D. N. Angel Fan Fiction ❯ Chapter 4

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Chapter 4:
 
Disclaimer: I do not own DN Angel.
 
Warnings: None really.
 
It had been four days since he had joined this strange troupe and Satoshi still was not sure what to make of this experience. The jesters in his father’s court had always been individuals, and certainly not half as talented as this group appeared to be. They shifted from tightrope-walking and acrobatics to juggling and live performances, often choosing to re-enact folktales gathered from the villages they had travelled through previously.
 
Although Krad was the `official leader’, in charge of procuring food and shelter for the little group, Dark, Quatre and perhaps Heero were the ones who held the group together. The three of them would sort out any disputes in the group, as well as decide on what to perform in the next town. On his fifth day of scrubbing pots and cleaning equipment (he had been deemed too `weak’ by Wufei to handle heavy lifting), Duo sauntered over and much to Satoshi’s surprise, picked up a dirty plate and began to wash it alongside him. “Say, Satoshi, you’ve been here for a bit, you know how we work right?” Satoshi nodded, wondering what the other man was trying to say.
 
“D’you think you’re up to performing, or doing something other than cleaning up?” The braided youth asked, purple eyes dancing and omnipresent grin on his face. The young prince blinked, thrown off-guard by the abrupt question.
 
“I beg your pardon?” He asked in slight disbelief. It must have sounded harsher than he’d intended it to, for Duo laughed and backed off, holding his hands up in a gesture intended to convey harmlessness.
 
“There’s no need to react like that,” he laughed, although Satoshi noticed that he was tenser than he had been before, arms held slightly rigidly. “I just thought you might be bored of all that,” he gestured at the tub of water and the dirty eating utensils.
 
For a brief moment, Satoshi imagined himself in one of the costumes that the troupe used so often, performing alongside them instead of waiting in the wings to take their discarded props. However, this little fantasy soon vanished as he remembered that he was meant to have disappeared. His cousin would likely have people searching for him by now and he had been lucky thus far, but performing on the streets would certainly draw their attention. Even guards and spies for the government would not be averse to watching a play or two to while away the long, dull hours standing in the baking sun. “I don’t think so,” he hastily replied. Duo’s face fell and he looked back at Heero, who was silently watching them. Then he suddenly stood up and walked back towards his spot at the fire, next to the brown-haired boy. Frowning slightly; Duo could be as persistent as a mosquito when he needed to be; Satoshi returned to scrubbing at a particularly stubborn grease spot, only to be interrupted by Heero.
 
“Why not?”
 
“My cousin—“ Satoshi stopped himself just in time to remember that he was no longer a prince, or a member of the royal family here. He was just `Satoshi Hiroyuki’, an ordinary youth who happened to lose his purse and garner Dark’s sympathy. That was all he really was, now. Dark blue eyes bored into him.
 
“What about your cousin?” Heero asked bluntly. Taken aback, Satoshi shook his head. It really wouldn’t matter if his cousin was looking for him, after all. Since the man was `ordinary’, at least to these people. He couldn’t exactly tell them that he was related to the Emperor of Khael, and the missing son of a now-dead king, could he? “
 
“He’s looking for me,” Satoshi said warily. “Here, in this city. I don’t want him to find me.”
 
Blue eyes narrowed slightly as though their owner was searching for something that would hint at the truth before the other young man slowly turned around and walked away, conferring for a little while with Duo before heading for their shared tent. Satoshi stood there with the washcloth still in his hands, until Riku came by and asked if he needed any help with the dishes. In spite of his reluctance to perform, Satoshi could not help but wonder what he would do if he had accepted the offer. He fell asleep and dreamt that night of performing onstage in front of Ryuuki’s court, mocking all the ministers to their faces in spite of the growing murmurs of anger. The dream ended with them dragging him to a gallows, where Duo, of all people, was the executioner. He stared down at the crowd baying for his blood from the platform, Wufei kicked him off and suddenly he was tumbling down, greenery surrounding him instead of the blur of colours that the officials wore. Searing pain burst through his eyes and suddenly he could no longer see. As though from a distance, he heard someone screaming his name…
 
He bolted upright just in time to catch a large quantity of well-water in the face, flung most accurately by Riku. Shivering slightly, he looked around at the rest of the performers, all of whom were staring at him with wide eyes. Dark was the first to speak. “With a voice like that, you could be a town crier.” It was clear that he had scared them, and although he tried not to remember the room in vivid detail, the memory of his mother’s death returned. All the servants had stared at him just like this, when they’d found her dead body. Everyone had looked at him with judgement in their eyes and pity in their voices, and Satoshi swallowed hard, trying his best not to scramble away and cower in a corner.
 
“Right then,” Dark said, sounding slightly less shaken, a shadow of authority returning to his voice. “Since he’s fine, someone get him a towel. Get changed and back to sleep,” he told the blue-haired youth gently. Grateful for this small show of kindness, Satoshi nodded and stood up, heading for his possessions. The others shifted uneasily, although the twins immediately vanished; they had no desire to see a man changing. “What are you all waiting for?” Dark asked crisply. “A show of dubious intent? Come on everyone, let’s go. We’ve got a long day ahead; I want enough money to feed the emperor’s Western army!” Duo joined in the banter and between the two of them, they ushered everyone out. Only Krad seemed thoughtful; the rest dismissed his screams as particularly bad nightmares. Satoshi only hoped that he hadn’t said something in his sleep that had betrayed his true identity.
 
The next morning was a quiet affair; Satoshi was at first worried that the group would treat him differently after last night’s incidents, but no one treated him differently or asked him how he felt and for that alone, he felt a small measure of gratitude towards Dark. It was refreshing not to be smothered and coddled like he had been at the castle and even in the Khael Palace. He glared at a small, stubborn spot of what looked like five-pepper sauce and scrubbed at it harder, scraping away at it until bits flaked off into the river, likely for some unfortunate fish to devour. The twins should never have been allowed anywhere near a cooking pot, if last night’s dinner had been anything to go by. A shadow fell across him and Satoshi turned to see Krad standing behind him. “Leave those,” the blond told him shortly.
 
“Sorry?”
 
Golden eyes narrowed in impatience. “Have you hurt your head?” The man demanded. “You heard me. Leave those dishes. I’ll send someone else to get them.”
 
Satoshi frowned slightly and stood up, hastily wiping his hands dry on his rough tunic. Without another word, Krad turned swiftly and began to head back to camp. The blue-haired man young man followed him silently, mind whirling with questions but unwilling to break the uneasy silence between the two of them.
 
Out of the entire group, Satoshi had found himself feeling the most distant from Krad. Although he supposed that they shared some similarities, he did not feel as comfortable about the older man as he did around the rest of the group. There was a cold, distant air about him that made him seem aloof, but the prince had seen him occasionally talking to Heero or Quatre, and Dark certainly had no qualms about insulting the man to his face. Nevertheless, he noticed that the blond preferred to stay on his own; even during dinner, he would merely take his plate and vanish, only returning to watch the troupe practice and to sleep. Satoshi did not know where he went, or what he did when he was alone, but he was content to let the other be.
 
He stared at the back of the other man’s white jacket, wondering how he kept it so clean in spite of all his time out in on the streets and moving through the crowds of people. Then again, it did not appear as though he owned much else; none of the troupe did. Perhaps the man washed his clothes every night? Satoshi felt a slight smile rise as he thought of the dignified man squatting on a riverbank somewhere, scrubbing furiously at a spot on his clothing.
 
They soon reached the campsite. Much to Satoshi’s surprise, most of the troupe had already retired to their tents; the only person outside was Riku, who was merely prodding the hot embers of the slowly dying fire to ensure that it did not completely go out. Krad swept by the girl, curtly gesturing for her to go to the river and take Satoshi’s place washing the dishes. She shot the blue-haired boy a puzzled look before heading out to do her chores. “Isn’t that dangerous?” The prince asked. Krad shot him a look.
 
“No. Riku is perfectly capable of defending herself.”
 
The blue-haired youth frowned lightly but intimidated by the other’s presence, he held his tongue. They walked towards Krad’s and Dark’s tent, and in an oddly-courtly gesture, Krad pulled the tent flap aside and motioned for Satoshi to enter first.
 
Inside, Dark was huddled up in a mass of blankets, with a small bundle next to him that was surely Krad’s bedroll and blankets. “Good evening, Satoshi,” the purple-haired man greeted him as cheerfully as ever. “Krad didn’t scare you too much, did he?” Satoshi shook his head and carefully sat down, already aware that the small tent would be unable to accommodate him standing upright. “Good man,” the older one commented. “Right, now, Duo’s been talking to me about performances and things, and the entire group believes that we need an extra person to ease things along – Krad does narration, but he refuses to do anything else.” The actor deftly caught a lump of soft material, undoubtedly thrown at him by the blond, and placed it behind his head. “It won’t be permanent, of course, but for this new project we certainly need someone. Besides, it’s high time you did something other than wash dishes and clothing.” He flashed that grin again and Satoshi carefully nodded. “A little bird also told me that you were afraid of a family member finding you – a runaway, are you?” At Satoshi’s shrug, Dark raised an eyebrow but continued. “In any case, runaway or no, you will have to perform sooner or later. And besides, it’s a much more entertaining endeavour than just being domestic and whatnot.” Satoshi nodded carefully.
 
“But making me perform would put me out in the open,” he calmly pointed out. “I highly doubt that you would sacrifice me just to make money off of a few performances.”
 
“Hardly,” Dark replied. He turned sharply to glare at Krad, who was frowning at Satoshi’s words. “In fact, I might have to remind you that you’re completely at our mercy at the moment.” Satoshi winced; the comment stung sharply. “But because we’re charming, smart people – except for Krad dearest, that is – we’ve come up with an idea. You’ll get all the masked parts.”
 
Dark beamed at him proudly, obviously expecting him to immediately acquiesce. Nevertheless, Satoshi remained stubborn. He did not want to accidentally catch the eye of a palace spy, much less dressed as a woman and performing alongside street entertainers! “No.”
 
Krad snickered as the purple-haired man leaned back in surprise. “Tch. Why not? It’s a good plan, and it’ll satisfy your paranoia.” Satoshi closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
 
“I’m not paranoid,” he said shortly. “I don’t want to perform, all right?”
 
He shifted uneasily as suddenly Dark pushed his face up close. The other man was so close that Satoshi swore he could feel the other’s breath ruffling his hair and smell the mint leaves that the actor chewed sometimes. Much to his relief, the other pulled away again, face unreadable in the dark tent. “There’s no such thing as `I don’t want to’, Satoshi,” Dark dryly commented. “I thought you might understand that.” The blue-haired prince glared silently; he knew exactly what duty was, thank you very much. He knew and understood the ramifications of duty much better than this jumped-up street performer ever would, or could. Before he could reply, the performer immediately jumped in. “You know, no one would ever think of looking for you here,” he commented. “And no matter how many men your cousin has searching for you, it would not matter if you wore a mask. Why are you so set against performing?”
 
Truth be told, Satoshi feared acting in front of such a large crowd. The memory of his dream came back to haunt him and he shook his head to clear it of such nonsense. “I just can’t, all right? I won’t remember any of the lines, I can barely act like a normal person, and—“
 
To his surprise, Dark merely threw back his head and laughed aloud. “Is that all?” He asked. Satoshi frowned; was it not a valid reason?
 
“We’ll teach you, boy, there’s no need to be so anxious about that,” he explained. He laughed again, but this time more softly, and Krad took over.
 
“It really isn’t difficult,” the blond explained. “We’ll start you off on the smaller parts first, like a serving maid or a footman,” he said. “Or one of the musicians; they’re always needed for any good performance. After you’ve mastered the basics, we’ll slowly move you onto the larger parts, and hopefully you’ll be a better princess than Quatre by the time you get to where you’re going.” It seemed that neither man had forgotten that he was only a temporary member of the troupe, but they were still determined to treat him as one of them. The blue-haired young man suddenly felt a little ashamed at his behaviour; he had agreed to work with them, and here he was, refusing to do his share of the work. He bit back a smile at the memory of Quatre’s `princess’; she had an uncanny ability to stumble into the audience, forget her lines and halfway through the performance lose her hair. “So do we have a deal?”
 
Satoshi nodded, this time without hesitation. A hand – he had a feeling it was Dark’s – clapped him on the shoulder. “Good lad,” the purple-haired actor said approvingly. “Get to sleep now; we’ve got some training to do tomorrow!”
 
Next morning:
 
Satoshi did not know all the means of communication within the group; Heero and Trowa both appeared to function without words, Duo with too many, Riku and Risa with the average amount and Wufei with harshness. Nevertheless, he was sure that there was some sort of system within the group, for all of them treated him like a comrade. There was a distinctly approving air about Quatre and a quietly pleased one on Heero’s behalf every time they looked or talked to him. This only made Satoshi feel more embarrassed; he felt as though by refusing to act, he had only really hindered them.
 
“Right then,” Dark briskly began after all the cups, plates and chopsticks had been packed away. “We get to switch up our routine again, since we now have a new member.” He grinned at Satoshi, who smiled back uneasily. Doubt was now whirling through the blue-haired young man’s mind and he wondered how the rest of the group would react if he let them down. “He’ll be starting off easy, since we don’t want to scare him away, so one of you drummers can play the unnamed official and he’ll take your spot.”
 
Satoshi blinked. He knew, just as well as anyone else, that naming officials or even mocking them as a group was strictly forbidden, on pain of imprisonment.“Are you…?” He began to ask, only to stop. He did not know whether or not he wanted to know the answer. Dark smiled at him slyly.
 
“Well, what do you think?”
 
As the play unravelled before his eyes, Satoshi found himself wondering at the disgust which the performers and many of the ordinary folk seemed to have for the nobility. It was merely a sordid tale of cuckoldry and fatherless children, but there was a distinct similarity between the names of certain characters and other, real-life ministers and officials. The young prince winced as Dark triumphantly narrated the climax of the entire story: the minister’s wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but unlike his father, he was light of complexion and blue of eye in spite of his parents’ both having brown eyes. Being a fool, the official failed to recognise this fact, shouting his joy from the rooftops even as his wife and her lover met in his bedroom and gazed fondly at their son. Dark grinned all around, bowing in an exaggerated fashion before his actors. “So, actors, shall we begin?”
 
The parts were snapped up quickly, but true to his word, Dark gave Satoshi a small part as a musician, nodding approvingly as the youth caught on to the easy rhythm of the story. He even went so far as to ask Duo to teach the younger one a few of the typical beats which normally accompanied a story; sharp, rapid ones denoting laughter, slow ponderous ones to show a figure of authority, so pompous and arrogant that he could barely deign to lift one foot and place it in front of the other. Satoshi caught on quickly, and with the braided performer’s help he soon mastered most of the basics. “You’re good,” the other cheerily commented. “Better than Wufei, anyway.”
 
“MAXWELL!”
 
“It’s true,” Duo winked at Satoshi. “He can’t carry a tune to save his life.” Thirty metres away, the dark-haired man sneezed violently. “And he sounds like a frog being stepped on when he sings.” He cocked his head to one side and thought for a moment before shaking his head. “Well, no, that’s not right. Comparing him to such an unfortunate creature would be injustice indeed.”
 
Clearly unable to take this slight to his abilities, Wufei stalked over with the wooden drum still in his hands. “Have you lost your hearing as well as your mind now?” He demanded irritably. “I am certainly more capable of handling the small amount of singing required than you are -“ Satoshi blinked, unsure of what to do. He had seen the pair bicker enough times to know that no harm would come of it but normally one of the other actors stopped the argument before it really escalated. He tried to catch the men’s attention a few times, but both of them ignored him. A sudden movement caught at the corner of his eye and without thinking, he ducked only to wince at the sound of wood smacking flesh. He turned to see Riku rushing up, her tone annoyed.
 
“Stop fighting, the two of you!” Duo winced and rubbed at the sore spot on his head, turning pleading eyes on the girl. “But Riku…”
 
“Don’t `Riku’ me!” She barked. “You know better than to wind Wufei up.” Rolling his eyes good-naturedly, the brown haired actor waved at the other actor.
 
“Eh, so sorry for telling the truth.” The other turned an interesting shade of puce but left, returning to his original place next to Trowa. Amethyst eyes turned on Satoshi once more. “She’s so fierce,” he chuckled. “Well, let’s see about combining rhythm and dance then, shall we?”
 
A few hours later:
 
“Now, you raise your leg and hop, maintaining the beat all the while…” Satoshi growled in frustration.
 
“I feel like a prancing pony,” he mumbled.
 
Duo merely tossed his head back and laughed. “It keeps the audience happy, and don’t you like seeing them smile because of what you’ve done?” Satoshi paused and shrugged.
 
“Are they not laughing at me rather than with me?”
 
The other sighed dramatically whilst the blue-eyed young man blinked. “’Tis the life of a travelling performer to make jokes and give easy laughter to all those who see him. You do not understand, young man!” Really, Duo was almost as bad as Dark sometimes. Then he straightened up, and there was a serious note in his voice. “As actors, we are called upon to play many parts. Sometimes the wise advisor, sometimes the people’s voice. But most of all, we are their source of laughter. And if that task means that I must be a prancing pony, a prancing pony I shall be!” He tossed his head proudly, like Satoshi’s stallion freshly out of the stable and neighed to the skies.
 
“I thought you were teaching him the drums?” That calm voice was none other than Heero’s. Satoshi blinked. “Um, yes, but -“
 
“You know me, Heero. I’m a very unorthodox teacher.” The long-haired man gave his friend a dazzling smile that seemed to have no effect whatsoever.
 
“Oh? And how do horse imitations come into this?” Satoshi shuffled awkwardly; none of his tutors back home had ever been like this. There seemed to be no respect for silence, or peace, or time for learning; life always intervened.
 
“We were discussing philosophy.” The prince wondered whether there was any worse word to describe their previous conversation. He jumped as Heero directly addressed him.
 
“Satoshi. What has this idiot been teaching you, if anything?”
 
Taking a deep breath; he knew that the cobalt-eyed man would brook no excuses; Satoshi began a steady beat on the drum. It was good to focus on the familiar sound and feeling of his palms striking the tough hide. He slowly began to hop on one leg, moving lopsidedly but determinedly stifling all thoughts of prancing ponies. Concentrate on the rhythm, he told himself. Then his foot hit something and with a somewhat undignified yelp he tumbled onto his side, blinking in bewilderment. His face flushed crimson with embarrassment as he realised that he must have stumbled on a stone. Duo laughed and bounded over. “Are you all right?” He helped Satoshi brush dirt off his clothing before bursting into another gale of laughter. “An admirable prancing pony you are, indeed!” The younger one almost wanted to crawl away and hide. Now I’ve failed, he thought miserably. I should have just stayed with washing dishes. They’ll think I’m useless, and really, they don’t have much reason to think otherwise. “Hey, there’s no need to worry.” Concerned eyes met his. “Anyways, it’s a good try for your first time. There’s plenty more time to practice beforehand, and we’ll work on it some more…”
 
“Hn.” Much to Satoshi’s surprise, the other simply grunted and left. Duo beamed at him.
 
“Isn’t that great? He’s fine with it! Obviously, there’s room for improvement, but -“
 
“It wasn’t.” Satoshi interrupted firmly. He had gotten used to having to talk over people after just a few days with Duo; if unchecked, the braided man would talk until the sun rose in the west. “I slipped.”
 
“Well, yes, but that was because you had your eyes closed.”
 
“I was hopping around with one leg aloft like some strange pagan dancer about to call the rain—“
 
“You’re determined not to like this, are you?”
 
