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Greatest Show

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Every two years, the circus comes to town. No one knows how, or why, or even who . But, without fail, on the summer solstice of every second year, a large, painted dome appears in the fields outside of Neverwinter. No fanfare, no preparation. One second there’s nothing but grass and dirt, and the other a red-and-white striped circular structure. People have tried to stake out its location to see how it appears. None have ever succeeded. Some say they pass out, others that they were knocked out, a select few that they forgot. One way or another, the mystery of the Circus remains unsolved.

They call it the Circus because it has no other name. At least, none that anyone knows. Whenever its name is said, it turns to static in a person’s ear, so they’ve stopped trying. It’s simply the Circus now, no fanfare or otherwise. No one knows why, or if it’s part of the act, but what’s the point in asking? It’ll just ruin the magic.

Magic doesn’t exist, of course. Some who have seen the Circus say otherwise. They say the place is magic-- real magic. Not the special effects or tricks that others may use. Critics and skeptics say that it’s impossible. They’re skilled con artists, and nothing more.

When Angus McDonald was born, the Circus was in town. Again, when he turned two, then four, then six, then eight. Angus McDonald is ten now--the world’s greatest detective--and he plans to figure out just exactly what hides behind the Circus’ star-embroidered curtains.

 


 

Angus doesn’t remember much from his past visits to the Circus. The first memory he has was when he was . . . six? Five? Seven? No, the first one was right. When he was six. He remembers his grandfather took him because his parents didn’t want to. He remembers the loud cheers of the crowd, the smell of smoke and the feel of energy electrifying the air. And he remembers the fanfare it spun the town into. Everyone, even his parents, were ecstatic to have it around. His grandfather didn’t make it to his eighth birthday, and his parents would never have taken him, so Angus didn’t ask. 

Because of that, he’s had to do research for most of his information. He doesn’t mind researching. Angus prefers spending his time alone and curled up in the corners of the Neverwinter library with a good book. But no books have been written on the Circus, so he’d had to go by word of mouth, interviewing anyone who’s bothered to respond to him. 

He’s learned that, overall, there are eight main performers, though no one knows their names.

First to perform, always, are the Twins. An enchantingly beautiful, nearly ethereal pair of skilled trapezists that defy gravity itself with their stunts. After them is the Protector, who seems to be their strong man. Rumours say he’s fought a bear before--multiple times, even--but for the most part, all accounts focus on his acts of strength around the ring. He’s lifted one Twin on each arm before, along with the rest of his performing troop.

The Peacemaker is up next. Angus doesn’t know why he’s called that, but no one else seems to, either. He’s a charmer, of sorts, only instead of animals, he works with plants, playing pan pipes that cause flora to bend and grow under his control. It’s the one Angus believes the least, but every account has been so consistent that he finds it hard to be fake.

The Wordless One proceeds him. He’s never said a word, hence his name, but he doesn’t have to. His illusions say everything for him. Angus had asked if they meant holograms, or something of the sort, but everyone he’d spoken to was adamant that they were illusions.

The show closes with a double act. Both Twins, the Lover, and the Reaper. The Lover used to be a technician, people say, but one of the Twins managed to convince him to do an act. The two act out a love story through dancing and juggling--along with fire, of course, thanks to the Twin’s influence. Meanwhile, the Reaper and male Twin perform death-defying acts, though it’s mostly the Reaper who puts himself in danger. He walks the tightrope, sometimes with a scythe, sometimes with the Twin sprawled dramatically in his arms. Neither of them, as far as Angus has found out, has ever been injured during an act. 

The Director is the leader of it all. She’s the spokesperson, the ring leader, the leader of the pack. From what Angus has heard, she has no act of her own aside from leading the show. Still, they say, she leaves one of the strongest impacts of them all.

Angus turns ten tomorrow. (Ten? Eleven? Nine?) 

The Circus arrives in less than twenty-four hours, and he will be getting some answers.

Chapter Text

Angus doesn’t know what to expect from the Circus. He hasn’t been to many performances in the past, at least none that weren’t overly formal and stifling. He’s not sure what to wear because of that, but looking around, formal pants and a vest weren’t the best of choices. Most kids are in loose fitting garments, such as skirts or shorts, but Angus owns neither, so it’s not as if he could’ve done much, anyways. Luckily, he only stands out because of that, not because he’s a child without his parents. There are plenty of kids running around the set up stalls, unsupervised as far as he can see. 

The stalls, Angus knows, aren’t really a part of the Circus. They’re townspeople and businesses profiting off its appearance. But no one’s exited the Circus dome to complain or shoo them off, so it must be normal for the occasion. It reminds him of the outdoor markets his grandfather took him to once or twice, with cheery vendors calling out above the white noise of the crowd as the smell of food and drink fills the air. Angus pushes past it all, keeping his head low as he weaves through the crowd. This would be the last place his parents would look for him, but he can’t be too careful. There are no Neverwinter guards as far as he can see, but he’s not going to risk them being undercover. 

From what he’s been able to overhear, the dome will open at sundown. He isn’t sure why they can’t set a more direct time, since it all depends on one’s definition of a sunset, but he’s not their leader. Instead, he wanders around, trying to pick up anything he can from the scene around him. There aren’t any tickets, he doesn’t think, which is good, seeing that he didn’t bring anything but his detective’s kit and notebook. Along with guards, he’s been trying to keep an eye out for anyone who may actually work for the Circus, but he’s had little luck. He’s walked by a few performers, but all of them seemed to just be street ones that saw an opportunity in the crowd. His favorite had been a young woman with fiery bright hair and a bunny that was far too large to be normal. She’d done some pretty impressive fire tricks, but when Angus asked if she worked for them, she’d simply laughed and shook her head.

“I wish I worked here!” she’d told him, setting fire to a piece of paper pinched between her fingers. She’d then winked and smiled, blowing it out as she said, “If you know where to submit applications, come find, kid! I’d gladly take it up.”

That was the furthest he’d gotten. People know very little of what’s actually going on here, which makes Angus somewhat suspicious. Setting up a dome so big overnight would be a lot of work, ignoring the fact that those who tried to camp out never remembered it. Angus has scoped out its front, but he hasn’t found a single crevice or hinge, leading him to think they somehow moved it all at once. Which, considering it’s about the size of a soccer field, he severely doubts would be possible, but he severely doubts a lot of things. None of it fits together quite right, and thinking about it has been giving Angus a headache.

He’s so caught up in his thoughts that he barely notices the shift in the crowd. Angus McDonald misses very little, though, so the very second the doors open, he’s on his feet and running towards the entrance. Even from far away, he can see the opening that wasn’t there before in the dome. It’s not as if a part of the wall had been opened or pulled away, but more like it was never there in the first place. It’s left a rounded hole wide enough to fit two people through, which has proved to be quite ineffective as everyone tries to push through at once.

