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Bread And Circuses

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The Big Top was packed. Ross was quite pleased by this. He had been right. Ray Martin fighting a pig had indeed proven a ratings winner. They had had to expand from a TV studio to a gigantic Big Top to house a larger and larger audience who wanted to watch every week rather than keep turning them away.

Ross watched them getting settled as he leant against a wall backstage. Wil joined him, sipping a beer. The chatter from the crowd was echoing all over the tent. They were being entertained by a juggling clown and some dancers in sparkly costumes. Well, if they were going to have a show in a circus tent, might as well go the whole way. The show’s line-up had changed from just Ray Martin fighting a pig in a muddy pit to something more resembling a variety show, with all sorts of entertainment for the gathered crowd.

“You know, when you announced this idea on The Glass House all those years ago, I never for a moment thought you’d follow through, or that it would actually work,” Wil said.

“I know what the people want, Wil, and what they want is Ray Martin fighting a pig,” Ross said.

“You know, I had my doubts. I thought people would get bored after the first night, but apparently not. How do you make it so enticing?” Wil said.

“I’m a genius, that’s what,” Ross said, thinking of the two girls who had helped come up with all the various tricks and turns that had made the show so awesome to watch, from the inclusion of – wait for it – two pigs, to the challenge of fighting a warthog while balancing a cooked chicken on a silver tray, to fighting off an emu while dangling upside down from a trapeze.

“So what’s the plan tonight?” Wil said, glancing at him.

“Oi, you’ll find out when everyone else does. Now go get Charles and tell ‘im to get the show started,” Ross said.

“Alright, alright. You know, you being bossy isn’t cute,” Wil said.

“I don’t think that’s the point, Wil,” Ross said, giving him a pointed glare.

Wil decided against replying. There would be time to tell him off later, once the night’s entertainment was over. With one last glance, Wil left him to it.

 

In a dressing room backstage, Craig and Andrew were putting the finishing touched on their costumes. Well, no, not really, since all they usually wore were tiny g-strings. Their half-time act wasn’t quite perfect, but they hadn’t managed to cross the line of outright pornography so far. Craig was sure it would happen sooner or later, given the way Andrew was getting braver in the way he wrestled with him. Currently, Andrew was trying to hold back Craig as he pinned him to their dresser. There was something in being nearly naked that always seemed to break their promise not to make out before the show.

“Uhh, you know, we’re not supposed to be doing-” Andrew managed to say between kisses.

“Oh, come on, you always enjoy it,” Craig murmured as he sucked obscenely on his collar bone.

Andrew gasped and whatever he was going to say got lost in his throat. A hand clasped around Craig’s arm in a vain bid to fight him off, but Andrew had surrendered. Craig was just too good at this.

 

Charles finished a second drink. He was composing himself for the show’s opening. For some reason, Ross has asked him to be ring master, so it was his task to wrangle a cast of performers and animals into an orderly show and make sure everything ran smoothly. He gazed in the mirror and straightened his jacket one more time before putting his hat on. He turned to head out to the stage as Wil appeared.

“Yes, I’m coming, alright? He sent you to get me again, didn’t he?” Charles said.

“He’s just making sure nothing goes wrong,” Wil said.

“It’s all sorted. I know what I’m doing,” Charles said.

“I know that. Just get out there, you know how impatient he can be,” Wil said.

Charles didn’t dignify that with an answer as he pushed past him and headed for the stage. Wil followed, eager to see how the show would progress. He stopped by Ray’s room on the way, letting him know he had five minutes or so before he was on. Wil received an irritated reply and left him to it.

 

The crowd hushed as the lights dimmed and the spotlights circled the stage. The band began playing and Charles made his entrance, chased by two dwarves in penguin outfits. Charles fended them off, though the dwarves were ably assisted by Julian and Chas as the show’s clowns. Chas was having immense fun tripping Charles and throwing plastic knives at him before Julian hoisted Chas over his shoulder and carried him off, the dwarves trailing behind them.

And then it was time for the main act. The stage was cleared and the mud pit revealed. The crowd cheered, knowing what was coming next. Fanfare sounded and a triumphant Ray emerged, riding on the back of an elephant. Ray paraded around the stage, lapping in the crowd’s cheers. As he did so, a large box was lowered down into the centre of the mud pit, containing the enemy he was about to face.

