to go about their days without blood spraying all over their front porch. Gutting another demon just because they looked at you funny is the norm there. And those demons come in all shapes and sizes, their scythes just as different and deadly from one another. They don't kindly to each other, much less a little human brat who stole his powers from a demon."
"Leo knows how to use Jabberwocky-"
"Yes, and so would anyone else who kills him and steals it. He wasn't born with the scythe, and so it isn't his. He'll never be as powerful as a true scythe wielder. Leo and the other Crimson Fausts might run the show here, but in Hell? They're just toddlers with some shiny toys."
Elliot's heart thudded in dread at the sound of the words he had been avoiding all along, spoken and confirmed in seconds by the stranger.
"In that cursed place, he will surely die."
In a great huff of breath he reached out, clawing at the man's clothing as he drew him closer. "Tell me then! Don't dangle this shit in front of me, tell me how I can help!" He shook, angrily searching the man's amused face. "Aren't you here to tell me how to help Leo?"
The man, unfazed by Elliot's outburst for the most part, tilted his head. His hands came up to calmly join the blond's. "Tell me then. Is it your wish to protect him?"
Yes. Abyss yes. I don't want to be the useless doll anymore! "Yes," Elliot said in a desperate hiss, his grip tightening.
Thin fingers slowly drew back his sleeve, just enough for the man to trace over his stitches like they fascinated him. His face had gotten a bit serious, his lips slightly open in thought before curling into another amused smile. "I've got the perfect gift for you then. Elliot, is it?" He stopped his movements over the blond's stitches as he looked up to meet the single blue eye he had.
Elliot jumped when the man shot his hand out with a speed he hadn't anticipated. He nodded in answer to the man's question, slowly as the hand crept up the side of his face like a spider, fingers slipping beneath the straps of his eyepatch. He didn't flinch away as the stranger lifted the black cloth, exposing his empty socket to the cold.
The man laughed again, a friendly chuckle that didn't match the severity in his gaze. "Look at that. We match," he said, brushing back his long bangs to reveal the bandages sloppily covering nearly half his face, the white strips previously concealed by the heavy curtain of silver hair. "Since we're coming into a first-name basis, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Revis."
More than disturbed over the chilling feeling of those fingers dancing around his socket, he couldn't suppress the shudder from hearing that name come from those unmoving lips. "What now, Revis?"
"Now?" His hand dropped to Elliot's cheek, caressing it and his other hand crept up his own pale face. "Now, with this assurance to your intentions and fidelity… I grant you your wish."
Ending A/N: So I'm really sorry for how long this took, by the way. I thought with only four classes this semester I'd have more free time, but the homework given compensates for that -makes a face- So I combined a little bit of next chapter into here to make it longer. If I didn't update at least once on this month of months I would be so disappointed in myself. I haven't been completely inactive though and published a few Elliot/Leo one-shots on my tumblr in the past weeks that I haven't put here (-cough- this is totes why you should follow me there -cough-)
Also! I'm getting quite a bit of help nowadays with this story because of my friend, Geta (gugeta here and on tumblr, by the way). He's really helping a lot like wow. I had a block about certain things, but he's been giving ideas, part of which was included in this chapter and will continue next chapter -laughs- So yes, all the thanks to him for supporting the story so!
Speaking of which, Geta and I are working on a collaboration Elliot/Leo wingfic called Cadenza Triste! It'll be here on my account so please do support this new story when it gets published, it'll mean a lot to the both of us! -bows deeply-
My first writing workshop already passed in my Fiction Writing class. It's made me realize all the flaws in my writing and things I need to improve on. Since I've sort of written whatever the hell I want since I was nine, the critiques I got were very enlightening. It kind of made me see how far I really am from achieving my dreams, but at the same time that's good because from now on I can only improve! So I'm trying to approach my writings a lot more critically now, starting with the things I invest the most of my creativity in - my fanfics! So if anyone notices if I've gotten better, even a little bit, then everything is worth it -smiles-
Reviews will revive my soul and make Leo and Elliot see each other sooner (and like, not die beforehand I MEAN WHUT).