Satoshi was taken aback by the comment. “What?” He asked, momentarily forgetting his manners. It appeared that life with these actors was changing him in many ways, and more quickly than he’d thought. “What do you mean?” He stared at Duo, who was still smiling but with less laughter in his eyes and voice than before.
 
“What do you think I mean?” For a moment, Satoshi was forcibly reminded of the mirror that had landed him in this entire situation in the first place.
 
“How should I know?” Bewilderment and confusion lent a hint of roughness to his voice and he glared at the other, who was smiling all throughout.
 
“Ah, nothing.” Duo smiled broadly and reached over to ruffle his hair, a habit he’d acquired after learning of Satoshi’s age. True to form, the young prince balked as he always did. The older man’s smile twitched slightly and for a moment the blue-haired man swore he could see a shadow pass over the other’s face. He blinked and it was gone, leaving him wondering whether it had even been there in the first place. “We’ll make a fine performer out of you yet!”
 
Towards dusk, the rest of the troupe finally returned from a long day performing in the streets of Ginka. Krad nodded at Satoshi as he walked past, whilst Quatre smiled and politely asked about practice. The blue-haired youth nodded in reply, still wondering about Duo’s previous comment. As usual, Wufei treated him brusquely whilst the twins both smiled cheerfully at him and asked if he needed help with cooking.
 
As he dropped the mushrooms that the actors had brought back from the market into the pot of water, he thought about Duo’s comment. As though it had grown a life of its own, it danced happily in his mind. All his tutors had always told him that he was intelligent, more so than many other children his age. He supposed they were right, because they had seen more of the world than he had and their experience would serve them well, but with his station in life, would they truly say anything different? If he was so intelligent, then why did he not understand Duo’s question? Why could he not answer it? Why did he feel as though he had been insulted?
 
“So Duo, you ready to return to work tomorrow?” Dark asked that night. Duo grinned at the purple-haired man and nodded approvingly at Satoshi.
 
“Definitely.” The other chewed and swallowed. “What do you say we take Satoshi along as well? He can watch, and see where his role is.” Dark raised an eyebrow.
 
“Oh, so soon?”
 
“Well, when else will he begin?” Two sets of purple eyes swung over to him.
 
“What do you think, Satoshi?” That was Dark. Satoshi hastily swallowed his food and nodded in agreement. Inside, his heart suddenly began to beat more quickly as he realised that he was one day closer to becoming a street performer.
 
That night, after he had finished his share of the chores, he sneaked out of camp with one of the drums and began to practice, with only the wind and trees for company. He practiced long into the night, reminding himself of all the little tricks that Duo had taught him; not to close his eyes, to bend his knees and pretend that the drum was forcing him to the ground before springing up again in order to jump higher, to twirl every now and again to display the colourful sashes attached to the sides of the drum. All the while, he pondered the meaning of Duo’s question. He did want to do this, didn’t he?
 
When he returned to camp, he noticed that the sky was beginning to brighten. He frowned and hastily cleaned the drum, checking it to ensure that there were no weak spots in the hide or holes in the body of the instrument. He barely managed to crawl into his bedroll before falling into a deep, dreamless sleep filled with the thump of street performers’ drums.
 
The next morning, as he had anticipated, Satoshi felt the tiredness of last night’s practice deep in his bones. Although he had previously never had to sleep much, only a few hours’ rest had done nothing to restore his energy; indeed, it had sapped it all. Upon meeting Quatre’s worried gaze, Satoshi immediately shook his head to indicate that he was all right, but could not stifle the yawns that plagued him.
 
As they entered town, they found that a small crowd had already gathered around Riku and Risa, who had headed out early in order to find a good spot in which to perform. They immediately began to set up; even as the twins enchanted their audience with a beautifully sung tale about the nightingale who fell in love with a human, Trowa and Heero erected the posts which would support the tightrope. Quatre and Duo began to distribute the smaller props and by the end of the song, the entire troupe was ready to begin their performance. Satoshi immediately stood to one side, where he would not distract the audience but still be able to pass the actors any props they might need.
 
As he watched the performance, Satoshi realised that all the actors genuinely enjoyed their lifestyle. No matter how much they might profess to hate each other, or how quiet they were, they were determined to do their best to bring a smile to the faces of their audience. Even Trowa threw himself into the performance, twisting and leaping on the tightrope and contorting himself into so many different shapes that all who saw him could only stare in wonder. Dark, Duo and Quatre all became their parts; in spite of several impromptu lines delivered to hide the blonde’s fumbling, all of them were doing their best. Even Krad, who refused to do anything other than narrate the story, did so in high dramatic fashion. Satoshi watched silently, wondering if he, too, would be able to throw himself into the performance like everyone else did. How do I pretend to enjoy something, when I know it is not my final goal? How can I be determined not to enjoy myself when it is the only option left to me?
 
The show went extremely well, helped along by the fact that the audience whole-heartedly approved of the minister’s being portrayed as a cuckold and a fool. No matter how hard the young prince tried, he could understand why. Was the mayor not the one who kept the city safe? He might be a fool in his personal matters, but what was most important was that he could still properly perform his job. If the financial status of Ginka was anything to go by, the city still remained prosperous for the most part. Was there no merit in ensuring that the majority survived, rather than harping on individuals’ shortcomings? Nevertheless, Satoshi knew without asking that there was no point in voicing his opinion to anyone in the group; even he was well-versed enough in commoners’ ways now to know that any defence of the nobility, unless of a particularly popular political figure, would result in raised voices and likely weapons. No matter how determined he was not to enjoy himself acting, according to Duo, he was not fool enough to blow his own cover. So he remained there silently, running out to fetch drink and food for the other members of the troupe when they were resting, and he remained there in the hot, hot sun of the capital until Krad gave the signal to pack up.
 
As they trudged back to camp, leaving Quatre and Wufei to buy the night’s supplies, Satoshi found himself walking alongside Trowa. Up until now, he had had very little to do with the quiet brown-haired acrobat, but at the same time the younger one felt that he had to say something. “How long have you been doing this for?” The older man glanced at him before staring straight ahead again, obviously keeping an eye on the road.
 
“I don’t remember…”
 
Feeling slightly uncomfortable, Satoshi let out a small `oh’. He supposed it made sense that Trowa would not want to talk about himself; he had certainly not made his own past known to anyone. They walked along in awkward silence with the blue-haired youth silently reviewing his etiquette lessons. He certainly did not remember Master Saunders saying anything about what to do when encountering people who simply did not want to talk.
 
“Excuse me,” a soft voice interrupted. Satoshi turned to see Quatre looking at them. The blond had silently fallen back to walk with them, and the blue-haired young man was truthfully glad to see him. It had been awkward walking in silence, perhaps because he was now so accustomed to Dark, Duo or the two of them trying to `talk his ears off’, as his old nurse would have said. He realised then that he had only really ever spoken to the two most outspoken members of the group, and occasionally the twins. Risa giggled and blushed each time he so much as looked at her, which confused him to no end and provided a source of never-ending amusement for the entire troupe. Riku, on the other hand, seemed to be a bastion of good common sense, and Satoshi was privately grateful that there was at least someone other than Krad who could keep Dark under control. “Can you see where your parts fit in, Satoshi?” Startled out of his reverie, the prince blinked and looked at the blond in surprise.
 
“I’m sorry?”
 
“You’ll be taking over Wufei’s part tomorrow, and he’ll be back on the tightrope. Are you all right with that?” Satoshi looked into those calm blue eyes and then he realised that he was about to do what actors and street performers really did. He swallowed down the lump in his throat, told himself silently not to be silly about it and nodded. The blonde beamed in delight, immediately moving onto conversation about his costume and of course, the mask. The blue-haired youth was grateful for the fact that no one appeared to have forgotten about the need to disguise his appearance as much as possible.
 
That night, Dark insisted that the performers run through the show once more, this time with Satoshi as the drummer instead of Wufei. Much to the blue-eyed youth’s surprise, the darker man seemed determined to help him throughout the entire performance, carefully and surprisingly patiently rearranging his stance. “It makes for a better sound,” the other explained shortly. Satoshi frowned and listened more carefully to the sound of the drum when he placed his feet just so, and was surprised to find that the sound did seem more full-bodied. “There’s more resistance when you support the drum a little further, so the sound is stronger,” the other explained curtly.
 
