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Fic: Esoteric

Title: Esoteric
Rating: PG
Characters/Pairing: Cain/Glitch, DG, Raw, a scattering of OCs
Words: 6,500
Summary: When all the headcases in the O.Z. begin dying off, Cain is called back to the Palace and to Glitch. Once there, he makes a promise that he intends to keep.



~*~

Stomping the dirt from his boots on the boardwalk outside, Cain tugged his hat down in greeting as he made his way into the government post building. Though he only made it into town about once a week in the three months he had been back home, the folks were friendly as always to the man who they remembered as their neighbor annuals ago.

“Morning, Henry,” Cain flashed a smile at the mail clerk. “Anything for me?”

“Yes, sir,” Henry replied cheerfully, reaching back to the open slots in the wall behind him, snagging a pair of letters from one. “You sure do have some friends in high places, Wyatt.”

Cain chuckled. He had been getting weekly letters from Glitch, and the occasional one from DG, since he’d returned to his homestead to tie up his loose ends. It had been a couple of weeks since he had heard from Glitch and was pleased to hear where his mail had come from.

But when he checked the return names, Glitch wasn’t among them. There was one from DG and another, surprisingly, from Raw. Glancing up distractedly, Cain inquired out of habit. “Any news this week?”

“Word is there might be something nasty going around,” Henry replied with a melancholy tone, leaning his elbows on the high counter. “Odd thing is, it’s only hit the headcases so far. They’re dropping like flies all over the region, maybe even beyond that.”

Cain looked up sharply. “Headcases? What’s happening to them?”

Henry shook his head. “They’re dying. No one knows what kind of sickness it is yet, but most people are just praying it doesn’t start spreading to the rest of us.”

Looking again at the letters in his hand, Cain suddenly felt ill. “Thank – thank you,” he took a step back, stumbling for a moment. “I’ll be seeing you.”

“Stay safe,” Henry waved and went back to his business.

~*~

Cain tore open the letter from DG before he even reached where he had tied his horse.

Dear Mr. Cain,

Hope everything is good with you. I know you’re probably busy fixing up your cabin, but I thought you should know that Glitch isn’t well. He’s getting worse and none of the doctors know what’s causing it or how to help him. Raw can’t even figure it out and that’s what’s got me the most worried. I’m afraid for Glitch.

Please visit very soon.
DG


His heart sinking at having his fears confirmed, Cain moved on to the second letter.

In Raw’s elaborate, elegant handwriting was a heartrending message:

Glitch needs you. Please come.

Not needing any more encouragement, Cain shoved the papers into his pocket and unhooked his horse, climbing on as fast as he could. Not even bothering to stop off at his cabin, Cain steered his mount west, toward Central City.

~*~

Ignoring the startled greetings that peppered him as he burst through the front entrance, Cain skidded around the corner out of foyer and flew up the stairs to the second floor. Though it had been months since he had been there, Cain remembered exactly where Glitch’s room was.

The door was slightly ajar so he only knocked lightly even as he pushed it open. “Hello?” he called softly, taking in the atmosphere of the room. The curtains were pulled closed, giving it a gloomy feel. But the strong scent of peppermint countered the dark mood.

It was DG who greeted him in the short hall. “Mr. Cain! You got here fast!” She was pale and looked exhausted, but she flung her arms around him enthusiastically.

“I came as soon as I got your letters,” he replied softly, returning her hug. “How is he?”

DG shook her head as she pulled back, her chin trembling. “It’s...we’re not giving up hope and everyone’s trying to find a way to help him, but...Cain, I’m so scared,” she whispered, looking away and pressing a palm to one eye.

Cain shucked his jacket and hung it on an empty wall hook, right next to Glitch’s new deep red coat, then added his hat on top of it. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with him?”

“It’s his brain, what’s left of it,” DG answered in a hushed voice. “It’s...deteriorating, faster than ever. None of us noticed it happening, not even Glitch, until these last few weeks – his headaches are getting so bad he can hardly sit up anymore. Raw’s doing what he can to ease the pain, but it just keeps coming back.”

“And no one knows why it started?”

DG grimaced. “My mother and Az are sure it’s connected to the Witch dying. See, it’s just not possible for a person to survive with more than half their brain gone. The only thing keeping Glitch, and the other headcases, alive was the Witch’s magic – a curse that forced them to live like prisoners. With that magic gone, there’s nothing keeping them alive.”

“And no one saw this coming?” Cain snapped, keeping his voice down.

Shaking her head, DG met his eye, distraught. “Like I said, Glitch was fine until a few weeks ago. That’s when the headaches started. The nearest thing the doctors can figure is the brain tissue started to atrophy around that time.”

Cain blew out a sharp breath, closing his eyes for a moment. “Is he – can I see him?”

“Yes,” DG took his arm eagerly, pulling him past the den and around the corner toward the bedroom. “He’s been asking about you.”

“I wish he’d said something in his last letter,” Cain muttered but turned his focus to the figure huddled under a thin green blanket on the bed.

Glitch was on his side, one hand pressed to his temple and the other resting palm-up on the bed. Even from the doorway, Cain could see the tension in Glitch’s body.

Sitting on the bed behind Glitch was Raw, who had one hand moving in slow, even circles over Glitch’s back. Cain caught Raw’s eye and they exchanged small, silent smiles in greeting. The scent of peppermint was stronger here and Cain noticed the tea tray sitting on the dresser.

Raw gave the nape of Glitch’s neck a gentle stroke. “Glitch,” he said very softly. “Cain’s here.”

Cain took that as an invitation to approach. He settled in the chair next to the side of the bed Glitch was facing. “Hey,” he spoke quietly, touching his fingertips to the upturned palm closest to him.

Glitch brought his other hand down from his head and squinted at Cain, studying him. It took a few moments but then his expression cleared and he managed a crooked smile. “Cain,” he replied in a barely audible voice. “You came.”

“Of course I did,” Cain admonished kindly, letting his hand wrap fully around Glitch’s now that he had his attention. “I just wish you’d told me sooner.”

“Happened too fast,” Glitch said, licking at dry lips. He pushed back slightly against Raw’s hand, turning his head just a bit. Though he didn’t say anything, Raw got the message. Giving Glitch a final, lingering touch to the head, Raw slipped away from his position and left the room, taking DG with him.

“They said it’s pretty bad,” Cain prompted. He shifted his hand and started pressing his thumb into Glitch’s palm, seeking out familiar points.

Glitch drew a sharp breath, closing his eyes. “Yeah,” he managed. “That’s...really...”

“Is it helping?” Cain asked, bringing his other hand up to join the massage.

“Mmm,” Glitch moaned. “You sure you’re not a Viewer?”

Cain chuckled. “Pretty sure.”

“Where’d you learn to do that?” Glitch’s voice started to slur.

“My mother,” Cain replied. It was strange to talk about something so personal, but then he had never felt the need to hide any of himself from Glitch. “When I was a teenager, I managed to take a long walk off a short cliff. Knocked myself out good, too – didn’t wake up for two days. For weeks after that, I got these terrible headaches and whenever I did, my mother would take my hand just like this and find these spots that would make the pain go away.” When he looked up, he saw Glitch looking at him with an odd expression, a soft smile curving his dark lips. “What?”

“I just...like hearing your voice again,” Glitch admitted unabashedly. “I missed it...missed you.”

Cain swallowed hard but refused to deny Glitch the truth. “I missed you, too,” he replied.

“Why’d you leave?”

With a sigh, Cain told him. “A lot of reasons. Loose ends to tie up back home. Too many people here. The food’s weird,” he snorted, then sobered. “I wasn’t ready for this,” he confessed, reaching up with one hand and pushing back a stray tendril of hair with his fingers.

Glitch gave a weak, bitter laugh. “Well, it’s a little late now.”

“No,” Cain shook his head hard. “I’m not letting you get out of this. I screwed up and ran away like a coward last time, I admit it. I’ve had a lot of time on my own to think. But you’re not leaving me like this, you hear? We’ll figure this out and you’ll be fine.”

“Because you say so?” Glitch smirked, though the effect was ruined by the lines of pain creasing his forehead.

“If that’s what it takes, then yes,” Cain told him firmly. He could see Glitch was fading fast so he stood, pressing a kiss to Glitch’s temple. “Get some sleep. You want me to send Raw back in?”

“No, thank you,” Glitch mumbled. “He could use a break.”

Cain sighed, standing watch as Glitch fell asleep. “So could you.”

~*~

Taking a sip of his tea and making a face at the bitterness on his tongue, Cain reached for the tray on the coffee table and snagged two more cubes of sugar. “So the problem is that his brain is deteriorating. Say someone comes up with a way to stop it from getting worse – is there any way of fixing the damage already done?”

“Yes,” Raw answered, surprising Cain. “Raw can repair.”

Cain shifted forward, setting the cup down and resting elbows on his knees. “Does that mean you can fix him now?”

Raw grimaced and looked away. It was DG who answered instead. “Glitch asked Raw to stop,” she said quietly. “It – it’s like a never-ending nightmare. Raw could keep mending the tissue but after a few hours it just starts to waste away again.”

“Glitch not want to live like that,” Raw rumbled, frustration and grief coloring his words. “Will only let Raw ease pain now.”

