Warning: slight character abuse (by the author), introduction to m/m
Story: A few months after the enchantment that changed the whole castle Cogsworth starts to crack at the edges. Lumière/Cogswort, nothing graphic.
Edit 14.06.2013: I rewrote and heavily edited the story so I could post it on Archiveofourown, and then I decided to replace this version too. You can find me onArchiveofourown here.
As these things go, it was less than half a day when they noticed him missing, and almost a week till they seriously started to worry.
At first, the servants, when they bothered to think about him at all, simply thought he was somewhere else in the castle, scolding someone else, or hidden in one of the empty rooms with a new book, forgetting the time. Everybody knew that books were a secret passion of Cogsworth's, and while it had never made him shirk his duties before, it could happen, right? Or maybe he decided to sleep in, now that there was no chance of guests and they had only one person to care for. Or just maybe he finally got that stick out of his ass, got drunk and was sleeping it off.
That was, for some reason, still something they were able to do, even in this form, as a couple of ex-guardsmen could attest to. Though how it was technically done nobody dared to guess. Anyway, nobody was that interested in the why or how, only the what, and as the wine, together with all the other foodstuff, every morning magically appeared in the castle's cellars, even the what had been crystaly clear to the whole servant population since the beginning. They enjoyed the unusual freedom, leaving the cleaning and polishing and cooking and washing for later, gossiping furiously, couples sneaking away or in again, and generally acting as if some kind of festival came to the castle. There might have been copious amounts of alcohol involved. Except no might about it.
Nothing was cleaned, nor the lamps refilled with oil, nor the floors washed and the sheets dusted. Nobody cared; after all, their Master didn't even notice those things any more and there was no Cogsworth to scold them for laziness today (and then these days), so what would be the point?
On the third morning after the butler's disappearance, Mrs. Potts left her kitchen for the first time in months and searched out Lumière.
She wasn't really surprised to find him in the door of Cogsworth's old room, looking as concerned as she felt. They were both silent for a while, just looking at the dusty furniture and the closed drapes, the room clearly empty for longer than the few days their friend was missing. The meaning of that... well, with the way things were standing, they had to contemplate it, even if they didn't want to. Really didn't want to. Strongly didn't want to. To finally break the silence, the candlestick decided to state the obvious: „He is gone.“
Mrs. Potts didn't look at him, still gazing at the empty room. „That does seem to be the case. My poor dear... What could have happened to him? You know the boy would never leave his duties like this, without saying anything to us first. He doesn't like to worry people. Oh, heavens, I can only think of the worst of possibilities... Maybe a thief sneaked to the castle and stole him, or maybe he fell somewhere and can't get out! My poor Cogsworth, maybe he is laying somewhere, hurting, right now!“
She sniffed worriedly, trying to hide her tears. She had always had a soft spot for the butler, who was a few years younger than her and started to work here as practically a boy in her eyes. She used to sneak him food to fatten his thin body up a little, and console him when he was ridiculed by other servants and scolded for their mistakes. She watched as he learned and grew harder and stricter, finally gaining an authority a butler should possess, and she considered it an honour that it was her he came to when he needed a friend. Indeed, for a long time, she was the only friend he had had, the only friend he had allowed himself to have. And then a new cook found a place in the castle...
But she and Cogsworth had never grown apart, not then. She hadn't thought they have done so since the Curse, either, but she had been so busy... Things had happened so fast. It had been Cogsworth, who consoled her in those first moments, when the shock and fear briefly took her strength away from her. At the time, the newly made clock had seemed as the only stable thing in their changed and still changing world, the firm ground on which she could base and stabilise herself, and that she did. It never ever came to her mind, that it could not be so... And now she worried.
Lumière tried to console her. „I am sure he is all right. Maybe he simply needed a break, after all that happened in the last months, and tomorrow he will be back like nothing happened. Let's stay calm for now. It is only three days after all.“
„Yes... yes, you are right. I did notice him looking out of sorts and a little sad lately, but I was so busy in the kitchen... Children couldn't get used to sleeping in their cupboard at night, and the other servants were all so worried about the future, I had to take care of them... And I was sure that if something really was wrong, he would go to you. Did he mention anything to you?“
She hasn't sounded accusing in the slightest, but Lumière couldn't help feeling guilty anyway. He had been neglecting his friend during the last few months. He was unable to look her in the eyes when answering: „No... we didn't talk much lately. There were so many things to get used to, and so much more work because we all shrunk, there wasn't time. But he seemed all right to me when I saw him last. Ordering everybody around like usual.” He smiled at the memory. “He insisted on washing the curtains as we always do at this time of year, but it was terribly difficult to get them down and they weren't so dirty anyway, so we argued about it for a while. In the end the whole thing fell on his head and he left in a huff.“ He shook his head, amused even now.