Luckily, Angus is a very small boy of nine--ten--years old, so he has no issue weaving past people’s legs and working his way in. The first thing he realizes is how impossibly big it is. He’d assumed some of the dome would be used for backstage work--lighting, wardrobe, the such--but from the looks of it, the Circus itself takes up the entire area. The floors are dirt, which Angus notes as odd, as he could’ve sworn the entire place was grass. There are at least twenty rows of wooden bleachers arranged in a circle around the ring, which has been marked with a short railing that barely hits Angus’ knees. Being one of the first ones in, Angus scurries and grabs a front row seat, pulling his pencil from behind his ear and starting his notes.

There’s little on the performance floor, as of now. A dais made of wood stands at the center, a silver and blue throne at its peak. At opposite sides of the circle are two columns, both which nearly grace the ceiling, with an impossibly thin rope strung taut between them. Hanging from the ceiling are different equipment Angus assumes are what the Twins use: hoops, trapeze bars, and a few bright red silk ribbons hanging down from hooks. He notes that only two of the trapezes are actually near the columns, the only way Angus can see that would have a ladder that high, one at each end. The most worrying thing to him are the lack of safety equipment beneath them. If someone were to slip, there’d be no way for them to catch their fall. The dome is about three stories high, and the equipment hangs barely below that. There’s no way that’s legal under any safety regulations.

There’s nothing else that Angus can see, not even a place for the performers to emerge from. Maybe from under the bleachers or the front door, but something in him tells him that’s not the case. Something in him is screaming that he’s missed something, that there’s more than what he sees, but he doesn’t know what . There’s nothing else to see. He’s already looked beneath the bleachers when he walked in, and from his calculations, the area of the dome outside is the exact same as the inside. There’s no room for anything to be hidden.

Angus chews on the tip of his pencil, tapping his foot on the ground boredly. He watches as people filter in, pulling his cap over his face just in case. He can’t see where the door went, even from here, and at this point he’s half-convinced there was never a door there at all. It would’ve been easy to put up a hologram. But Angus knows for a fact that’s not the case, because he saw at least three kids ram head-first into the same area the door was, and none of them phased straight through.

He’s broken out of his thoughts as the room suddenly turns pitch black. He wasn’t paying that much attention, but doing the math, he realizes that the bleachers must be completely filled. The part that confuses him is that he was looking right at the door. One second it was open, and the next it wasn’t. Nothing closed or slid over the entrance. It just appeared

Hushed whispers fill the room, but Angus ignores them. He can’t be distracted right now. He turns his head back to where he’s fairly certain the main stage is, unable to stop his fidgeting. It’s either from excitement, nervousness, or both, but Angus doesn’t have time to think about that, because at the exact moment, a spotlight he hadn’t seen comes on, illuminating the dais and throne.

Just like the door, one second nothing is there, and the next second, some one is. A middle-aged woman with dark skin and short, curly white hair has draped herself across it, a soft smile gracing her face as the audience gasps. The first thing Angus suspects is mirrors. His second, more irrational thought, is magic. She gracefully pushes herself up and out of her seat, picking up a bulwark staff Angus swears wasn’t there a second ago as she turns to the crowd with an aura of grace and authority.

“Greetings, one and all, from us, the—” she greets, her voice amplified by unseen microphones and speakers. Like everyone had told him, her voice comes out as pure static, and by the look on her face, it wasn’t a technical error. “I am your ringleader for the night; you may call me the Director. Tonight, we will spin you a tale of adventure and mystery, if you do so care to listen,” she continues. Angus swears her gaze lingers on him for a second, but he must be imagining things. Bias and all. “Welcome, everyone, to the show of your lifetime!”

Cannons boom as the stage behind her lights up in flames and sparks, making Angus bolt in his seat. Above her, two graceful figures balance on top of columns, twin smiles gracing their faces.

Chapter Text

Out of all the performers, Angus has heard that the Twins stand out most of all. Everyone told him they were made to perform; that they lapped up attention like plants to the sun. Seeing them in person, Angus finally understands why. 

Even from far away, he can see them clear as day. They stand out against the rest of the dim lighting, but Angus has a feeling that would be the case no matter what. There’s an aura to them that demands to be heard. They’re both tall, lithe figures with golden-tanned, freckled skin and long light blond hair that fade into a dusty pink at their tips. One of them has theirs in an intricate side-braid, the other in a simple ponytail. He can’t tell them apart from this distance. Aside from their hair, they look absolutely identical. Their faces are adorned in bright makeup that shimmers under the spotlights; bright lipstick, bright highlighted cheekbones, and burning red eyeshadow that shines like fire itself. 

Their outfits are just as, if not more, extravagant. They both have on tight, asymmetrical spandex bodysuits, just as brilliant as their makeup. Both suits are a dark purple, though while one has flames spiraling up their body, the other has what looks to be magic itself. From his research, he assumed the one wreathed in flames must be the female Twin, and the one wreathed in magic to be her male counterpart. Without that, he would’ve never guessed. They look ethereal--so far beyond human expectations that they transcend the roles placed upon them. A sheer red robe drapes over each of their shoulders, hoods pulled over their heads in suspense.

He’s enamoured, and they haven’t even moved a muscle.

Angus is only momentarily distracted by the thought of how they’d managed to climb up there so quickly, but all of those thoughts are tossed aside as the Twins throw off their hoods and leap off of their podiums, catching themselves on the trapezes hanging down in perfect unison. They swing once, twice, before propelling themselves forward, doing a single flip in the air before catching themselves on nearby hoops. The male Twin (who Angus has begun to refer to as the Magic Twin for separation's sake) lands on his feet, a cat-like grin on his face as he unravels the silks that had been tied to it. The Fire Twin lands upside-down, held in the air by her knees. Angus doesn’t know which to watch, eyes jumping between them as he hurriedly scribbles down notes. 

In the second he was focused on the Fire Twin, her brother has gotten himself entangled in the ribbons, causing both laughs and cries of worry from the audience. Angus knows it’s a part of the act, from the Fire Twin’s indifference to her brother’s struggle, but they make it look so real that even he’s started to feel anxious. Magic Twin twists himself around one last time and the knot comes undone. It frees him from its confines, but also sends him falling at an alarming speed as he twirls in the air, still grinning. Less than two feet from the ground, he stops falling, having been caught by the fabric he’d wrapped around his feet earlier. The crowd cheers as he pushes himself to his feet and waves, grabbing onto the two silks by his side and slowly making his way up to his sister’s side. His sister, who Angus had lost track of during the Magic Twin’s fall.

Thanks to her costume, though, she’s fairly hard to miss. She’s moved from her side of the area nearer to his, swinging on a hoop like a swing, arms and head rested on top of it as she looks down at her brother. The Fire Twin grins as he grows closer, swinging one last time before tossing herself in the air, falling for just a second before catching herself on the bottom of the ring, gaining momentum with every swing. Without warning, she leaps right as the Magic Twin flips himself upside down, hands outstretched to catch her. Angus momentarily fears the ribbons won’t hold both of their weights or momentum, but is glad to be proven wrong as the Twins soar back to the Fire Twin’s side of the arena. 