Standing quickly, Cain paced over to the window. Something about the problem scratched at his memory. Biting at his thumbnail, he stared out into the garden and watched the cement fountain pour water over its pedestals. Wasting away...

Turning quickly, he looked at the other two expectantly. “When I was stuck in that suit, it kept me alive. No food, water, fresh air for ten annuals. How?”

DG frowned. “What does that have to do with Glitch?”

“Those suits kept us from wasting away,” Cain told her. “It wasn’t magic keeping me from dying, it was science. Is there any way we can find out what it was in the tin suits that stopped that deterioration?”

“I don’t know, but I bet we can find out,” DG jumped up and snapped her fingers. “Come on.”

Cain started to follow then looked back, seeing Raw’s reluctance to leave Glitch alone. “Stay with him,” Cain implored. “If he wakes up, tell him we might have an idea.”

Raw nodded quickly, allowing a hopeful smile to escape as he watched Cain hurry after DG.

~*~

Azkadellia shook her head at DG’s inquiry. “I have no idea,” she answered honestly. “The alchemists and engineers who worked for me, they did all of the work in their labs. I – I mean, not me, but – you know...we just gave the orders. We asked them to design something and they did.”

“So no one here knows how the suit works?” Cain asked in disbelief.

Standing straighter and gathering her pride, Azkadellia addressed Cain’s incredulity with a sharp tongue. “I want to help Ambrose as much as you do, Mr. Cain. You think we’ve all just been standing around, waiting for him to die?” Her voice broke on the last word. “Everyone is looking for an answer. All the books that survived, all the notes that the alchemists weren’t able to burn – they’re all being studied.”

Cain refused to concede his point. “It’s got to be worth a try,” he said determinedly. “If nothing else, it has a chance of slowing the process. It might keep him alive long enough for a cure to be discovered.”

But instead of the hopefulness he expected, Cain saw only pain and regret in Azkadellia’s expression. “I’m sorry,” she told him despondently. “But all the suits have been collected and destroyed, on the orders of the Queen. There’s none left to offer.”

“I know where one is,” Cain told the princesses, his voice matching his dark expression. “We’ll need shovels.”

~*~

Cain was the first out of the truck, followed closely by DG and Nelson, the chauffer they had snagged on their way out. Circling around the side, he reached over the edge of the truck bed and grabbed two shovels, handing one to each of the others before going back for the third for himself.

“Didn’t we leave it in the back, standing up?” DG asked, following Cain around the corner of the mostly renovated cabin.

“We did,” Cain replied, then pointed to the empty place where the tin suit had been. “I buried it.”

“Oh,” DG breathed faintly, staring.

~*~

There was a solid crack of metal against metal and DG stopped digging, motioning for Cain to halt his own shovel. “I hit something.”

Cain went to his knees, brushing aside loose dirt until the familiar round glass stared back at him. He swallowed hard, a sense of vertigo consuming him as he fought the overwhelming sensation of being on the wrong side of the window. “Help me clear some of this dirt,” he said, shaking off the feeling with some effort. “Nelson, bring over the hook.”

“Yes, sir,” Nelson, the chauffer they managed to procure as an extra set of hands, trotted back to the truck and grabbed the heavy iron hook tied to a thick rope. He secured the other end to the bumper and dragged the length of rope over to the hole DG and Cain were standing in. Kneeling down, he handed over the clip.

“Thanks,” Cain said, pulling on the little bit of slack and slipping the hook under the neck of his former prison. Encircling the neck, he finished the attachment by catching the rope with the clasp. “All right, we’re set here. Go ahead and pull the truck forward, real slow. I’ll tell you when it’s clear.”

Nelson nodded sharply and did as he was told, climbing into the cab of the truck and starting it up. Between them, the two men painstakingly inched the heavy suit out of its grave and back onto the surface.

Once it was up, Cain called to Nelson to a halt. It took all three of them to haul the tin box up into the truck bed but once it was in, Cain gave a shuddering sigh. “This better work,” he said quietly, following DG to the passenger side of the vehicle. “I never wanted to see this thing again.” But for Glitch...anything.

~*~

Ignoring the looks of disgust and horror on those they passed, Cain and a handful of guards wrestled the bulky, vaguely human shaped container into the main medical laboratory of the palace. Placing it on a low table, Cain stood back and watched as the lid was opened. He felt nauseous.

“Everything is intact and working,” one of the medicos pronounced after a thorough inspection.

Cain rubbed his jaw with one hand, the sharp prick of stubble scratching his palm. “It’ll keep him stable?”

“Yes,” was the reply. “Just give us some time to clean it up, make it more...uh, well, as comfortable as possible.”

