"The Mechanism of Confession"Author: pre_raphaelite1Characters/Pairings:
Severus/Narcissa, Lucius/Narcissa (in the background)Rating:
AU, adultery (sort of), misuse of the pimp cane.... ;)Word Count:
1940Summary/Description: He damn well hates being dependent, being indebted, being owned. But he would hate idleness, stagnation, and poverty more; and he knows it. To say nothing of having to leave
her. Author's Notes:
This is a steampunk AU, set in 1870, that I've been toying with lately inspired by my tabletop RPG. It's not that
AU, though. :P
The laboratory is hot, steam hovering in oppressive translucency along the high ceilings and that one alcove that continues to be nothing but a steam-trapping nuisance. If it had been any place in the room's design but directly beside his largest engine, it may have had some other purpose. A place for him to shelve his tools maybe. He could use the added room for the latest series of improved wrenches, handles turned just so to fit into his grip without leaving indentations into the palm of his hand. Instead, it fills with the white exhaust of the steam-driven generator. Severus scowls accusingly at the alcove, as though it was responsible for his foul mood.
But no, that honor goes to Lucius Fucking Malfoy and his holier-than-thou attitude about every damn thing. Severus would permit him such egotism if it were about things the ponce had any idea about... but to fund that fool Riddle in his utopian vision? With Severus' own damn automatons? Without consulting him? Damn him.
Severus waves an irritated hand at cloud of steam that dares to head in his direction. Still, there's nothing he can do. Malfoy is a member of the peerage and he the son of tavern keeper who drank more than he sold. He knows his living situation—having his own lab, fully funded, in which he can work— is dependent upon Malfoy's continued use of him and fickle interest in his work. And that irritates Severus even more. He damn well hates being dependent, being indebted, being owned. But he would hate idleness, stagnation, and poverty more; and he knows it.
To say nothing of having to leave her
He sighs. That's always what stops his rage, his thoughts of taking Lord Platinum Peacock's bejeweled walking cane and beating his smirking face in with it. As satisfying as that would be, he knows that he'd never see Narcissa again. Because even if Malfoy didn't die from the repeated trauma, that fucking cane is worth more than Severus is. He could probably be sent to prison or transported to Australia for daring to touch it.
And he knows he'd be lost without even those brief glimpses of her as she walks across the lawns, through the gardens, the favoured light green silk of her bustle gowns unmistakable and distinct even in the verdant shades of early English springs. He thinks of the few times he has followed her, weaving a distant path behind her, a black shadow to her pale radiance, through the high hedges of the garden maze to the south of the manor. She never acknowledges him but he knows she is as aware of him even as he is aware of her before him. They never talk, never touch; it's all pursuit, foreplay to something that can't be. It is a game, a dangerous one, that they play-- one has little chance of not ending in disaster, dismissal, distance-- if they are caught. But he can't not
follow her, not when her pensive walks continue to veer far out to pass by the laboratory windows, one of which he has taken to leaving open even in the coldest winter, so he doesn't miss her passage through the thick layers of fog over the glass.
His own weakness disgusts him and he throws the oil-stained rag from his hands, cursing. He can't keep thinking about this, about her
, so he snatches up a screw driver and returns to his work.
He looks at the mechanism before him; a smaller, more human-shaped version of what Malfoy sold off to Riddle, curves instead of angles; elegant, feminine where the other was hulking, aggressive. It's taken him months longer to shape the golden metal plating covering the reorganized fragile clockworks into less sharp edges than his first design, but he's pleased by the result of it.
“It's beautiful, Severus.”
Severus rounds sharply, hand raising up to brandish the screwdriver at the intruder. Blinking stupidly, he stares at Narcissa.
“Did I frighten you?”
It's a pointless question which he gives an obvious lie to as he lowers the improvised weapon and shakes his head. “Of course not.”
She smiles then, serene, innocent if he didn't know better but he does.
He waits to see if she speaks but she just continues to look at him and he can't take the silence hanging between them. “Is there something you need, my Lady?”
“I wanted to see you.”
“Need I a reason for it?” she asks with an arched eyebrow.
“Yes. And a good one.”
The arched eyebrow draws together with its mate into a furrow of disapproval. “I thought you'd want to see me. If you'd rather I leave....”
He shakes his head, hand itching to reach out to touch her, stop her from the potential departure but he knows better than that, too. “Of course not. But tongues will wag if anyone is given cause to think the Lady of the manor is making a social call upon the help.”
“Perhaps I am inspecting the use of our funds. Making sure you aren't philandering.”
“That is your husband's responsibility and you know it.”
“If you want to keep tongues from wagging, you should mind how you speak to me. It's very informal.” Her lips give the faintest twist, an expression that on anyone less beautiful would approach a smirk.
He gives a formal half bow. “Forgive me, my Lady. I meant no disrespect.” At the return of her frown he sighs. “I only wish to make sure you are cautious.”
“Cautious? You think I am not?”
He shrugs and puts the screwdriver down the table next to him. “I am not sure what you are. Or what you want of me.”
She laughs softly, a sound like the notes of music that waft out to the laboratory during the height of the Season. “I thought I had made that clear enough.”
Narcissa shakes her head, and he marvels at the seemingly precarious pile of curls that fails to come undone. He wonders how it would feel under his roughened fingers then immediately puts that thought of his mind. Mostly.
“Don't you want me?” she asks as though she's asking of the colour of the sky and not requesting him to confess that which he carries heavier than any weight and that which brings him to faster release than any other desire.
And he knows staring stupidly at her this time, mouth agape and eyes wide.
Her hand is on the still headless automaton now, delicate fingers stroking over the golden shoulder that is barely below hers, tracing the line of it. “I think about it, you know. How it would be with us, with you.”
Her fingers draw down like a lover's caress to the rising double swell covering the central control unit. It had taken all his control when he designed it to resist the juvenile urge to place a single rivet at the center of each. It makes little difference though to how her thumb is circling just there, just where the rivet would have been had he given in to the desire. The pad of her thumb brushes around it in an unmistakable motion, and Severus starts to think he needs to open every window in the laboratory to relieve the damp pressing heat that seems to have suddenly descended on him.
“I imagine you following me into the maze and the rain starts to fall. My dress presses close, soaking through, and you offer me your coat. It's warm with the smell of you.”
He wets his lips, thinking of the winter morning he had given his cloak to her when she and Lucius had been caught in a sudden swirl of biting sleet, and curses himself for it. Out of self-preservation he comments dryly, strained, to her, “I can't imagine that oil and steam is a pleasant smell.”
Narcissa arches an eyebrow at him and he dutifully shuts up, thin lips twisting a bit ruefully.
“If you want me to stop?”
He spreads his hands; he should but he doesn't and he's too weak with want of her and need to know what more she is going to confess to him. Then he sees her move, stepping behind his recent creation, arms wrapping around it so both of her moon-pale hands can cup the breasts-- no, the curves there. Just curves and oh god
her fingers are moving on them again, pinching what could be there but isn't. “I think of your hands on me, touching me, touching me here
, like this.”
Severus swallows hard, but it's not the only thing that is hard at this point and he thinks she must know it for the satisfied look on her face.
“Do you think about it too, Severus?”
He thinks this conversation has become very rhetorical so he doesn't interrupt. He startles when her hand closes on his; it's warmer than he's imagined it. Always thinking she must be as porcelain cool as she appears. He doesn't pull away like he should, and she lays his hand onto the curve she had been stroking before, a curve that is now before her, her position blending flesh and metal, woman and machine visibly and intentionally together. Groaning, he bows his head a few centimeters, unable to fully look away as she urges his fingers to move, to caress, to press together. The steam in the laboratory has ensured that the plating of unfinished automaton is warm to the touch, but not as warm as her fingers knitted with his.
” he groans, a half-hearted pleading for release, of his hand or of his need.
Her gray eyes are steady on him, watching with something he is surprised to identify as equal need to his. There is a faint tremble in her touch as she slides their hands lower, descending along the torso to the apex of mechanical thighs, and it doesn't matter that there's nothing there but solid, unyeilding metal. It's her and them and together, and he knows he's going to go mad for her, for all of it, and he doesn't care any more. He wants her and she wants him enough to risk position and power for the act of it.
The high whinny of a horse from the nearby stable pierces through the throbbing haze. They both startle apart, hands jerking away from one another, connection shattered in the barest of seconds.
She's blushing. He thinks he may be too.
They look at each other, the machine between them a barrier now. He's about to say something, anything, an apology or a plea, when she just turns and flees in a rush of silk and clipping boots, leaving him standing alone, the ghost of her touch still wrapped around his hand.
He draws in a long breath and exhales it into the silent laboratory. He glances at the automaton then turns his back on it, going to pick up the rag he threw to the ground earlier. There is washing up to be done, and he's put it off long enough.
The door shuts behind him, its motion making the steam in the room wash like a cresting wave against the opposite wall, breaking and spreading then returning together again.
Tomorrow, the automaton will dismantled, its gears resorted and its plating melted. But today it stands, the surface smudged with fingerprints and confessions.