The Fire Twin lands gracefully on her podium, stopping for a second to wave down at the crowd before jumping back into the action, heading for her own silks this time instead of the hoops she’d been perching herself on until now. She has a more elegant technique than her brother, Angus notes, who’s seemingly focused on showing off more than anything else. She carefully spins herself around the bright red fabric, legs completely raveled in the fabric by the time she’s reached its top. Her brother, seemingly bored that the attention’s been taken off of him, unwraps himself mid-motion and launches onto another trapeze, catching himself with the bend of his legs. His sister looks down at him and laughs, shaking her head as she allows herself to become unraveled, as well, stopping in a perfect upside-down split.

They go back and forth for some time. Angus notes that for every act one does, the other tries to upstage it, whether it be through showing off or one-upping the other. Angus loses himself in the act, barely taking any notes by the time the Fire Twin lets go of the trapeze she’d been holding on to. It was the one closest to the floor, but it’s still quite a fall, and Angus finds himself screaming with the rest of the audience. He wants to close his eyes, to not see the second she splats onto the ground, but can’t manage to look away.

She’s seven feet off the ground when a man appears beneath her, much like how the Director appeared, with a large, bulky frame and bushy brown-red sideburns. He’s at least six feet tall, with fluffy looking hair and a warm smile. There’s a scar over his eye and a red bandana around his neck, along with a red jacket that, unlike the Twins’, is an actual jacket, and not just sheer fabric. He’s wearing a tank that reads ‘ I think dogs should vote ’ and cargo shorts, which isn’t very circus-like, especially not for the Circus. But from the way the Fire Twin smiles at him when he helps her onto the ground and the Magic Twin tosses himself into his arms, it’s clear he belongs to their troop.

As the Magic Twin winks and waves, Angus remembers. 

The Protector could easily lift the Twins.

Chapter Text

Angus hadn’t known what to expect from the Protector, but it wasn’t this. The strongman looks fairly young, late twenties, early thirties, and presents himself nothing like all the strongmen Angus had heard of before. He hadn’t known what a strongman was before this, so he did some research, as he tends to want to do. Most pictures he’d found were of middle aged men that were either balding or had shaved their heads. Most of them had been shirtless, or if they had one on, it was part of their company’s dress code or uniform. The Protector looked like some guy they’d found at the gym and dragged in, sans the jacket. 

But there’s no doubt in Angus’ mind that this is him, especially not after he picks up both Twins, one with each arm, and lets them sit on his flexed bicep. They’re both pretty skinny figures, but the Protector isn’t breaking a sweat as he jogs casually around the ring, grinning and laughing like a child on Candlenights. Angus watches in awe as the trio passes by him, swearing that both the Magic Twin meets his eyes for less than a second before looking away. As he returns to the center of the ring, the Fire Twin whispers something to him and he beams, nodding. Setting the Magic Twin down, he bends down and intertwines his fingers, gesturing for her to step on. She does with a matching grin. Angus blinks and suddenly the Fire Twin is back on the aerial course, having been launched impossibly far by her coworker. The Magic Twin quickly follows, and Angus makes sure to pay close attention to the Protector this time. There was no way he was able to throw them that far. Even in their height and weight difference, it’d be impossible.

But Angus watches as the Magic Twin soars gracefully through the air, catching himself on a trapeze and swinging back to the corner he’d started on, his sister doing the same. The Protector is smiling like that took absolutely nothing out of him, raising his arms triumphantly and gesturing for the crowd to applaud. It does, feverently, but Angus has the distinct feeling that something about that was off, not counting the fact that he’d so easily thrown two grown adults so far into the air. 

It’s not like they had harnesses on them, at least not that Angus could see. He may need glasses, but years of practice have made him very observant. It’s part of his job, after all. He wants to believe the Protector was actually able to throw them that high, but the logical side of him knows that’d be impossible. He’s a strongman, not a superhuman . Even then, Angus has a deeper feeling bubbling up inside him. He doesn’t know it is, not really, but it’s telling him that was . . . off. Like there was something not even the Protector knew. He wouldn’t call it intuition, but something . . . deeper. Nearly an instinct or reflex.

As the cheering slowly dies down, the Protector frowns slightly before brightening up again, turning his back to Angus and letting out a shrill whistle. 

Angus clamps his hands over his ears in shock, still keeping as best of an eye out as he can through the sudden stimulation. After a few seconds of silence, the Protector whistles again, which Angus is thankfully prepared for this time. A few more seconds pass before someone on the other side of the dome shrieks, then another, then a whole crowd as a giant grizzly bear comes dashing out from under the bleachers, pouncing on the Protector without hesitation. That can’t be right. Angus had stared at those bleachers at least fifty times, as he’d done with everything else in the room. If there was something under them, especially a giant bear, he would’ve seen it. 

He’s only not worried for the Protector because of the stories he’d been told. Fighting a bear is his thing . . . he thinks. At least he’d done it before, so this is most likely planned. Still, Angus’ legs bounce nervously as the pair is sent tumbling to the floor, throwing punches and scratches as they both try to gain the advantage. He’s not sure what their end goal is, but he hopes it’s not to the death. He doesn’t know if he could bear that. The Protector’s screams haven’t been helping, either.

The Protector, for his part, hasn’t been torn to pieces yet. He’s managed to dodge nearly all of the bear’s attacks, aside from some surface scratches from roughhousing on the floor. He’s only lightly bleeding, which may or may not be a good thing. But, the issue is, he hasn’t managed to land any attacks, either. At least none that have done a large enough of an impact for him to gain the upper hand, or to spill blood from his opponent, not that Angus is looking forward to seeing that. As they stumble nearer to him, Angus notices the Protector isn’t gritting his teeth or yelling, but the noise he’s been hearing has been his laughter .

The fight continues for at least five more minutes before the Protector is pulled into a headlock by the bear, causing the audience to gasp and scream. Angus doesn't make a sound, watching the Protector closely. He’s still laughing, hands wrapped around the bear’s furry forearm as he’s pulled to his feet. His nose is bleeding, but it doesn’t appear to be broken, and there are light scratches on his cheeks and arms, both of which have also been covered in dirt and dust. That can’t be good. 

“Okay! Okay, buddy, I surrender! You win,” the Protector says with a wide smile, tapping on the bear’s arm with his hand. Angus notices that his nails are painted a dark purple, accented with white dots that almost resemble stars. He doesn’t know how to feel about it, much less process the fact, as the bear instantly lets go of him, but doesn’t step aside. The Protector coughs, regaining his breath as he leans against the animal, excited eyes scanning the crowd. “Everyone! This is Daniel, he’s my buddy, we fight together.” 

