McDonald breathed a sigh of relief when he caught a glimpse of Stanley’s face among the crowd. Even though in the end he managed to convince the other man to also prepare a costume for himself, there were still some worries nested in his heart.
Which mainly had to do with their last talk, as at some point Alexander noticed a slight, but concerning shift in Stephen’s behavior. Normally, when there was nobody but them, his façade would drop and his expression would be much softer, even an almost unnoticeable smile (unnoticeable to the eye of someone else other than McDonald, that is) would form too, staying there all the time when they looked at each other. Quite a small spark, but the Terror’s head surgeon came to think that it might be better than the brightest ray of the long missed sunshine.
But the last time, the last time McDonald couldn’t help but feel that Stanley retreated into himself. On top of the already present exhaustion, now for some reason he shied away from meeting Alexander’s eyes, spoke to him with a fainter voice and in short, almost evasive sentences. The feeling that the final and hardly uplifting ”Well, but there for sure is a good way out of this. Yes, I’m certain about that, I think” left him with was especially hard to shake off. They discussed (or rather there was more of an attempt to discuss) the problem of the tins and it was understandable, that the whole ordeal could really bring down one’s already low spirit. And McDonald, knowing about Stanley’s familiarity with conditions full of despair that developed when he was a wartime medic, instantly began to worry as soon as he became aware of a sudden change in someone, who up until now seemed to endure all the hardships they came across.
He quickly walked up to Stanley, who was heading somewhere away from the crowd and called him to stop there to talk. There was no possibility that he would leave it like this, without making sure that both of them will be able to find even the slightest bit of joy for now, and strength for later.
“Stephen” he spoke. “I’m glad to see that you’re here.”
Stanley did not answer, but just nodded, looking down at the ground. He appeared to be somehow thrown out of rhythm. After a while of standing there, he looked into McDonald’s eyes, at first almost vacantly as if there was nothing but air, then finally focused and took a long, slightly shaky breath.
“Do you think that maybe, that maybe…” he began quietly, bordering on a whisper. “That all of this isn’t really worth too much?”
“What, the Carnivale? Huh, I don’t know. But maybe this is enough. See there? People seem happy.”
“Well, for now. And then what? Do you really expect that everything will get better later too? That the sun will help us with anything?”
“Well. It will definitely be easier to see.” Saying this, Alexander smiled and clasped his hand on Stephen’s shoulder. “Seriously though, I’d like to think that good things will come too. I have no idea how, but, you know, there’s always a chance, isn’t there?”
“Whatever you want to believe.” Said Stanley, a bit startled by McDonald’s sudden, intimate gesture. He brought his hand to the other surgeon’s arm as if he wanted to cast it off, but ended up only hesitantly touching it.
Seeing this McDonald used the opportunity and pulled him into a hug. Stephen didn’t return it right away, but when he finally did, he thought very little of letting go. When he felt the first tear rolling down his cheek, he held onto Alexander even tighter.