Title: Strange Rhythm
Rating: Definite friction, but nothing desperately explicit.
Setting/Summary: Shortly after the end of the series, and prior to Ambrose's brain being returned to his skull (which one assumes will take great care and effort--this is brain surgery, after all). Glitch and Cain have left the palace for the woods for an unnamed and unimportant purpose, together, when Glitch brings up a sticking point. Cain is eventually overwhelmed by his rhythm.
Warnings: A little sexism on Cain's part, but we'll forgive him.
"Look, I thought you just meant it... figuratively," Cain said uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his neck. He wasn't sure why the prospect made his skin prickle. "You know, 'dancing,' pretending to be guards and attacking them. Something that made sense under the circumstances."
"Well, you thought wrong. I mean, I meant that, too, I think, maybe, but I really did mean dancing. I could have told you that, if you'd asked me," Glitch babbled. "How long do I have to tell you about how I'm a wonderful dancer before you finally ask me to dance? About my fantastic sense of rhythm and grace? I even told you that you made me feel like a wallflower." A look of concern passed over his face, briefly. "I did, didn't I?" Cain's weary nod encouraged him. "Oh, good. I even told you that you made me feel like a wallflower, didn't I? Was I being too subtle?"
Cain looked up and stared at him, blankly. It just didn't work that way, did it? "Glitch, what... " He paused, shook his head, and decided to take a different tack. Glitch must be confused, misinformed about how these things were done. That was all. He'd just have to clear it up for him.
Cain stood, closed most of the distance between where they'd been sitting, and reached out a hand, gripping Glitch's shoulder firmly. He even leaned down a little, to take what he hoped looked like a strictly fatherly posture.
"Glitch," he began, speaking slowly and cautiously, as one does, "when a man wants to dance, he asks a nice lady if she'd oblige him, or do him the honor. A lady." He searched for signs of comprehension, but Glitch just burst into one of those impish little grins of his, gazing up at the Tin Man. Cain sighed, fending off the sense of what felt, at the moment, like misplaced affection for the man, and ploughed on. "Now, Glitch, when a woman wants to dance, she generally--does what you did. Sort of. She can hint, play coy, say how much she misses dancing, until her fellow gives in and," and here he spoke especially carefully, as to a child, "then he asks the nice lady if she'd oblige him, do him the honor, or whatever. You see? That's just how people play that game. Men and women, I mean."
"So you were supposed to ask if I'd oblige you," Glitch concluded.
"No." Cain's face was hot, but he kept his voice level.
"Oh. If I'd do you the honor, then? Because I would." Glitch started to stand, but Cain's hand kept him pressed down.
"But--Glitch--" he stammered, squeezing the shoulder a little too hard.
"Ambrose," the man corrected, suddenly, with a flicker of recognition and reproach. "I'd forgotten, but now that I've remembered again, by golly I'm not just going to go around and let people--what was I saying?"
"I was saying."
"Right." Cain took a few moments to compose himself, retrace his mental steps, and take a deep breath. "So. Sorry. Ambrose--"
"There," the headcase interrupted again, beaming, "that wasn't so hard. And you say it so well."
"Thanks," Cain said, and smiled, and then wasn't exactly sure why. The smile faltered. "I think, anyway." He swallowed, and shook it off. "Okay, Ambrose, listen up. If you were a woman, sure, I'd have to ask you to dance. It would be the right thing to do. But--you're a man, see? Which means you shouldn't be trying to get me to ask you to dance, anyway." He mentally added, 'Even if I've danced with girls a lot less pretty than you,' and then once more wondered why. Maybe Glitch's scattered worldview was rubbing off on him. Or his optimism.
"Because--" Cain stopped, again. 'It's just a matter of repetition,' he thought, closing his eyes and praying for patience, 'like with children. Until they figure out how to get his brain back in, I'm just going to have to keep trying.' And taking a deep breath, he bravely tried again. "You're a man. Right?"
"And I'm a man?"
"You certainly are." The impish grin, again.
Cain frowned. "...Right. So we're both men. So--so we don't dance together. You go--I don't know, ask DG or something. Or even Azkadellia. You say, 'Would you oblige me with a dance?' and then hopefully one of them says--"
"I'd be delighted!"
