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Another Kind Of Courtship
Deslea R. Judd
Fandom: Tin Man
Spoilers/Timeframe: Whole mini-series.
Summary: He seems quite unperturbed, quite accepting of her rejection as a foregone conclusion.
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
Feedback: deslea at deslea dot com.
More fic: http://fiction.deslea.com
"Happy Valentine's Day, Princess."
Azkadelia allows a smile to play around her lips. Friendship is rare in her world. "Thank you, Ambrose."
"They say that this is a day for loved ones." He hands her a rose.
"They say it's for lovers, I believe," she smiles, but she takes it anyway. "The chances of me being courted by anyone are rather remote."
"Well, we may be in the same boat. We zipperheads aren't in much more demand than possessed princesses under house arrest. Even with our brains back in place."
Her smile fades. "I did that to you, Ambrose." She meets his eye, head on. She doesn't get to look many of her victims in the eye. Fewer still look back.
He sits down in front of her. "We'll have to agree to differ on that one, Princess," he says complacently. "For what it's worth, Glitch is a happier soul than Ambrose ever was."
She considers this. Wonders if it is why he comes to see her.
"Well, I may be alone, but I'm as free as I can be," she says reflectively. "I guess that makes me happier, too."
"One day, someone will want to share these four walls with you, Princess."
She laughs at that. It is a genuine laugh, with no hint of scorn. "How can you be so sure?"
"Because I already do." He is smiling gently.
She stares at him, askance.
He holds up a hand. "There's no need to reply, Princess. I only wanted to illustrate the point. I know you don't hold any such interest in me." He seems quite unperturbed, quite accepting of her rejection as a foregone conclusion.
Her mind is whirling as he gets to his feet. She stares down at his rose as he bows to her.
"Don't ever bow to me again," she says abruptly. Meeting his gaze.
He looks at her as though she slapped him. More hurt than if she had delivered any courtly rejection.
Impetuously, she gets to her feet and kisses him. Hard.
He rocks on his heels as she pulls away, shaking back her hair impatiently.
"I do want you here, Ambrose," she says. "Only," she forces the unpleasant truth out, "I don't know if it's because I love you, or because you're the only one who loves me."
He nods slowly. Frowns a little. "Does it matter?"
"I don't know."
They hold each other's gaze for a long moment. It's almost painful to look at him. She sees her own inadequacies, stunningly clear. Everything she's ever stolen from anyone – and now, she thinks, she is preparing to steal one thing more. He deserves the love of someone who chose him over everyone, and that is something she can never do.
He is holding out his arm, and the words falling from his lips are so ordinary that she thought she misheard. "What?"
"I said, walk with me in the garden, Princess," he says patiently. "Let me court you. And we'll find out together."
So she lets him court her, and they find out that it doesn't matter after all.