“Good luck,” Cain mumbled and turned to DG. “We need to go tell Glitch. I want him to know we’re not leaving him in there any longer than necessary. I can’t – “

An understanding hand on his arm stopped the words. “I know,” DG said. “I hate this too, Mr. Cain, but if it’ll save his life, then it’s what we’ll do.”

Cain cast another haunted glance over to the tin suit then spun on his heel and walked out, leading the way up to Glitch’s room.

~*~

They found Raw in Glitch’s room again, in the same place he had been when Cain first arrived. Glitch was breathing hard, jaw clenched against the pain and Raw was doing his best to soothe the agony.

Raw looked up anxiously. “Time?”

Cain nodded. “They’re just getting it ready. Does Glitch know?”

A shrug. “Told him, but memory...”

“Right,” Cain sighed, taking a seat at Glitch’s side again. He watched as Raw pressed his hand to the back of Glitch’s head and closed his eyes, concentrating.

Glitch gave a weak groan, rolling his head back. “Raw? Why – “

“Because we won’t let you go into a holding pattern in so much pain,” Cain answered for Raw, earning himself a look from Glitch.

“Holding pattern? What’s going on?”

Cain stood, accepting the thick, well-loved robe DG handed him. “We got the tin suit. Do you remember what we talked about this morning? The suit will keep you from getting worse; it’ll give us more time to find a cure for this.”

Glitch struggled to sit up, accepting the aid of Cain and Raw’s hands without complaint. “Not really,” he admitted, rubbing his temple with stiff fingers. He looked at Cain sharply, with real focus for the first time. “But if you’re sure it’s the best chance I have, then let’s get on with it.”

Helping Glitch to his feet and wrapping the robe over Glitch’s bedclothes, Cain wondered silently to himself how he had earned such unwavering trust.

~*~

Glitch stood frozen, several feet away from the open sarcophagus, shaking. He gave a brittle laugh, though the grip of his hand on Cain’s arm tightened. “I’m suddenly not so sure about this.”

“I know,” Cain said softly. Pulling Glitch over to a quiet corner, he turned Glitch to face him. “Look, no one knows better than me what being locked in there is like. But for as much as I hate that thing, something good will come of it. It will protect your brain, keep you safe.”

Glancing over at the waiting box, Glitch bit his lip apprehensively.

“You won’t be alone, not ever,” Cain told him resolutely. His heart stuttered at the surprised, grateful look Glitch gave him. “You’ve got my word.”

“Okay,” Glitch whispered, pale and determined. “I just – okay.”

“Okay,” Cain managed a smile then slipped his arms around Glitch’s waist, pulling him close. He closed his eyes briefly when Glitch sagged against him, sharp chin digging into his shoulder. “I’ll be right here with you.”

Glitch nodded against his shoulder then pulled away reluctantly. “At least they lined it with a blanket and gave me a little pillow,” Glitch observed lightly, covering his fear. “Last thing I want is to spend who knows how long with my zipper pull digging into the back of my head.”

Cain chuckled despite himself and led Glitch over to the table holding his former prison.

Reaching out a hesitant hand to touch the edge of the suit, Glitch fought the urge to run. He had already come to terms with dying - then Cain had come back. It had thrown all of Glitch’s resolutions into chaos. Because now Cain was right there, real and warm and solid at his side, making promises. It was overwhelming.

“I can see out the window,” Glitch told himself out loud. He drew a deep, calming breath and shook himself. He took a moment to work his robe down his arms and let it fall to the floor. Shooting a tiny smile toward Cain, he gave a nod. “How do I – “

“Here,” Cain snagged a small footstool from nearby with his foot, left over from when the scientists were examining the machine. “Step up and kinda climb in, then you can get situated. We won’t close it until you’re ready.”

“Right,” Glitch replied faintly, looking down to find his footing. The metal of the stool was freezing cold against his bare skin but he didn’t lose his balance, not with Cain holding him steady. It was clumsy and awkward as he twisted, turned and eventually ended up on his backside, but he managed to get himself into the human shaped box.

As Glitch stretched out and arranged the soft felt blanket under him, Cain busied himself with covering Glitch’s bare feet with excess fabric. When he was satisfied that Glitch’s feet would be warm enough and he looked up, he saw Glitch watching him with an unreadable expression. “What?”

Glitch shook his head, looking down at his lap. “Nothing,” he said.

Cain didn’t push. “Ready?”

“Not really,” Glitch laughed uneasily, but lay back slowly anyway. He arranged the small folded towel under his head.

Giving Glitch a moment to work out his nervous fidgeting, Cain dug something out of the inside pocket of his leather vest. He waited until Glitch had placed his arms at his sides then tucked the object into Glitch’s palm firmly. “For luck.”

