This is a post-Turnabout Big Top fic about Acro’s stay in prison, and the visitor who comes to see him. No warnings, apart from the fact that I haven’t written in nearly two years and may be rusty.
Acro was not a stranger to quietness. In fact, he considered himself to be a great friend of it. When he wasn't working, he took comfort in surrounding himself with as much quiet as possible. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy his job or the company of others, of course not, but when one is surrounded by a whirlwind of various, distinct, loud noises for an entire day, the quiet can be as refreshing as a glass of water after a vigorous workout.
He expected prison to be quiet. He expected the cold, concrete walls taking the place of the bright red surroundings of the circus tent to be a transition that, no matter how much he expected it, would produce a shock to his system. He'd wake up expecting the glow of the sunrise washing over him from the window and the sound of boisterous laughter from Moe--always awake and earlier to work than he was asked to be--outside. Instead, there was no laughter, no roars from the animals, no chirps of his bird companions, and certainly no sunlight--in fact, there weren't any windows at all. But even as it surprised him, he'd quickly settle down back into the reality he damned himself to.
He didn't expect the quiet, once a friend of his, to be a despised enemy.
In what may have been an act of mercy by some unknown deity Acro had long since lost faith in, he was summoned to see a visitor.
Ah, it had to be Regina Berry, didn't it?
He supposed if a deity did exist, it would resemble Regina. Kind, all-loving, a bright, magnificent appearance that ushered people to worship it, and talked and thought in a way that didn't seem to be of this reality. It'd explain why it could be so cruel, too--it simply didn't know any better. It didn't live among humans.
He became so lost in thought that he almost forgot Regina was, in fact, physically present. Her hands were wrapped around her scepter as usual, but she was clutching it to her chest like a security blanket. Her eyes were puffy, and she was biting her bottom lip.
"Ah, Regina Berry…" Acro said with a weak smile, "I didn't expect to be seeing you so soon. To what do I owe the honor of seeing the daughter of Russell Berry…the man I murdered? Or…" He swallowed a lump in his throat, still smiling. "…should I say, became a star in the sky?"
Regina gasped and continued to bite her lip, apparently trying to force back any sobs. Acro looked to the side, feeling the weight of the words he just spoke to her sink in.
"I'm sorry," he looked back at her, his lip trembling, "I've already done something cruel to you…you don't need any further cruelty."
It was something of a lie. He still couldn't let go of the thoughtless prank that led to his brother's vegetative state, that killed Léon, that Regina had, until now, lived with in an endless state of blissful ignorance. He couldn't shake the grudge no matter how many tears Regina wept for him. Still, now he knew she was capable of feeling grief that went beyond a mere leotard stained with ketchup (courtesy of his brother--he quickly rectified the matter with a new one). It was a feeling she'd only recently become acquainted with; knocking her down any further would be the equivalent of knocking down an infant taking its first few steps.
Despite, or in spite of, his harsh words, however, Regina managed to collect herself, wiping her eyes and replacing her morose expression with a serious one.
"Acro…on that day in court, you said you were guilty of never being able to understand me." Regina clenched her hands tightly around her scepter. "Well I…I want to prove your innocence!"
Acro laughed in a tone that he himself wasn't entirely sure was endearing or sarcastic. "I'm afraid that's not how this system works, Regina."
"I-I know that!" Regina looked down, her gesture conveying further gloom and, perhaps, contemplation over whether the answer she burst out was truthful. "But…you're…you're by yourself here…you don't even have your friends to keep you company..."
"You're saying I'm feeling lonely."
"Lonely…" Regina repeated the word quietly to herself, looking as though she tasted something bitter--indeed, she was sampling a word she was all too unfamiliar with.
He crossed his arms. "Let's go back to where you started. You wanting to prove my innocence. How exactly do you mean?"
Regina whipped her head back up and straightened her posture, as though Acro had flipped a switch that returned her to her usual, more confident posture, minus the smile. She pointed her scepter at him. "I want to prove that you're wrong, Acro! You do understand me, completely! And if I can clear you of that, then maybe…maybe I can free you!"
Acro laughed bitterly and shook his head. "If anything, I understand you even less now. You have a lot to learn, Regina." He cocked his head to the side. "And even if you do prove me innocent, how do you intend on proving me innocent of my other crime? It's the real reason I'm stuck here, after all."
"I don't intend on doing that," said Regina, still pointing her scepter at him, "I know I'm not a lawyer like Mr. Wright or Ms. von Karma. But I think I can help set...your spirit free."
He leaned back in his wheelchair, blinking in bewilderment. "My spirit…? So you're aware of those, now?"
Regina nodded furiously. "I am! They're the things that help us keep on living…and sometimes keep us from living. Things that can make us happy and sad…I-I'm still learning about it…but I know you're stuck in sadness Acro, and I want to free you from it!"
"I'm afraid there's no easy way of freeing someone from grief and guilt," said Acro, "So how do you plan on freeing me?"
"Like I said before…I want to free you of what you think you're most guilty of--of not understanding me." Regina's shoulders sank and her voice became quieter. "I don't think I understood myself before…all I knew was that I had to be happy, that things like anger were just there to entertain me, that sadness was just a little sickness people sometimes got that I never did. And now I understand why…I'd been so shut off from the world, from others, that it shut me off from myself too!"
Regina looked away from Acro mournfully. "And…you know…if I can't free you…then I want to at least say…thank you, Acro. Thank you for helping me understand myself."
"Even if it meant killing your father?"
They both went silent. Ah, it was that quiet that tormented him again. It was probably tormenting Regina, too. It seemed to be a fitting punishment for both of them--nothing but silence.
"There's…something else I've wanted to tell you," said Regina, still quiet enough not to break the profound sense of silence surrounding them, "I've been seeing Bat in the hospital…I'm going to keep seeing him until he wakes up. I know he's sleeping, but…is there anything you'd like for me to tell him?"
Acro looked down at the wool blanket still covering his legs. "Tell him…to prepare to make as much noise as he can when he wakes up. Talk loudly, laugh loudly, cry loudly…" He took in a shaky breath and continued. "And if he can't hear, then make something that looks like noise--wear bright clothing, draw vivid pictures…" Acro felt his body begin shaking uncontrollably. "And if he can't see…try feeling the noise, the pattering of his heartbeat, the springs in the mattress beneath him…" Acro finally let out a sob he'd been holding back for too long. "Just, please…don't let his spirit be trapped in silence."
"I won't," said Regina defiantly. Acro, still staring down at his blanket, listened to the sound of Regina's heeled boots clicking against the floor as she approached the door. His muscles tensed up as he heard the door creek open, before shutting, before he'd be engulfed in quiet again.
The last thing he heard was "I'm sorry."