„But what could have happened then? If he simply wanted a break, he would surely mention it to one of us. We are his best friends! His only friends...“ Mrs. Potts finished quietly, still sounding extremely worried.
„Well, let's go find him, then. I doubt he would willingly leave the castle. It is his home.“ The candlestick straightened, resolved. He was aware he hadn't been the best of friends to Cogsworth lately, and with Mrs. Potts putting it like that, he was feeling quite a villain for it. Poor old clock didn't have anybody else than the two of them to care for him after all. It was mostly Cogsworth's own fault, true, but it was still quite pitiful.
So the decision was reached. They would look, and when they found him, they would make everything better, whatever the problem was (Mrs. Potts). Or at least make fun of him until all the doom and gloom had been dispersed (Lumière).
It took them almost a week to search the castle, as at first more than a half of the servants refused to help, happy about the butler's absence. Even after the seventh day since Cogsworth's disappearance passed and all the maids finally decided to join in the hunt, the place was big, and they mostly weren't.
Lumière was feeling extremely worried by now, the possibilities getting graver and graver in his mind and dreams. Bad things happened, bad things happened all the time, he knew that. Even if the castle felt safe, felt like home, it could be not. And the clock was quite prone to accidents of all kinds, falling down the stairs just one of the simplest.
But that wasn't the only thing weighting on his mind. He had never realised it before, but this was the first time since he came to be employed here that he went without the butler's presence for any stretch of the time. It had been Cogsworth who welcomed him here when he first came, it had been Cogsworth who showed him his room, and later the kitchen, it had been Cogsworth who introduced him to the other staff, and, once again, it had been Cogsworth who had been conveniently around whenever he needed to show the way or help out with something those first days until he got used to things.
Of course, they disliked each other intensely from that first moment, so all the help was delivered with plenty of bitching and moaning and teasing and grumbling.
Lumière... had never realised how used he had grown to the annoying clock's incessant grumbling. He had, in fact, always thought it was him who was doing Cogsworth a favour, by associating with that overly serious prude and shaking his world a little, making his life more lively, more interesting. Lumière had enjoyed their bickering too, of course he had, but he could do without, no problem. Or was it? Because now he missedCogsworth, surprisingly strongly and painfully.
The image of the clock lying somewhere, shattered and broken, dead, was appearing in his mind more and more often, and even the distant thought made his wax solidify and his flames quench. He had been so shaken that he even refused pretty Babette's flirting yesterday! This just wouldn't do.
They had to find Cogsworth, and find him soon, and Lumière swore to himself he would apologise for every wrong he ever did to the butler (though even then he knew it was quite an empty promise, fated never to be fulfilled, no matter the circumstances, as it would involve admitting to some of those wrongs, plenty of which he managed to successfully wiggle out of in the past and that would be more likely to bring Cogsworth a heart attack than please him, anyway) and then tie the clock to the closest solid, unmoving object by the neck, so he could never disappear like this again.
But... They were slowly running out of places to search by now. Just where could that guy be? Did he really... did he really leave the castle? No... Lumière thought furiously, Cogsworth loved the castle, he must still be here, somewhere. He must.
They went through the cellars, they searched the rooms, they looked in the gardens... They combed the kitchens, storage rooms, library... What else was there?
Come to think of it, there was one room nobody dared to go into, no, not only a room, one whole tower... But surely he wouldn't... Not there. But... Merde, told Lumière to himself, are you a man, or a puddle of wax?! Could or couldn't, just simply go and look!
Cogsworth in the meantime was faring much better than he had ever believed he could, after effectively abandoning what consisted of his life.
He went from melancholy to deep sadness and, in turn, outright sulk – which resulted in restlesness and boredom. He wasn't used to having nothing to do, and he was even less used to silent wallowing. After all, some work could always be found in a household this big, and Cogsworth was far from the type to suffer silently. When he didn't feel content, he made sure everybody had been made aware of it, Lumière being usually just the first to hear – and ignore, Cogsworth weren't going to lie to himself now – about it.
But this time... this time was different. With his usual ways of coping being cut off, albeit by his own doing, he had to resort to some new ones.
After those first days of self-pity and depression, and not so subconscious waiting for somebody – other servants? his friends? Master? he didn't know – to come looking for him, he gave up. He had never been the type to indulge himself for long, the need for his attention here and there and everywhere making him used to skipping between the tasks and thinking about many things at once, and this habit was not so easy to break, definitely not in a matter of days. And he wasn't sure he wanted to, anyway. So, after two days in the voluntary seclusion of his own mind, Cogsworth resigned to the fact he really wasn't needed any more. And that was that.
The realization, as painful as it was, was also freeing in a way. Now he didn't need to be the bad guy, he didn't have to carry all that heavy responsibility on his shoulders any more. For the first time in years he could do anything he wanted, any time he wanted. He had time. He had space. He had... well, he still had himself. Even the fear of the Change that crushed him in the previous months suddenly seemed so unimportant, after this realization. He was Cogsworth, he had always been Cogsworth, and even if he changed, he would still and ever be Cogsworth. He used to like being Cogsworth. He would just have to learn to like it again. Without others to help him, to define him.
We are all better off this way, he thought. Mrs. Potts, the servants, even Lumière... Mostly Lumière. Here the ticking in his chest stopped for a moment, for a short, insignificant moment, betraying his heart. He ignored it. It was doing this quite often, lately. He would be worried, were he still alive, but as he didn't need to eat, breathe nor sleep now, and had no heart, the possibility of dying from heart failure was a remote one. It was annoying, though; as a clock, he should be orderly and regular, especially when it came to ticking and tocking. How typical for that guy, he didn't even have to be here to aggravate Cogsworth. It was really the high time to stop.
And a strange thing, while those two days had felt like years, now the time went on without him especially noticing it. He cleaned the room he had chosen as his hiding room (a little), removing some of the dust, then decided to let it be. He didn't like cleaning. The room was big, with one window to the east side (that he washed), dirty green curtains (that he gave a dark look to, then thoroughly ignored), a few dark-wooden chairs, one of them broken, a dusty table (that he tried to draw on, but seeing the result, cleaned thoroughly) and an old bookcase next to the wall. It even had some books in it. Huh... He used to like reading, before he came here to this castle, but after becoming a full-time butler he became too busy and unable to find the time... Well, now he had all the time in the world, didn't he? So he proceeded to read all the books present. All the interesting seeming ones, that is. Cogsworth still had no interest in advanced algebra, nor the proper care and handling of the dairy cattle. Those he put aside immediately after laying his eyes on them.
Then, when he run out of reading material, he sneaked to the big library for more. This was his castle, and he knew how to get anywhere without being seen; something that always came in handy before, when trying to catch Lumière with one of the maids. But he didn't care about Lumière now. Or the maids. He wasn't going to care about anything except himself now.
On his way he sneaked through the storage cupboard and took some snacks. He might not get hungry anymore, but eating was still possible, and there was no reason to deny himself. The fact that there was no one there, and indeed, he saw no one during his trip around the castle was quite strange, but he dismissed it as the necessary loosening of discipline after his leave.
His days gained a rhythm to them. He read the books. In the morning he stopped to watch the sunrise and to try to predict the weather for the day, even though it was of no concern to him now, just to see how right (or wrong) he could be. At midnight he spent an hour watching stars and seeking out familiar constellations, astronomy book being one of his favourites. And he ate, all the time. When he run out of food, he went and stole some more. Who cared? When the sun set and it's got too dark to read, he pushed the book aside and settled himself comfortably on the window sill. He didn't need to sleep now, but he concentrated inside, and started listening to the sounds his chest gave out. They were nice, soothing, made him relax and the time pass. They brought him to that place between sleeping and awake, where the most vivid dreams occurred and even the thought of leaving provoked the feeling of intense refusal. He dreamed, and there were no nightmares.
During the day, when he had enough of reading, he left his room carefully, and explored. This tower had been half-broken and off-limits even before the Curse; now it was the Master's domain, not to be disturbed. He didn't dare to go far, and there wasn't so much to see anyway, but one day he found the way to the roof, and another a beautiful, if old and dusty, stone relief in a small niche off the main corridor. Who knew what more was hidden here?
Cogsworth didn't even realize that two weeks had passed.
He was on the window sill, rereading the book about gardening, the chapter about roses, when the door opened suddenly, a triple light illuminating the room.
„Cogsworth? Are you here?“ For a short second Lumière didn't see anything, the darkness of the room refusing to be penetrated by his meagre candle light, but then he heard the steady ticking and tocking and looked up, following the sound. And there he was. Looking right at the French candlestick, silent but unhurt, was the person – object – they had all been searching for for the whole last two weeks.
Lumière's first reaction was relief. Really, it couldn't be anything else. It was extremely relieving to see all his worst imaginings dispelled in just that one glance, and some little part of him finally managed to take a deep breath, for the first time in weeks. Then came the anger, and it was just as understandable and unavoidable as the feeling of relief before it. How dares Cogsworth vanish and hide like this, and make them all worry?! Make Lumière worry?! Some things just aren't done, and suddenly disappearing on your friends, without a word or a letter as to the why, is quite on top of the list!
Lumière puffed up, fully prepared to start yelling and get all that out in the open, when some weird instinct stopped him in his tracks. Despite Cogsworth being in front of him, whole and obviously unharmed, something didn't feel right. What... Oh. Cogsworth still wasn't saying anything. No words of annoyance, of defense, of anything. That was unprecedented.
Lumière blinked when he realised this. In fact, the butler went back to reading his book. It was obvious to Lumière now that he had been mistaken, that something had really happened, something potentionally serious.
He slowly climbed up on the window sill, closer to his old friend. He strongly wanted to hug him, and yell at him, and cry, but he did neither. He looked down at the gardening book, then up at the clock. „What are you doing?“
The butler didn't even bother looking at him. „Reading.“
„I noticed that! But... but there is work to do! Rooms need to be cleaned and things polished, and, and everything!“ Lumière sputtered in his surprise, completely unprepared for something like this. Ignoring his duties?! That wasn't his Cogsworth! He must be sick or hurt or something!
„Whom for?“ Cogsworth asked calmly, still not tearing his eyes from the pages of the book. „Master doesn't care, and there are no guests, nor there will be in the future. It doesn't matter. You don't need me any more. So I went.“
Lumière started to seriously worry. „What are you talking about?! Of course we need you!“
„It took you over a week to even notice I am gone. I am sure you can all cope quite all right without me. In fact, I am sure the servants will be happier without me always nagging around and you can continue chasing Babette without me always interrupting things. I wish you all the luck, and could you leave now, please? I would like to finish reading my book. And close the door properly, there is a draft.“ With that, Cogsworth turned his back on the candlestick, making his point. There was nothing left, nothing more to say. He tried to go back to his reading, fully intending to ignore his guest until Lumière finally gave up, but for some reason he still wasn't able to concentrate. The little voice inside of him that jumped around singing “He came for me, he searched for me! He cares!” just didn't let him.
Lumière felt completely stunned. He had sincerely hated the monotone voice this was said in, and he had hated the fact that he couldn't think of anything to answer to it even more. It hurt. Then Cogsworth went back to ignoring him, and Lumière snapped. There was no way in hell he would let himself be overlooked liked this! He was not letting go of his friend, of this stupid, so important clock!
Well, if they couldn't talk... there were other ways to get the stubborn butler's attention. He was going to enjoy this, oh yes! Lumière allowed one of his flames to grow, and then put a hand close to Cogsworths back. It was immensely satisfying when the clock jumped, screeched and finally, for the first time since he found him, looked into Lumière's eyes.
„What are you doing, you imbecilic bundle of wax?!“
„Getting your full attention.” When it seemed he would be interrupted, he raised his flame higher in warning.