Daniel the bear makes a noise that sounds like happiness, but considering his size and stature, it comes off as somewhat menacing. The Protector doesn’t seem to realize, patting the animal on the arm like you would an old friend. Daniel, in return, slings an arm around the Protector’s shoulder in and odd side hug. The Protector hugs him back before waving goodbye, returning to his place beneath the bleachers, much to the chagrin of the audience. 

From Angus’ research, he was weary when he heard the Protector included animals in his act. He didn’t want to think negatively of any of the Circus’ performers before seeing them in person, but he’d heard of so many other performers abusing animals that he had his doubts. But looking at Daniel, he seems to genuinely like the Protector. As much happiness as a grizzly bear can convey to humans, at least. And the Protector, in turn, is treating him how he treated the Twins--like an old, dear friend.

Angus watches Daniel closely as he ducks under the bleachers, mapping out his outline from the gaps in the seats. After the bear is about five feet in, though, his outline vanishes into the shadows in the blink of an eye.

One thing vanishing into thin air is odd. Two is a coincidence. Three means something is definitely up, but it could be bias. As the Protector continues his act, Angus spares a glance towards the aerial course above. Like he’d suspected, the Twins are gone. He’d have seen them if they climbed down the ladders, so they were either still up there, or . . .

Four meant he had no choice but to investigate.

Angus turns his attention back to the Protector, who’s started to pick up whatever items he can find, including the throne--with the Director still on. It’s the first time he’s seen the Protector look to be genuinely pushing his limits, straining as he lifts the throne to eye-level. He’s so focused on keeping his balance that he doesn’t look to notice the soft music that starts to echo through the dome, a sound which Angus instantly recognizes as a pan pipe. He watches in amazement as a vine weaves out from under the same bleachers Daniel had left through, swaying to the soft beat of the music as it makes its way across the floor. Hushed whispers spring out across the audience as the vine gets closer and closer to the Protector, unsure whether this, too, is part of the program. The Protector seems to take their reactions as encouragement, heaving the throne over his head with one swift motion . . . just as the vines wrap around his ankles, pulling him backwards and into the air. 

Another set of vines spring forward and catch the throne before it and the Director can go falling to the ground, gently lowering her back onto the dais. The vines retreat and move to help their companion on lifting the Protector higher into the air. The Director doesn’t seem startled as the Protector is flipped upside down by the flora, laughing behind a hand as the man screams for her to help him down. 

“This is cheating, old man!” the Protector cries, pulling himself up to tug at his captors. They don’t break despite his efforts, causing him to look around before focusing on a spot behind the bleachers, glaring daggers into it. Angus follows his gaze, but doesn’t see anything but people and metal seats. “Is this about your arm again? I’ve told you, I did it to save your life ! I can take back that decision any time I want!”

Angus doesn’t know what’s scripted and what’s genuine any more. The Protector’s shock isn’t fabricated, that much he can tell, but the Director’s coolness shows otherwise. Most likely, he reckons, everyone but the Protector knew it was coming. It gets a laugh out of him--as does the rest of the audience--as the Protector is dropped back onto the floor, landing with a thud and instantly picking himself up, glaring at something Angus can’t see.

And then he can as a short man walks into his line of sight, fifty years old at the least, with a large gray beard decorated with flowers and other flora alike. He’s wearing square-rimmed glasses over an eye patch along with a tacky Hawaiian shirt, khakis, and flip flops. He doesn’t seem like a performer either, at least not from his outfit, but there’s a bright red robe over draped over his shoulders, which Angus is pretty sure is their one item of clothing they’re required to wear. 

He’s starting to wonder if everyone else is under dressed, or if the Twins are just that extra when it comes to costume design.

The man laughs heartily, wiping a tear from his one good eye with . . .  a prosthetic? It looks like it’s made of wood bark curled around each other in an odd, four-fingered hand. Angus knows it’s not actually wood, just shaped to appear like it--most likely to keep his natural aesthetic--but why would anyone want a four-fingered prosthetic?

The Protector grumbles something under his breath as he stomps off the ring and back to where he (probably) emerged from: under the bleachers, like everything else. Angus has to check those out once this is over and everyone has filtered out. He’d be a disappointment to his career if he didn’t.  He files that away for later, looking back to the center of the circle just as the Peacemaker brings his pan pipes to his lips, winking at the . . . audience? Angus hopes it’s the audience. The same soft music as before fills the room, bringing Angus an odd sense of home as the vines begin to shift and sway under its control.

Chapter Text

Plants start to sprout from everywhere they possibly can, causing screams to ring out, both from excitement and fear, which Angus thinks is pretty understandable. One had grazed his ear, sending his pencil flying out of his reach, but luckily he keeps multiple writing utensils on him at all times for situations such as these. The only thing that strikes him as odd, aside from the sudden invasion of wildlife, is that the vine had felt real against his skin. He knows what fake plants feels like. This isn’t that.

    They could be automatons wrapped in plant life, but not only would that be a lot of work--he’s never even heard of something like that before--but it’d be dangerous. The flora could grow into the machinery, their roots especially, and one could easily malfunction and take out an audience member on accident. Angus would add the performers to that list of possible victims, but from what he’s gathered, they don’t look to fear . . . well, anything. It worries him as much as everything else he’s seen today has. 

    Angus knows he’s a logical person. It’s what his career depends on. Finding patterns and clues, piecing them together with prior knowledge he’s accumulated over the past . . . over the past however many years. However, as he watches the vines and other plant life begin to dance around the Peacemaker, he can’t find any logical solution. He’s felt it--they’re not holograms, nor are they fakes. They’re real , and they’re dancing along to his tune like partygoers at a rave; like they have a mind and soul of their own. A part of Angus doesn’t want to give into the idea of actual magic. The rest of him has already jumped onboard and refuses to let go.

    He feels like a child. Which is dumb for him to think, because he is , he’s pretty sure, but he never feels like it. Except for now. He can see a story within the Peacemaker’s song, unfurling like the petals that have started to grow on his wooden arm. He knows he has a mission to complete. He came here for information, to learn the truth, and he can’t be distracted in the middle of something like this. But there’s something in the Peacemaker’s performance that makes him want to lose himself in it. 

    So he does.

    The Peacemaker’s story starts on a beach. The Peacemaker plays the main character, who Angus thinks may be the Peacemaker himself, and the rest is played out through his floral companions. The Peacemaker wanders, lost, through endless miles of sand and rocks. There are figures in the background, people who he’s left behind, but he rarely looks back. After years of wandering, he stops, cocks his head, and smiles. It’s then that Angus realizes he’s only telling half of the story. There’s something that’s missing--another person, he suspects--but it’s something the vines don’t seem to be able to tell.