“Ladies and gentleman, and whoever else bothered to turn up! Prepare yourselves for the main event, a spectacular showdown like you’ve never seen before! Yes, that’s right, people, tonight, Ray Martin takes on a most deadly enemy. Tonight, Ray Martin fights a mouse!” Charles proclaimed as Ray slid down from the elephant to prepare for the fight.

“A mouse? Are you serious?” Ray said as he approached Charles.

“A tiny mouse. That should be no trouble for you,” Charles said.

“I know what you’re like. This won’t be a walk in the park. Come on, show me the little bugger,” Ray said, his robe falling from his shoulders.

“Well, you asked for it. Release the mouse!” Charles said, turning to face the mud pit as the box was opened to reveal what was inside.

So perhaps they’d stretched the truth somewhat, possibly because they had been expressly forbidden to use a real mouse in a mud pit because it would probably die, and animal rights groups would probably kill them if they tried. So while it wasn’t a real mouse, the box contained a suitable substitute, namely, one of the dwarves from before in a strange outfit that was supposed to be a mouse. He squeaked and pretended to brush his whiskers as he sat in the cage, hovering over the mud pit.

“Well, okay, so we weren’t allowed to use a real mouse, but we hope you’ll enjoy what we were allowed to use. Be careful though, he’s a biter,” Charles said as the mouse was loosed into the mud pit.

Ray was laughing in spite of his discomfort. Still, at least it would be easier than a real mouse. With suitable ruckus, Ray jumped the fence and charged into the pit.

“And let the carnage begin!” Charles proclaimed.

Oh, it was a vicious fight indeed. The dwarf was not going to go quietly, and was proving to be very agile in mud. Ray was not fairing well, and copped a few whacks to the head as the dwarf fought back. Ray almost had him tackled to the ground, but the mud allowed him to slip free and Ray was thwarted yet again.

 

The first half of the battle lasted four rounds before a temporary truce was called. The general consensus was that the dwarf was winning. But the winner wasn’t yet determined. Before the fight could continue, the half time entertainment was due.

Craig, naturally, strutted in jeering the crowd into barracking for him. Andrew did his best to mock him. They made their way over to the inflatable pool filled with red jelly. They leapt in as soon as Charles had given them the call to begin, and Andrew found himself tackled roughly by Craig.

They were quite practiced at this by now, walking the fine line they were allowed to traipse as they fought, though towards the end, it began to become more of a fight for sexual dominance than about who could actually win the fight. They did actually kiss this week, and Andrew was lying underneath Craig, both of them coated in jelly, as Craig kissed him, licking the jelly off his face.

“You’re such a sweetie,” Craig murmured as he sucked on Andrew’s earlobe.

“You always love me this way. I’m so gonna fuck you hard tonight,” Andrew said under his breath to avoid being heard by the cameras.

“Looking forward to it, love,” Craig said and kissed him again.

They scampered backstage, hand in hand, to finish what they started, with or without jelly, depending on what happened in the showers.

 

The final showdown between Ray and the mouse was about to begin. They stood opposite each other in the mud pit, the dwarf growling menacingly. Charles rang the bell to begin the last rounds of fighting, and the dwarf charged. Ray almost grabbed him around the waist but missed and fell flat on his face.

It descended into a dirty brawl in the end. It was messy and brutal and no one was quite sure who would win. The dwarf was proving a most worthy opponent. In the end, Ray won out as he pinned the dwarf underneath him. When the fight was over, the crowd went nuts, cheering loudly as Ray, once again, triumphed over his opponent. Charles smiled and took in the energy in the Big top. It was beautiful to watch.

 

Watching from backstage as the show came to a close, Wil grabbed Ross’ hand and decided it was time to distract him. Julian and Chas had already gone missing now that they were no longer needed to add comic relief. Craig and Andrew really had left, though no one knew quite where they were going.

And then there were the two girls, watching from two seats in the back row of the stands where the people were still cheering and beginning to file out. They considered their plans and one scribbled ideas down in a notebook.

“I think the mouse worked well, don’t you?” one said.

“It was certainly epic,” the other agreed.

“Just wait til they see what else we come up with,” the first said, pushing her glasses up her nose.

The second smiled and scribbled down another idea. “They’ll never believe what they see next week.”