Glitch held the thing in his hand up so he could see it, though the shape and texture were already familiar. The small carved horse looked the same as it had the last time he’d seen it, the flat silver bullet still embedded in its side. “Cain?”

“I owe you one,” Cain said softly, wrapping both his hands around Glitch’s and the horse. “I won’t give up until we can get you out of here, ready to patch you up.”

“You’re that sure?” Glitch asked.

“Yes,” Cain answered without hesitation.

Glitch released a breath, a real smile emerging. “Then let’s get on with it, shall we?”

“I’ll be right here,” Cain reminded him, reaching up and curling his fingers around the handle on the top half of the suit. “DG and Raw, too. Best thing to do is just get some sleep. And stay calm, you’re safe.”

“I’ll do my best,” Glitch vowed. He closed his eyes resolutely. “See you soon.”

Cain hated how small and alone Glitch looked in that suit. He fought the stinging that started behind his eyes, slowly lowering the lid. “See you.”

~*~

Glitch, being Glitch, had insisted on a simple system of communication. Rapping his knuckles on the inside of the suit’s arm when he wanted to see Cain. Head shakes and nods for yes, no and “I’m fine, leave me alone already.”

But as days passed and everyone grew more frustrated, exhausted and disheartened by the lack of progress, irritation began to split the groups. The scientists were no longer willing to put up with the constant “What if we...” proposals from Cain, DG, and Raw, and the three of them were simply fed up with hearing “I don’t know, it’s never been tested.”

Four days after closing the lid on the suit, Cain could barely stand the thought of lifting his head. He let it rest on the cold metal surrounding the man he loved, one hand on the round glass window where Glitch could see it, should he wake up.

That had been another problem; Glitch’s memory was unreliable when he was unwell and under stress. He would wake up and find himself locked in an unfamiliar prison, a situation Cain absolutely loathed putting Glitch in. All Cain could do was offer a reassuring smile and quick, sloppy notes that he would press against the window. SAFE. TRUST ME.

Somehow, Glitch did. Because when Cain pulled the paper and met Glitch’s eyes again, he was rewarded with recognition.

Rubbing his aching, gritty eyes with the base of his palm, Cain sighed and sat up. Raw had slipped into a light doze in the chair next to him so Cain nudged him with his foot. “Hey.”

Raw snorted softly and his leg slipped from where he’d been resting it on the table holding the tin suit. “Okay?”

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Cain replied, though he glanced up again to make sure Glitch was still resting quietly. “Listen, I’m sure you guys thought of this before I got here, but has anyone asked Ambrose for help?”

Shaking his head, Raw grimaced. “No good,” he said unhappily. “Brain spent too long running machine. Memory faded, too hard to reach Ambrose.”

Cain groaned miserably. “And with Glitch locked in there until we have a cure, there’s no way to get through to Ambrose anyway.”

“Raw can,” Raw corrected him, casting a sidelong glance at Cain.

“Would you mind? I – I need to see for myself,” Cain explained hesitantly, bracing his hands on his knees.

There was a long silence before Raw nodded slowly, standing and stretching his arms in front of him. He moved around the other side of the table to where DG was sleeping across two chairs. A touch to her shoulder woke her quickly and she drew a sharp breath through her nose, sitting up. “Something happen?”

“No,” Raw assured her easily. “Cain and Raw go to see Ambrose. Look for answers again. DG stay with Glitch?”

“Of course,” DG answered earnestly, smiling.

Cain stood at hearing her wake, his legs tingling from too long in one position. He rapped his knuckles on the arm of the suit and watched at Glitch opened his eyes questioningly. He hadn’t been asleep after all. Scratching out a quick note on the nearest blank paper, Cain pressed it to the glass. OFF TO SEE AMBROSE. OK?

When he moved the paper, Cain saw that Glitch was frowning. Why? Glitch mouthed silently.

Turning the paper over, Cain wrote again. KEEPING MY PROMISE. WILL FIND ANSWER.

This time, Glitch’s reply was a fragile smile and a slight nod. Cain smiled back, then closed his eyes and let his forehead rest on the glass for a moment. Somehow, it was enough. Since he couldn’t touch Glitch, this would have to be enough.

~*~

Once again looking down at the quietly bubbling tank, Cain bit his lip agitatedly. It was smaller than he remembered, the brain floating in the middle looking too large thanks to the distorting liquid and glass. Cain studied the mechanism keeping the brain alive, despite the fact that it would never be put back where it belonged.

It looked like it had been in there for mere hours, not the ten annuals that it had actually been. There was something so very wrong about that and Cain shivered.

Just before Raw’s fingertips touched the cold surface of the glass, Cain reached out and grabbed his arm. “Wait.”

Raw seemed to stumble without actually moving and he looked at Cain in confusion. “What?”

Cain took a step closer, his own hand moving up to touch the glass. “The brain. It – it’s been in here for annuals and hasn’t deteriorated at all.”

At that, Raw’s eyes went wide and he turned to study the tank as well. “Right.”

“How? What’s keeping the tissue alive?” Cain tapped the glass with one finger, deep in thought. “The wires are electrical – they’re just for transmitting messages from Ambrose to the machine. The only other thing in there is the liquid. You don’t suppose – “

Raw opened his mouth silently, staring at the green fluid. “So simple?”

“We need to go talk to the scientists,” Cain said breathlessly. “It may have been staring at us all along.” With that, Cain turned quickly and ran from the brain room and didn’t stop until he was climbing into the driver’s seat of the borrowed car. He had the engine running before Raw’s door was closed; as soon as it was, Cain shoved his foot into the gas pedal until it hit the floor.

~*~

Cain’s questions about the brain tank fluid sent the alchemists into an organized frenzy, books and notes and crumpled papers scattered on every available surface of the medical lab. At the center of the chaos was Glitch, who was doing his best to keep up with Cain’s messy, short-hand notes explaining what was happening.

Finally, nearly two hours after Cain and Raw had returned from visiting the Tower, one of the scientists held up a yellowed piece of paper triumphantly. “It’s an enzyme!” he announced to no one in particular, yet gaining the attention of the entire room. “The liquid contains an enzyme that the body produces naturally, one that controls the normal rate of repair to damaged tissue. Without his brain sending the signals controlling the enzyme release, and with the spell gone, Glitch’s remaining brain tissue is deteriorating much faster than it should.”

Cain flung his hands up, stopping the flood of words. “We already know that! So what? How does knowing this help Glitch?”

The alchemist broke into a grin, taking a deep breath. “We can isolate that enzyme. Make a kind of artificial trigger that forces Glitch’s current brain to start producing it on its own.”

“You can do that?” DG asked, coming up behind Cain’s right shoulder. “I mean...wait, you can do that?”

“Yes, we can,” answered one of the other alchemists, who had plucked the paper containing the tank liquid formula from the first man’s hand. “Give us a few hours.”

Cain gave a shocked laugh, stumbling back a step as his legs went weak with relief. “We’ll just – we’ll wait with Glitch.”

~*~

It was just over five hours later that Shaw, the alchemist who had found the long-forgotten formula, returned to the lab with a vial of pale green liquid and a long, thin needle. By then, Cain was shaking. Between the lack of sleep, the adrenaline and the very thought of opening the suit and saving Glitch’s life with something as simple as a shot, Cain was on his last nerve.

He jumped to his feet as Shaw set the items on a surgical tool cart then rolled the cart to rest next to the center table. “What – should I – “

“Make sure he’s awake first,” Shaw instructed. “No need to frighten him out of a sound sleep.”

Cain nodded jerkily and exchanged anxious glances with Raw and DG before touching trembling fingers to one of the small pins that held the suit closed. Taking a quick breath, Cain used his other hand to knock on the arm.

On the other side of the glass, Glitch jumped slightly, opening his eyes. He caught sight of Cain and recognition softened his pale features. Cain suddenly realized he had forgotten to write a note then decided that it didn’t matter anymore. Glitch was going to be fine. That sent Cain’s heart racing and he pulled at the first pin holding the door closed.

The second pin followed and without hesitation, Cain pried the door open with his fingertips and pulled it open. “Hey,” he managed tiredly, a ridiculous grin curving his lips.

Glitch’s hand immediately reached up and he wrapped long fingers around Cain’s wrist. “Is it morning already?” Glitch quipped weakly, swallowing dryly. His fingers tightened possessively, as if to ground himself.

“Hope you like needles,” Cain came back easily. “Can you sit up?”

Glitch did the best he could to comply, trembling hard under the strain of movement. Cain slipped a hand under Glitch’s shoulders and helped him up slowly. When Glitch was mostly vertical, he slumped into Cain’s hold and wrapped his arms around Cain’s waist tightly. “I take it that means you’ve found something.”

“You bet we did,” Cain told him softly, a shake in his voice. He took a moment to simply revel in the feel of Glitch’s solid warmth against him then pulled back and touched his palm to Glitch’s jaw, the prickle of stubble more than welcome. “You can read their notes later. For now, Mr. Shaw here has a present for you.”

At his name, Shaw stepped forward and held up the needle he had been prepping with the enzyme trigger. “The good news is you’ll only need this shot once.”

Glitch looked at the long needle with trepidation. “That statement implies that there is bad news.”