“Perfect!” Dark grinned widely and in a show of what Satoshi took to be friendly camaraderie, leaned over and ruffled his hair. “We’ll make an actor out of you yet! Ready for tomorrow?” Satoshi fought his sinking heart and nodded, determined to do his best even if that strange feeling in his throat told him not to continue with this folly. “Now for the final touch!” With a flourish, the purple-haired main whisked a heavy, padded costume out of the basket, along with a wooden mask. “This should keep you from being recognised by anyone.” He handed them over with a wink. “Try them on.”
 
Satoshi slipped the heavy cloth over his head, trying not to breathe in the dusty smell that indicated when clothes had been stored for too long without being used. Poking his hands through the sleeves, he soon found that they were a little too long. Pushing the cumbersome swathes of cloth away, he put the mask on and found that he had a new problem; because it had been previously used by Heero in an old play, the shape was a little different and the eye-slits of the mask were too high for him to use without adjusting the accessory awkwardly. Krad, ever the perfectionist, surveyed him critically. “Are you sure this is fine?” He asked. “It’ll be worse if he can’t see because his mask slipped over his eyes.” Behind the thick painted wood, Satoshi felt his face heat up as he remembered stumbling in front of Heero and Duo. One of them must have mentioned it to Krad.
 
“What do you think?” Dark simply asked, turning towards Satoshi.
 
The blue-eyed young man paused and carefully moved the mask out of the way. He quickly weighed up the pros and cons of not wearing the mask. As he thought of being hauled off by the city guards or someone who recognised him, he no longer felt fear or worry. If no one had recognised him by this time, even when he was standing in the crowd and Dark had singled him out on that day, no one would do so in the next five or ten performances. So long as he did not draw attention to himself, no one could find him. At least, that was what he hoped. So he made his decision.
 
“That’s all right. If no one else is using a costume, I’ll go without.” Dark’s eyebrows rose in surprise, but Krad seemed to be unimpressed.
 
“Are you sure?” Dark was surprised; he remembered in striking detail how adamant Satoshi had been about disguising himself before agreeing to perform as part of the troupe.
 
“Let him,” Krad said shortly. “It’ll be better if he’s not the only drummer wandering around in a hot costume.” He flashed a smile which showed entirely too many teeth at the young prince, making his heart stop at the thought that the blond might have figured out who he really was. “Besides, it’ll be easier to move in ordinary clothes.” Realising that he could not turn back anymore, Satoshi silently nodded in agreement.
 
“All right,” Dark nodded and grinned at Satoshi once more, amethyst eyes sparkling in the glow of the flames and making him seem like some entity of the night. “Five for luck?” He held up one hand and Satoshi stared, clearly not understanding. Krad calmly slapped the other on the shoulder, causing him to wince and glare, and the actor pouted in disappointment. “Eh, no one understands me,” he mock-wailed as he turned around. “Good night, and don’t forget to be up in time!” He disappeared into his tent before Satoshi could reply, and the prince found himself left alone with Krad.
 
“Good night, Krad. See you in the morning.” With a short bow, he turned to leave, only to stop at the sound of the other’s voice.
 
“Wait.” Satoshi turned back, puzzled. Surely there was nothing that the blond had to tell him, and only him?
 
“Yes?”
 
“Are you sure you would like to perform without any disguise?”
 
Satoshi hesitated then nodded, as though the other could see him. “Yes. Why?”
 
He could feel the other shrug. “Just wondering. Good night, Satoshi.”
 
“Sleep well.”
 
That night, he dreamed of walking into the hot sun with his drum. As he began to play, the audience began to laugh and he began to become more daring, swirling around and trying some of the riskier moves which Duo had shown him. Then he looked down, and realised that he was wearing not a stitch of clothing.
 
Hope you’re all enjoying your holidays! Thank you for reading and see you again soon!
 
Chapter 3
Chapter 5