Counterbalanceby Aidan Wayne
John loves his job as head rigger for Cirque Brilliance. The heavy scarring over half his face makes it a little hard to meet new people, but John's got a good crew and a nice found family, and he’s content with his lot in life.
When Cirque hires talent for a new show, John meets Bao, a bright, ever-cheerful acrobat. Bao seems drawn to John and becomes a constant presence at his side—talking to him during downtime, spending time with him at lunch, and generally seeking out his company.
John doesn't know what to make of this. Sure, he likes Bao—maybe a little too much, honestly—but he’s had enough experience to know that Bao couldn’t possibly like him back. Or so he thinks, anyway. Fortunately, Bao seems determined to prove him wrong.
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“Good morning!” Bao said. He was just as cheerful as he’d been last night. “How are you?”
“Fine,” John replied, trying not to feel so confused. He had excused Bao’s lack of reaction yesterday as darkness or shadows and the fact that the guy was probably exhausted. But today, in broad daylight, there wasn’t even a flinch. It certainly wasn’t something he minded, god no, but it was unexpected, is all. “You’re up early.”
“I very much want to begin,” Bao said seriously. “Also, I was told that if I get up with the sun, I will better adjust to the time.”
“That’s good advice,” John said, finishing the last mat and then standing up.
“I hope so.” Bao smiled, pushing up onto his toes before settling down again. “I am very tired already, so I will make my body work even harder.”
Lord, how was he supposed to respond to that? “Sounds good.”
More acrobats started to trickle into the room, ready for morning warm-up, and Bao went over to greet almost everyone, calling to people by name or merely nodding when someone looked particularly grumpy. Half of them were probably still jet-lagged.
John checked over the last mat and then stepped to the side, nodding to Anastasia, the other rigger in today. She’d been on his team for a couple of years now, and was great.
Smart, reliable, all that good stuff. And her being trilingual helped a ton, even though most of the cast and crew spoke at least passable English. It was just two of them today, and would be for the next while at least. No point bringing in a full rigging crew for what was essentially playtime.
Hard-core, exhausting playtime that would leave most of the performers bloody, but yeah. It didn’t hold a candle to when they started on the legit choreography.
“It’s an interesting group,” Anastasia said, watching the cast as they started warming up. “I think they’ll make a good show.”
John shrugged. “They always make a good show. Best of the best, remember?”
She waved a hand. “More heart in this group, I think.”
He chuckled. “You say that every time.”
“Mmm. Maybe this time, we will find someone for you, yes?”
He snorted. That was the other thing about Anastasia. She liked to, well, take advantage of the atmosphere. Cirque was long, exhausting days and nights, and you became close with your group. Hookups and relationships among the members were more than just common. Her last three boyfriends had been cast members. Last year she’d gotten it into her head that it was John’s turn.
She bumped his shoulder. “Don’t scoff, you’ll see. We’ll find you a nice boy, once they all get used to you.”
He snorted again. “What,” he drawled, scrubbing his left hand over the top of his head and down his cheek, the scar tissue there catching on the rough skin of his fingers.
“You don’t think they’ll be drawn in by my pretty face?”
Anastasia clicked her tongue at him and went back to watching the performers appreciatively. John glanced over too. He picked out Bao immediately. The man was doing stretches in a circle with five other performers, three men and two women, and they were all talking back and forth about something. He felt his lips quirk. The guy certainly wasted no time, that was for sure. It looked like he really had made it his mission to know everyone as quickly as possible.
“I see a smile!” Anastasia immediately looked around. “Who for? Which one?”
John shrugged and tried to point to Bao without making it obvious he was singling him out. “He found me in Operations last night. Introduced himself. Excitable guy.”
“Ah.” She nodded. “I just met him today. He said hello while we were setting the mats.” She looked over at John. “He mentioned you, you know.”
Ah, there it was. “Yeah?”
“Mmm. He said he had met John, another rigger, last night, and asked if we were friends.”
“Oh,” John said, nonplussed.
“I told him we were, of course.”
John snorted. “Thanks.”
About Aidan Wayne:
Aidan Wayne is a big believer in character-driven stories with happy endings. This is not to say that stories can’t contain a little (or a lot) of grief, just that at the end of it all expect there to be bandages and hugs. They particularly like to write about minority characters because damn it, they deserve happy endings too.
When not writing, Aidan enjoys practicing aerial, martial arts, and ASL, and watching reality cooking shows. They are probably in the middle of twelve projects as you read this.
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