Tin Man; Cain/Glitch; PG-13
On the subject of dancing. Written for Yuletide 2009!
He finds Glitch in Ambrose's studio, tucked away on an upper floor but the room itself is huge and bright. It's tidier than he expected, even with the tumbling piles of old paper, careful diagrams spread and overlapping on the walls, intricate little metal things being used as paper weights and bookends. There's an order about it that he doesn't recognise.
Glitch stands in front of one of the windows, backlit and in profile as he fiddles with something as tall and thin as he is, its corners glinting in the light. It's a doll of sorts, Cain realises as he walks in, cogs in the joints and a large, ornate key sticking out the back of its torso. He notices the white gloves covering its hands as Glitch notices him, and his smile is caught by the suns.
"I think I made this one for dancing lessons," Glitch starts, as Cain fixates on the figure's shoes, black and shiny. "Not for me, obviously."
"Obviously," Cain echoes, but when he glances over Glitch is staring at the mannequin, his fingertips catching on the cogs of its shoulder.
"Something about the rhythm of clockwork, I always liked it. Well, at least I think I did. Wanna see?"
He steps around it to grasp the key before Cain can reply, turning it in a full circle twice and stepping back as the mannequin draws itself up with a rattle of clicks, gracefully extends an arm and then, after a pause, starts to jerk violently like something is caught in the gears. It's lifeless and ugly, and Cain doesn't understand Ambrose at all.
"Something in here," Glitch taps the doll's head and it stops moving with a final twitch. "If I still had my noggin intact I could fix this up in a jiffy!"
He brushes a speck of fluff off the mannequin's shoulder, patting it lightly before walking over to one of the long, stained tables, covered with books and sketches and odd objects that look like they should be ticking or whirring or spinning. He picks one up from near the edge, something circular and golden, and offers it up on his palm.
"And this! Look at this." Cain does. It looks complicated.
"What does it do?"
"I can't remember. Something... something good." He sounds hopeful as he places it back on top of pile of tomes and runs a long finger down the spine of the top one. He had hands of someone who should be making things, Cain thinks.
"I think there might be the answer to everything in here, somewhere, if only I could remember where I wrote it. You know, I bet I read every book in here. Probably wrote a few of them."
Cain studies the room, the bookcases and pin boards and a familiar portrait on the far wall. Glitch follows his gaze for a moment, and Cain catches the twist of his lips before he turns to the window.
"My part in everything is a little more ambiguous these days. No more wandering the woods!" His smile falters. "Just wandering around the palace while my marbles are still locked up like a princess in a tower." Glitch huffs a breath of a laugh and it sounds oddly cheerful.
The palace seems huge and unfathomable when there's people saluting him in the corridors and he doesn't have to fight his way into a room. It doesn't fit, too many years of cold and dirt and loneliness for this sudden rush of people he doesn't know. He hardly sees the familiar faces; Glitch is always hidden away or off in the opposite direction. There are days, weeks when they don't see each other for more than a passing shout, constantly rushing and busy because apparently saving the world means you know how to fix it, too.
There's one brief moment of stillness, when they find themselves both out in the corridor with nowhere to immediately rush off to and the oddest thing, after weeks of nods and smiles and snatches of greetings, is that they have nothing to say. Glitch looks lost, fidgeting in clothes that fit but hang strangely, and when finally he goes to speak, fingers picking at his cuff, suddenly they're not alone and they both have places to be.
For Glitch, there entire rooms of déjà vu, frustrating and intangible because it's not just a feeling of being here before; there are memories in the shadows, locked in the wallpaper of the great halls and in the right light he can see them again, but it's just a flash of movement, a unheard sigh and it's gone.
Sometimes, in quiet, objective moments, he wonders if he's only so cheerful because he can't remember any of things that he's meant to be sad about.
There are footsteps echoing down the corridor - he would recognise that stride anywhere - and, yes:
"You cut right to the chase, Cain. I admire that about you."
Cain makes a sound that could almost be a laugh. "And you never answer the question."
He wasn't looking for Glitch but he finds him anyway, standing out on an empty balcony as the clock ticks away into the small hours on the morning. There's a dusting of snow, light in the sheltered cover of the palace but the land spread out around them is a tumbling patchwork of drifts and dips. They are both wrapped up warm, prepared with heavy boots and thick coats and yet Glitch is still wearing fingerless gloves.
Cain's footsteps crunch in the thin ice as he strides over to the edge and Glitch doesn't turn to look at him before speaking.