With an apologetic grimace, Shaw nodded. “This needs to hitch a ride on the most direct route to your brain possible.” He touched two fingers to his own throat, right over the pulse point on the right side. “The vein right here is the fastest and strongest flow of blood to the brain.”

Touching his own throat, Glitch winced. “That sounds really unpleasant.”

“I’m sorry,” Shaw told him. “You’ll need to stay very still.” He looked at Cain silently, who took the hint.

Moving behind Glitch and sitting on the edge of the table next to the metal suit that still held Glitch, Cain slipped his arms around Glitch’s waist and pulled him close. “Put your head back,” he told Glitch quietly. When Glitch’s head was resting against his shoulder, Cain brought one hand up and laid his palm on Glitch’s forehead, holding his head still. “You ready?”

Glitch closed his eyes and swallowed convulsively. “If this is going to fix me? You bet.”

With a quick look to Cain for confirmation, Shaw stepped forward. He administered the injection just above Glitch’s collarbone, quickly and efficiently, with the practiced precision of an experience doctor. Glitch barely flinched, but Cain could feel the tension in Glitch’s frame increase.

After a silent, nerve-racking moment, Shaw replaced the needle with a small cotton ball. “Hold that there,” he instructed, not letting go until Glitch’s fingertips had replaced his own.

Cain let his top hand slip down to rest on Glitch’s shoulder, and his chin found a home just about Glitch’s ear. If his lips brushed the curved bit of cartilage, Glitch said nothing of it. “How soon will we know that it worked?”

“Well, Glitch’s brain had been starting to deteriorate within a few hours, beginning with headaches,” Shaw reminded them as he cleaned up his supplies and put the small green vial away with great care. “We should know then. Assuming it works as it should, we can start making more of the enzyme and sending it out to the city hospital. Let them know how to help the headcases that are still alive, get word out that there’s a cure.”

Glitch smiled softly, relaxing into Cain’s body. “That’s great,” he said, his eyes drifting closed, then opening again slowly. “Can I get out of this thing now?”

“Oh! Yes, of course,” Shaw replied, flustered. “You need to rest, give the injection time to reach your brain and start to work. But you can certainly do that somewhere more comfortable.” He took a moment to check that the tiny pinprick wasn’t bleeding anymore, then set the cotton aside so he could lend a hand.

Together, Shaw and Cain helped get Glitch out, a precarious and clumsy task. Eventually Glitch made it off the table and onto his unsteady feet. “Thanks,” he murmured, grateful for Cain’s sturdy hold. “Can we go to the den in the south wing? To be honest, I’m pretty sick of my room at the moment.”

“Sure,” Cain told him. He looked around the floor, spotting the slippers Glitch had left tucked under the table days before. Kneeling down, he slid them over so Glitch could step into them.

When he stood again, he caught a small movement nearby and looked over; he had forgotten about DG and Raw, both of whom were standing patiently a few feet away. DG had moved forward a step. “Glitch?”

Glitch looked up and grinned, holding up one arm. DG took the invitation eagerly, coming over to envelope Glitch in a tight hug. Glitch held her with one arm, his other still trapped between his and Cain’s bodies. After a breath, Raw joined them and took all three in his arms.

Eventually, they parted long enough for Cain to snag the discarded robe from under the table and drape it over Glitch’s shoulders. Glitch tucked his arms into the threadbare sleeves and hugged it to himself with a pleased smile. As a unit, they made their way slowly out of the lab and down the hall to the cozy den, per Glitch’s request. Cain’s hand remained firmly wrapped around Glitch’s the whole way, until they reached the den and Glitch neatly collapsed onto one of the softer sofas with a loud sigh.

Cain sat on the edge next to Glitch’s hip, resting one hand in the center of Glitch’s chest. “Need anything?”

“I’d really like some water,” Glitch replied, settling into the cushions and tucking one hand under his head to keep the zipper pull off the throw pillow.

DG was the first to her feet. “I’m on it!” She took off, her steps quick and light. Raw, perceptive as always, gave the two men a knowing look and followed DG out. Cain suspected they would have a few more minutes alone than they would have had.

“So,” Cain began, fussing with one of the buttons on Glitch’s sleep shirt. “How are you really feeling?”

Glitch knew he didn’t just mean the stiffness in his body and the dryness of his mouth from the last few days. If anyone understood what Glitch had experienced, it was Cain; though Glitch could never truly fathom what Cain had gone through. “Honestly, I’m okay,” he answered quietly, setting his hand over the top of Cain’s. “I had you, all of you, right there with me. If I’d really needed to, I could have asked to be let out.”

“True enough,” Cain allowed.

“You kept your promise,” Glitch said, his voice tight.

Cain looked up sharply, finally meeting Glitch’s eyes and seeing such love in them, it threw him off balance. So he swallowed past the lump in his throat and nodded.

Glitch pushed himself up, sliding a hand around Cain’s waist for balance. His chin found its way onto Cain’s shoulder and their arms moved instinctively, wrapping around the other tightly. “I love you, you know that? Have for a long time now.”

“I know,” Cain whispered, burying his face in Glitch’s shoulder. “I’m sorry I left. I just...”

“Shh,” Glitch hushed him and Cain felt a press of lips on the side of his neck. “I get it. But you’re here now.”

Cain cleared his throat, pulling back so he could see Glitch’s face. A shaky smile broke free and he gave in to impulse, planting a chaste kiss on Glitch’s mouth. “Yeah, I am. If you’ll have me.”

Glitch snorted and smacked the back of Cain’s head lightly. “Don’t be stupid. Like I’d let you leave again.”

~*~

End

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Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
avari_maethor
Aug. 17th, 2009 04:00 am (UTC)
Awwwww! I loved this. I espeically love how much emotion is in your writing. It makes me melt every time.
surranndie
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:08 am (UTC)
*grin* D'awww - I'm so glad you enjoyed this! :D Thank you!!!
darknyss
Aug. 17th, 2009 08:35 am (UTC)
awww, this was lovely. I really liked it.
surranndie
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:09 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
ext_182955
Aug. 17th, 2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
I do like turning something so horrible into something lifesaving.
surranndie
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
You got it! :)
slashybits
Aug. 18th, 2009 05:36 am (UTC)
I love the affection between them all, Glitch's trust and of course Cain finally being where he need to be.

*happy sigh*
surranndie
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
*grins!* I'm so happy to hear you liked it! Thank you very much!
amedia
Aug. 19th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
This was utterly gripping and very, very satisfying, both in terms of the mystery and the romance!
surranndie
Aug. 21st, 2009 01:11 am (UTC)

Thank you!!! *hugs*
lionille
Aug. 27th, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)
Surr!

*flails*

I have to tell you that this is one of the best TM fic I've ever read, because this whole thing about the suit being dug up and used to save Glitch's life is just so brilliant and unique.

I love the trust and love that is so evident between all four of them - Raw sending the letter and comforting Glitch, Glitch aware of how much Raw's expending to help him, Cain noticing how tired DG looks, etc.

The scene where they dig up the suit was very eerie, esp. considering DG's history, it was cool how it kind of mirrored the digging that Az did. (well, that her minions did, rather, lol)

And Glitch! He was so brave throughout. I love his stoicism, how he's accepting but willing to fight to stay with Cain.

Cain, of course, was made of awesome during the crisis. So steadfast and determined, of course the whole thing with the suit would be personally upsetting but he still devotes himself so wholeheartedly to saving Glitch.

And this:

“They’re just getting it ready. Does Glitch know?”

A shrug. “Told him, but memory...”


Gah! That's so moving, Glitch's special circumstances making things like that extra tough, same with him waking up in the suit and needing to be reminded where he was repeatedly. But his trust in his companions is so strong it overrides this over and over again.

Glitch in his bedclothes through all this was so touching, Cain helping him on and off with the bathrobe, and how they've put a pillow and lining in the suit! The detail of not being
sure how to get in and out of the thing and it being awkward and high was a super touch of realism.

And Cain gives him his little horse to hold! And the notes he writes.

Head shakes and nods for yes, no and “I’m fine, leave me alone already.”

Heh.

The resolution of the whole thing was genius, with the green liquid proving the answer. And DG and Raw show further consideration by removing themselves from the recovery salon while Cain and Glitch sort things out. :)

Long comment is long! Because brilliant fic was brilliant!





Edited at 2009-08-27 10:29 pm (UTC)
surranndie
Aug. 27th, 2009 10:47 pm (UTC)
*clings and blushes happily* Oh, sweetie. You always manage to leave the most spectacular and meaningful comments! And as always, you somehow pick up on things that never even occured to me - I have no idea how you do that! :D

I am absolutely thrilled that you liked this so much! It was such a pain to finish (just ask Keri about all my whining!), so just knowing that it was worth all the while is wonderful. Having all the characters cooperate also helps!

*hugs and dances with joy* Long comment is especially special!! \o/
lionille
Dec. 1st, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC)
Enjoyed this just as much the second time. And got all misty over Glitch getting up and getting his slippers from under the table where he'd left them. Wonderful fic, Surr.
surranndie
Dec. 2nd, 2011 02:15 am (UTC)
D'awww thanks so much, sweetie! No better compliment than return business, ya know. :D
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )