Tin Horses and Paper Planes

Chapter 9 - Court in the Act

There was time to think 'this was a really bad idea', then Wyatt felt a shockwave hit him, the impact travelling up through the soles of his feet and jarring him as if someone had reached in through his flesh and attacked his bones with a sledgehammer. His knees buckled and he crumpled onto solid ground, feeling grit and twigs press into his cheek with exquisite clarity. Opening his eyes was beyond him for the present, so he lay still, taking stock of his condition. He was aching, and winded... but he wasn't wet.

It's a sheer drop. All that water below, and I missed? No - if he'd hit hard ground at that height, he'd be wearing his shins as earmuffs. C'mon, Wyatt. No lying down on the job. He forced his eyes open and focused blearily on uninformative dirt punctuated by clumps of dry grass; finding nothing to help him there, he rolled onto his back and groaned.

"Next time, my dream is coming with stairs," he told the sky sourly, and pushed himself creakily to his feet.

If anything, the realisation that he was standing in the yard of his own house hit him harder than the ground had done. The house, suns-faded and achingly empty, evoked an echoing stab of hollowness inside him. He stared at it, running his eye over the sway-backed roof with the loose shingle he'd been meaning to fix, and settled on the doorpost, cut with notches that, in a kinder world, would have continued up past the place where they stopped, chest height on Wyatt himself.

Time's a physical thing, made up of all the ways we touch the world. He let his fingertips explore that tenth notch, noticing the way the curtains Adora had put up in the windows had lost their colour - blue in the shadow of the windowsill, bone-yellow where they had faced the suns. They blurred, broke apart in his vision, little white flowers drifting and dancing as he blinked away tears.

"Raw... Raw, you son of a bitch. I didn't need to see this again." He didn't like the choked sound of his voice, and he tore himself away from the house, unable to bear the way each familiar sight pierced him. No tin horse in the world would stop them. The anvil, his anvil, was still in the yard. Wyatt sat down heavily upon it, his back to the house, and now he was looking at the iron suit, unchanging monument to misery, and he welcomed the anger that the thing ignited inside him, fed it and built it up until the heat of it was enough to scourge the grief festering in old, long-unvisited places in his heart.

There was an old wagon-coupling, half-buried in the ground where it had been waiting for him to attach a new hasp; now, after all these years, he was able to turn his attention to it. He dug his fingers into the dirt, pulling the thing free with a crumbling sigh of earth. Rust, coarse against his skin, stank of earth and iron; dark, intimate scent that made him think of blood. Good. Let it bleed rust and corrosion and old earth. He raised the coupling, two-handed, and swung it against the implacable face of the suit.

The glass splintered but did not shatter. He swung again. Again. The air rang with the sounds - iron on glass, iron on iron, a harsh, irregular heartbeat that faltered and failed with Wyatt's own stamina. He dropped the coupling, panting, stumbling backwards with his hands hanging at his sides, palms reverberating with remembered blows. Small, tight starbursts of white pocked the faceplate, but they weren't enough to blot out the reflection of Longcoats gathered in the yard behind him. He whirled around and almost fell, his feet tangling in something on the ground.

Oh, the coat... Glitch's coat. He rescued it from the dust and clutched it against him, needing something familiar that was not tainted by the perpetual vision of Zero snatching at Adora's hair, pulling her back, smiling, laughing. Anyone who thinks Hell is reserved for the dead is wrong.

The beating had gone on long enough that he had been too tired to hurt as badly as they wanted, but Zero had caught hold of Adora, and another Longcoat had grabbed Jeb, and soon Wyatt had found a new pain to cut keenly through his jaded senses. And now, time became more tangible still; it was an iron wheel that rolled over him, crushing him in endless repetition, and it would go on forever.

Raw had been steering him back to the start of what he'd come to think of as his second life, and he'd gone along with it, wary of what he might see and feel, but knowing that it was only a dream, unable to touch him deeply. Now that he'd reached the beginning, when DG had run headlong into his nightmare and the wheel had ground to a halt, and the anxious, curious face of the zipperhead had filled his vision, it was too late to discover that he was wrong.

"Please..." He buried his face in the coat, whispering into the worn, soft material. "That's enough."


It was a quiet, crisp sound.

Tick. Tick-tick.

He looked back and saw fine lines zig-zagging across the suit's faceplate, crossing and diverging until it grew opaque with spreading fractures.


The glass shuddered. Stilled. Imploded, milky chunks and shards sucked inside the faceplate with a whistle of displaced air, and the front of the suit swung slowly open, revealing darkness too deep to be natural.

And... stairs. Stairs, leading down into unfathomable shadows. Could he take the final step, back into his metal prison?

Can you? Wyatt curled his fingers into the tangled braid of Glitch's coat, and found that he could. He stepped forward into the suit and began to descend.

A few steps down darkness gave way to torchlight - faint at first, then flaring up with furnace brightness so that he had to shield his eyes. When it subsided, the torches had become ornate iron lamps, and Wyatt found himself standing between two tiered rows of wooden benches that formed a tapering gauntlet. At the end, an imposing dais supported a single throne-like chair between two carved lecterns inlaid with complicated marquetry designs Wyatt could have described with his eyes shut. Every Tin Man knew the Crown Court, even if they'd never stood on the dais, all stiff attention and unchanging countenance while the old rituals of Law and Land were aired, nerves or boredom dutifully suppressed in the face of Justice.

Shadows flitted over the benches, gathering in the seats, pooling and thickening. Whispering. Wyatt watched them boil upwards and solidify into familiar shapes and faces. DG, her hair tied in bunches far too young for her, Toto sitting cosily in a basket on her lap. Beside her, Queen Iskra coalesced out of the smoky darkness, serene and faintly disapproving. His brother, Javin, lounging with easy, loose-limbed grace. Jeb - oh, Jeb - so many missed notches taller than was right or fair, on his left. He tried to catch Jeb's eye, but his son, like the others, only gazed placidly ahead. Waiting. Waiting for what?

His answer was a roaring crescendo of noise and sulphurous light; a plume of greenish fog exploded out of the chair on the dais, condensing into a spectral head that billowed and contracted with a sickly light.

"All bear witness! All take heed! The Court is in session. Let the doors be sealed and none depart until the Truth is found!" Wyatt stared at the head of the Mystic Man as it floated over the judge's chair, then spun around as the echoes of that booming voice were pushed aside by a sound that had haunted his nightmares. A low, tortured sound of shifting metal. A dreadful, final clang. The sound of the suit being swung shut.

He was trapped.

Stop that. It's a dream. You're sitting beside DG, and Glitch is just...there. He put his hands out, the coat still draped across them. The back of the courtroom was furnished with a pair of solid-looking doors - if there was a way back out of the suit, he guessed it must be through them. A grating voice interrupted his musings.

"That's evidence. Prosecution moves it be taken into the custody of the court."

Startled, Wyatt snapped his hands shut, just too late to prevent the coat being whipped away by a gliding shadow. He lunged after it but his feet seemed rooted to the ground. Wait. Prosecution? There was a patch of ill-defined darkness suspended behind the prosecutor's lectern on the right of the judge's chair - it was from this that the voice had originated.

"Does someone want to tell me what the hell is going on h-"

"The defendant will not speak until directed to do so." The apparition of the Mystic Man drifted forward a little, its commanding tone dropping to a more intimate level. "I'm sorry, Cain. You'll get your chance to state your case - unless you've got someone here who'll speak in your defence?"

"I can defend myself," Wyatt growled. "I've been doing it long enough, haven't I?"

"I'll defend him." DG moved the basket off her lap and onto the bench. Another shadow - a purposeful patch of roughly humanoid darkness - slid along the front of the bench and beckoned her away to the lectern to the left of the judge's chair. Wyatt stared after her, then his attention was drawn to the other lectern, and the hovering shadow that had taken up station there. Faceless though it was, there was something familiar about its stance, the shoulders sloping, head thrust forward interrogatively. Looks like that crow in the forest. Sounds like it, too.

"Hey, Feathers. I guess this is what happens when you take the bar, huh?" The shadow, without the aid of eyes, managed to give him a withering look. "Put a face on, will you? I'm not gonna be accused of anything by a soot stain with an attitude problem."

The Mystic Man's face shimmered sternly. "I won't tell you again, Cain. The next time you speak out of turn, I'll have to find you in contempt of court."

"Contempt's all he deserves," the shadow interjected harshly. Wyatt opened his mouth to snarl back, then thought better of it. The Mystic Man's head, floating like a ghoulish balloon, was already turning to direct a quelling look at the prosecutor. Besides, the prosecutor had obligingly met Wyatt's demand and was taking on a form, and this was enough to make him hold his tongue.

Dad? Daniel Cain's suns-weathered face, coloured by self-righteous anger, was the first thing to emerge from the shadows. The rest of him followed quickly, darkness pouring off his faded work-clothes in inky rivulets. When did this turn into a family reunion? In the waking world, such an event would have been mildly uncomfortable; while Wyatt's decision to
run away
to leave home and join the Tin Men had never sat well with his father, his temporary return home with Jeb had rebuilt at least some of the bridges he'd burned. Here, the older man's demeanour wasn't merely distant or prickly; it was downright hostile. I don't know where this is going, but I sure as hell don't like it.

"Let the prosecution state the charges laid against Wyatt Cain."

Daniel Cain stooped forward, bracing himself against the lectern like a preacher about to deliver an impassioned sermon. "I'll tell you what the charge is, friend. The charge is that this man -"

"Your son."

"He ain't my son any more. I'm 'shamed to say he carries my name. This man is nothing more than a filthy goddamn faggot."

There were gasps and murmurs from the gallery. The benches on the upper tiers were populated with shapeless smears of darkness; Wyatt guessed that gazing at them long enough might prompt them to take on more recognisable forms, but he had no desire to experiment. That's what this is all about? Raw, your sense of timing's right up there with your hold on geography. He avoided his father's scornful stare and sought out a friendlier face - Javin had sat forward in his seat, but he was smiling, unsurprised. That figured - Javin was the only one to whom Wyatt had dared to entrust his secret and only then under the influence of a fair quantity of beer. But Javin's... different. I knew he'd get it. No, not even that. He'd known he could talk to his brother and wouldn't be turned away, whether Javin approved of what he was hearing or not.

Of Jeb, there was no sign. Figures. He can't even bear to look at me. Wyatt felt his heart begin to close, like a poppy at dusk, and suddenly he wanted out - out of the courtroom, out of the dream. I don't have to listen to this. I can wake up, and this whole damned bit of nonsense will never have been.

Go on, then. You're good at running away, aren't you, boy? The voice was his father's, but no-one else in the courtroom seemed to be hearing it. Ran away from home. Ran away from the City when things got too hot for ya there -

        I was keeping my family s-

Ran away from the palace when Her Majesty - fates-preserve-her - could have set you up as Chief of Security -

        What, braid on my uniform and a soft bed? You'd never have let me live it down.
That was a point, though - he blocked out his father's nagging voice with difficulty, and looked towards the Queen, who gazed past him, aloof and indifferent. You changed the law, Ma'am, so what are you doing here? By the time he'd become a Tin Man, it was no longer an imprisonable offence for two men to be...even now, the thought troubled him ...intimate. That didn't mean it had become respectable, though. Discovery meant public shaming at the least, ruination for many if word really got around. No employer would consider them, no landlord would look at them, no matter how glowing their references. Banks wouldn't lend them money and stores wouldn't take it. And then... the midnight brick through the window. The filth scrawled across a heavily-bolted door. The heart-stopping moment in a dark alleyway when footsteps came too close and laughter took on a vicious note. Wyatt had attended scenes, watched stretchers being carried away - some of them covered - and those whose protestations grew too vehement were apt to find themselves in the City Asylum. No, perhaps it wasn't a crime any more, but there was no shortage of punishment.

"Wyatt Cain, you stand accused of depravity and of harbouring indecent inclinations towards a another man." Which was like no charge Wyatt had ever heard. You can't arrest someone just for thinking. Even Azkadelia waited until you at least said or did something incriminating.

It was one thing for Daniel Cain to lash out with an accusation, entirely another for it to be couched in the language of the Court. Now some of the murmurs became jeers. Wyatt scowled at the sneering phantom with his father's face. You never could have understood, could you? Under his defiance, he felt the first stirrings of shame, and he switched his gaze straight ahead, his face burning.

"Do you wish to make a plea at this time?" How was he meant to answer that?

Guilty - you have to say guilty... and if you show contrition, perhaps he'll forgive you. That was an insidious voice that Wyatt didn't recognise as his own. He shrugged it off. Not gonna give you the satisfaction. He shook his head. "No. Let's see what you've got." The Mystic Man smiled.

"Let the prosecution present its evidence."

Daniel Cain's smile was far less pleasant. "I've only got two witnesses, Your Worship, and then this'll all be over." He reached out across the lectern, extending his finger like the barrel of a pistol. "I call Wyatt Cain."

Wyatt caught movement on the edges of his vision and looked around to find himself flanked by shadows, which herded him forward to stand at the foot of the dais.

"I won't bother to ask you to state your name. I know who you are - least, I used to. So let's get down to it." Cain Senior folded his arms on the lectern, transformed suddenly from preacher to horse-trader. Wyatt had seen his father stand just that way a thousand times, leaning on the corral fence while he talked hard figures with a potential buyer. "I'm gonna make a prediction. I say your defence will be all about how you were married, and you got a kid, and how it proves you just can't be queer." Wyatt's father rolled his eyes theatrically. "So why don't we take a look at that? Let's talk about your wife. Let's talk about Adora."

Wyatt felt his hackles go up, and he clenched his fists at his sides, You liked Adora. 'First thing you done right since you went City on me', you said. He took a moment to compose himself, and wondered how much of this was Raw's work, and how much was down to his own troubled mind. "My wife is dead. Say what you want about me, but you insult her memory and we're gonna have a problem."

The Mystic Man shot him a forbidding look, but Daniel Cain made a gesture that might have been mistaken for vaguely placatory by anyone who didn't know him well. "I'll let that pass. How old were you when you got married?"

"Nineteen." I'm not running away from you now, Dad. I'm not running away from anything.

"Pretty young to settle down and set up housekeeping with someone. Why'd you do it?"

Wyatt considered several answers before finally settling with the only one that was entirely honest. "It was the right thing to do."

"The right thing to do," Daniel Cain repeated significantly, looking around the courtroom as he spoke. "That's a nice, polite way of saying you didn't want the kid you got on her to be a bastard, isn't it?"

Don't let him goad you. That's how he is - he'll dig and dig until you lose your temper, and then he'll cut your legs from under you. "She was pregnant, if that's what you're asking. Jeb wasn't planned, but he was - is - loved. Isn't that what ma-"

"The defendant will answer the questions put to him," the Mystic Man cut him off sharply. "If you wanted to be the one asking them, Cain, you're standing in the wrong place." Wyatt's father grinned wolfishly and continued as though Wyatt had never spoken.

"So you got the girl into trouble, and you married her. Ain't that romantic. You ever... walk out with any girls before Adora, or was she your only shot at being normal?" Another low blow. Is that how you judge how much of a man someone is? Not by the things he done, but by how many women he's bedded?

'How many women did you sleep with before you met Mom? If I'd known this was going to be a contest, I'd have kept score." This raised scattered laughter from the gallery, and Wyatt shot his father a tight, humourless smile that wiped the grin off the older man's face.

"Answer the question - were there other girls or not?"

"Two." And I'll be damned if I tell you anything more than that.

"And then you met Adora and settled down. Third time's the charm, right?" Wyatt's retaliation had taken some of the wind out of his father's sails, but now he seemed to rally. "So the two of you set up a cosy little nest in the City, didya?" Wyatt shook his head wearily.

"Not right away, no. Adora was working at the hospital and I was training to join the Tin Men, and we stayed in the accommodation they provided for us."

"So you knocked her up, married her out of guilt, and then went to share digs with a bunch of other guys? Bet that suited you just fine... did they help take your mind off your troubles?"

Wyatt glared at his father. I should have wrung your neck when you were still a crow. "You can twist it any way you like. We were young, and we were scared, and we both needed to work to support ourselves. You want to read something else into it? That's your problem."

The air around the judge's chair seemed to darken, and the disembodied head, already larger than life, grew alarmingly - an angry green Jack o'Lantern - and boomed "That's enough. This line of questioning appears to have been exhausted. Move on."

Cain Senior scowled, but didn't argue. "Then I call my second and final witness."

Quit showboating and get on with it. Wyatt watched his father with growing impatience; the older man scanned the room slowly, then produced Glitch's coat from behind his lectern and, with a dramatic flourish, flung it out into the centre of the courtroom. It billowed as it fell, a slow, underwater unfurling that left it hanging in place, as if filled by an unseen body.

"That's your witness? What are you gonna do? Read the holes?"

"I guess we'll be needing an interpreter." Daniel Cain snapped his fingers and a shadow slid out of the greater mass of darkness occupying the upper benches to stand in front of the dais. "Lucky we know someone with a knack for rooting out hidden memories, ain't it?" The shadows melted away to reveal a Viewer's shaggy head, and Raw turned sorrowful eyes on Wyatt.

"Raw sorry, Cain. Must tell what is true. What is seen, and not-seen."

It's the 'not-seen' I'm worried about. Wyatt's eyes flitted to the coat. He offered Raw a small shrug and a smile to show he understood, then wondered why he'd done so. Tin Man courtesy - now extends to figments of your imagination, he thought, and let out a jagged little laugh.

"Something funny?" Daniel Cain didn't seem pleased that his one-man sideshow had been interrupted.

"This whole thing is funny. I'm being tried for something that hasn't been a crime for decades, the judge is a dead man - no disrespect intended, sir -" he nodded to the Mystic Man, who inclined his head with surprising forbearance, "- prosecuted by my own father, defended by a princess, and your big witness is a coat." For some reason, that last observation didn't seem nearly as amusing. A coat you felt you just had to rescue.

"We'll see if you're laughing five minutes from now. Do your stuff, Viewer."

With a last, apologetic look at Wyatt, Raw approached the coat and stood before it, gazing into the space above the collar and resting his gloved hands on the empty sleeves.

The courtroom darkened - even the Mystic Man's greenish light dimmed - as a haze of mist formed in the air above the coat. Its pale glow faded, grew transparent, and left behind it a window into a different darkness.

The shadows weren't impenetrable; a weak, colourless radiance - reflected moonlight on snow - lent the interior of the wagon the suggestion of structure. Here was the edge of a squat iron stove - unlit - and, beside it, a tumbled confusion of blankets and cushions. Beside that, a tumbled confusion of zipperhead, kneeling, his hands chafing restlessly at Wyatt's bloodless face. Glitch leaned down, prying one blue-tinged eyelid open to peer into the Tin Man's left eye.

"Cain? Hello? Cain, don't you go dying on me. We have to find DG." When this didn't elicit a response, Glitch sat back on his heels with a frustrated little cry and shook Wyatt by the shoulder. "Cain! Oh, you big dumb leadfoot, I need you." He shot a venomous glare at the stove. "I can't find any matches, and you're too cold. D'you have any idea how high the specific heat capacity of a human body is? It-it-it's... pretty darn high is what it is." The unconscious man, unsurprisingly, made no comment, but the wind rattled the shutter and Glitch shivered violently.

"You hear that? A storm's coming. More snow. More cold. Levaba. And we don't have enough heat to feed her," he muttered, staring vaguely down at Wyatt. Silence prevailed for more than a minute, the zipperhead frozen in place as if his clockwork had run down. Then he shivered again as another blast of bitter wind rocked the wagon on its inadequate suspension, and dug his hands under the heap of bedding. "Thermodynamics gives me the hiccups. You don't have enough heat to feed all those wet clothes, either." This time the silence was busy, and broken by Glitch's muttered observations on Tin Men and their excessive use of buttons.

Wyatt watched, fascinated, as Glitch struggled with his other self, wrestling him out of his sodden shirt. Every now and then he would seem to lose track, his hands stilled or fluttering aimlessly at the wet cloth, his soft scolding deteriorating into a limping, cyclical babble. With nothing to interrupt the glitches, they ran on, unchecked until they wound down by themselves. And you got me all the way back to the wagon without me freezing to death? Unbelievable, Wyatt thought, but it was with admiration rather than pity.

The shirt had finally succumbed to Glitch's endeavours, and was discarded in a dripping tangle on top of Wyatt's coat and leather vest. Glitch exclaimed over the blue-black welt the bullet had left - one that would spread as flesh warmed and blood began to circulate. "Sunsfeathers, Cain... either you got a heart of stone, or you must lead a charmed life." He glanced towards the shirt speculatively, but the tin horse would remain undiscovered for a little while longer, because Glitch was now busying himself with Wyatt's belt buckle. "There's probably a law against undressing a Tin Man without his consent, but since there's only you and me here..." He fumbled with buttons, a zipper, then divested Wyatt of his remaining clothing in a series of laborious tugs and jerks and sat back again, panting with the exertion. "There! No more wet clothes," he announced triumphantly as he gazed down at Wyatt. There was an awkward pause.

"Ohh... you must be freezing..."

Wyatt cleared his throat uncomfortably and gestured at Raw. "Get to the point, furball. This isn't evidence." The scene flickered as the Viewer glanced over his shoulder, his grin unmistakeable even in the gloom of the courtroom.

To Wyatt's relief, the vision had moved on. Glitch had resumed his station by the insensible Tin Man's head, and was busily tucking a blanket around him like a bonnet, until only his face was visible.

"There. Snug as a nestling in its downy bed. Mister Demilo might be stingy with the matches, but he's not short of blankets." Glitch glanced pensively towards the front of the wagon. "Can't see the moons any more - it's snowing too hard. Soon as the window's covered, it's gonna be black as the inside of a mobat in here." He fussed with the blankets, then shoved his hands beneath his armpits for all the meagre warmth there was to be found there. "It's a pity we don't have anything yellow. That's the Munchkin way - yellow to call to the gods, and songs to keep 'em here." He leaned down to study Wyatt in the near-darkness, all shivering angles and hoarse sighs of ghostly vapour. "I know it's all just superstition. Still... it's a pity we don't have anything yellow." He touched Wyatt's cheek hesitantly.

In the courtroom, Wyatt put a hand to his face, feeling cold fingertips brush his skin.

"I don't remember any songs, either." Glitch flinched as the wind threw a sharp scatter of snow against the window. "You know some, I bet. A dyed-in-the-wool boy scout like you, you ought to know a few camp-fire..." There was a thoughtful pause. "Ohh. You started a fire, when we jumped in the river. I thought I felt something hard in your pocket." He dived on the pile of wet clothing and rummaged through it, straightening up with a triumphant shout.

Wyatt squinted at the dim scene playing out in front of him, the courtroom forgotten, and cheered inwardly as he watched Glitch brandish the tin that held his flint and steel. That's it, Genius. Let's see some sparks.

After figuring out the seal on the watertight tin and a few false attempts, Glitch managed to kindle a small but respectable fire in the stove. When he returned to the injured Tin Man, it was with an expectant expression that fell upon seeing that his charge remained as still and pallid as before. "I made a fire," he told the heap of blankets, plaintively. "Isn't it helping? You should be getting warmer, but you're just lying there like a big lump of ice." He dug under the blankets again and, finding Wyatt's hand, hugged it to himself like a teddy bear, folding his coat around it. "I guess I'll have to do it myself. But hey -" he brightened, glancing at the little fire, "-now we have something yellow... if only I could think of a song."

"Seen enough?" Wyatt tried to ignore the gentle, warm pressure enfolding his hand. Perhaps if he didn't look at the images Raw was revealing, the sensations would fade, too. It hadn't been too distracting so far, but the vision wasn't over yet.

His father's sneering tone cut across the courtroom. "Why? Gettin' worried, are you?"

"...the thing with feathers." The wagon shook, the tarpaulin shutter harried by another gust of wintry air. "C'mon, Cain. You're missing the good bit." Glitch was back at the stove. Now the fire was well-established, he had set about feeding it carefully from the small supply of wood - a couple of split logs and a mass of bark and splinters. Once the flames took hold and the new offerings began to char and blacken, he resumed his vigil by the bed. "'Hope is the thing with feathers'," he began again, recapturing Wyatt's hand and clasping it against his chest, still warm from the fire. "...the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.' This is your gun hand, isn't it? You're gonna need that when we go after DG... 'and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all... and never stops at all...'"

Hope. Wyatt curled his fingers around the phantom hand, listening to the zipperhead's disjointed murmuring.

"'...and sweetest in the gale is heard, and sore must be the storm...' It's really bad out there, now. I hope Raw's okay - even with all that fuzz, he's gotta be cold." Glitch flinched as a gust of wind blew across the top of the chimney, drawing the fire up in a tall, thin spire and making the wood crackle angrily. "'...and sore must be the storm, that could abash the little bird that kept so many warm.' Umaii ül' enjevaad, üla kassevaad. Gewen sül inime rian a-lohk thallis." Whatever this meant, it seemed to trigger another train of thought, because he glanced down at Wyatt's hand as though he'd never seen it before and chirruped excitedly. "Your hand's warmer! That's your shooting-hand taken care of. Now I just have to warm the rest of you up." He looked speculatively towards the stove. "What you need is a hot water bottle. Or a cattle-barn - those are the best places when it's cold."

Gazing at the vision, Wyatt wondered what Glitch could remember so fondly about bedding down in a cowshed. Can't be a whole lot to get nostalgic about, unless starving and sleeping rough is your idea of a good time. It occurred to him a man so isolated from his memories would welcome any reunion with them, no matter how brief or grim it might be, and he laced his fingers together, wishing he really could take Glitch's hand and reassure him. It'll be okay, Sweetheart. You're doing fine.

A sharp movement attracted his attention; Daniel Cain's head snapped up as if he'd heard an alarm ring out. Was it Wyatt's imagination, or did his hunched, predatory stoop seem more pronounced? Wyatt stared into the gloom, trying to decide, then his attention was broken because Glitch was undressing, adding his discarded clothes to the waterlogged heap. The firelight was timid and unsteady, making a shadow-play of the scene, but somehow that made it all the harder to look away. He studied the zipperhead, trying to tell where shadows became bruises and the recent scratches of the Mobat attack blended with older scars that he hesitated to decipher. It took his mind off other things, like the unguarded landscape of Glitch's torso, his hip, bare skin prickled quickly into gooseflesh by the cold as he pulled his stripy undershirt over his head.

"I know this is kinda forward, but all that -" Glitch nodded towards the clothes, "- too much insulation. I can warm you up better this way." He knelt at the side of the bed, shivering, then climbed under the covers, wriggling clumsily closer to Wyatt. "Ohh... so cold. I hope this works - can't rescue the princess with a Cainsicle."

Wyatt gritted his teeth. A slight, yielding weight had settled along his right side and against his chest, warm against his skin, as if his clothes had melted entirely away. His eyes flickered towards the prosecutor's lectern. He's watching you. Doesn't matter what it feels like; don't give him a sign. He tried to imagine that he was standing up there on the dais, part of the machinery of the law instead of something trapped inside it, green-clad icon of neutrality, but it had been a long time since he'd been promoted from uniform to plain-clothes and it was hard to look impassive as an invisible leg draped itself over his, a bare foot brushing his calf. Where was the Tin Man when he actually needed him?

The vision began to cloud. Glitch's eyes were closed, and his monologue had been reduced to random pronouncements that looped and diminished like water swirling down a drain.

"...mutual thermal equilibrium... Cold. Hot and cold - it's a problem. How do you keep it moving? I tried ions and mesons and bosons and hadrons and elevated columns of curious quarks but it never did work that way. And in the morning, there'd be flowers. I like flowers. I like daffodils. I like tulips..." He tried to go on, but he was shuddering so violently that all that emerged was a string of fragmented sound, punctuated by the chattering of his teeth.

"Do I need to say anything?" Daniel Cain made a sweeping, two-handed gesture towards the image as though he could drive it away with the sheer force of his disgust. "See 'em all cosied up together? That ain't natural, I don't care how cold it was."

Wyatt tried to think of a scathing retort, but his mind was blank, his mouth dry. The warm, light pressure was still moulded attentively against him and even though it wasn't Adora, that spare, curveless frame he sensed at his side, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. Again, his father looked suddenly towards him, and curled his lip in a sneer of distaste. Oh, come on. Isn't there any part of my head that's private?

"Does the prosecution have anything further to add?" The images above the coat flickered and faded. The Mystic Man's light grew more intense, and the court lamps with it.

Daniel Cain shook his head, "I've got nothing more to say. Only a blamed fool could look at that display and figure it was innocent."

The Mystic Man nodded to DG. "You're up, Your Highness."

DG cleared her throat and squared up to the lectern self-consciously. Wyatt's heart sank. It won't bite you. He'd stood in at more than his fair share of court proceedings, and while he still believed in the value of solid evidence and the power the court had to command truths from reluctant lips

...and shall not bear false testimony; this I swear...

a trial could be won or lost on the performance of the prosecutor or defence. The lectern was a prop, a weapon in the armoury of a barrister, to be gripped and leaned on during a passionate tirade, slammed with the flat of a hand to emphasise a point. Not hidden behind, which seemed to be DG's strategy. The princess cleared her throat again and glanced sideways at the Mystic Man, a mute entreaty in her eyes.

"Would you like to present your defence, Your Highness?" His voice was kind, now, the sternness sheathed in gentler tones.

"Uh... yes?" She transferred her gaze to Wyatt, and he offered her a grin that felt stiff and false.

"Sure you don't want to interview the coat, kiddo? It is a material witness." It seemed to break the tension; DG smiled and shook her head. Wyatt relaxed a little. Maybe this wouldn't go as badly as he'd thought, even if the figure behind the prosecuter's lectern was looking less like his father and more like some brooding scavenger overlooking an injured animal, waiting for it to grow too weak to fight.

The apprehension had eased from DG's face. When Daniel Cain turned to glare at her impatiently, she favoured him with an infuriatingly sweet smile, then turned away. Wyatt's spirits lifted. That's better. Now we'll get somewhere.

"This whole thing..." DG raised her hands, indicating her surroundings, then let them fall to her sides in exasperation. "It's ridiculous."

Right. Wyatt nodded in silent agreement.

"I mean - forget that you're more concerned about Mr C - uh, Wyatt's personal life than the fact that he was shot and almost froze to death..."

Damn right.

"The idea he could have those kind of feelings for Glitch is... well, it's crazy."

Righ... what?

"Even if he hadn't told me himself that he's not... like that - and he wouldn't lie to me - it's obvious that all you're seeing in that memory is Glitch trying to keep Wyatt alive. If you're trying to make it more than that, it's you that's twisted." DG gestured accusingly towards Daniel Cain. "Did Wyatt ask Glitch to climb in bed with him? Did he ask him to take off his clothes? Did it look like he even knew what was going on?" She shook her head pityingly. "And that's your entire case... that and his marriage got off to a rocky start. The whole thing holds about as much water as a sugar bucket."

Wyatt missed what she said next, caught up in his own thoughts. The case might be flimsy as tissue-paper, but the defence is no better. Either I have to be ashamed of the way I feel, or try to believe it doesn't exist. What kind of a choice is that? He looked up at the dais, caught between guilt and denial. A hot, cramped feeling began to tighten his chest.

"Wait..." There was something - perhaps the tone of Wyatt's voice - that stopped DG midsentence. Dan Cain, seeming to sense that he was close to victory, leaned over his lectern.

"You got something to say, kid?" Wyatt gave a guilty start. His father hadn't addressed him that way since he was sixteen years old, and his air of magnanimity seemed to promise a way out

I know what you did, but if you own up now, we won't say anything more about it

but there was a sly look in his eyes - no, not sly, Wyatt decided - satisfied.

I've got you cornered, boy. I'm the only deal in town, so you might as well give in and confess. All your dirty little secrets.

He imagined his heart growing inside his ribcage, swelling like a squash near to harvest, crowding out his lungs till they could barely function.

...shall not bear false testimony...

"Wyatt?" That was DG. Sorry, Princess. Maybe I didn't tell you an outright lie, but I sent you on a ten-league detour around the truth.

...I swear...

It was only a dream-court. Still, it was a court, and he had been a Tin Man, and the truth could only be contained for so long.

Tell the truth.

"I love him."

Immediately, the pressure subsided, but there was no chance for relief - Wyatt's quiet admission had sent the court into uproar.

'Damned out of his own mouth", cawed Daniel Cain, jabbing a talon-like finger towards him. "No better than any other of those back-alley pansies. Filth, the lot of 'em -"

"You're wrong! He doesn't mean it - he's just confused because Glitch saved his -"

"-shoulda taken that job at the Palace after all. You could take your pick of pampered pretty-boys with soft hands and no ba-"

"- will come to order! Order! Right now!"

Wyatt grimaced. His moment of respite was over; his throat hurt as though he'd been holding his breath for too long, and when he gulped a lungful of air, it seemed that metal bands had been clamped around his chest and cinched tight. The courtroom had grown darker, stifling, and the raised voices merged into a deafening cacophony that made him want to clap his hands over his ears.

Then, unexpectedly: silence.

From the side of the courtroom, barely a flicker of movement in the periphery of his vision, a shadow detached itself from the darkness, changing as it flowed towards the dais. Fine threads of light coruscated over its surface, chasing themselves in waves and ripples and leaving tracks of brightness behind them. With an effort, Wyatt turned his head and saw the blackness give way to the figure of a woman, a book held out before her in both hands. It was Adora, her hair bound up in a ribbon the way it always was when she was working, her dress simple and pale. She carried the silence with her, and the air moved in her wake, cool and clear, like the breeze beneath shady trees. Wyatt braced himself for grief, but there was only a soft, sweet ache that brought tears to his eyes.

"Adora..." His voice sounded loud in the sudden lull. I never stopped loving you, not for one minute. He watched her approach, feeling his stomach knot with emotion. I'm in love with Glitch. But you and me, we were never a lie. On the dais, the argument was still raging on, and it had spread to the benches that lined the court. The shadows were in turmoil; Queen Iskra and Javin - both on their feet - were exchanging their opinions in soundless vehemence. Adora halted in front of Wyatt, and he opened his mouth, wanting to give her assurances, to erase his father's poisonous suggestions, but she just put a finger to his lips with an enigmatic smile, and offered him the book. Now, close up, he recognised the decorative leather cover.

What am I meant to do with this? He took the album and let it fall open in his hands, and a dozen origami bookmarks spilled out, a dozen more still lying between the pages. Little paper birds. There had been a bird like these beside Adora's grave when he'd been to visit it, and the weather-worn remains of several more. You went to see her, too. Wyatt traced his fingertip over the birds, touched by the gesture, revealing a larger sheet of folded paper beneath.

INICAL DIAGN marched in stark capitals across the wing of the paper plane.

"I can't read this - it's private. It's Glitch's." He was talking to no-one; Adora had vanished, leaving only the warm imprint of a kiss against his cheek, and the angry bickering returned with the force of a physical blow. There were no answers to be found there. Wyatt picked up the aeroplane, setting the book down gently at his feet, and stared at it for the best part of a minute before deciding that it wouldn't have turned up in the dream unless he was meant to see it. Slowly, trying his hardest to remember the sequence of folds, he opened out the page. Glitch's laborious scrawl greeted him.

yOu'rE stAndiNg iN thE wRonG pLacE

...the wrong place. Wyatt stared down at the unfolded page, creases slicing the uneven words into a subtle geometry of light and shade, then up at the waiting figures on the dais: the Mystic Man looming above the judge's chair, DG - flushed with embarrassed defiance - on one side, his father - glowering balefully out of lidless, black eyes - on the other. All of them seemed oddly flat, as though painted onto the air. The paper twitched in his hands, then began to refold itself into its former shape.