    Angus connects the dots right as the Wordless One is revealed, hidden behind a curtain of vines as he makes his way to the Peacemaker’s side. The Wordless One is short, much like the Peacemaker, with bright orange swept back hair and a matching mustache. He’s dressed formally, much like the Director, wearing a dark maroon tux and dress shoes, with a dark blue bowtie and the Circus’ uniform red robes. There’s a mahogany wand in his hand, or at least some sort of rod, which he keeps in his left hand as he greets the Peacemaker with a warm hug. The ring quickly comes alive, more than it had been before, as mist appears from beneath the vines and takes solid form. 

    The story continues with the Peacemaker meeting the Wordless One, along with other figures in matching red robes, which Angus assumes are the rest of the performers. Together, they tell of the group’s awkward beginnings. A few of it goes over Angus’ head, but he’s able to piece together enough to have an understanding of their tale. 

    From what he’s able to tell, every since they’ve met, the Circus has been running and constantly on the move. He gets the feeling that that’s not the full story, that they’ve been running from something , but neither man divulges on what. He adds it to his mental list of questions, which have been growing by the minute. The Wordless One’s illusions dance around each other awkwardly, giving snapshots of a story too immense for words. 

    A bar fight. Most of them appear to be involved, with the figure of the Director writing endlessly on vine-laced journals as the Peacemaker and Protector work to de-escalate the situation. Comedically enough, in the background, the illusions that Angus assumes to be the twins are playing a game of pool, winning and . . . taking their opponents shoes? The scene ends when the Protector is punched in the face, earning a black eye made from dark purple petals which he wears proudly with a smile. He watches as they set up the Circus in a new place, one surrounded by animals instead of people. He watches as the Protector meets Daniel, who charges at him upon their first meeting, but softens up as they begin to train together alongside another bear, who’s impossibly giant. In the background, the Peacemaker and the Wordless One walk together through endless foliage as the Twins and another red-robed figure converse with a family of mongeese. (Mongooses? No one’s quite sure.) 

    The story continues, constantly traveling from one place to the next. Angus feels weird looking at it. Like he’s peering into a life he shouldn’t. He’s sure these are their lives, not just a fantastical over exaggeration. Looking at it, he feels an odd sense of longing. He hasn’t ever felt anything like that before.

    Angus has noticed that there’s been seven of their illusions on stage, not eight. He doesn’t know whether it’s the Reaper or the Lover that’s missing, and then he does. An illusionary rift appears in the air, with a black-robed figure stepping out, scythe in hand. That explains why they call him the Reaper, then. The first meeting he has with the rest of the Circus comes across as rocky at best and disastrous at worst. Him and the Protector, Magic Twin, and Peacemaker fight, with the trio winning and the Reaper making an expeditious retreat. He appears a few more times, mostly around the Magic Twin, before joining the Circus after a humour dinner scene. 

    It hits him then. The odd sensation watching them has given him. The reason it feels so awkward to him. It feels like he’s intruding on something he shouldn’t be. The Circus are a family . They’ve lived and loved and grown together, and Angus is watching all of that unfold before his eyes. It shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. Everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves, laughing and clapping at the scenes. The Wordless One and Peacemaker are performing with smiles on their faces. And yet, Angus feels a sense of unease settling in his stomach. Maybe it’s because he’s never really had a feeling like that before. He had his grandpa, sure, but he was only allowed to see him so often. Sir and Ma'am are only related to him biologically. He knows that, logically, he should love them. They’re his parents, so of course he has to. But they’ve never made him feel this odd homesickness for a home he’s never had.

    Angus only realizes he’s crying when a tear falls onto his notebook, blurring the notes he’d made on the Wordless One’s illusions. He frowns as he wipes at his face, willing them away with the conviction that he isn’t sad. He doesn’t feel like that, after all. Longing and sadness are two different things. He’s not sad. He’s watching the most fantastic and whimsical performance in the universe, so he can’t possibly be sad. It’s just . . .

    He shakes his head, wiping it of any more of those sorts of thoughts. There’s a mission he has to finish first. That’s his top priority. He can sort all this out later, when he’s alone in his room and no one can see or hear him. Causing a scene in a place like this would foil everything he’s worked for.

    Angus wipes at the wetness of his notebook with his sleeve, returning his attention to the ring. The Peacemaker and Wordless One are playing out an illusionary scene between the Twins, Reaper, and Lover, with the Fire Twin seemingly trying to talk the other three down from something. They don’t listen, high-fiving each other as they run off to their posts; the Magic Twin and Reaper head to the pillars, climbing up together, while the Lover starts to arrange an odd series of materials. The Fire Twin looks around at the audience, as if asking for their opinion. In return, the audience cheers and hollers for her companions, causing her to look around, shrug, and get a devious smile on her face as she springs to the Lover’s side. Just as Angus realizes what’s going on the Peacemaker and Wordless one vanish along with their illusions, leaving the four very-real performers alone in the ring. The Reaper balancing at the edge of his platform, scythe in hand; the Magic Twin, standing behind him twirling a red umbrella in his hand; the Lover, setting aside a pair of swords; and the Fire Twin, grinning as her hands light up with flames.

    It’s the final act, and Angus isn’t sure if he’s ready for it.

Chapter Text

The first thing Angus notices is that the Reaper has the same over-the-top fashion sense as the Twins. The Lover does not.

The Reaper is dressed in a tight-fitting black suit and matching dress shoes. His dreads are pulled back into a high ponytail, accented with bands of gold and a crown of red roses. His face is painted to look skeletal, and even from here Angus can see the piercing red eyes behind it. Before, he would’ve assumed they were contacts. He’s not sure about anything anymore. Instead of the black cape he’d worn in the Wordless One’s illusions, his outfit is now accented with a bright red cloak, reminding Angus somewhat of a stereotypical vampire. That probably is the look he’s going for, now that he thinks about it.

The Lover, in comparison, looks like a middle-aged dad that got swept away in the middle of one of his weekly television binges. He’s wearing thick, black rimmed glasses and a white shirt, along with by far the crispest pair of bluejeans Angus has ever seen. He’s the type of man that Angus would definitely scan over in the crowd, and maybe the last person Angus would ever expect to be part of an act like this. Despite that, he’s wearing a bright red robe over it all, smiling warmly as the Fire Twin steps up besides him, setting her hands over his. 

Out of all the aliases the Circus uses, theirs fits them the best.

The crowd cheers at the return of the Twins--Angus had heard they were crowd favorites, but he didn’t expect it to be at this level--and the two soak up the limelight like a sponge in water. The Magic Twin wraps an arm around one of the Reaper’s, then swings to the side, teetering precariously over the edge with only the other man as an anchor. He lights up as he waves down at the audience, gap-toothed smile on full display. The Reaper, for his part, doesn’t look very perturbed, smiling somewhat warmly at the Magic Twin, though that smile fades the moment the Twin stops his act and looks back at him. The Reaper turns his head away and straightens his cloak, offering the Magic Twin nothing but a short nod. 

Huh.

Meanwhile, on the ground, the Fire Twin is basking in the cheers, hands ablaze as she begins juggling multiple balls of fire between them. She doesn’t seem to be wearing gloves, which worry Angus slightly, but the Lover hasn’t stopped her yet. After all he’s seen today, he trusts that they know what they’re doing. She laughs heartily as she throws them higher and higher, until she’s barely able to control them, eyes ablaze with the same passion as the flames. It’s a mesmerizing sight, made only more mesmerizing as pyrotechnics set off behind her, as over-the-top as the rest of their performance. The Lover fidgets slightly beside her, holding a hula hoop in each hand. 

A loud blast makes Angus’ eyes dart upwards to the tightrope once again. The Reaper is glaring (albeit fondly) at the Magic Twin, who’s grinning slyly, holding the umbrella high over his head, pointed towards the sky. The tip is scorching, as if it was the one who created that blast. It shouldn’t surprise Angus. He still gasps as the Magic Twin cackles, blowing a raspberry down to his sister childishly.

“Let the show begin!” 

It’s the first time he’s heard either of the Twins speak. The Magic Twin, at the least, has an odd cadance. The best way Angus can describe it is loopy, rising and falling in odd places like verbal cursive. He’s never heard anything like it before, making him wonder where exactly it originates from. The Protector didn’t have it, and neither did the Director. It would make sense, though, for them to be from different locations. They’re a travelling performance, after all. 

At the Magic Twin’s words, the Reaper smiles, shifting his scythe from hand to hand as he takes a step onto the wire hanging between both columns. On the ground, the Fire Twin throws her fireballs in the air, where they extinguish themselves, turning back to the Lover with excitement. The Lover grins back and tosses her three hoops, which she catches with ease. They instantly catch fire beneath her hands--their weird sheen must’ve been lighter fluid, then. They loop themselves around her ankle and waist, none of which seem like a safe location for flaming rings to be. Carefully, she picks up a violin from the ground, one which Angus is pretty sure wasn’t there a second ago. He also feels that when the Lover sits down in front of a glistening ivory piano, which yeah, he’s pretty sure he would’ve noticed. 

At the first note plucked on the keys, another blast rings out throughout the ring. Angus is looking this time as the Magic Twin extends his arm, umbrella pointed at the Reaper’s back. A ball of shimmering light begins to form on the tip of the umbrella, growing to the size of a small tennis ball before exploding outwards, heading straight for the Reaper. Second before it hits, though, the Reaper hooks his scythe around the rope below him and jumps, catching himself with his blade as the bolt soars above him. His momentum allows him to flawlessly swing himself back upright, not a wrinkle in his suit as he continues forward as if nothing happened. He does, however, turn his head to look back at the Magic Twin, a genuine grin on his face which shows off his oddly sharp canines. It’s probably part of his costume, Angus reasons, but considering everything else that’s happened, he’s not exactly certain about that. The Magic Twin huffs, raising the umbrella again and readying another blast. It hits Angus then that the Reaper is showing off , and by the pout on the Magic Twin’s face, it’s working.

He focuses on the music of the Lover and Fire Twin more than their performance. Not that their performance is bad, or uninteresting, it’s that he doesn’t really know how to judge instruments he doesn’t know how to play. What he can appreciate, though, is the way the Fire Twin balances her instrument and fire hoops perfectly, not ever missing a beat despite the two rings of death circling her waist. She’s changed out of her acrobat outfit, Angus notes, instead opting for a shimmering dark maroon dress, wearing her cloak as a shawl as she performs. The combination of the two makes her seem almost phantasmal under the fire light, which explains why the Lover is looking at her like she’s the sun and hung all the stars in the sky. 

Another blast erupts from above. This time, the Reaper merely jumps over it, landing perfectly back down without looking at where he’s going. He’s only one fourth of his way across the ring, having elected to sling his scythe over his shoulder instead of holding it in front of him for balance. Angus knows that’s just to boast. No matter how light it may be, the weight of the blade must be making it at the very least a little hard to balance with. And he’s doing that while artfully dodging his companion’s projectiles, not even breaking a sweat. 

The Magic Twin picks up his pace as the Reaper reaches the half-way mark, shooting two bolts from his umbrella instead of one. The Reaper does his usual swing trick with the first one. Angus doesn’t even see the second one coming until the Reaper turns around, holding the blade of his scythe flat against his face seconds before a ball of energy slams against it, bouncing back and fizzling before it can return to the Magic Twin’s side. There’s a moment of tension between the two, which Angus can’t tell if it’s flirtatious, challenging, or a mixture of the two before the Reaper swings back around and continues. On the ground, the Lover tosses another hula hoop at the Fire Twin, who only stops playing for a second before continuing as if nothing had happened.

And the performance continues in such a manner. The Reaper, taunting and fearless in his actions as he defies the impossible again and again. The Magic Twin, annoyed and competitive as he fires bolt after bolt, unyielding in his work. The Lover, playing like he’s been doing it for a hundred years, fingers brushing over the keys so fast Angus can barely keep track of his hands. And the Fire Twin, rings of fire surrounding her every move as a beautifully haunting melody erupts from her strings, fingers moving just as fast as her companion. It’s almost too much at once. Angus doesn’t know what to focus on, which isn’t a feeling he enjoys. If he could choose any moment to stop time, it’d be now. He wants to inspect their every move, their every trick. How is the Reaper able to avoid everything so smoothly? How can he get back on the wire with such ease? What even is it that the Magic Twin is firing? How does he do it? How does the Lover play so flawlessly while also throwing the Fire Twin more props? How can the Fire Twin juggle all those things at once?

A million more questions run through his mind in the millisecond it takes for the Reaper to set down on the platform on the other side of the area; in the millisecond it takes for the Lover and Fire Twin to play their last notes; in the millisecond it takes for the Magic Twin to raise his umbrella triumphantly to the sky; in the millisecond it takes for the lights to turn off, shrouding the area in darkness as the Fire Twin’s flames are extinguished.

Panic overtakes the audience. It lasts less than a second, for the lights come back on nearly instantly. But when they do, there’s no arena. There’s no ring, no piano, no tightrope or columns, no trapezes hanging from the dome’s ceiling. All that’s left is the dome and the bleachers, along with the thousand or so spectators that had come to watch the show. Angus guesses it must be the end, then, his suspicions being confirmed as the entrance vanishes once again, sunlight pouring in from the outside. It’s only fitting, he thinks. A circus that appears without a trace ending the same way. It may be the end for everyone else, but not for him.

As the rest of the crowd gets up and starts filing out of the dome, Angus makes his way to the other side of the ring, towards the bleachers he’s been eyeing for what feels like years. 

Finally, he’s going to get the answers he’s come for.

