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Logan is a porcelain wind-up doll, snowy skin littered with cracks and chips, when the invitation arrives in the mail.

 

The cream cardstock would likely be smooth in his hand if he could feel it. 

 

He does not.

 

Instead, Logan hurries the letter to his Stepfather Deceit.

 

He says it seems interesting, that he’d quite like to see how the palace is built, and his step brothers, Roman and Remus, titter at him, almost tangling in one another’s strings as they dance around him, guffawing at the very idea of a wind-up attending a palace ball.

 

Logan’s cheeks heat uncomfortably, and he has a sudden rush of affection for his bone-painted face. It will never betray him by pinkening the way Roman’s mahogany cheeks do when Remus teases him.

 

Even later, when Logan is tinkering with his clockwork parts and conversing with the mice he calls friends (who most likely come for the morsels of cheese Logan has no use for and thus feeds them, but whom he likes to think stay for his witful accolades pertaining to manor living) about the ball, he glances around at the scraps of fabric in every shade scattered around the dark, dirty room. He even hazards a glance at his mother’s dress, beautiful where it stands at attention, hastily thrown on the old, headless bodice-sewing mannequin years ago and never removed.

 

A figurative light bulb ignites above Logan’s head.

 

Perhaps he will go to the prince’s masquerade ball, after all.

 

He gives his key an extra tug and gets to work.

 

-:-

 

Though it gave him the idea, Logan dares not touch his late mother’s wedding dress. He may not consider himself one for sentiment, but the thought of cutting and modifying one of the only things he has of his mother’s sits wrong on Logan’s shoulders.

 

Instead, he uses one of Roman’s old Sunday dresses. It isn’t too torn up or battered, though the mice have chewed off the lace ages ago. For this, Logan is grateful.

 

Even when he’s altered his hand-me-gown, (the mice probably don’t care, but Logan likes to believe he saw a twinkle of humor in Emile’s eyes when he heard the name) though, Logan holds his tongue. He isn’t so naive as to think that even with his chores completed and his dress as close to decent as he can bring it, his Stepfather and brothers would allow him to stain their carriage.

 

Instead, Logan will walk. The palace isn’t that far, is it?

 

-:-

 

Upon arrival, Logan’s jaw drops.

 

The palace is beautiful, yes, marble and gold and tapestries full of rich dyes and enchantments, but more to his enchantment, it is expertly crafted.

 

Arches curve at perfect angles, level bricks engraved to bring out patterns in marble beckon, and columns grow seemingly like trees out of the ground. This place is a marvel of architecture, (which Logan may or may not know because Remus locked him in the manor’s library for a week once) and besides, the mural painted on the ceiling is so enthralling it seems Logan is in that countryside with the royal family.

 

He spends so long gaping up at the ceiling, trudging slowly around the ballroom, he bumps into another guest. 

 

The stranger falls to the floor, his eyes screwed shut.

 

Logan kneels down, apology after apology falling from his lips, but the boy waves him off.

 

He says it’s fine, but what did Logan see that had him so enchanted?

 

Logan gushes about the intricacy of the ballroom and the palace in general to the boy, who looks at him as though he’s never seen anything so intriguing.

 

He is dressed in a rumpled suit with a purple cross-hatched tie. His eyes are kohl-lined, and they are warm as they pin Logan down from beneath dark bangs. Logan is once again grateful to his porcelain skin for keeping that warmth from painting his face red.

 

The boy asks suddenly if he will stay to meet the price, and Logan laughs harder than he has ever laughed.

 

Can you imagine, he gasps, wiggling a cracked finger at his button nose. A wind up meeting the prince? He’d have him shattered. He’d melt down the brass gears and copper spools making up Logan’s innards for rings if he knew a wind-up had snuck into the ball!

 

The boy scowls at Logan, then, and says maybe the Prince doesn’t care what kind of doll someone is, so long as they’re kind.

