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dancer from the dance, The

by Te

The dancer from the dance
by Te
June 21, 2003

Disclaimers: Not mine. If they were... well. It would go something like this.

Spoilers: Gormenghast, vaguely yet thoroughly.

Summary: Ethan has new toys.

Ratings Note: R.

Author's Note: This made sense in my head. No, really.

Acknowledgments: To Jenn for audiencing, and to Bas for assuring me there was an audience. g

Feedback: Always.


Ethan doesn't trust the boy as far as he can throw him. Which, given the exigencies of magic and the ever-shifting laws of physics, is really quite far. But... still.

There's a certain artful prettiness there that reminds Ethan far too clearly of his own youth. Steerpike may be all conservative suits in funereal tones, almost as though the boy wishes to mortify his own natural beauty, but.

Only almost.

There's something just a bit too practiced about the combination of sharp cheekbones and grey morning suit. Soft mouth just a trifle too red to be anything but recently bitten.

The boy -- though his age is... questionable -- is a subtly delightful piece of work. Anachronistic politesse and endless offers to be of service. And it isn't as though Ethan could have missed the implicit invitation there even if he'd tried, but... but.

He doesn't especially want to share a bed with this one, or even a few heated moments against a wall. Ethan had plucked him out of a cozy enough situation, it was true, and he'd certainly provided the boy with any number of entertainments, but there is an ambition in Steerpike like nothing he'd ever seen before.

No amount of scurrying little Watchers in training, no amount of rising politicians or scrabbling club kids could approach it. It rises off him like scent.

Like the chaos that had called Ethan to him in the first place.

And really, that hadn't been easy, even if it had been a seriously worthwhile endeavor. Time and effort spent seducing Dawn away from the endless troupe of Slayers, from a drab and dismal future rebuilding the Watchers...

Time to painstakingly offer and experiment with various amusements until her wide, pretty eyes were hazed with drugs, until her limbs were as languid and pliable as any opium dreamer's. She has become something of a permanent fixture in Ethan's flat of the moment.

A particularly attractive and tender bit of furniture in the sitting room, painting spirals of stolen magic, eyes occasionally glowing green with all that barely repressed power.

Just one open wound away from burying this world in every other.

It had been blood from her pinky that had given him Steerpike -- or rather, had led Ethan to the place where Steerpike had been blooming like something between a cancer and a rose.

A slash in her heel had left Ethan with a seemingly permanently shell-shocked young man, perfectly hairless and dreaming endlessly of falling. A small red mouth on her breast had led Ethan to a world where the demons walked in daylight, called themselves mutants, and demanded political power.

But those are matters for later. Pass-times for some future where Ethan is dangerously bored, or at least inspired to move beyond... Steerpike.

Steerpike who has a near unholy aptitude for those spells which require a great deal of chemistry.

Steerpike, who watches the world like a banquet to which he hasn't been invited. Even now, at the window, the boy stands carefully in the meager shadows, utterly still save for his eyes.

"What are you watching?"

Steerpike, if anything, actually seems to stiffen more, and the silence stretches in moderate discomfort. The almost silence -- Dawn is humming something slow and melancholy, notes wafting upstairs on bits of stray magic.

Ethan joins the boy at the window and watches the traffic do its workaday thing, banal and boring, yes, but perhaps not to Steerpike.

"I have not seen a horse since I've been... here."

"There are stables outside the city..."

Steerpike nods, and bends his head in the practiced motion Ethan knows is supposed to imply serious thought. It hasn't been long enough for him to be sure what it really means.

It hasn't been long enough for Ethan to be tired of trying to tease such things out. "Do you wish to visit one?"

Steerpike smiles at him, one of the many that seem far too polished to be real, and yet remain temptingly sincere. This one: 'ah, but we are both men of the world, are we not?' He says, "it's strange. When I was in Gormenghast, I didn't ever think of leaving. Not the city, and barely the palace. Now it seems..." A smooth gesture at the window and everything beyond. "You say that people travel miles every day without thinking? Just to go to work?"

"Or to shop, or play. I've done my share of traveling."

"You had no trouble finding your way to my world," and there's amusement in his voice but something like trouble on the far too pretty face.

Which to believe? "Do you find yourself homesick?"

An unlovely snort, but the boy's eyes move in something like panic.

There is something to be said for raising enterprising young men among the unobservant. Ethan thinks, perhaps, Steerpike isn't accustomed to being around the truly clear-eyed. "When I found you, you seemed to be well on your way to something... momentous."

"The Groans... the royal family was a mess of simpletons and madmen. Madwomen. I could have..." Almost out of sight, the boy's right hand snaps into a fist, then just as quickly releases, moves to smooth an already-perfect pleat.

Ethan hides a smile behind his eyes. "There are... all sorts of ways a young man of your sort could find and manipulate power in this world. In others."

"'Of my sort?' Another smile, all soft mouth and viciously penetrating gaze. "What sort is that?"

Ethan spreads his hands in something that could, if one wished, be interpreted as surrender. "Brilliant, ambitious, talented..."

"Mm." Another head tilt, and the look Steerpike gives him is calculated heat. Moreso for the visibly simmering discontent. "I dream of fire, you know. Of... drowning..." Another troubled look, even as he unbuttons the pinstriped jacket Ethan had acquired for him.

"At the same time?"

Steerpike shakes his head, showing the line of his throat to its best advantage. "It's all in Gormenghast, and that's... over for me, isn't it?"

Ethan reaches out obligingly, and runs a finger over soft skin, the awkward bump of the boy's Adam's apple. "Perhaps..."

Something like triumph as Steerpike opens the waist coat, and moves rapid, spiderish fingers over the plain white shirt. "Perhaps?"

Ethan smiles. "It remains to be seen how well you adapt to this world."

Hand over his own, pushing until Ethan's palm rests over a small, hard nipple. "I find it much to my liking."

And nothing has changed. Ethan still doesn't, particularly, want to lose himself in anything Steerpike is involved in, even a game so lovely as this one, but...


Why comes temptation but for man to wallow in, happily, if not helplessly? "I'm glad to hear it," he says, and twists the nipple hard enough to make the boy gasp almost convincingly. "Show me," he says, and whispers a charm that sends the shirt coiling around delicately-boned wrists.

"What do you want to see?"

Lovely boy. Everything, he doesn't say, and presses a soft kiss to the boy's throat, and a hard bite. This close and he can feel Steerpike struggle, for all the effort the boy is putting in to keeping his movements subtle.

"What do you..."

Ethan slips to his knees, feeling weak sunlight on the back of his neck and a strong look. Nuzzling the neat and perfect pants and searching for heat.

Finding it.

"Shh," he says.

And sets about looking for something real.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Te

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