He knew why he'd gotten into Shalice's bad books; it was notoriously easy to get the slag in a foul fucking mood, but the whole episode with the trick bitch had rubbed her up the wrong way real bad. It wasn't like it was his fucking fault. She didn't understand anything. Even his troupe of fuckwits didn't get it really.

Winston thought he had it figured out, but he didn't. He thought when a clown melded, all traces of their past personality were gone for good. Winston was a naive at heart – believing in fairytales, in hope and happy endings, that the world was all black and white. But he'd been here for longer and he knew it wasn't so straightforward. Nothing was ever that easy. Life made sure to fuck with you as best as it fucking could.

So even now when he thought he'd beaten that sad old shit-stain down forever, the shadow would let out his death rattle out of nowhere, out of the fucking blue, catching him off guard at the worst of moments. Then he'd have to stop, had to hold him down under the sludge until his breathing slowed and he lay dormant again. He'd beaten the bastard fucking aeons ago, yet he was still screaming deep down at the back of his mind.

It was something you didn't make obvious though. It was your own shit you had to deal with. He didn't know when the brothers had to stop and fight it down, but he knew they had to. Theirs had been barely a battle at all, both folding under the paint without a quibble. Yet he still saw the occasional pause, only for a second, something flashing through the inane glaze of their eyes. It'd be gone in a blink. Just a blink.

He hated how easy it was for them. For all of them.

Shalice didn't know what it was like.

He'd been minding his own damn business on a show day, out for a break because the troupe were fucking around and he was about a second away from wringing all their useless necks. Through the sawdust haze and the shimmering sweat and greasy buttery air, he'd seen a flash of long black hair...just a second...just a second was all it took.

An uncomfortable niggling tingled up at the back of his skull, like a pinch or a bug bite that wouldn't be scratched away. Crawling familiarity, like an unplaceable memory in a far-off nostalgic blur. Something moving after so many stagnant years, the creak of old dusty bones and stale breath from somewhere deep down in the abyss of his mind.

He had to turn away...had to beat him down again. Fuck off. Get the fuck away. I'm in charge here, not you, not fucking you.

His squinted eyes focused on the girl again through the dust. She was walking with her parents, who in turn were carrying a toddler. The stupid fucking whore trick looked about sixteen or something, fucking bitch, fucking stupid slag slut with her fucking bitch hair and vapid fucking trick face.

The blind rage was like white-hot poison boiling through his veins, a shot of adrenaline to the chest. It crackled it's static behind his eyes, made his muscles coil up tight as a spring, made him bite his tongue and flood his mouth copper-strong with blood.

He'd kill her. He'd fucking kill her.

The fury morphed into a familiar predatory urge, something he embraced deep down into his bones. Oh Christ, there was nothing better then a good fucking hunt.

You had to be careful with tricks though. The fuckers outside, you could mess with their heads as much as you'd like, piss all over their sanity if you wanted and they couldn't do a thing. But the tricks would have half-formed memories of a circus that they'd easily forget if you kept them happy – fucking them up was a huge risk on the circus's secrecy. He'd have to lure her in with honey rather then vinegar.

Her dark head bobbed in and out of the flock of dazed cattle in the far off shimmering distance, and the warmth and the sweat and the stench made his skin prickle too hot, too tight, like electricity sparking out of control.

Yes. Oh fucking yes, he would have her.

In and out of the dark corners, through the twisting pathways and alleys, shadowing their step, always keeping a distance, but not too far, not too far. Oh wasn't it the perfect fucking family picture...fat slack-jawed father and his prim and proper wife with their doughy little munchkin and cute as a button daughter? Dear God, wasn't it as sweet as fucking pumpkin pie? Her with her black hair, in her white summer dress getting dirty in the hot heavy clouds of dust, blank-eyed like a lamb to the slaughter.

Down the Sideshow Alley they went as he watched from afar, the heat, sweat and shared animal breath mixing up in the oily popcorn and sticky candy air, thick and heavy at the back of his throat. Blood dark and pulsing through his veins, he slipped around at the edges of the crowd, watching as they stopped by one of the stalls with tacky trinket prizes and a countertop grubby with fingerprints. The father picked up his little crotch-spawn and it reached with spit-soaked hands for the biggest toy ahead of him.

The girl looked around, the crowds pushing and surging around her, parents distracted and faraway. She brushed at her mother's shoulder and only got a dismissive wave in response. He could almost taste his moment fast approaching him, the window beginning to open. She was walking into the crowd, out into the labyrinth of stalls.

Through the hot humid stupor, he watched as her casual wander steadily became one of uneasy confusion, losing her bearings in the mass of blank-eyed people. The big bad wolf loomed closer but red riding hood walked on oblivious. No huntsmen to save the day sweetcheeks, no happy endings for you.

In from the corners, he came surging through the horde like a shadow across the ground. He was so close now, he could curl his hand in her fucking hair. Pull it back and push his fingers in her eyes...

Through the stifling mist of sweat came the trails of her fruity girlish perfume.

She swung around when he put a hand on her shoulder, a momentarily glimpse of fear shining in her huge eyes.

"You lost sweetheart?"

She looked around herself, befuddled and off-kilter in the slick mugginess of her surroundings. It was almost an insult how easy a target she was, the fog in her mind making her as trusting as a child.

"Uh...I think so...sorry..."

"What you sorry for?"

Smiling apologetically, she looked up at him through the mess of her black hair.

"I'm...I'm scared of clowns..."

He could have laughed. Oh this would be good. This would be so fucking good.

"Don't worry about it," he said, eyes squinted into slits, thin lips tipping ever so slightly on it's axis. "Just follow me, I'll get you back to your parents in no time..."

Her eyes were dulled over and utterly compliant, following his lead out of the crowd, the rabbit after the wolf. Stumbling over her feet, she banged into him clumsily. His hand went down to tighten around her soft white wrist as tight as a vice.

Take her out of the alley.

Take her down the barely trodden path.

Back to the tent.

And into his room.

Stupid fucking girl.

Shalice had been so angry and the shock on Winston's old, wrinkled face had just been fucking divine. Of course she'd complained to the boss about some domino shit or whatever and Kurt had a talk to him the next day. He'd covered his ass good enough to do anyone proud. Boss, I gave her powder, made her forget it. Yeah, she'll walk out with bruises she won't know where she'd gotten and nightmares of greasepaint and red wax candles, but she won't ever know fucking why.

Don't worry bossman, no therapy in the world will make her remember this place and didn't I fuck her up better then Shalice ever could? Didn't I do a good fucking job? Of course Gonko, good man Gonko, I'll talk Shalice out of her little huff now Gonko. No worries bossman, anytime, anytime.

But oh how he loved that even if she couldn't remember, it would still haunt her to her dying days. She'd find herself bursting into tears at random moments with no apparent cause, crying her sweet little self to sleep every fucking night. She was going to grow up cold and distant behind a wall of confusion and pain. She was going to feel sick and unsettled every minute of her fucking existence. Looking over her shoulder for something in the shadows coming to get her again.

It was worth it though, even if the psychic slag hated him now. It was worth every fucking second. He'd do it again easily. Over and fucking over.

But he best thing, that no-one had the brain capacity to understand...was how cowed it'd made that sad bastard again, how beautifully submissive. Now he knew not to fight back. Now he knew to be quiet. He had to keep teaching him, reminding him, but one day he'd learn to stay in his fucking place like the good little bitch he was. He'd been dominated into silence. Shoved down once more into the deeply buried coffin of his subconscious where he belonged.

He loved it.

He just fucking loved it.