"What--" But somehow, with that, Ambrose had stood up and into his arms, and they were swept into motion. Cain couldn't understand how it had happened, and couldn't figure out how to stop it--in that one moment, Ambrose had established a rhythm and a momentum, stronger than that of a battalion of marching soldiers, and harder to oppose, and even Cain's blunt attempts to drag his heels did nothing to slow it down. He had to hand it to Glitch--his determination was nothing to be trifled with.
But that's when he realized that--as if just getting him to dance wasn't enough--Glitch was leading. And that, at least, had to stop.
"Hey, now, come on," Cain said, "at least let me--" and like that, before he could even finish making his demand, Ambrose had switched, given himself over to be lead. And still not sure why he was doing it at all, Cain obliged.
And smiled, a little, in spite of himself.
"You're pretty good, yourself, you know!" Ambrose chirped, gripping Cain's hand tighter.
"Thanks. I... think."
"Now, go faster."
They went faster. They danced on and on, faster and faster, for what felt like forever and like mere moments, until they were spinning madly on the forest floor, and then faster still. They danced so quick and so hard that Cain finally couldn't think about anything but rhythm, until the only thing in the world was Ambrose's pulse through his hand, quick and desperate and driving him on.
And then he tripped.
And fell. Hard.
Ambrose landed on top of him, surprisingly lightly. There was a dreamy quality about him, flushed and dazed, when he asked, "Are we still dancing, Cain? Everything's spinning. . ."
Cain's dizziness overwhelmed him, and he couldn't reply, so he just closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing, panting heavily. That made it worse, somehow, though; without the certainty of the, albeit mobile, sky above him, he felt like he was still moving, felt the heat and pulse of his dance partner, and clung, afraid of falling from the ground. Ambrose clutched him, in return.
And then Ambrose kissed him.
Cain mouthed wordlessly, stunned, which, when in contact with another mouth, is often passable for kissing back.
Rhythm. It all came down to rhythm.
Cain couldn't understand what was happening in any way but that. Momentum and adrenaline and rhythm had just carried them from one spin into another.
Spinning, when horizontal and in locked contact with another body, is often passable for rolling. So, they rolled, out of the clearing, over a tangle of ancient roots, and into the shallow shelter of a thicket. And all the while, magically, Glitch's--Ambrose's--tongue was still in his mouth, twisting, pulsing happily, and Cain hadn't lost or bitten it, yet. Not too hard, anyway. Okay, maybe he had bitten Ambrose, or at least mashed his lip on one of the tumbles--there was just a trace of the dim tang of blood between them--but at least Ambrose hadn't bitten him. That must have taken effort. Or a profound grace.
Both, he decided abruptly.
Cain opened his eyes, and looked around, though his tongue had been sucked into the evil-looking little mouth of the headcase, and he usually had better romantic manners than that. What he saw--trees in the upright, the ground, the headcase himself--confirmed to him that he was now, in fact, on top of Glitch.
And he decided that that was enough. He closed his eyes again, and under the false comfort of feeling in charge, he let Ambrose's strange rhythm carry him on.
"I have the advantage of you, here," Glitch murmured, up into Cain's ear, as his long hands began to rove. "I think the best of my brain would have just been getting in the way of my--soul, right now. I bet you're thinking too much."
"You're talking too much," Cain snapped, tense, but Ambrose only giggled, and busied his mouth happily about the Tin Man's throat.
He seemed to have coils, more than limbs, Cain thought, and too many of them at that. They were twisting around him, drawing him in, and crawling through his clothing like it didn't exist.
"I thought you were a scientist, not a snake," Cain finally muttered, hoarsely, as Ambrose's legs wrapped up and around his waist, and the fingers between them fanned through their clothing like pages of an old, familiar book.
"I'm a dancer," Ambrose sighed, as he found his favorite passage, cutting off Cain's breath in his throat. "And dancing," he continued, murmuring blissfully, "is what I'm best at." And as his hands drew them out, pressing the hard, delving heat of them together, between their bellies, to slide and press and burn, Cain believed him.