The last thing Steve fully remembers was watching a football game wishing Danny was there to talk smack about the Giants and how very much they sucked. Steve would have pointed out that they couldn't suck too badly since they were the reigning Super Bowl champs and Danny would have told him that was last year. New season. New champs up-coming. Steve would refuse to rise to the bait and Danny's indignation would make Steve continue to goad him all the more.
But Danny hadn't come over even though it is a Grace-less weekend. They hadn't precisely argued on Friday before leaving the office for the day. Even so, Steve knew that Danny was put out with him and Steve doesn't know what to do to fix it.
Steve wakes up to discover that the football game has morphed into The Wizard of Oz. He doesn't have any particular opinion about the movie outside of being fairly certain that Frank Baum had to have been on some heavy-duty mind-altering shit to have written Dorothy's adventures.
"You don't strike me as The Wizard of Oztype," a strange voice informs him from the end of the couch.
Steve is shockingly undistributed by the voice. Instead, he looks down to what he always thinks of as 'Danny's end' of the couch to find the silver Tin Man sitting on his feet. The shiny stranger has no weight and Steve knows instinctively that he isn't real. He's only a hallucination, a remnant of the dream informed by the movie.
"I wasn't really watching it," Steve tells the hallucination as though this figment of his imagination needs an explanation.
"I see," Tin Man replies with a nod, the squeak of his neck audible in the quiet house. He doesn't take his eyes from the screen, watching the Cowardly Lion wipe his face with his tail. "He wasn't really cowardly. He simply thoughthe was. He finally realized that it isn't what he thought but how he acted."
"Sounds familiar," Steve says, wondering if he closes his eyes, will Tin Man disappear?
"I can go if it bothers you so much," Tin Man offers, turning slightly to glance at Steve, a gleam in his silvery eyes.
"No," Steve says a little too sharply. "No. I don't mind."
"Where's Danny?" Tin Man asks as though Danny is a character in his movie and he can't understand why a member of the merry band isn't there with them.
"We had a fight," Steve admits reluctantly. "Well. Not a fight so much as … you know… a disagreement."
"Oh," Tin Man says. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Not really," Steve says, sitting up, carefully pulling his feet out from under the Tin Man and not disturbing him in the least. He doesn't shift. He doesn't move. Just watches the movie.
"Okay," Tin Man agrees. He looks up as Steve stands and stretches.
"I'm going to get something to eat. Do you… well… do you eat?"
"No," Tin Man says, following Steve into the kitchen. "Is that the ocean?"
"Yeah," Steve agrees, opening the back door so the waves are even louder.
"We aren't in Kansas anymore," Tin Man says predictably.
"That was inevitable, huh?" Steve laughs.
"Naturally. Can we go out there?"
"Why shouldn't we?" Steve asks, watching him study the beach.
Tin Man shrugs, his metal shoulders barely lifting but enough so Steve knows what he means. Tin Man wanders out the door, Steve behind him with a sandwich and a glass of water. They sit in the beach chairs, the sky clear but dark with no moon to brighten it.
"Do you get hot?" Steve asks.
"No. I'm hollow."
"You aren't sentient?"
"I don't know what that means," Tin Man says.
"Do you think and feel and … I don't know… have desires?"
"I do think. It's the Scarecrow that wanted a brain. I feel now that I have my heart. Desires?" Tin Man says, considering it. "I don't know. I miss Dorothy. And Toto. I desire to be back with them. Does that make me sentient?"
"Sounds like it to me," Steve decides.
"Why did you want me here?"
Steve takes a drink from his water before considering the question. Why isthis imaginary character visiting him? What brought him here? "I don't know."
"Oh," Tin Man says. "I've never been in the ocean."
"I would imagine it would be bad for you."
"Yeah," Tin Man agrees. "Not enough oil to fix that."
"Hollow," Steve says, considering it, going back to Tin Man's statement. "Sometimes I feel hollow."
"Are you sentient?"
Steve laughs at that. "Yeah. Pretty sure I am. Despite what Danny says sometimes."
"He doesn't really think you are a robot," Tin Man says.
"He calls me that often enough," Steve says, sounding weary. "That's why we argued."
"Robot. Not Super SEAL? Not Rambo?"
"The others are a part of me. Robot feels like an insult. I asked him to stop. He laughed. That didn't sit well with me."
"Uh huh," Tin Man says, his neck squeaking as he nods.
"But it doesn't change the fact that I do feel as though I'm missing something… something everyone else has. Like your heart."
"What do you imagine that is?" Tin Man asks.
"I don't have any way to know. How did you know you were missing a heart? You clearly cared for Dorothy even without one."
"I didn't tick. I thought the lack of the sound meant the lack of capacity."
Steve nods. That makes sense to him. But does it explain why Tin Man is sitting on his beach with him?
"What do you lack?" Tin Man asks, his voice sounding sympathetic rather than hollow. He puts his heart to good use, it seems.
"Empathy?" Steve tries. But that doesn't seem entirely right.
"You sure?" Tin Man asks.
"No," Steve decides. "Danny adores Grace. I don't feel that way toward anyone. Maybe Mary but not nearly the same."
"That isn't a fault. And since I'm your subconscious, I can tell you that you dofeel that way."
Steve shakes his head. That is a little too close for comfort.
"What did Danny say exactly?" Tin Man asks.
"You were there. You know already."
"I thought he was kidding," Tin Man says. "Not that I fully existed then. Your dreams take a while to form, to process what has happened."
"He said if I weren't such a tin soldier with the emotional capacity of a robot, I'd understand how he felt about not having Grace every weekend."
"You do understand," Tin Man replies.
"I believed I did until he said that. Then I thought maybe I would never understand that sort of love, adoration. I am too hollow to understand that depth of emotion."
