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Pete sends them tickets to the circus with a note that says, "For research purposes only," as they're putting together the look of the tour.

Brendon says, "Awesome," and tries to abscond with the tickets, but Spencer knows him too well for that and takes them for safekeeping.

The circus pulls in to town a week later and it's one of the old-time American-style ones, not like the Cirques that are forever on rotation in Vegas proper.

Jon buys Brendon cotton candy because Jon is shit at refusing Brendon things and in the interests of all involved, Ryan helps him with it. Spencer asks, "You want me to get you one?" but Ryan doesn't even like cotton candy that much. What he does love is annoying Brendon. It's easy and entertaining, not two things Ryan often gets to combine.

There are clowns and trapeze artists and a knife thrower with a particularly delicious looking target--Ryan wills himself not to get hard as the blades implant themselves around the boy who can't be much older than him. He needs to get laid.

Target Boy shows up again as the Lion Tamer. He is silent and sure in his movements, and the cats respond to him without him ever once moving the whip.

Ryan thinks there's a metaphor somewhere in there about beasts and control.

Pete's tickets allow them to go behind the curtain afterward, and Brendon is off like a shot to see if they'll allow him to ride the elephants. Jon tags along, just in case Brendon falls off. They need their lead singer.

Spencer says, "You mind if I wander off to find their makeup people. I know you've got that covered for you, but--"

"Have fun," Ryan tells him.

"Try not to get in too much trouble," Spencer says in return.

Ryan goes off to find the cats that could, potentially, eat him. No trouble to be had there.

He stands in front of the cage where the lioness is lounging. She rolls one idolent eye in his direction, but clearly he is not substantial enough for a meal, because she goes right back to ignoring him. The male is sleeping.

"You're standing awfully close," a voice says from behind him.

Ryan jumps slightly, then swears under his breath. Way to make a first impression. He turns around and looks straight at the Lion Tamer. "I got as close as I felt comfortable with."

The boy nods. "They'll let someone who isn't afraid of them fairly close."

It isn't exactly that Ryan isn't afraid. He has enough sense to be afraid. It's just that he fears other things more. He holds out his hand. "Ryan Ross."

The boy takes it. For a second it seems like he might not return the introduction, however. Finally he says, "Trowa Barton."

"You don't fear lions and you don't fear knives. What is it you do fear?"

The eye that is not hidden by a thick swath of hair appears amused. "You first."

Ryan considers saying, "I asked first," but he's actually trying to appear somewhat mature. "Losing Spencer. And Brendon. And Jon."


Bandmates. It's different. More. "Yes."

Trowa says, "Mine's the same."

"Losing your friends?"

"Quatre and Duo and Heero and Wufei."

Ryan nods.

Trowa says, "Step closer."

Ryan doesn't think, just does as Trowa says.

"Let her smell you."

Sure enough, the lioness has perked up a bit, is getting to know Ryan with her nose. Ryan waits and waits and suddenly Trowa is at his back, his hips to Ryan's and it is unbearably presumptuous. Ryan has no thought but to bear it. Trowa takes Ryan's hands and puts it through the bars, places it atop the lioness.

She is unimaginably soft.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile