Fanfic Time: Heaven, Earth and Hell, part 4

Continued from yesterday:

  The money was good. Both he and Dad agreed on that. It paid for a great many luxuries. Unfortunately, it didn’t - or wouldn’t - pay for the take-out containers to go to the trash, nor for the clothes to get washed, nor for the dishes to get cleaned.

  That was his job, now.

  At least Dad didn’t make him wear that fucking collar and chain.

  No, *he* got the beating of a lifetime if he screwed up.

  Karl couldn’t ask, “What did your last slave die of?” because they’d rented their last slave out. And before that…

  He hated himself for feeling sad about Mama Wagner. He’d… *liked* being with her. She made him feel better about himself. Taught him things. Defended him from Dad - sometimes at her own expense.

  He’d been happy with Mama Wagner. Even with the freak in her shadow and, later, trailing after him like a bad smell. They’d been… better times. Softer times.

  He was hard, now. You didn’t keep pain - that had been why Mama Wagner had *really* fallen ill - you passed it on to the first sucker you could get. *That* was what made you better.

  Dad beat up on him… so he beat up on those smaller and weaker than him. They, in turn, would find someone lower on the food chain, but Karl didn’t care about that.

  It was the way the world worked. You either sucked it up, or you got more.

  …and speaking of more…

  Dad was getting stingy with the money. Restricting what they could get and, specifically, what *he* could get.

  “Hey. Dad?”

  “You take out the trash?”

  Always, the Spanish fucking Inquisition… “Yes, Dad,” he said in a tired monotone.

  “Done th’ laundry?”

  “Yes, Dad.”

  “Dishes clean?”

  “Yes, Dad.”

  “House clean?”

  “Yes, Dad.”

  “Homework done?”

  _Gotta love this guy’s priorities…_ “Yes, Dad.”

  “So what the fuck *you* want?”

  “Y'know that cheque from the circus people?”


  “How do *we* know they’re not scamming us?”

  Dad got that _Oh holy *fuck*_ expression of a professional scam artist caught wondering if he could really trust people.

  Karl did his best not to smirk. “You know those circus types,” he said. “They’re all gypsies and stuff. Take you for every dime they can get… legal contract or not.”

  Dad rumbled and stalked into his office. Karl was never to go in there, but he lingered outside the door to watch the man’s expression change as he went through the paperwork that had accumulated in there.

  Watching Dad cook books was something of a treat. And it was an even better treat, now, because he’d finally figured out a way to stick it to the predator. To torture Dad like Dad tortured him.


  Even if he was black and blue, tomorrow, it would be worth it. Just for that look on Dad’s face.


  They’d borrowed the cage for the lion act, and set it up with some of the more interesting low rigging and a portion of a roof. They’d had to improvise with the tent, as well, making sure it was sealed off from people trying to get a free peek - or a picture for some tabloid somewhere.

  Later, when he was better, the last thing he would need would be some glorified, gory reminder of his animalistic past. He wouldn’t need to have his nose rubbed in it.

  Of course, borrowing the lion cage meant that his act had to stop a full quarter-hour before the performance. And, since there were outsiders around, that meant attatching Demon to a leash. It was a slim thing, barely strong enough to hold him if he decided to run - not that Celia thought he’d try something like that - but it still made her wince to put it on him.

  He always purred and rubbed up against her, nontheless.

  If only she was so good at keeping up the charade.

  Celia lead him out into the ‘backstage’ area of the circus, a place where outsiders were less likely to go. And few of them would have cameras close enough to hand to catch a reliable picture. All the same, between the tent and her trailer, she was paranoid. Scanning for anyone with any kind of equipment between him and their face.

  She was bought up short by the unexpected sensation of Demon dragging on his leash.


  He’d frozen in place, staring… towards the admin trailer.

  Celia had to squint to make out the shape of Wagner. The body-speak of Wagner the elder wasn’t the nicest of stuff. Seth was remaining cool, and some of the roadies were starting to close in. She gently rubbed Demon’s ear to calm him. “It’s okay, honey. He’s far, far away. He can’t hurt you.”

  “I can.”

  It was mini-sleaze. He was playing with his knife, trying to create an air of slow menace. Too bad for him her heart had already jumped the gun. However, since she couldn’t allow him the pleasure of seeing her scared, Celia used every atom of acting skill to appear unimpressed.

