Here's an update! Updates will be scarce in November because of NaNo. But I might be writing asides, so if you're interested, feel free to follow me on tumblr at .com Also, if you're doing NaNo too, feel free to add me at /participants/lostonelawliet Thanks for reading and tell me what you think! I know Levi is kind of... too angry? :O
I stuck out like a sore thumb among the circus performers. I emerged in my pale blue hoodie and jeans, noting the blood stains inexplicably soiling them. I meant to ask Dr. Hanji about my miraculously uninjured body, but she was long gone when I left the trailer. There was a sort of camp set up around the tent, made of a collection of smaller tents and trailers similar to the one I'd just left. I couldn't tell for sure where we were, but it was around sunset and the ground was wet with dew that dripped through the mesh in my sneakers.
Everyone around me was in costume, chattering away about something or another, but when I passed, they all grew quiet and curious, furs, feathers and beads shifting as they looked my way. I noticed in particular how the crystal girl from the show stared, expressionless. I wanted to yell, to shout that I didn't know why I was here either, that I just wanted to go home. I saved that for my meeting with the ringleader, though, and I focused on heading to the dwindling dinner line that curved around a cluster of picnic tables under a small pavilion. I immediately recognized the guy scooping my stew into a bowl as the security officer who'd taken Armin's camera. If he remembered me, he didn't show it. Just as he was handing me a buttered dinner roll, I was nearly bowled over by one of the performers. She burst into line behind me and some other hungry guy, holding an empty bowl before her with pleading puppy eyes. "Erwin, please," she moaned as if she'd never eaten in her life. The tall blond- Erwin- smiled gently but shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Sasha, but you know the rules," he reminded her, still holding my bread in his hand. "No seconds until everyone's gotten their firsts." He sounded like a babysitter. Sasha gave a miserable pout and Erwin gave me an apologetic smile- apologetic for her, for my kidnapping, for everything, I wasn't sure- and he handed my roll to me at last.
Predatory, Sasha's eyes snapped to me. I felt the overwhelming urge to panic, seeing this strange something in her eyes that scared me a little. Her eyes fell to the bread in my hand and she pointed almost accusingly. "Are you going to eat that?"
I hesitated and slowly broke the roll in half, handing the smaller portion to her. Her eyes lit up and she devoured it instantly, as if she hadn't eaten in days. I watched her face closely, wondering where I had seen her before. Her costume was the circus' standard blue and white, bedazzled in sequins. A pair of sparkling wings peered out from behind her back, reminiscent of the circus logo. She caught me looking and swallowed her meal with a grin. "Thanks," she said belatedly.
"No problem," I murmured, and I watched her creep over to a crowded picnic table, begging for more scraps.
I made quick work of the stew and the remainder of my bread, not wanting to spend more time there than I had to and fearing more Sashas lurking in the shadows. When I was finished, I wandered around the camp, looking for a sign of the ringleader's presence. I had no doubt that he would send for me, but I couldn't wait. I needed answers. I was halfway across camp when I heard someone calling my name.
"Eren! Eren!" I turned to see Armin bounding toward me, and I caught him in my arms, grateful for his presence and instantly feeling a weight lift off my shoulders. "Armin, you're alright!"
He laughed, letting go of me to grip my arms and look me in the eyes.
"Eren, I thought for sure you were dead! When the platform collapsed, you and Jean went down and I tried to run after you, but Erwin grabbed me and kept me back-"
"You met Erwin…?" The information flew past my ears faster than I could process. Armin nodded quickly.
"Yeah, I've been here awhile now… Oh, Eren, I was so glad when I heard you were okay- you were hurt badly, but Dr. Hanji used a special miracle shot that healed you almost instantly! I was so impressed; she even told me how all of the chemicals in it work! We must have been talking for hours until…" Now he stopped, and a frown took over his cheery features.
"What is it, Armin?" I asked slowly, and he shook his head.
"Nothing, nothing, it's just…" he winced. "The ringleader is really pissed." I stared in disbelief.
"He's pissed, Armin!? I'm pissed! We're eight hundred miles away from home with no explanation!"
"I know, Eren, I know," he said with trepidation in his voice. "But when the- when Marco attacked, the whole crowd went running! News of it must be all over Trost by now…"
"Good! This place is totally fucking crazy!"
Armin hesitated and looked down. I knew he had more to say.
"Armin, what is it?"
"Armin. What is it?" Armin bit his lip and refused to meet my eyes. He mumbled softly, and I almost lost his words on the wind. Unfortunately, I heard them loud and clear anyway.