 

Logan snickers and asks the boy where the refreshment table is.

 

He’s still put out, but he takes Logan’s hand and–

 

And Logan feels.

 

Feels the bumps and divots where the boy’s fingertips touch his and have ridges in them. Feels the warm, smooth skin of his hand in Logan’s. Feels blisters and calluses on his own hand in place of cracks and chips.

 

He pulls his hand from the boy’s grasp to bring it close, to see what he can already feel.

 

Instead of snow-bone-porcelain white, Logan’s hand is cream colored. Pinkish.

 

It looks like the boy’s hand.

 

Human.

 

Logan tackles him, whispering his thanks into the crook of his neck.

 

He scrunches his face up in confusion, so Logan waves his hand at the boy. It’s human, he says, voice shrill. He’s partly human.

 

The boy smirks, eyes still warm, and asks if he’ll be human enough to stuff his face with the prince’s food.

 

-:-

 

The next day, Logan’s hand has faded back to its pallid color, but the fractured smile on his face is real. 

 

He’d planned to attend just one night of the ball before he’d met the boy, but he’s–he makes him want–

 

The boy makes Logan want more.

 

He’d asked, too, if Logan would come back.

 

Asked him to stay until the ball was through.

 

But Logan will need a dress, if he’s to dance again. All the lords and ladies (not to mention Roman and Remus) will have new fabrics and frills to tease the prince with.

 

All Logan has is scraps and Roman’s old dress. 

As he’s deliberating, Remy, the tallest mouse-acquaintance Logan has, falls from a shelf above his work bench and into a bed of silk. He rolls around in it and saunters up to Logan to beg for cheese, trailing fabric behind him like a kings fur-lined cape.

 

Logan grins, handing him a morsel. 

 

Remy is correct, after all. 

 

Logan is only going to be dancing with a boy. One without a title, at that. There’s no need to stress about clothing.

 

Logan gets to work.

 

-:-

 

The boy is waiting at the palace doors for Logan when he arrives, and he gapes at him in what Logan hopes is awe.

 

Coming to a halt before him, Logan curtsies, joking.

 

He twirls, showing off his slapstick gown and laughs, but the boy shakes his head, coming forward and taking Logan’s hands. (They soften immediately at his touch, and Logan almost melts).

 

He calls Logan’s hand-me-gown beautiful, enchanting, lively; everything Logan is not. 

 

He calls Logan everything he is not.

 

-:-

 

The ballroom is as beautiful as ever, but now Logan sees how it pales in comparison to the boy.

 

He can barely keep his eyes off the same rumpled suit and dark bangs set across barely paler skin.

 

He’s beautiful, all teak hair and soulful eyes and a smile that burns into Logan’s copper heart. 

 

He cannot wait to dance the night away.

 

-:-

 

Logan dances with the boy until he nearly shuts down, and he has to crank Logan’s key to give him a few minutes. Logan turns it again, rougher than the boy, and admits he should leave lest he come to a stop in the ballroom.

 

He thanks the boy profusely, rubbing his human hands over the sheer layer of fabric on his dress and marvelling at the sensation.

 

The boy’s face falls. He asks for Logan to stay, kohl-smeared eyes rooted to the floor, at least until the prince arrives. But Logan shakes his head and thanks him again for the story he’ll never tell.

 

You’re wonderful, Logan says.

 

He means I love you.

 

The boy asks him to come again tomorrow. 

 

Logan giggles and agrees, helpless to do anything else in the face of his bright eyes and soft smile.

 

-:-

 

Logan works himself into a tizzy, sacrificing his mother’s wedding gown for the first time. 

 

She always said she was saving it for him.

 

Logan will never see the boy after tonight, so he may as well go out with a bang.

 

-:-

 

The boy charges straight to Logan when he sees him, wrapping his arms around a corset-wrapped waist and whispering admiration into his mousy hair.