  She focussed on the half-healed bruise on his face. It was clear evidence that he was a minor player in the menacing stakes. There was someone bigger and meaner who had got a shot in.

  Demon, unfortunately, reacted out of fear and hid behind her.

  “What do *you* want?” she said, distain clear in her voice.

  Mini-sleaze recalculated. He was a nasty one. Given a few years, he’d be the sort of slime that played head-games with their chosen victim as well as enacting careful physical torture. The sort that never showed up in public arenas. “You keep him on *that* thin a leash?” he said, pretending shock and surprise. As if his initial threat had never happened. And -hey- there were no other witnesses, so she had no proof of what he said. “Don’t you know he’s a killer?”

  Pressed up against her calves, Demon finched.

  “I’ve seen no signs of a violent nature,” she said.

  “Yeah. That’s just his way. Sweet as anything to you until you let down your guard? And then, when you least expect it– you’re dead and it’s his fault. That’s what happened to Mom.”

  Demon was very, very still at that one.

  “Really?” she maintained her cool. Ah. Jaime was looking their way, trying. “So it would be in the newspapers. Where did this happen?”

  Caught out, mini-sleaze fumbled. “Don’t matter. The important thing is that he has the taste for human blood. He’ll want more. Best to lock him up and throw away the key.”

  Jaime was in earshot, now. “I’ll keep that in mind,” she said neutrally. “In the meantime, it’d be healthier for you to stay in the more public areas of the circus. Or with your father. We can’t be responsible for your safety, back here.”

  Which was codespeak for, “Jaime, escort this loser to the perimiter.”

  Mini-sleaze actually flinched when a hand, easily as large as his head, plopped delicately onto his shoulder.

  “Our safety regulations prevent you roaming loose in this area, sir,” said Jaime in his calm-and-reasonable voice. Few could resist Jaime when he was being calm and reasonable. And if they tried, he’d just pick them up and carry them safely beyond the borders of the circus’ grounds.

  Mini-sleaze casually flicked the blade of his knife away. “Sure, mister,” he greased. “I can see why, what with all these dangerous animals running around loose.”

  Demon was sitting very still, golden eyes closed, and concentrating on his breathing. Celia actually had to pick him up and carry him for the short journey to their trailer. The minute he was safe inside, the hysterical reaction began. Shivering, low noises of pain, and sobs that threatened to choke him.

  All she could do was keep him warm and comfort him.


  The encounter with Wagner the younger threw him off. She could practically taste his nervousness in the air as he performed in the cage. There was more hesitation. Less spontaneity.

  Oh, sure, he wowed the gawking crowds like a true performer, but Celia knew there was effort in maintaining the act. And there was fear, too, that the act would slip, somehow. He was self-conscious, and that almost made him awkward.

  The unknowing crowd would accept the lie that he was a young animal, and her passing off his clumsiness in this showing as a kittenish lack of co-ordination due to being in a state of growth.

  Most would understand. Some, however… had no idea what came with taming an animal. They seemed to believe that any creature in a show was some kind of preprogrammed living robot that could be made to perform on demand.

  “Make it do that thing with the ceiling,” said a visitor. “That was cool. The wife an’ kids wanna see it.”

  “Sir, he’s still in early training,” Celia explained. “I can only reward good behaviour… I can’t 'make’ him do anything he doesn’t want to.”

  “I’ll make 'im jump,” volunteered another visitor.

  Celia barely had time to register the speaker as mini-sleaze before a half-cup of soda went arcing straight towards the cage.

  Demon simply leaped out of the way. He never got a drop on him.

  The roadies were closing in, but not before the damage was done. Mini-sleaze had pockets full of rocks, which he began hucking at the cage. Other kids joined in, flinging anything they could.

  “Get these people *out* of here,” Celia yelled. “Close the tent! Hurry!” This was the last thing she wanted, damnit. Her cane came in handy, incapacitating Wagner the younger by the simple expedient of cracking his arms and legs with its sturdy length.

  The sleaze succeeded in stealing her scarf off her head.

  And the Demon *howled*.

  There was no real word for the bone-chilling, bowel-stirring, hackle-raising and ungodly noise that rose from the occupant of the cage; but 'howl’ was the closest approximation.

  It was a noise that came from the dawn of time’s *nightmares*.

  Half the kids still present in the melee ran for their lives. The others, restrained by the roadies, retalliated with their own screams.

  Wagner went deadly pale, evidently as shocked as anyone else that Demon was capable of such a sound. All the fight went out of him, allowing her and two other members of the troop to pin him to the earth.

  “I told you,” he said. Plenty loud enough for the other kids to hear. “That thing’s a *killer*!”

  Celia managed to tug her scarf from his hand and cover herself anew. “Congratulations,” she panted. “We can press charges against you, now. You’re going to *Juvie*.”

  Mini-sleaze snorted. “I’ll be out in less than a week.”

  _And by then, I pray, we will have passed beyond your sphere of influence._

  Of course, by the time the wreckage was mopped up, it was not only time for the evening performance, but Celia was exhausted and weak. There was, after all, so much that sheer adrenoline could do… and it had already done it when facing down that little sleeze. She couldn’t even verbally fight off Jaime when he scooped her up in one arm and delicately took Demon’s leash between the finger and thumb of the other hand. Ashamed though she was to admit it, Celia was glad of the lift.

  Judging by the look on Jaime’s face, she must have looked like absolute *shit*.

  He put her in the comfy chair, piling her with pillows and tucking a blanket around her. “I’ll fetch Betty,” he said. “You need help.”

  Great. Two mother hens. At least Betty was a qualified nurse, and could summon whichever doctor was servicing the region in the event of an emergency.

  Celia drowsed in her chair. Just the light, resting-my-eyes kind of drowsing. Between one blink and the next, someone had given her a glass of milk. It had a bendy-straw in it. She could barely lift it to sip some. Blink. The heater was on, pointed to her feet, which were now elevated on a storage bin with a pillow on it.

  Demon’s pillow.


  He’d found her fluffy slippers. The nauseatingly bright ones with the legend 'Happy Thoughts!’ that had been a gift of the troop on her return from the hospital. Celia only knew it was Demon because, as her eyes flickered open, he was still fitting one on her left foot.


  Someone was rapping on her door.

  “It’s unlocked,” she called. The blanket moved - pushed about by something under her legs - and Demon poked his head out. Wary.

  It was Betty. “Well. Don’t *you* look like death re-fried.”

  “It was the workout. That little Wagner asshole made trouble at th’ show…” Blink.

  Betty was taking her pulse and checking her temperature with the infra-red ear thingy. {peep} “A little low. Thank God Jaime put the heater on you or you’d be in a chill.”

  “Jaime didn’t.” Blink. “Think it w’s Demon.”

  “You need iron,” Betty decided. “Is there still that lamb’s fry?”

  “…dunno…” Blink. A long one. Sizzling and delicious smells revived her in time to see Betty at the stovetop and Demon ankling through her legs like a big cat.

  Thirst made her finish off the milk.

  “Damn, but this recipe wasn’t kidding about attracting predators,” Betty joked. She checked over her shoulder. “And reviving the dead.”

  “Sounds good,” she croaked. “Feels like I missed a pill or five.”

  “I’ll get 'em,” Betty volunteered. She picked them out of the array and shook out the correct dosages.

  Behind her, Demon propped himself up on the counter to sniff deeply over the pan. His stomach rumbled and he moaned a little, but he didn’t even try to snaffle some of the frying meat.

  In fact, while Betty was fussing over her, Demon picked up the spatula and stirred the meal in progress.

  Celia indicated him with a nod of her head and a motion to be quiet.

  “…well I’ll be damned,” Betty whispered. “Word’s been getting around about him being brighter than he pretends to be, but– *damn*…”

  Celia resumed her march of the pills. Even at one sip per tablet, half her drink was gone by the time the medicine was. She gulped the rest of it down. Bit by bit, she was coming back to life.

  “If I never see that little shitheel again, it’ll be too soon,” Celia moaned. “Sabotaging the act, playing psych games… If I wasn’t sick…”

  “Well, he’s arrested, now. That’s at least a few days without him.” Betty went back to finishing her cooking. Casually ignoring the fact that someone had been helping. “Now, if we could only do something about his damn *father*…”

  “Amen to that,” said Celia. “But I can wait to find out what he was trying to pull on Seth. Hell, I can wait for anything. Waiting is nice. You don’t have to *do* anything to wait.”

  Demon leaned himself against her lap and purred, rubbing against her hand. He looked - concerned. Worried.

  “It’s all right, sweetheart. I’m just very tired.”


