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

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

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

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

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

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,

"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.

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.