"Some Things Should Be Private"

by Princess of Pain

NOTE: According to the Oz books, English was the official language of Oz and the surrounding lands. This was due to the fact that Oz did, in fact, exist somewhere on Earth, albeit in a hidden realm, reminiscent of Avalon.

This story has references to events in "The Suspension of Memory", and in its sequel fic, "Tin Cry". "Tin Cry" isn't posted on because it has a graphic sex scene in it. It is posted at my y!gallery account, however, which is listed in my user's profile, should you want to hunt it down first.

It was hard for him to express what he knew in words.

Viewers simply didn't see the world the same way everyone else did. Because of that, they did some things differently--like speaking in their own blunted pidgin of English. To most of the humans he'd met, that meant that he sounded stupid; after all, how hard was it to add in missing words, or speak in total sentences?

It made Raw sad. He could still remember when he'd first touched Cain's wound, and how he'd accidentally been overwhelmed by the sudden, rushing tide of emotions from the stern man. It had felt like stepping inside of Cain's skin, tasting and smelling and feeling his emotions, sampling his soul, tracing the strings of his heart to wherever they might go.

He had felt honor (brightness in his eyes, the soft smell of almonds) there, tempered by sadness (dark red and gray swirling together, the feeling of slogging through deep mud with no shoes on his paws). There had been so much anger (a noxious flavor of rotten meat), but that was tempered by love (the dark blue of cool, deep water, and the smell of ripe corn) and by professional restraint (the scream of breaking tin, the zing of metal and electricity on his tongue). All of that, and there was no way to make the humans understand, not unless he touched each of them in turn and forced them to smell, see, hear what he did. And that would have been rude to Cain.

All he could think, the only words that could reach what he had seen, were nowhere near enough: Brave man. Good man. Tin man. If that sounded simple to them, it was because he was trying to speak to them in two languages at once, one of which came in a frequency they couldn't even hear.

And Raw would have left it all alone, but he liked that last, that love. It had been pleasing to his eyes and to his nose. So he latched onto it, later, following the lines of Cain's heart with his mind's eye, until he stumbled onto a dead end (warm skin turning cold, the flame of a lamp that has blown out). One of the people Cain loved, then, was no more. That made Raw sad, but he back-tracked anyhow, re-tracing his invisible steps until he found the other tethers binding Cain's heart to someone else's.

Those led him to someone else, a son, Jeb Cain. Jeb had blonde hair that made Raw think of cornsilk, and a hard, sad face. His heart was so like his father's: all the sensations of his soul were of honor, pride, hatred (and Raw backed away fast from the sound of carrion buzzards screaming, and the sight of a rill of blood leaking from between cracked lips), and love for someone who he thought was dead. Ah, sad men, and their confusion over their lives!

Raw, though, could not show Cain what he had seen. The tin man was too mired in his own pain, and could not see past his own heart. So, Raw tried--in that stumbling language the humans all valued so much--to speak to him, of how his son still lived, and lived to honor him. Cain had not believed him, and why should he? There were no words, really, for how he had followed the lines of Cain's very heart, and if he had tried to describe it, the tin man would think he was crazy. Cain usually thought that people he didn't understand were just crazy. It was hard to talk to someone who could ignore anything you said.

He liked DG better. It was depressing for him to be around her for too long; her sadness felt like being buried under a ton of warm, fertile earth, secret and overwhelming. But her heart was complex, a yellow-colored gem with many facets, and he liked simply sitting around her, silently examining each face: Father (the smell of motor oil, the sound of a smooth and loving voice), Mother (a tangle of gentle, well-meaning thorns against his fur), and the Queen (fields of flowers, countless sun-lit fields, beautiful and unexplored). Most of her facets were dark, her heart-strings leading to gray and misty places that made him feel muddled, but he did not worry about them too hard, and simply enjoyed how often she shone with that inner, near-magical light.