"I'm not on trial, here. This isn't a crime, and I don't have to protest my innocence or wallow in guilt." He raised the plane to his shoulder, aimed, and threw it towards the dais. "Case dismissed."

All around him, the paper birds erupted into the air, wings beating jerkily as they came together in a rustling swarm that followed the lazily gliding plane. As the little squadron reached the dais, it seemed to hesitate for a single, drawn-out second before plunging into the image of the Mystic Man, dispersing it as easily as a puff of cigar smoke. Fading ripples of green mist spread out on the air, reaching Daniel Cain and DG at almost the same time. The prosecutor's transformation from man to bird accelerated suddenly; hands - raised to fend off the origami birds - twisted into claws, hunched shoulders sprouted wings, and within seconds there was nothing left but a large crow, which launched itself from the lectern and flapped angrily back into the shadows. DG, meanwhile, had grown insubstantial - a worried mirage still mouthing protestations that were inaudible over a crackle of static. Then she, too, vanished with a tiny, defeated fizzle.

Wyatt climbed onto the dais, relishing the sudden peace. Now that he looked down at the court from this position, he could see that the benches were empty - their polished veneer worn down by years of use. But only because that's how I remember it. "Smoke and mirrors, that's all it is," he told the empty room firmly. "Raw stirred up my memories and steered me through them till I got the message."

"Nope. Ain't nothing here but what you brought with you.." The benches weren't empty after all; there was one person left, but he had been sitting so still and quiet that Wyatt had never noticed him. Besides, he was used to seeing Tin Men in the courtroom. After a while they just blended into the background. Even, apparently, if they were wearing the same face as you. The Tin Man nodded towards the coat, which still floated, unoccupied, between them. "And him, of course, but he can't hear us. Not now, anyhow. He's starting to -"

"- wake up..."


"Wyatt?" DG was leaning over him, Raw's totem clutched in one hand. Her worried frown melted into relief as he stirred, shifting uncomfortably. "Welcome back."

Wyatt eyed her blankly, and she smiled and squeezed his arm. "You zoned out there for a minute. Glitch was getting restless and I couldn't rouse you. Are you okay?"

For a minute? "Yeah... I'm - I'm fine. Just needed to get my head sorted out." He attempted to stand, but his knees immediately vetoed the idea, dropping him firmly back in his chair. "I'm okay. Leg's gone to sleep," he said quickly as DG reached for him, and he moved her gently aside so he could see the bed. "Tell me what happened with Glitch."

DG ignored this, searching his face uncertainly. "You must be tired. Maybe you should get some sleep? I can wait for Doctor Spicer to come back."

"Don't change the subject, Princess." He was rewarded with a slight scowl, but his matter-of-fact tone seemed to convince her that he wasn't about to keel over. "What did I miss?" DG glanced back at the bed.

"False alarm, I hope. He was getting agitated - at first I thought it was a nightmare, but I wasn't sure - it could have been another seizure starting." She sighed, massaging her temple with her fingertips as if trying to fend off a headache. "Then he muttered something about feathers, and he seemed to calm down after that. That's when y-"

"Cain?" Glitch had opened his eyes, blinking owlishly in the gentle light.

DG leaned closer, uncertain. "Is he awake this time?"

"I'm awake..." He gazed at her sleepily then focused with difficulty on Wyatt. "Cain?"

"Right here, Sunshine. Are you still cold?"

"Is it time?" Glitch peered apprehensively into the shadows past Wyatt's shoulder. "Are they here to take me away?" There was no sound in the room, other than breathing and the muffled crackle of the fire in the room beyond but, for the briefest instant, Wyatt thought he could hear the ruffle of feathers and the soft thunderclap of a flock of birds taking flight. He shook his head, smiling.

"No. Not today. Not so long as I'm here. It's okay. You just go back to sleep."

This seemed to satisfy Glitch, who closed his eyes and was snoring demurely within half a minute. DG's expression of perplexity deepened as she looked between the two men.

"Did I miss something?"

I had the strangest dream. And you were in it... and Glitch... "He was having a nightmare, like you said. That's all. He just needed a bit of reassurance." And someone to scare the crows away for him. "I think he'll sleep soundly, now." Wyatt got to his feet slowly, testing his legs.

"Where are you going?"

"To see Krantz. Just to talk," he added, as dismay clouded DG's face. "He's had plenty of time to consult the City doctors, now. I want to know what he's gonna do next."

"All right, but..." she gave him a cautionary look, "try and keep it civil, okay? Until the new doctor arrives, Krantz is all we've got." Wyatt patted her shoulder lightly as he passed her.

"I promise I won't shoot him. Even if he's really obnoxious." That earned him a tentative smile.

"Good. Because Mother would have you locked up, and Glitch needs you here."

"I know." He darted a look towards the bed. A little bird told me.


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