 

Logan laughs, ignoring the overload of sensitivity in his hips where the boy (the boy who still hasn’t told Logan his name) holds him. He asks if the boy plans to grapple him all night, or if he’d like to watch the prince announce his fiance with him.

 

The stunned look the boy gives Logan is worth it.

 

-:-

 

A quarter-hour to midnight, the boy pulls Logan into the gardens, much to his confusion.

 

He asks why he’s taking their party of two out here when the prince arrives so soon. He’s the one who was so excited to see the man; this seems illogical.

 

The boy shrugs, cheeks red in a manner Logan does not envy.

 

Logan shrugs back, putting the matter behind him, and tugs the boy over to the hydrangea in the garden’s corner which has been calling his name.

 

The two of them run amok among the leaves and blossoms, joyful laughter ringing in the air like bells as they toss clippings at one another and weave blooms in each other’s hair.

 

The boy steadily draws Logan nearer to the great glass door on the south wall of the gardens. It’s covered by a maroon velvet curtain, and the boy says the prince will enter the ball from it.

 

Logan asks how he knows.

 

The boy just smiles his soft smile at him.

 

Logan’s cheeks are warm, and he manages a grin, going to do something to distract from how flustered he is suddenly, only to be stopped by a hand on his cold, cracked cheek.

 

It softens easily under the boy’s palm, blushing pink.

 

The boy’s smile grows, and he leans into Logan, pressing his warm, soft lips to Logan’s icy pair.

 

Logan’s whole body glows with sensation, softer, warmer, more colorful. He feels like he’s dancing on air, like clockwork doves’ wings are taking flight in his newly-flesh stomach. The key rooted in the small of his back falls soundlessly to the ground, and he is ascending, ascending–

 

The curtain falls at the first stroke of midnight and oh.

 

So that’s who the boy is. (He’s Prince Virgil. He’s the prince).

 

He was playing a joke. (All the aristocrats in the ballroom are laughing).

 

Logan apologizes to the prince, ripping his hands from where they’re laced with the other’s (when did that happen?) and bolting.The wings in his stomach spit oil and ignite, roiling, as Logan’s cheeks finally bloom red red roses.

 

His human feet protest against his movement, and Logan regrets ever coming to the ball.

 

He’d made such a fool out of himself. Prince Virgil must have laughed and laughed, telling King Patton all about the doe-eyed wind-up who dared sneak his way into the ball. 

 

Something blurs Logan’s vision, and it burns like hot oil. Logan drags the back of his hand across his eyes, frowning when it comes up wet. The royal family is one of the only human bloodlines in the kingdom, and their eyes never produce fluids.

 

Before long, Logan’s made it back to his Stepfather’s manor. He wrenches open the door to his workshop, slamming the door behind him.

 

His heart beats triple-time, he realizes. It’s unsettling, unlike the eternal, soft tick of his clockwork heart. 

 

Agony writhes in Logan’s no-longer-steel bones.

 

He rips apart his gown, suffocating under its weight, and shimmies into a simple blouse and a pair of trousers. 

 

A quarter hour later, his fingertips are a web of fissures again, and there is an even more unsettling sound–not to mention feeling–in Logan’s chest. 

 

Bmp- tick. Bmp- tick. Bmp- tick.

 

Further and further apart with each beat.

 

Logan knows his heart will stop ticking when it’s restored to its copper glory.

 

It isn’t something he can fix, even if he had his key.

 

This is simply the way of things.

 

-:-

 

Logan feeds Remy and Emile, ignoring how his softness fades with every step he takes. 

 

His heart is his again. It ticked the last time thirty minutes ago.

 

Logan’s vision is fading.

 

Logan carefully detaches his heart from its place in his chest cavity and takes one last look at it.

 

It shines brass and copper. Gears protrude from one side, unprotected. 

 

The corners of Logan’s mouth set into a smile, and he pictures the boy, laughing brightly, as his mind clouds over.

 

The nameless porcelain doll comes to a rest in its workshop.