  That did absolutely nothing to calm him. It was as if… he’d lived through a suffering loved one before.

  Celia rubbed his topmost ear. “I’m getting better,” she told him. “I promise. Nobody’s getting rid of me in a hurry.”

  _From her mouth to His ears,_ thought Kurt, enjoying every moment of the ear-rub, despite his upset feelings. _Throw me wherever you like, just please make her better._ He’d lost her once, three years ago. That had been bad enough. Losing her again to the same thing… worse than any evil he’d survived in those intervening years.

  He’d eagerly donate any amount of his own health if he could somehow transfer it to her.

  Kurt had felt exactly like this at age five, when Mama just kept getting worse and worse. He used to crawl in beside her in the night and try to will all his energy into her. He’d pray to get sick, just so Mama could get better. He’d pray for a miracle.

  But the miracle hadn’t come.

  He stayed out of the way - even though his stomach pained him - while the guardian angel Betty fed Mama. He watched for even the faintest sign of improvement like a hawk, and only let himself eat when Mama’s colour started to come back.

  Kurt stayed by her for every waking minute. He wouldn’t leave her alone like last time. He’d stay close. Keep a watchful eye out.

  Sit vigil. For however long it took.

  No matter how tired he got.

  No matter how quiet it was.

  No matter how heavy his eyelids grew…

  Kurt snuffled awake. Mama was gone! Pillows still there, blanket left on the floor, even the pillow under her feet was still on the big plastic box.


  It wasn’t *fair*!

  Mama was *gone*.


  “Now just relax and–”

  “But our friend…”

  “I’ll make sure he gets a nutri-shake and some TLC. Don’t *fret*,” soothed Betty. “You need to recouperate. And you’re *going* to recouperate or else. Got it?”


  Betty flinched at the sound of that word. It was hard not to flinch, what with so much pain and anguish and fear squashed into two simple syllables.

  “Told you he talks,” Celia smiled in spite of herself. “You better go and get him before he completely freaks out.” She blinked. When she opened her eyes again, her world was eclipsed by blue fur. Some of it, close against her face, was wet with hot tears.

  “…mama…” Just loud enough to catch in her ear and no more, but pure relief dripped from each syllable.

  Celia reached up and rubbed his ear, calming him. She could feel his heart pounding in his chest. Almost thundering with agitation.

  “Go with Betty,” she whispered. “She’ll take care of you while I rest. Okay?”

  He kissed her. A human kiss. Gentle and soft and warm.

  Blink. It was warm and dark and some DVD was playing in the other room of the trailer. Celia couldn’t bother straining her hearing to try and identify it. What mattered was that everything currently *felt* safe. Everything was going to be okay.

  Celia let that thought guide her into a full sleep.


  Kurt had arranged himself across Betty so he could see Mama. Every few minutes, no matter what was happening on the TV screen, he would look across the darkness to her bed-nook and watch for her breathing.

  Betty, during this intermittant vigil, would carefully brush his fur and coo that it was going to be okay. That she was going to be just fine in the morning. Watch the movie, eh? It’s a good one. Look at all the funny critters. Isn’t that one blue like you?

  Kurt would resume his slump across Betty’s lap and watch the strange figures on the screen. It was both real and unreal at the same time. It *looked* real enough… but it was obviously unreal at the same time.

  Betty called it 'seegeeyie’. Pictures made by computers.

  Strange creatures… sort-of - yet definitely *not* - like him. Calling themselves monsters, but acting like everyday people.

  There was no such thing as a freak in that strange, made-up world.

  All the same… he didn’t *like* the idea of being a monster.

  It had… implications.

  Even if the creatures on the screen were supposed to be *nice* monsters, the very word itself had overtones that Kurt personally abhorred.


  It was just as bad as 'demon’ or 'freak’. Or any of the many words that Sir had called him and Karl had teased him ceaselessly with.

  They were words that hurt.

  The brush felt nice, even so. And a full belly helped ease his mood from discomfort to a sort of peace.

  Mama snored.

  Just a little, though. That tiny buzz was the world’s most reassuring noise for Kurt. He didn’t need to *see* Mama breathe. He could hear it. As natural and reassuring as the warmth of her embrace.

  “Hm. You really *were* worried about her,” murmured Betty. “Poor lost soul…” She tucked a blanket around him.

  A lost soul. Yes. That made a world of sense.

  A lost soul trying to find the path into heaven.