Chapter Text

It takes a while for everyone to filter out, which gives Angus plenty of time to find a comfortable hiding place. He doesn’t know if security’s gonna come looking for him--he doesn’t know if there is security--but he’s not risking being caught now. He waits in the aisle across from the one everyone seemed to disappear into, trying to catch any peek of something from the bright lights above. All he can see is dirt, though. Not even the entrance of a trap door or any other hidden entrances. He could be missing it, but he’ll have to look closer to know for sure.

He sits still for ten minutes before getting fidgety. The doors have closed, and there’s no equipment laying out in the open for people to take, so he’s not really sure why they’d need security. He stays still for a minute longer, though, just to make sure. When no one comes out or makes a noise, he slowly leaves his hiding spot, careful not to make a sound. He’s not quite sure how he’s going to get out of here, but that’s a problem for later. He brushes the dirt off his vest and shorts as best he can, not wanting to be caught looking like he hasn’t had a bath in weeks. 

Angus holds his breath as he crosses the small gap between aisles, the dirt beneath luckily muffling his footsteps. He almost refuses to believe it was that easy, but here he is, peeking into the barely-lit underside of the bleachers that may not be just bleachers. He’s about to duck inside when he feels something (some one ) bump into him, making him jump and stutter forward. He had made sure no one was in the area! How did they sneak up on him so fast?

“Shit, what--” a loopy, semi-familiar voice asks, seemingly as startled as he. Ah, that’s how. They weren’t trying to sneak up on him, just make their way around. Just his luck. “Aw, dunk, someone forgot their kid. M̶̟̙̝͕̾̑̊́̐̇̇̈́̈́̒̚a̷̘̜̣̓̊̄͛͂̀͘g̷̩͎͓͚͇̰̗̱̻͈̊̏̈̌̈́͊̆͑̉̉̕ͅn̴̛̖̰̝̳͙̩͙͉̫̱̩̳̔̂̊̆̎̃̒͑̔̊͐͝û̷̢̢̯͓̲̱̱̳̙͔̽̄́͛̐͠s̴͍̱̙̟̙̅̈́͠! I have a job for you!”

Angus flinches as static fills his ears, clamping his hands over them before quickly turning around. As he suspected, it’s the Magic Twin. But he looks different. Gone is the flashy makeup and costumes, replaced by a clean, freckled face and oversized outfit. Angus assumes the shirt isn’t his, partially because it doesn’t fit, and partially because he doesn’t feel like the Magic Twin is one to wear something that reads Treble Maker with the picture of a treble clef underneath. He does however, seem to be the type to wear hot pink, heart-patterned leggings on top of horribly mis-matched socks, paired with the most ridiculous duck slippers Angus has ever seen. As Angus turns back, the Twin pushes a set of heart-shaped sunglasses up on his head, turning back to Angus as if he just realized he’s old enough to speak for himself.

“Sir, I’m not a baby,” Angus can’t help but say, already annoyed. Both at being interrupted and caught, and at the monicker. He’s far too used to people not taking him seriously because of his age, but no one’s ever called him a baby before. Not since he actually was one. “I’m f - eight - I’m a . . . I’m eight - I mean ten. I’m ten.”

The man quirks an eyebrow, crossing his arms and leaning against the bleachers coolly. “Very convincing, pumpkin. Wanna give that another go?”

Angus huffs, resisting the urge to stomp his foot. That’d be childish, and he is not going to give in to the Twin’s taunting. Instead, he holds his ground, pulling out his notebook and pen and staring at the performer straight in the eye. It’d be less intimidating if he didn’t have to crane his head up to do so. “I’m Angus McDonald, I’m ten years old, and I’m the world’s greatest detective. Now if you wouldn’t mind, sir, I have a few questions I’d like to ask about this establishment.”

That seems to get his attention. The Twin straightens up his back, planting both his feet solidly on the floor as he looks down at Angus with a mixture of disbelief and curiosity on his face. After a second, he smiles, shrugs, and returns to his relaxed state, all former tension gone from his body. “Alright, Agnes, I’ll bite, but you better go straight home after this. Chaboy isn’t in the mood to deal with kidnapping charges today.”

Angus lets the comment about going home slide. The longer he can stay away from that, the better. (He’d nearly forgotten about them, amidst the excitement of the Circus and its mystery.) He didn’t expect to get this far, much less be able to interview someone from the Circus itself, so you bet he’s using this to his full advantage. He can’t let a chance like this slip through his fingers. 

“What’s under those bleachers?” Bleachers which, Angus notices, the Twin has very carefully maneuvered himself in front of, partially obstructing Angus’ view. “I know it has to have some sort of entrance and exit to some other backstage area, but it’s too small to have a room underneath. It has to be a trapdoor or some other concealed ingress. But people just disappear under there!”

The Twin looks behind him, shifts a bit to be more in Angus’ way, then shrugs. “Just dirt, my dude. Don’t know what else you’d expect.”

Answers, for one, but he assumed it wouldn’t be so easy to get them. The Circus’ inner workings are a closely-guarded secret, most likely because he’s never heard of anyone trying what he has. He’s just getting started, though. “Bullshit, but okay. You called out to someone when you found me, but all I heard was static. What’s that about?”

The Twin is starting to look mildly uncomfortable, fingers twirling around his braid out of habit. “I don’t know what you mean, little--”

He’s interrupted as a burly figure bursts through the darkness behind him, startling them both. The Twin is almost sent sprawling, saved only by the Protector, who reaches an arm out to catch him. He looks exactly as he did during his performance, sans jacket. “Sorry, T̶̨͎͈̻̰̼͙̹̘͙̪̜̫̑̋̇̍ͅå̵̡̭͕̰͔̠͍̭̭̙͚̘̈́͂̔̎̃̀̔͘a̶͔̳̻̠̼̺̪͓̓k̷̭̱̻͔̓̑͛͒̿͛́̾͒̀̉̆o̴̡̩̱͎̯̣̜̱͇̼̳̣͂͐̚, I was helping B̶̨͇̳͍͖̯̯͔̗͔̒̎a̷̢͓̟͙̼̱̺͎̭͚͖͉͊͆͆̓́̋͌̏̉͂̄͌͂ͅŕ̴̜͖͉̬͕̯͎̗͇̥̾͗͆͑̆̀͋̋͐́͗͝r̷̡̼͈̻͓͉̩̫̞̮̖͔̀̅́̄̀͗̾̅́̓ý̶̟̂̇͂̅͂͗͌͑͌́ with the piano! Who do I have to fight? Are they invisible?”

Angus notes the Protector seems a bit too excited at the prospect of a fight, and worryingly so at the idea of an invisible enemy. The Twin just rolls his eyes, pointing downwards towards Angus. “No one’s invisible. Kid’s just short.”