"We might never go back, Eren. After you fell asleep, I was interrogated and… and the ringleader said that we can't just leave after what we saw. That's why they had to keep Marco, Eren… Last year, Marco left Jean's side for a moment and saw something he shouldn't have…. So they just… they just took him and made him a part of the circus."
I didn't have time to think before Erwin came and told me that the ringleader was ready to see me, and I let him take me away.
There was a deep green tent on the far side of the camp, spacious but isolated, just far enough away from the rest that it became insignificant. There was a radio nearby playing crackly music, wheezing past my ears as I waited for Erwin to confirm my arrival with the ringleader. They were in there for what seemed like hours as I stood outside, staring down the circus logo etched onto the billowing cloth. My heart beat faster the longer I waited and I began to wonder if I would ever see this guy, how I could convince him to let Jean, Marco, Armin and I go home.
Finally, Erwin came out of the tent and nodded to me, giving me the okay to go in. Taking a deep breath, I stepped forward, armed myself with my best angry eyes, and hunched beneath the flap Erwin was hoisting for me, stepping into the warm room within. I opened my mouth to start my rant when a vaguely familiar voice beat me to it.
"Eren Jaeger, I presume. Have a seat." I blinked and looked around; behind me, up against the wall of the tent, there was a little desk, and on that desk was perched a surprisingly little man. I remembered the stilettoes and suddenly it made sense.
His dark clothes gone, the ringleader didn't look half as dark and creepy as he had before, but he was still just as intimidating. Hat, cape and suit gone, he was left in a loose-sleeved white shirt with some kind of scarf/tie thing tied around his neck. His eyes, half-lidded and intense, watched me lazily as I stood before him. A glass of red wine was in one of his hands as he reclined back, crossing his legs. Remembering his request I found an overturned crate and lowered myself to sit upon it, noticing that everything I could possibly use as a chair was shorter than the impromptu desk, and therefore shorter than the man on top of it.
"I'll be short with you, shitty brat. I'm not happy with a whole fucking town knowing about the intricate mysteries of my circus, no matter whether or not it's in the middle of scenic fucking nowhere." He glared at me, brows drawing close together. "So you'd better make it up to me by getting your ass in gear and performing to your highest potential. Got it, you little shit?"
I sat in silence for a moment, indignant. I tried to think of something smart to say in response, but all I came up with was, "I'm not a little shit."
"Nice fucking observation. I wish you were so I could flush you down the fucking toilet and get on with my life. You know what this means?" He hopped down from the desk, setting his wine down and leaning before me, hissing into my face. "It means that you've rid me of profit. You and your shitty friends have put me on the map, Jaeger, and I'm not fucking happy about it."
"How is this our fault!?" I demanded, leaning up to yell back at him. "What about you? What did you do to Marco? What's wrong with him!?"
"Shut your fucking mouth before I shut it for you, kid," he growled, obviously livid. "You'll find out soon enough what this circus is all about." His hand suddenly grabbed my jaw, tilting it upward as his boot came to rest next to my thigh. I was forced to look up into his face, into startling grey eyes that bore right into me. "You're going to stay in this circus for as long as it takes. You'll take all my orders and clean up every single fucking dirty track you've made. All of you will. Do you know why? Because I have something you want."
I narrowed my eyes up at him and growled. "What are you talking about?"
His features remained dismal and unchanging, nearly expressionless. "Use your head, Jaeger. If you have someone you don't want hurt, I think you can understand the complexity of this arrangement."
I thought of Mikasa. "Do you have my sister!? Where is she? I swear to god, if you touch her…"
"Shut up and listen, brat." Chastened, I did just what he said. "Tonight, you're going to room in the barracks with the rest of the performers. You're going to stay with the circus for exactly one year. At the end of that year, if you haven't fucked things up entirely, you'll be released back to your shitty little town, but explaining things is on you. You already fucked things up for your friend Mr. Bodt, so I'm doubting you'll do any better for yourself." He let go of me and moved back to his desk, taking his wine and sipping from it. I just sat, sputtering, angry, unable to force words past my lips. "I…"
"Levi," came Erwin's voice, muffled, from the other side of the tent. "Dr. Hanji is here to see you."
"Send her in," said the ringleader, and he lifted his chin, indicating that I should leave. I lunged at him, screaming, and he kicked me hard in the stomach. I fell back, sprawled out on the ground, and Erwin came in to intervene, lifting me up and restraining me, telling me to stop, asking Levi what the hell had just happened. I just kept yelling, all I could do, the world's sound diluted in my ears as Erwin took me away.