"Do you really believe that?"
"No?" Steve says.
"You aren't hollow. Your emotions may be rusty, like I was before Dorothy found me. But with a liberal application of oil, I was able to make it to Oz."
"Is there a magical can of oil for emotions?" Steve asks, trying his very best not to sound hopeful. He registers a quiet creak of wood and realizes that it's coming from his chair. He has such a hard grip on the arm that he's threatening to remove it.
"Danny," Tin Man says simply.
"Is he willing to share?"
"Why do you think he's so invested in your emotional well-being? He doesn't need to go with you all the way to Oz for you to discover your heart."
"So I just have to tell him that the Tin Man visited me and told me he holds the magical can of oil?"
"Pretty much. I know he holds it because you do. You know he's in love with you. As surely as you love him. He is hoping you'll admit it so he doesn't have to."
"He thinks I won't accept it?"
"Can't accept it," Tin Man says. "Subtle difference but real."
"Yeah. I apparently have plenty of room for those emotions."
"Room for and capacity for aren't always the same," Tin Man tells him with a warm sympathy.
"Oh." Steve considers those words, weighing them. "I am hollow."
"Maybe right now. But that's not the worse thing. And I'm not saying it's going to be easy."
"As hard as flying monkeys? I always hated it when they flew out."
"A lot of people do, I think," Tin Man says. "Don't know too many people who look forward to that part."
"Yeah. Mary used to sleep in my room after watching it," Steve says, a nostalgic smile at the memory.
"Do they scare Grace?"
"No. Different world," Steve says with a shrug. "Lots of real life things scarier than that."
"True," Tin Man agrees. "Don't you think being brave proves you aren't hollow?"
"Danny says it's reflect. Like breathing. Trained into me. That it's easier for me to fight than love."
"Is that what you believe?"
"I have more experience in fighting. I don't really have to think about it to do it well," Steve says, considering it with a tiny frown.
"You learned to fight. You weren't born able to do it. You were born able to love."
"Oh," Steve replies. "And it was trained out of me?"
"You don't believe that."
"I don't know," Steve finally says after a long silence. "Did you feel significantly different after you had your heart?"
"It was really about acknowledging what I already knew. Like the Scarecrow and Lion did."
"And Dorothy. She had the ability to go home any time. She didn't know until it was pointed out," Steve adds.
"You have the ability to love. Danny will point it out for you."
"Will he be willing?" Steve asks, wanting to believe it's true. "Will he fill up the hollow places?"
"Who are you talking to, babe?" a very familiar voice asks from behind him.
Steve glances over at Tin Man with a secret smile before turning to look at Danny bathed in the light spilling from the house. "It's the middle of the night. What are you doing here?"
"Couldn't sleep. Had some crazy-ass dreams."
"How were you dreaming if you weren't sleeping?" Steve asks with a laugh.
"Never mind," Danny says, waving it away as he walked down to the beach. "Who were you talking to?"
"Myself, I guess," Steve says, glancing over to see Tin Man watching them both.
"Not the Tin Man?" Danny asks, looking down at him.
"You see him too?"
"Yeah," Danny admits.
"Oh," Steve sighs. "You're not really here, are you?"
"I'm pretty sure," Danny says, touching Steve's shoulder, his hand warm and reassuringly solid.
"Then how can you see a part of my dream?"
"Same way I can know what you are thinking at any given time," Danny tells him.
"I think I'm going to excuse myself," Tin Man says, rising with a creak. "Let me know if you need me to come back."
"You got it," Danny promises with a smile, watching him walk toward the house before disappearing into the surrounding darkness.
"That was just weird," Steve says, turning back to look up at Danny. "What were you dreaming?"
Danny shakes his head, sitting in the chair Tin Man had vacated. He seemed to be mesmerized by the ocean, not looking over at Steve. "I'm sorry I was so ugly yesterday."
"You weren't," Steve says. "You were right. Fighting is easy. The rest … of it is harder."
"Yeah," Danny says thoughtfully. "Are you going to finish that sandwich?"
Steve hands over the half eaten ham and cheese, Danny devouring it with a few quick bites. "And you call me an animal."
"You are an animal," Danny says, reaching over for Steve's water and emptying the glass.
"But I'm your animal," Steve says tentatively, leaning a little closer to Danny.
"Absolutely. Right now we need to go up to your giant wonderful bed and get some sleep. Less the dreams."
"Good plan," Steve agrees. "Just sleep tonight."
"Just sleep. More later."
"He said I'm in love with you," Steve says, looking up at Danny standing in front of him.
"Yeah," Danny says, a smile lighting his face. "It took a figment of your imagination to inform you of that?"
"To make me admit it," Steve acknowledges. "He said you're in love with me. Please tell me that it's true."
"Oh babe," Danny says, reaching a hand down to him. "You don't doubt it do you?"
"I don't think so. There isa lot of power in the words," Steve says, reluctant to admit his need to have his belief confirmed.
"I love you," Danny says simply. "I probably have since I met you. Well. Not from the first moment. But not long after it."
"Even while we were fighting?"
"Of course. Always have. Always will."
"You said I'm a robot," Steve says, standing in his effortless, graceful way that wants to make Danny jealous at the least and angry at the worst.
"Because you can be. But I never thought you were incapable of love," Danny says, reaching up to brush his lips against Steve's. "I wanted you to realize on your own. I didn't want to have to spell it out for you."
"Okay," Steve says, not knowing what else he should say. He can accept that explanation. He can accept that he has a lot to learn about basic human emotions. And he can't imagine learning them from anyone else. With the possible exception of the Tin Man, who already possessed that knowledge before arriving in Oz. Maybe Steve possesses it too. With Danny's help, he knows he'll find out.