Once--when Glitch and Cain had left their little camp for firewood, and when Toto was asleep--DG asked him what viewing felt like. He did a bad job at trying to tell her; he stumbled over words a lot. He tried to say what it had been like, healing Cain and touching his heart, and ended up confused, murmuring about water and corn, paint and tin, blood and meat. She smiled, though, and that was pretty stones polished by hundreds of years' worth of river washing over them. That was worth the try.

And sometimes, he wished he'd tried harder. When he first met Toto, he'd felt drawn to the shape-shifter--he wasn't the only non-human around, for once. But when he brushed his clawed fingers against the old tutor's heart, he'd felt nothing but secrets there. Raw didn't like secrets. They felt like spider's webs pressing invisibly over his face on a moonsless night, and tasted like sucking on a piece of raw turnip. Turnips made his stomach hurt. He backed away, fast.

Later, he wondered if he should have had the courage to look deeper--would he have seen Azkadellia there, all chrome and feathers, smelling of leather and bile, sounding like an immense number of needles being dropped to a stone floor?

But he did not burden himself with these thoughts. He knew his own limits. Running from secrets was not the worst thing he'd ever run away from.

Mostly, Raw felt sad and frustrated around the humans. It led to his silence--he did not often have anything to say, or if he did, he did not know how to say it. He contended himself with playing along the strings of their hearts, watching and feeling as new bonds quickly roped between them all: a silvery line between DG and Cain that made Raw think of his own father (the smell of old, soft fur pressed against his nose), and green ties of affection and friendship between DG and himself (the smell of freshly-sheared grass, a beam of moonslight, the feeling of an itch that has just been thoroughly scratched). That last made him feel so special, so happy, that for an entire hour, he'd done nothing but revel in how kindly DG thought of him.

Then--oh, then, Glitch had tripped. This was when they had nearly reached Finaqua; the tin man and the princess had darted ahead, leaving Glitch and Raw to lumber behind, with the tutor lingering even farther back on the path. The zipper-head had tripped, nearly fallen, and Raw reached out for him, catching one of his bony elbows in his paws before he could fall. He did not want to touch Glitch, not after what had happened in the cabin with the mirror (the incessant grind of a buzzsaw, the sensation of tears trickling down his own face, the coppery and hidden smell of gore). Every sensation he'd gotten in those short moments had been Bad and Sad, but he wasn't going to let the poor man fall because of that.

This was a new Glitch he touched, one that was not then burdened by his own memories. Raw heard the ticking of a clock that was missing a few wheels and springs, but still trying to run--irregular and cottony. He saw flat tires spinning before his eyes, and his nose was overcome with the overly-sweet smell of burnt sugar. All of Glitch's sensations were off, somehow, but hinted at something wonderful and pleasant.

He helped the zipper-head to stand up, and as he did, he delved deeper, squeezing his paws around Glitch's heart. What a warm and awesome place this was! Raw saw open, sunslit skies and heard the rustling of feathery wings--he peeled those back, and saw a million metal bands, all spiking away from Glitch and spreading out across the Outer Zones, each one a different color and sound. Ah, it was so rare, meeting someone who loved so openly and so much!

Raw smiled, and Glitch brushed his hands over his curls, and said that there'd been a bump in the road that he'd tripped on. He started scampering off after DG and Cain, and Raw followed, both in body and in heart. He was drawn, now, inevitably tracing his paws over the many rainbows rising from Glitch's heart, finding where all of them led: to dark laboratories, complicated machines, the flower-fields of the Queen, the princess--several went to her, some musty with forgetfulness and some new, smelling of peony nectar. Many were old and felt like dust, or went to nowhere at all.

One, though, was short and strong, and sounded like the wind blowing across a sheen of ice. As they ran to catch up with the others in Finaqua, Raw reached forward, blindly slipping his hands along the cold string until he found himself, to his surprise, colliding with Cain's heart.

The viewer was not sure what to make of this weird tether. He tested it, plucking it, running his claws along its surface. By doing so, sometimes, his people could call up memories from those bonds: the events that created the emotions, and, if they strained, the events that would be shaped in the future by them. This had the risk of hurting Glitch, and of hurting Raw (events, like human thoughts, were too weighted with feelings and sights and smells for him to handle without pain), and so, he did so gently, when the zipper-head was focused ahead on the magical message from the Queen and unaware.

Raw felt for the cause of this bond as he did when he searched for emotions: seeking sensations, not specifics. He first got the sensation of his body immersed in sudden, thorough cold. He shut his eyes, briefly, and heard the crackle of feet crunching on snow (getting closer), then the rustle of dry grass and earth underfoot. There was nervousness (a finger being jabbed with the tip of a dagger), and although he could not understand the words, a constant stream of chatter in Glitch's voice. This was not it, and the viewer felt further along, scanning over eating (the rasping sound of a can finally being pried open, the snap and smoke of a fire) and lying down to sleep (the taste of cold cotton).

Then: a small explosion. Raw stepped back, closing his mind's eye against the tumultuous onslaught of salt and earth brushing against his cheek, fingers gripping onto someone's shoulder, the suns beaming down on the heavily-seeded soil, the flavors of pollen and tin, the warm smoothness of eggshell. Above all, there was bluish-gray hazing over everything, so strongly that it nearly blinded Raw, even after he let go.

He blinked, sucked in a breath, and shook his head. He'd dug too deeply, and now, a small spike of pain was hammering into his forehead. There was a lot there, most of it jumbled images he didn't want to see--those were how Glitch remembered that thing that he and Cain had done. They were none of his business, though and he did not like their implications.

He did like everything surrounding them, though, the sorts of things that Raw would have used to summon up a memory: a tide of colors, sounds and tastes that spoke to the viewer's heart. There were so many little ties that bound, each one symbolic of a different emotion that Glitch experienced. There was love here, the same innocent love that Glitch bore for building things, and caramels, and the sound of his own voice (shimmering purple, the bittersweetness of raspberries), and respect (the pressure of a hug), and mild trepidation (a long and shadowed hallway with many shifting, rattling doors), and of course, given what he'd seen, there was lust (the warmth of wine heavy on his tongue, the grinding kick of a machine turning on).

But there was also one heart-string that spoke of sadness, and resentment. This one almost frightened Raw, because it told him nothing: it made no sound, it had no smell, it did not bring any visuals to his mind's eye. He plucked his claws along this line, until it came to him the reason why--to Glitch, maybe, his depression was silence. Maybe it was created because of silence, or continued because of it. Something to do with Cain? He didn't know, and the quiet troubled him, so he let that one go.

For a moment, he tried to reach back into Cain's heart, and learn of any tethers that might lead back to Glitch; except that one silent line, all their emotions were so rich, vibrant, and delightful. That wasn't so bad, at first--he encountered traces of a reluctant affection (silk barely brushing against his fur), mixed with amusement (the odor of suns-heated straw) and desire (moonslight shimmering through a windowpane, and the flavor of water after hours of dehydration). As he pared through them all, though, he found one thread that felt like slime for him to touch--and when he did, he got the staggering sensation of being slugged in the face. After that, he let go entirely; it hurt, but more than that, he felt hot pity for the tin man. What a cheerless man, that he would feel so guilty over something that had made him so happy!

Raw might have said something, to one or both of them, about the things he had felt. They were both sad, that he knew, and he might have helped them sort through them. Maybe it would help Glitch understand why he was always following so close after Cain; and if Cain could know in his bones that his wife was truly dead, perhaps he'd stop hating himself and his friend so much. That was a gift that viewers had, one that the humans coveted so much. But the thought of jealous humans made him think of Azkadellia (falling needles), and her raiding parties, and the unforgivable thing he'd done when they had come for him and his village. Perhaps it was cowardice, keeping silent, but that was something he had gotten used to.

Besides, Cain would get mad if he knew how deeply Raw had looked into his heart. Raw did not know much, but he did know for certain that he didn't want to ever make the tin man angry. He could still taste Cain's hatred and fury at that Longcoat, and the very flavor might kill him if it were directed at him. And if he tried to explain in his halting pidgin, they wouldn't even understand.

No. Sometimes, even viewers knew when not to speak of emotions. Best to leave those alone.