„Now you listen to me, and listen carefully, because I will only say it once! It is not true that nobody cares, as you should already know! Some of the servants care. Mrs. Potts cares. She was practically beside herself with worry after your unannounced disappearance, and you will have to apologize for that! Prostrating yourself on the floor and begging sincerely will do! And...“ he took a deep breath, a little hesitant, but it was clear this needed to be said: „I care. You are my friend, my best friend, and I am used to you scolding me and arguing with me and being around me. I need you, and I missed you, and aidez-moi mon Dieu, I love you. So if you ever do something like this again, ever, I will personally find you and pick you apart screw by screw, cog by cog! Understood?!“
Cogsworth was staring at him as if he turned into candelabra, which he did, so that wasn't so surprising, but Lumière could swear that the clock was blushing. He couldn't believe his eyes. Then Lumière remembered what exactly he had just said, and his flames too turned distinctly red. He himself was somehow confused by his own words. Merde, how did this happen to him?! He had never fallen in love before, that just wasn't him. He played and teased and flirted with everyone, yes, even with Cogsworth, but that was it. Nothing more. And still...The possibility of losing this one friend of his... The most important friend. Merde!
„L-l-love me? A-as in like l-loving me?! I-I mean...“ Cogsworth seemed unable to continue, and Lumière sighed to himself and thought he must really be out of his mind, or in love, because he found even this stuttering endearing.
„It seems so, mon ami.“ He sighed again, then pulled the stunned clock into his arms. He had never been the one to pussyfoot around once he had made his decision.
„What about you?“
„Well, I. I.“
„You seemed to go out of your way searching me and Babette out and interrupting our little tête-à-têtes all the time. I would almost say you were jealous.“
„What?! No way! I am not jealous of you and that flirty little feather duster! I never! How dare you insinuate something like that!“
„So you don't like me?“ Pouted Lumière mischievously.
Cogsworth seemed to decide this was all some kind of joke, not surprising, really. It allowed him to regain some of his previous tranquility. „It's ridiculous! Youdon't like me! What about all those girls?! You can't tell me you were only pretending all that! I saw you!”
„Of course I enjoyed a little tussle here and there. We never went further than a few kisses, though. They wouldn't allow it.” Here the candlestick seemed a little regretful, then smiled winningly again. „In any way, it didn't mean anything. They knew that, I knew that. It was just some innocent fun.”
Cogsworth snorted. „Innocent, ha! There was nothing innocent about that!”
„Careful, mon ami. You are starting to sound jealous again... And I believe my question was: do you love me?”
Cogsworth closed his mouth so fast it clicked. „W-we are both men!“
„No, we aren't. We are a clock and a candelabra. And your point is?“
„It's... you cannot like me! I am old, fat, and overly serious, you said so yourself! Completely unlikeable!“
„You are only few years older than me, even though you like to pretend otherwise, and I never said you were fat. In fact, I think you are quite a handsome clock, as far as clocks go. And it would be my pleasure to do something about that seriousness of yours. Aaand... you still didn't answer.“
With that Lumière stooped down a little and kissed Cogsworth gently. Then he pulled away for a second, took in the dazed, unbelieving look in his friends eyes, and dived in for much longer and deeper kiss. How lucky neither of them needed to breathe.
When they finally stopped, they were both glad they didn't have knees in this form, as neither of them would be able to stay standing otherwise. Lumière carefully muted his flames, which had gotten a little out of hand, and listened to the too fast ticking coming from the clock in front of him. While the butler was still out of it, he used this opportunity and asked: „So can I take it you do love me?“
Suddenly red as if he were made of cherry wood and full of indignation, Cogsworth turned away. „We need to go back! There is work that needs to be done, as I am sure that while I was gone, you were all lazying around.“ He jumped down form the window sill, making his escape.
Lumière was left there, standing alone, for some reason feeling both profound relief and deep sadness all at once. He couldn't decide which was stronger.
Almost at the door the embarrassed clock stopped, cleared his throat and turned around brusquely. He seemed to hesitate a moment, then looked unflinchingly at Lumière: „Yes, I think I d-do l-like you. So if you try to f-flirt with anybody in this castle... t-that is, anybody other than me, you are going to regret it most strongly! Now, come on!“
And any sadness he ever felt was abruptly gone as Lumière gave Cogsworth his brightest grin, jumping to the floor and following him out the door. „So, mon amour, I can flirt with you when I want to? Because you know...“
Their voices disappeared in the distance, leaving the forgotten books and empty room behind. Maybe, just maybe, things were going to be all right in the end.
= The End =