“Kid?” The Protector’s eyes widen as they make contact with Angus’, fighting stance dropped without hesitation. Instead of a greeting or any sense of normalcy, he turns to the Twin, whispering in a not-very-hushed way, “T̶̨͎͈̻̰̼͙̹̘͙̪̜̫̑̋̇̍ͅå̵̡̭͕̰͔̠͍̭̭̙͚̘̈́͂̔̎̃̀̔͘a̶͔̳̻̠̼̺̪͓̓k̷̭̱̻͔̓̑͛͒̿͛́̾͒̀̉̆o̴̡̩̱͎̯̣̜̱͇̼̳̣͂͐̚, please tell me you didn’t kidnap a kid!” Angus should be worried about how the Protector makes that seem like a very real possibility, but he’s too busy turning to the Twin, unable to hide the grin from his face. 

The Twin sighs, shoulders slumping as he glares towards the Protector. “Okay, I lied. There’s a magic jellyfish keeping you from hearing our names. Damnit, M̷̤̜̼̼͖̖̗̭̜͙͍̳̃̋̉a̶̢̨̲̰͙̫̱̩͇̝̮̦̱͔̝͐̿̊̄͐̍̈́̋̽̎̿̍̿͠g̵̝̗̲̜̀̀̓n̷̡̛͍̣̟͉̠̥̙͎̪̍̄̂̓̊̽́́͊̎̋͘̕ũ̵̝̜̱̩̼̟̀̑̆͛s̶̺̪̗̫̭͎̫̱͓̳̽̓̚͜.”

“I just got here! Don’t blame this on me!”

Angus looks between the two of them, watching as they break into an argument over whose fault it is. The Twin doesn’t seem to be lying, which is what concerns him. He was more than able to accept magic as fact while watching their performance, but that was just him getting swept up in the moment. Magic during an act is one thing. This isn’t an act anymore. He could maybe accept magic. It’s a very small maybe. But a magical jellyfish that hides people’s names? He has limits .

“Excuse me? Did you say a magic jellyfish is behind this?” he interrupts, tapping his pen against his arm out of impatience. “I may be young, sirs, but I’m not stupid .”

The Twin glances towards the Protector, signaling a silent warning to not . The Protector, by the looks of it, doesn’t catch its meaning, bouncing on the spot like an excited puppy. Sensing defeat, the Twin slumps his shoulders, taking a step back and mumbling something that sounds somewhat like, “ Not this shit again .”

He’s gotten this far, T̵̖̝͙̮̣͓̭̥̤̻͈͇̭̔͐̋͗̊̏̃a̴̢̢̼͂̔͌̾̈̓͒̋̾͛̈́̂͒̊͝a̵̺̙̘͉̫̮̣̦̮͋̽k̸̛̭͙̰͚̋͗̈́́́̾͊̋̕ơ̷̛̱̝͚̔̃͗̆̑̒͂̌̽̈͝ͅ! He already knows , so why not show him? L̵̼͕̰̈́̀̏u̷̟̜̩̠̩̖̤̠̿́̑̚͠c̷̟̣̹͕̭̲̞̦̗͉̓̈́̽̓̂̔͑̄͛̚̕͝į̴̨̳͖͚̦͕̰͈̤̖̦͖͒̿́͌̇̑͂̓ͅ probably won’t be mad for too long! Please ?” The Protector is nearly whining , hands clasped together in front of his chest as he shoots the biggest puppy-dog eyes Angus has ever seen. For such an intimidating build, the Protector has quite the soft personality. He’s seen it once before, when the man was sporting with Daniel, but this feels more personal, in a way. 

The Twin looks at him, sighs, then gestures behind him half-heartedly. “Fine, go ahead. I’m not its keeper. Not that I can stop you, anyways.”

The Protector cheers, pulling the Twin into a spine-crushing hug that lifts him off the ground for a second. The Twin’s reaction reminds Angus of a cat as he twists and squirms to get out of his friend’s (???) grip, cursing and kicking all the while. To only further prove his point, when the Protector sets him down, the Twin brushes himself off, shaking his head and pouting before stomping underneath the bleachers and vanishing from Angus’ sight. 

Angus turns to the Protector, who has a large smile on his face. “C’mon, uh--what’s your name again?”


He sighs, tapping his pen against his forearm once more. “I didn’t gave it to you, sir. You never asked. I’m Angus McDonald, and I’m the world’s greatest detective!” Angus sticks out his hand politely for a handshake. The Protector, though, sees it and grins ( theory: the Protector smiles a lot ), giving Angus an odd high-five that’s unintentionally a little too forceful. “I know I won’t be able to understand your name, so you don’t have to tell me now!”

The Protector nods, eyes scanning down to Angus’ open notes, which he may or may not have forgotten to start working on ever since this conversation began. “Hey, what’cha got there?”

“Hm? Oh, these are my notes! Every good detective has a--” He’s interrupted as the Protector swiftly pulls it out of his hand, laughing as Angus stops, dumbfounded. “Hey! That’s not fair! Give it back!”

The Protector doesn’t respond, simply humming coyly to himself as he holds Angus’ notebooks over his own head. It’s completely unnecessary, seeing that Angus barely reaches his waist, even while jumping. “Have you ever played keep-away, Ango?”

“An gus ,” he stresses, huffing as the Protector refuses to give up the chase. “I get it, sir, you’re taller and stronger than me. Can I please have my notes back? They’re important.” When the Protector doesn’t respond, and instead gets on the tips of his toes, Angus stomps his foot. So much for not being childish. That’s how the Protector’s acting, though, so why shouldn’t he? He’s ten! He doesn’t even know how an oven works! Sir and Ma’am always tell him he should be more ‘grown-up,’ but he’s only a child , damnit!

“Woah.” Angus isn’t sure how, but his notebook is on the floor, the Protector staring at it and him breathlessly. Did . . . did he do that? He couldn’t have. He hasn’t moved from his spot. So why does it feel like it was him? Because he was thinking about how much he wanted it back? No, that doesn’t make sense . . . right? Before the Protector can take it again, Angus sweeps his notebook into his arms, crossing them over his chest to keep it close. 

“I-I’m sorry, sir. I don’t know-I swear I didn’t--please don’t be mad!”

The Protector snaps out of whatever trance he’d fallen into, looking down at Angus in confusion. “Why would I be mad? This is amazing! C’mon, D’jangus! I gotta show you to F̸̖̘̼̯̰͈͒̽̔̐̓̑̏̂̑î̸̧̟͕̠̜̥̆͜ş̷̙̖̤̳͍͔̠͕̬̘̍̊̾͊ͅh̴̢̛̖͔͓̯͎̲̞͔̃̇́̀͛̈̈́͐͊̚̚͝ͅͅȩ̵̧͓͉̭͉͇̩̼̞͇́̾̽͜͠͠ͅr̴̭̲̲̺̞͛͛͐̀̈́̈͆͂̾͋̊̄̌͘ now!” 

Before he can protest, or even apologize again, the Protector grabs onto his arm, making Angus realize something he hadn’t before: both him and the Twin have silver bracers around one of their wrists. How did he miss it before? He has no time to think about that either, though, as the Protector pulls him into the darkness beneath the bleachers.