"I'm used to the odd sleepless night or two but I can't remember the last time I had such a view. The company, on the other foot--"
"Glitch, shut up," Cain says, without heat but Glitch trails off anyway. He leans on the stone, his gloved palms pressing down while Cain stands half a step to the side with his arms folded across his chest, both looking out across the forest, over trails of past adventures.
"I'm used to it," Glitch says, a sigh in the night. "But sometimes, I'd like to be able to remember the whole story. It sounds quite exciting."
"That's not how I'd describe it."
"No, I suppose not. From what I recall - and, of course, that's never reliable - it was cold and terrifying and I saved a man from hypothermia." He can see his breath hanging in the air.
"Something like that." Cain spots a thin plume of smoke in the distance. He can't make out the colour.
There's giddy laugher in Glitch's voice as he says, "There are going to be songs about it. Ballads! Apparently there was a dashing Tin Man rescuing fair maidens and lost souls wherever he went."
"It's not something that should be remembered in a song."
"You know, Cain, you really need to lighten up a little. Take up dancing, appreciate the music. I think you'd be quite light on your toes if you just loosened up once in a while."
"I don't dance," Cain grits out, eyes scanning the tree line, but then there's a hand on his arm and Glitch is looking at him expectantly.
"I may not be an inventor anymore but I still know a thing or two about rhythm. Follow my lead." His hand slides down Cain's arm, catches his fingers and tugs enough to coax him into turning, face to face and too close.
"Glitch," Cain warns, not pulling away, his voice low and dangerous despite his fingers pressing against Glitch's coat, curled around his waist. "I know how, I just don't."
"Sure you do! See?" He takes a step back and Cain follows; a short, sliding movement as Glitch pulls him along with a hand tucked over his shoulder.
"That's all it takes," he says. Grins like he gets the joke.
A few more steps, a turn to the side and as Glitch spins them easily both are surprised at how willingly Cain goes along with it. There's a pattern in their wake, the wet stone dark against the flurries that Glitch kicks at with the toe of his boots, then adds a flourish to draw a little nonsensical twist in the snow.
"That might be the nicest thing you ever said to me."
They dance across the frozen stone to the sound of their own footsteps in the quiet air, slipping a little and not entirely graceful, but neither stop and when Glitch spins out, turns with a laugh and draws himself back in Cain's arms wrap around him and for a moment he almost makes a move to dip him, aborts with an awkward half-swoop and Glitch purses his lips.
"This would be a lot easier if you would just kiss me already."
It's not like he ever plans to say any of it, and for a moment he thinks that's the only reason Cain hasn't hit him.
But then. "Yeah," Cain agrees, and Glitch is still caught up in his arms, bemused but smiling and close. Cain dips his head, not quite a swoop but then he kisses him and he can feel Glitch's smile against his mouth, warm and open and humming a little, happy noises in the back of his throat that Cain can't quite make himself be annoyed by. It's slow, softer than he maybe would have expected, but then Glitch pushes up a little, kisses harder and Cain backs up him against the stone balustrade until the hard edge is pressing into his thighs.
Glitch's fingers are cold against the back of his neck as they tuck under the edge of his scarf, a jolt against warm skin before curling them around the back of Cain's head and angling it to kiss him deeper. Cain slips a hand under his coat, followed by a rush of cold air and Glitch shivers before he draws back to say,
"We should go to my room."
"Glitch, I think you might be a genius."
They end up in Cain's room because it's closer - Glitch barely notices how untouched and impersonal it looks before Cain is pushing him up against the door and kissing him again, cupping Glitch's chin so his fingertips just brush his hairline. It's slow and deep and messy, and when he slides a leg between Glitch's thighs and presses up Glitch moans happily into his mouth, clutching at his shoulders before pushing at his coat until it slips off and pools on the floor.
"Hey," Cain protests, but Glitch is busy plucking at his shirt.
"You're wearing far too much. Hey, so am I." Cain steers them towards the bed with an irritated growl, walking backwards until his legs hit the edge and he sits, pulling Glitch down with him to straddle his lap. It's an uncoordinated struggle to get their clothes off, as Cain tries to methodically strip and Glitch refuses to pull away from his mouth, his hands constantly wandering and groping and doing very little in actually helping until he finds bare skin.
After that it's a tangle of limbs and falling back onto the bed and it's warm and slow and right in a way that doesn't quite make sense anymore, after years of being inescapably alone.
"It's been a while," Cain admits, his hands sliding up Glitch's bare back as Glitch finally starts undoing Cain's trousers.
"Oh, good. Because I can't remember the last time I did this," Glitch says, smirking, before kissing him again.